One of Iran's top grandmasters was expelled from an international chess tournament 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, Leo Battesti, said in a telephone interview that Maghami had asked him to change the pairing but was told that doing so would violate tournament rules. Maghami then failed to appear at the scheduled time to play Shachar.
Battesti said 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," Battesti said.
"I told him, you cannot involve your rules in my tournament," he said.
Shachar said something like this had never happened to him before, although it had to other Israeli players he knew. Usually, someone who balks at a particular opponent forfeits one game, he said, but "in this case, the organizer took a stand."
Iranians have refused to compete against Israelis in other international sporting events this year, including the world wrestling championships in Istanbul in September and the world swimming championships in Shanghai in July.
As it happens, Maghami, a nine-time national champion, was involved in an indirect chess competition with Israel this year. In February, he played 614 people simultaneously at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran to break the world record of 523, which had been set in October 2010 by Alik Gershon, an Israeli grandmaster. Gershon's record eclipsed one of 500 set two months earlier by Morteza Mahjoob, another Iranian grandmaster.
When Maghami bested Gershon's mark, he told Agence-France Presse that Gershon's nationality was not a factor.
"Iran is great and deserves the best," he was quoted as saying. "Let's not talk politics."
Battesti said that Maghami was the first player he ever had to expel, but that they parted on friendly terms when Maghami left Corsica on Wednesday. Maghami even gave him a bottle of good Corsican wine, he said.
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