A reigning chess World Champion is refusing to defend her title’s in this weeks world tournament because it is being held in Saudi Arabia where women are living under oppression.
Anna Muzychuk, 27, from Lviv, Ukraine is the World No 1 in two speed disciplines – rapid and blitz – and shocked the chess world when she announced that she would not be competing in the championships.
Ms Muzychuk said it would go against her principles to subject herself to the Saudi Arabian laws which requires women to cover themselves and not walk unaccompanied in public.
True champion: Anna Muzychuk, 27, from Ukraine, says it would go against her principles to subject herself to the Saudi Arabian laws which requires women to cover themselves
‘In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles – one by one. Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia,’ Ms Muzychuk wrote in a statement on her Facebook.
‘Not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature.
‘Exactly one year ago I won these two titles and was about the happiest person in the chess world but this time I feel really bad. I am ready to stand for my principles and skip the event, where in five days I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined.
‘All that is annoying, but the most upsetting thing is that almost nobody really cares. That is a really bitter feeling, still not the one to change my opinion and my principles.’
Competing: Chess players compete at the King Salman Rapid & Blitz Chess Championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this week. Women are allowed to wear dark blue or black formal trousers and high-necked blouses this year but Ms Muzychuk still refused to attend the tournament
Big bills: The Championship is taking place in Saudi Arabia for the first time with participation of 236 players from 70 countries
The tournament, called the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships, runs until Saturday. It includes around 240 players – both men and women – from 70 countries.
In order to be allowed to hold the tournament, and change its name, Saudi Arabia paid the World Chess Federation $1.5 million, four times the federation’s standard annual fee.
Women are reportedly being allowed to wear dark blue or black formal trousers and high-necked blouses, avoiding Saudi rules of dress that require female residents and most visitors to wear loose-fitting, long robes known as ‘abayas.’ Most Saudi women also cover their hair and face with veils.
The chess tournament, however, has also been hit by regional politics. Israelis say Saudi Arabia ignored requests by Israeli players to obtain visas to participate in the tournament. Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations.
Defining: Ms Muzychuk is seen during the Women’s World Chess Championship 2017 at Espinas Palace Hotel in Tehran, Iran in March
Meanwhile, players from Qatar and Iran, which have strained ties with Saudi Arabia, have been granted visas to participate in the tournament. However, Qatari players will not compete in the championship because Qatar’s chess federation said organizers demanded that the players not display the Qatari flag during the competition.
A statement issued by the World Chess Federation said that visas for players from Iran and Qatar were secured. It made no mention of Israeli players.
‘The fact that players from Iran and Qatar may decide not to participate, after consulting their own authorities, is clearly their own individual decision,’ the statement said.
The statement added that Saudi authorities had proposed that for security reasons the Qatari players should play under the organization’s flag, but that the issue was resolved and the Qatar Chess Association was informed that their players would play under their own flag.