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Saudi chess tournament
In this Monday, Dec. 25, 2017 photo released by Saudi Press Agency, two Saudi officials play chess during the opening the first ever chess tournament in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is hosting a world chess tournament for the first time on Tuesday nearly two years after the country's top cleric issued a religious edict against playing the board game. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

A chess world champ refused to defend her titles in Saudi Arabia over its treatment of women


A double world chess champion says she will not defend her titles in Saudi Arabia due to its treatment of women.

Anna Muzychuk, 27, is a Ukrainian who is the defending champion in two styles of speed chess, blitz and rapid.

Rapid grants players 15 minutes to finish all of their moves, while blitz provides them with 10 minutes.

“In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles – one by one,” she wrote on Facebook last Saturday. “Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia.”

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“[It’s] not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear [an] abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature,” Muzychuk added, referencing the long, loose-fitting robes worn by Saudi women.

“I am ready to stand for my principles and skip the event, where in five days I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen events combined.”

Anna Muzychuk noted that her sister – Mariya Muzychuk, another professional chess player – would also skip this week’s tournament in Saudi Arabia.

The Independent on Wednesday reported that Saudi Arabia had paid about $1.5 million to host the event, which is called the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships.

The fee is approximately four times what the host of such an event typically pays, and the prize money is also significantly higher than what contestants can typically expect.

Anna Muzychuk planned on defending each of her titles during Thursday’s events during the competition.

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Saudi media reports have said that women players are allowed to wear dark black or blue formal trousers and high-necked blouses during the tournament.

Event organizers on Tuesday said competitors will not be mandated to wear an abaya during this week’s games.

Chess is controversial in Saudi Arabia since its top Muslim cleric issued a religious edict against it last year.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh said that chess is “forbidden” in Islam as it wastes time and can cause rivalry among players.

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