In Russia, where chess is a very big deal, this one might hurt a little more.
Chess became the latest sporting arena to see fallout from Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, with officials from the Paris-based International Chess Federation, known as FIDE, announcing the biennial Chess Olympiad will not be held in Moscow later this year.
Chess thus joins the European soccer federation, professional skiing and the Formula One racing circuit in canceling events in Russia in recent days.
Along with soccer’s World Cup, the chess Olympiad is one of the broadest sporting events on the calendar. Some 190 countries were expected to send open and women’s teams to compete over two weeks beginning July 26 in Moscow.
“During its extraordinary meeting held [Friday], it was decided that all official competitions planned would be moved from Russia,” FIDE said in a statement. “The rapidly deteriorating geopolitical situation has forced the FIDE Council to make this difficult move.”
Related events set for Russia, including the first-ever chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities planned in the Russian city of Khanty-Mansiysk, will also be relocated.
Organizers are “ready working on finding alternative dates and locations for these events,” the statement added.
The Ukrainian Chess Federation, which also boasts a strong stable of grandmasters and top players, had been lobbying for the move.
“We ask all national federations to ask FIDE to convene the General Assembly outside Russia and Belarus to … ban all international chess events in Russia (including the World Chess Olympiad) and to ban participation of the [representatives] of the Russian Federation in new FIDE elections,” the federation said in a statement earlier this week.
The move came despite the fact that FIDE’s president, Arkady Dvorkovich, is a former deputy prime minister of Russia. Mr. Dvorkovich told the Russian TASS news agency Friday that the decision to scrub the Moscow Olympiad was in part a matter of bowing to logistical realities.
“We took such a decision considering all the circumstances, which are now developing, and realizing that the participants in the World Chess Olympiad won’t be able to travel to Moscow at that period,” he told TASS, “Of course, it was tough to take it, but objectively it was unavoidable.”
The move came on the same day that the Geneva-based International Olympic Committee urged sports bodies across the world to cancel or move all events they plan to hold in Russia and Belarus and to stop using the countries’ flags and national anthems.