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Iran's Chess On The Verge Of International Ban

Iran -- Alireza Firouzja is an Iranian chess prodigy. He won the Iranian Chess Championship at age 12 and earned the grandmaster title at the age of 14. He is the second-youngest player ever to reach a rating of 2700, accomplishing this aged 16 years and

English grandmaster and vice-president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), Nigel Short, warned that Iran will soon be banned from international events if the nation’s officials continues to force Iranian chess players not to compete against their Israeli counterparts and boycott events involving Israel.

"We are increasing pressure on Iran to follow the law, and if it does not comply, the Iranian federation will see the consequences," Short, who has also coached Iran's national chess team, told the Chess 24 website.

In a resolution submitted to the FIDE General Assembly, Short described the failure of the Iranian Chess Federation (ICF) "to request their players compete against all countries in FIDE before the next GA, or any future boycott by an Iranian player will automatically result in the ICF's suspension from all FIDE activities."

Short cited 12 incidents in the last year in which

Iranian authorities forced Iranian players facing Israelis counterparts to concede matches or withdraw from tournaments.

If the ICF fails to provide a convincing argument and FIDE implements Iran's suspension, the international chess body will remove Iran's name from the world's top chess countries and Iranian athletes will lose their world rankings.

Should the ICF’s current position stayed unchanged, "they will definitely be suspended,” Short said.

Short previously told Chess24 that the ICF's stance of refusing to play against Israelis in major chess competitions was "absolute in-your-face racism."

Furthermore, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich also sent a warning to the ICF last June, warning that it would act if Iran maintained its anti-Israel policy.

"There had been repeated cases where athletes from Iran refused to participate in games with Israeli citizens," Dvorkovich said.

"It is important for FIDE that everyone abides the Charter, therefore we ask the ICF to confirm 'in writing' its position on the admissibility of the mentioned games (between Iranian and Israeli players)," he wrote.

"Failure to give such confirmation will force FIDE to discuss the compliance of Iran's Chess Federation's values with the principles of FIDE and the International Olympic Committee (IOC)."

In response, the chairman of the ICF, Farhad Nikoukhesal, claimed he has been "constantly working in compliance with FIDE's rules and adhere to FIDE's statutes."

Nikoukhesal added that it was up to Iranian chess players to participate in different events, and that Iran's authorities were not involved in the process.

Short has denied Nikoukhesal's claims, calling them proof that something foul is afoot in the Iranian sports scene. To support his argument, Short cited the case of Iranian chess players seeking asylum in other countries to carry on their favorite sport under foreign flags.

Ghazal Hakimi Fard and Alireza Firouzja are among the internationally renowned Iranian chess players who have responded to Iranian authorities' pressure to avoid matches against their Israeli counterparts. Both decided last year to give up their Iranian nationality.

According to the Research Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, more than 38 athletes have emigrated from Iran over the past two decades, partially because officials prevented them from competing against Israeli opponents.

The Iranian Chess Federation is facing the risk of suspension at a time when the Iranian Judo Federation (IJF) is under investigation.

IJF has also accused Iran of forcing Iranian judokas to avoid matches against Israelis and attend medal ceremonies where athletes from Israel are present.

Allegedly, the Iranian Wrestling Federation will soon face the risk of suspension for the same reasons.