Five young Israeli chess whizzes are competing in the World Youth Chess Championships underway this week in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, but you’d be hard pressed to find them were you to search the competition’s website.
The three boys and two girls have reportedly been forced by officials in the Islamic emirate to compete under the “flag” of the FIDE - the World Chess Federation - and hide their Israeli affiliation, the Israeli website NRG reported Thursday.
Competition organizers agreed to the participation of the Israelis under the condition they not appear under their flag, NRG reported.
“The host [Persian] Gulf emirate made sure that the name of Israel will not appear anywhere, not even on the official competition website,” NRG wrote.
Here are some of the countries participating as seen on the competition website. Notice the flag between Estonia and Fiji which reads “Fide.”
When “Fide” is clicked, the Israeli team turns up.
NRG reported that the competitors between the ages of 10 and 18 were accompanied by their parents from Israel.
“In Israel there was hesitation about sending them to the competition, because of the geopolitical tension, but finally it was decided to participate in the competition,” the Hebrew news site reported.
The decision by event organizers to cloak the Israelis’ identity is being criticized by some who follow the sport. Israel’s i24News on Thursday quoted from the website Chess Base which wrote, “It is a very unfortunate precedent for the World Youth, and unheard of until now.”