Pro-Putin chess star banned
Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin has been hit with a six-month ban by the chess authorities after the 32-year-old issued support for Russia's military operation in Ukraine.
Karjakin, who was born in Crimea and changed his nationality from Ukrainian to Russian in 2009, will miss the forthcoming Candidates Tournament between June 16 and July 7 barring a successful appeal, after the International Chess Federation (FIDE) imposed sanctions.
Karjakin had already found himself blacklisted from several chess events due to his political stance, with chess organizations in both the UK and Norway telling him that he is no longer welcome.
He has also been the subject of bans by the Grand Chess Tour and from Chess.com.
Reacting to the news, Karjakin said: “I'm disappointed. You understand, this is not just a suspension for six months, everything was planned.
“The idea was to prevent me from playing in the Candidates Tournament and to deprive me of a possible entry into the [world title] match with Magnus Carlsen.
“I don't know if I'll be returning in six months to tournaments under the auspices of FIDE. They dishonored not me, but themselves.
“I just don't remember such a precedent when a chess player was not allowed on principle. It’s a shame."
Karjakin also suggested that the decision from FIDE, which has a Russian president in Arkady Dvorkovich, was politically motivated.
“It's just the idea – Dvorkovich is trying to show that he is a European official. He wants to remain FIDE president. He decided to sacrifice me for his political ambitions," he said.
The FIDE suspension comes after the group unanimously decided that Karjakin's statements in support of the Russian military operation in Ukraine were in breach of its Code of Ethics.
Elsewhere, fellow Russian grandmaster Sergey Shipov, who was also the subject of a FIDE investigation due to pro-Russia statements, was not issued with a suspension after it was found that his statements were supposedly less provocative.
“The statements by Sergey Karjakin on the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine has led to a considerable number of reactions on social media and elsewhere, to a large extent negative towards the opinions expressed by Sergey Karjakin," said FIDE in a lengthy document explaining its decision.
Karjakin has 21 days to appeal the judgement, with the Russian Chess Federation saying that it intended to do so in the near future.
Karjakin, though, sees any appeal as being entirely futile.
“I don’t see the point of filing an appeal – any court will take the side of Europe. And FIDE is an international sports organization that does like everyone else. And by some coincidence, a Russian is still leading it. I think that this is not for long,” said Karjakin.
“I understood that there was such a danger [of disqualification], but I believe that I am first and foremost a citizen and patriot of my country, and I say this without any boasting. If such a situation arose again, I would not be silent, but again I would write such a letter. I do not regret what I did. Choosing between supporting my country and participating in the Candidates Tournament, I would always choose the first one," he added.
Statements made by Karjakin in the last three weeks are central to FIDE's decision to ban him.
Shortly after the onset of the operation in Ukraine, he shared an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, writing: "I appeal to you at this difficult time, when our country, led by you, is fighting for the safety of the peaceful Russian population of Donbass and the Lugansk People’s Republic.
“It is fighting for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine with its ruling regime, which has put the security of all of Europe and our country at risk, for the sake of its political goals and ambitions.
“I am closely following the ongoing special operation, in the lands where I spent my childhood, where I learned to play chess and where my relatives still live.
“For eight long years we have been waiting with hope for salvation from countless shelling and loss of human lives, the ongoing genocide by the still acting Kiev regime.
“I express to you, our commander-in-chief, full support in protecting the interests of Russia, our multinational Russian people, eliminating threats and establishment of peace! I wish you the speedy fulfilment of all the tasks assigned to our valiant army."
Karjakin, who is a former world rapid chess and blitz champion, said he had received death threats after he pronounced his support of Putin and the military operation in Ukraine, saying that he had been targeted with "thousands" of messages from what he described as "hysterical" people.
FIDE have previously announced a ban of Russia and Belarus from team events, but had allowed individual players from those countries to compete as neutrals.