Storm in a teacup

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The Kingdom recently organized the King Salman World Blitz and Rapid Chess Championships in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia hosted the world chess tournament for the first time.

Chess masters from across the globe were invited to play each other for a grand prize. More than 200 grandmasters, including the world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway, took part in the tournament. Other major players who participated included the incumbent World Rapid and Blitz Champions Sergey Karjakin of Russia, Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine, world No. 2 Levon Aronian of Armenia, No. 3 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan and former World Champion Viswanathan Anand of India.

The championship offered a record total prize fund of $2,000,000 with the open events having individual prize funds of $750,000 each. There were 30 prizes for each event, with the first prize of $250,000 in the open section and $80,000 in the women’s section, all new records.

Prior to the games, officials of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) expressed their optimism on the games. “The Kingdom is changing very fast and we are happy to be part of this change. It will help the development of chess in Saudi Arabia,” said Geoffrey Borg, Chief Executive Officer, FIDE. “This country can lead the development of chess in the region and in Asia. We hope they participate in global sport and make a global impact on the sport scene. This event serves as an advert of what Saudis are capable of doing.”

Georgios Makropoulos, FIDE deputy president, expressed hope that Saudi Arabia would host more such sport events. “We are going to enjoy the great hospitality and the highest standard of Saudi Arabia. I hope our sports promote peace among the people around the world. As our motto says, we are one family and we believe in this. We would like to see the world rugby tournament being held here where all will be invited. I think Saudi Arabia can send a strong message of peace and solidarity to the world. This is the beginning of a great effort.”

It was indeed a great effort and went along without a hitch except for the storm raised by the non-inclusion of Israeli chess players who were denied visas to enter the country and rightly so. The Kingdom has no diplomatic relations with Israel and has no such intentions of forging relations until the Israelis agree to a fair and just peace process with the Palestinians.

While Israeli expectations before the games were on a high assuming that we in the Kingdom were on their side, they were in for a disappointment. Their illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, their state-sponsored murders at the hands of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and illegal settlers of unarmed and helpless Palestinian civilians has not escaped the attention of the Saudis over the years. It is also a well-known fact that quite a few Israeli athletes had been members of the IDF, a band of thugs who shoot to kill, their recent targets being primarily women and children.

The Israelis who show no intention of deviating from their macabre role in the region are not welcome. And they can boohoo all they want with cries of ‘foul’ at their non-inclusion in the games. But for a country that has continuously flaunted all international laws regarding their activities in occupied Palestine, the Israelis should be ashamed for even tabling the matter of non-inclusion.

Their own Palestinian citizens are booted out of their homes, their farms and lands razed to make room for more illegal settlements, their children unlawfully imprisoned, all this in our presence, and they dare complain that they are unwelcome. Shame on you Israel for crying out loud for not being invited. You do not deserve an audience in this land.

Look into your activities and then you can understand why we don’t want you.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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