Top Tournaments Ban Karjakin; ECU Suspends Belarusian, Russian Federations

The Norway Chess and London Chess Classic tournaments as well as the Grand Chess Tour have decided not to invite GM Sergey Karjakin to their tournaments anymore as the Russian GM continues to support Russia’s warfare in Ukraine. Also this week, the Russian and Belarusian federations were suspended by the European Chess Union.

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On Friday, the Grand Chess Tour organizers published a statement about Karjakin, saying that the former world championship challenger and current world number-18 is “banned from all upcoming and future GCT events due to his recent hostile comments on social media supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.” Below is the full statement:

Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, the Grand Chess Tour (GCT) supports the human rights of the Ukrainian citizens. The GCT Executive Director, Michael Khodarkovsky in consultation with the GCT Board has determined that Grandmaster Sergey Karjakin is banned from all upcoming and future GCT events due to his recent hostile comments on social media supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Per the FIDE law that “no player shall bring the game of chess into disrepute,” we believe Grandmaster Karjakin’s actions are such that we can no longer associate our organization with him. It is our firm decision not to invite him or any other chess players that support the on-going war in Ukraine to participate in upcoming and future Grand Chess Tour events.

Together, we stand in support of Ukraine.

Earlier this week, the organizers of two other top tournaments, Norway Chess (won by Karjakin in 2013 and 2014) and the London Chess Classic, revealed to chess24 that they will also be banning Karjakin.

Norway’s Kjell Madland: “We cannot be associated with people who show support for cruelty like that. That makes it completely unlikely that we will want to invite him to Norway Chess in the future.”

London’s tournament director IM Malcolm Pein said that he estimated the chance to invite Karjakin as “somewhere between zero and minus one.”

Karjakin himself hasn’t changed his tone so far and continues to support his government strongly with several tweets each day. He responded quickly to the ban from top tournaments, saying that he is hardly affected by it:

The toughest blow might be looming for Karjakin, who is also in serious risk of getting removed from this year’s Candidates Tournament, for which he qualified as the runner-up of the 2021 World Cup. As reported before, both Karjakin and GM Sergey Shipov are currently under investigation by the FIDE Ethics Commission for their pro-Putin messages on social media. The strongest possible penalty would be a ban of up to 15 years on taking part in chess events in any way.

While FIDE hasn’t put an overall ban on players from Russia and Belarus just yet, the International Chess Federation is definitely under pressure to do so—especially since it follows the guidelines of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in other aspects. On Monday, the IOC recommended “that international sports federations and sports event organizers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.”

Besides their individual ban for Karjakin, Norway Chess did take the decision not to invite Russian players this year, in a statement on their website:

In regard to the horrific situation that is taking place in Ukraine by the Russian government, Norway Chess has decided to support the sanctions the world community has made against Russia. This means that we can not have participation from Russia in Norway Chess for the 10th edition of Norway Chess that will take place from May 30 to June 10, 2022. Millions of Russians do not want war and we know this situation has major consequences also for the Russian people. We stand with the people in Ukraine.

The player field will be announced later this month.

Even more significant, because it affects a much larger number of players, is the decision of the European Chess Union (ECU) to suspend the Russian and Belarusian Chess Federations with immediate effect. One consequence is that it will be possible for Russian or Belarusian players to play in ECU events only after a federation change or while playing under the FIDE flag. The ECU has also banned trainers and arbiters from Russia or Belarus from performing “any duty during the upcoming European Chess Championships or in any subsequent ECU events.”

Meanwhile, the Nordic Chess Federation (a close cooperation of chess federations in Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) has gone one step further by banning Russian and Belarusian players older than 17 from taking part in any tournaments.

Dear Chess friends,
The Nordic countries has [sic] agreed to join forces together to ban players of the Russian Chess Federation and the Belarus chess federation to take any part in international chess tournaments within the Zonal 1.3 and The Faroe Islands. Players who are living in the Nordic countries or born 2005 and later are exempted from this ban.

The Polish Chess Federation has also banned all Russian and Belarusian players from any tournament that will be held in Poland. According to chess-news.ru, the Lithuanian Chess Federation has made a similar decision.

GM Natalia Zhukova, who lives in Odessa, Ukraine, and has been active recently in local politics, posted on Facebook that there will be a tournament held on Chess.com on Saturday, starting 20:00 Ukraine time (19:00 CET, 10 am Pacific), the start of the curfew in Ukraine. The tournament is dedicated to Alexey Druzhinets, a children’s coach and arbitrator who died in the violence of the war on March 2.


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