An Iranian chessmaster has been expelled from an international chess tournament after refusing to play an Israeli opponent.
Top Iranian Grandmaster Ehsan Ghaem Maghami refused to play Ehud Sachar for political reasons at the Corsica Masters championship.
Shachar, a FIDE Master, was Maghami’s scheduled opponent in the fourth round of the competition.
“Politics has no place in competition at this level,” Leo Battesti, championship organizer, pointed out.
Five of the 186 players in the tournament are Israelis.
Battesti said in a statement to the media, “The Iranian Grand Master Ehsan Maghami Gahem informed me of his refusal to play against his opponent of the fourth round, the Israelian FIDE Master Ehud Shachar. I told Mr. Ghaem Maghami that as an organizer of a sporting International competition, I could not accede to his request to change the pairings, for him to play against another player.
“The presence of five Israeli players in this tournament is known by all participants since Saturday, October 22. It honors our competition as well as the presence of Iranian players and about thirty other nationalities… So regretfully I have to exclude the player who unfortunately has persisted in his choice, in spite of my imprecations. I regret it. But I could not escape from our responsibilities.”
Often Iranian sports competitors have their careers destroyed by their government when they return home to the Islamic Republic from international competitions if they agreed to compete against Israelis.
More than 800 players entered the competition now in its 15th year, which is taking place in the French city of Bastia on the island of Corsica. Among the players are some 40 Grandmasters and International Masters.
Shachar’s game with Vasif Durarbayli that preceded the incident with Maghami, ended in a draw.
The tournament consists of nine rounds and is scheduled to end on October 28, with the 14 best players joining world champions Viswanathan Anand and Shahriyar Mamedyarov in a rapid chess tournament.
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