FIDE may nix Tunisia’s World Chess Championship because it won’t give visa to 7-year-old Israeli chess champion

About a week ago I called attention to the fact that Tunisia banned the 7-year-old Israeli girl Lial Levitan, a young chess wizard, from playing in the upcoming International Chess Championship simply because she was Israeli. Regardless of what you think of Israeli’s politics, there’s no justification for punishing a young girl who wants to be a world champion. Here’s a video of Liel, European champion in her age class. She’s adorable:

Now, however, FIDE has mustered up some courage and, as the Jerusalem Post reports in the article below (click on screenshot),

Tunisia, which is currently scheduled to host the 2019 World Schools Chess Championship, could have its hosting privilege revoked if the country refuses to grant a visa to a seven-year-old Israeli girl.

The country, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, does not permit Israelis to enter its borders, and is refusing to make an exception for Liel Levitan, the European School Individual Chess champion in her age group, for the upcoming World Chess Federation (FIDE) tournament.

The restriction would force Levitan and other Israelis to forfeit their spots in the tournament. A similar situation at the 2017 tournament, also held in Tunisia, disqualified Israelis from participating in the competition – simply because they could not enter the country.

Well, FIDE hasn’t exactly said, “Let the Israelis play or the tournament is off”; they’re just requesting clarification. But what clarification could satisfy any rational person?

In an email last week, FIDE secretary Polina Tsedenova said the organization is taking necessary measures to put pressure on Tunisia to allow entry of all participants.

“We have requested an urgent explanation from the Tunisian Chess Federation,” Tsedenova wrote. “We are also sending them a separate letter requesting written confirmation that the 2019 World Schools Championship, which is scheduled to take place in Tunisia, will provide visas to all participants. Only after that will the organization of the tournament be confirmed for them.”

It’s about time! Now let’s see if FIDE follow through with its threat.



  1. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Why the hell was this not just done as soon as the FIDE became aware of this situation? A country can’t just decide who is allowed to play in an international tournament and still be eligible to host that event!

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Some want “trigger warnings”, others need “triggers”.

  2. busterggi
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I dunno, Tunisia is such a powerhouse in the chess world/

    • ratabago
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Yep, I could almost make their top 100 active players list. If I were still active. If I were Tunisian.

      But they do have resorts that are willing to pay the costs of hosting these events. With the exception of Men’s World Championship fixtures that’s a great rarity. The unwillingness of any Western Government or Corporation to sponsor these events means these restrictive regimes do have power in the chess world. They win by default, or the event is cancelled.

  3. Roger
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Gotta love politics.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    You go little Lial Levitan; you go, girl.

    Keep international politics outta international competitions, I say. I didn’t approve when the US boycotted the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow, or when the Rooskies retaliated by boycotting LA in ’84. Hell, I didn’t even approve when the IOC barred Rhodesia from competing in ’72.

    I’ve no problem whatsoever with statements of conscience by individual competitors (the way, say, Tommie Smith & John Carlos did on the medal stand in Mexico in ’68), but having nations bloviate about one another in international competitions defeats the whole idea of open international competition, you ask me. Screw the politics; let the world’s best compete on the world stage.

    • Ty Gardner
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      While I do not feel that the Israelis should be kept from competitions such as this, and believe that this instance and others arise from anti-Semitism throughout the Middle East, I differ in how politics should be applied to competition.
      My feeling is that nations that discriminate (exclude particular participants based on nationality, ethnicity, gender, orientation, or other factors alone) or who have poor human rights records should not be granted hosting opportunities for such competitions. I would not have held the World Cup in Russia, nor the Olympics in Berlin. I do think that the decision should not be unilateral, as that is the problem here where the hosting nation made the determination, but rather by the international community, in the same way that sanctions are made. I accept that this could result in the failure of the US to host competitions in the future, but believe that it is one tool in the arsenal of the civilized world for reigning in behaviors (e.g. the killing of homosexuals, apostates) that are nearly universally abhorent.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        I grant you that’s a reasonable position, Ty, one about which reasonable minds might differ, I think.

        • mikeyc
          Posted July 30, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          I don’t agree with Ty. There are many here who will say I do not have reasonable mind, so maybe I shouldn’t comment. But when has that ever stopped me?

          Except under some extraordinary exceptions, what Ty suggests is a rabbit hole. An insane and ridiculous rabbit hole that, taken to its logical end, would destroy sport.

          The US refused to send a team to the 1980 Summer games because the Russkies invaded Afghanistan then the Russians followed suit four years later. What, exactly, did any of that accomplish other than denying thousands of athletes the ability to compete at the highest level of their sport and undermining the validity of one of our highest sporting events?

          Athletic competitions are often used as proxies for political crap. They should not be used in that way. Any sanctions on competing should only be imposed by the regulations of the competition itself, not by stinking politicians.

          my $0.02

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

            I agree with Ty either, Mikey. But I do think his position is reasonable — just not as reasonable as yours and mine.

            Now, if we pool our dough, we can scrape together 4¢ between us. 🙂

          • Ty Gardner
            Posted July 30, 2018 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            My position was really about those hosting the competition, not about those attending. Having some nations host competitions may restrict the freedoms, or even endanger, those attending. I don’t know if you followed the LGBT issues associated with the Russia’s hosting of the World Cup, but it is clear that Russia is not a free nation that would be respectful of the rights of fans. I would have been happy to have the Russian team travel to another nation. However, I do understand your position as well and respect that it seeks to prevent athletes from being punished for the crimes of their home nation.

  5. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    FIDE’s motto is ‘Gens una sumus’, Latin for “We are one people”.
    Should FIDE continue to hold the tournament in Tunisia while it maintains the ban, I would encourage other chess players to boycott the event.

    The Olympics have often self-banned athletes from certain countries (South Africa due to apartheid nearly a dozen times and Germany and Japan were banned in 1948 re their role in World War II), but the Olympics have never allowed any host country to ban athletes. (Has it ever even been tried??)
    (There are also countries that have boycotted the Olympics. At least one has in the majority of Olympics since the 1960s)

  6. CAS
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    It isn’t an “International Chess Championship” when some are barred from the competition! Lial is a cutie!

  7. nicky
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    About time FIDE starts growing the shadow of a spine! Good for them, I hope they follow through.

  8. ratabago
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    A clarification. Your earlier post linked to a tournament organised by a Tunisian resort, Chess Club Carré Royal,the Tunisian Chess Federation, and the City of Monastir to be held in September this year. It wasn’t FIDE’s to award, or withdraw. I think the best FIDE could do is withhold their logo, and not publicise it.

    The 2019 World Schools Chess Championship, discussed in this post, is FIDE’s to award or withhold. I hope they live up to their published ideals and refuse it to Tunisia if it is not truly inclusive. But the cost may well be that the 2019 World Schools Chess Championship will have no venue or sponsor, and would then need to be cancelled. I doubt FIDE have the courage for that.

  9. Posted July 30, 2018 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  10. Jonathan Dore
    Posted August 1, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    And yet FIDE, in their wisdom, have held women’s tournaments recently in Iran and Saudi Arabia, two countries that I’m sure take an even dimmer view of an Israeli passport than Tunisia. How come the issue didn’t arise then?

  11. Posted August 9, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Good for FIDE! The sad thing (one of them) is that Tunisia seemed to me most hopeful of the entire North Africa.

%d bloggers like this: