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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Iranian expelled from chess tournament for refusing to play an Israeli

From NYT:
One of Iran’s top grandmasters was expelled from an international chess tournament on Tuesday after he refused to play a match against an Israeli opponent, the director of the tournament said.

The Iranian, Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, was scheduled to play Ehud Shachar in the fourth round of the Corsica Masters, a pairing determined by computer. The director, Léo Battesti, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Maghami had asked him to change the pairing, but was told that doing so would violate tournament rules. Mr. Maghami then failed to appear at the scheduled time to play Mr. Shachar.

Mr. Battesti said Mr. Maghami should have told him beforehand that he would object to playing an Israeli. Given that five of the 186 players in the tournament were Israelis, the likelihood that he would face one during the tournament’s nine rounds was “99 percent,” Mr. Battesti said. “I told him, you cannot involve your rules in my tournament,” he said.
Jeffrey Goldberg links to Battesti's statement:
Iranian grandmaster Ehsan Gahem Maghami informed me of his refusal to play against his fourth round opponent, Israeli Fide Master Ehud Shachar. I told Mr. Gahem Maghami that as an organizer of a international sporting competition I could not accede to his request to change the pairings, so that he could play against another player. The presence of five Israeli players in this tournament was known to all participants since Saturday, October 22. It honors our competition, as does the presence of Iranian players and those from about thirty other nationalities. The motto of our Federation is gens una sumus, we are developing in Corsica an awareness of the positive aspects of the chess sport on our youth. Being complicit to any form of segregation would be unworthy, and in total contradiction with the foundations of our sporting activities. So regretfully I have to exclude the player who unfortunately has stuck to his choice, in spite of my entreaties. I regret it, but I could not shirk our responsabilities.
Since this is turning into a regular news story, and it is clear that no Iranian is going to participate in any match with an Israeli out of fear of retribution by his nation, perhaps it is time to ban Iran from sporting competitions altogether until it renounces this pretty-much official policy.