Without Israeli Players, Saudi Arabia Hosts World Chess Tournament

Israeli chess union fights for compensation after being refused visas; meanwhile, Iranian clerics blasted 'forbidden' game

FILE PHOTO: In this Sept. 19, 2017, photo, Dr. Joseph Castleberry, left, plays chess with Benjamin Mukumbya, one of two young chess players from Uganda who recently came to study at Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash.
Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times via AP

Saudi Arabia is hosting a world chess tournament for the first time, despite religious edicts by conservative clerics who frown upon the board game and an informal snub of Israeli players.

>> The Saudis checkmated Israel. What's next? <<

Two years ago, Saudi Arabia's top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said chess is "forbidden" in Islam because it wastes time and can be used for gambling, which is not permissible in Islam. Similarly, top Iranian clerics have also decried the game.

>> Israeli chess players clash over whether to compete in Saudi tournament <<

The chess tournament is also engulfed in regional politics. Israelis say Saudi Arabia ignored requests by Israeli players to obtain visas to participate in the tournament that begins on Tuesday. Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations.

Israel's Chess Federation said it was attempting to get compensation from the organizers, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, players from Qatar and Iran, which have strained ties with Saudi Arabia, have been granted visas to participate in the tournament.