Candidates chess could be moved to Spain if Canada visas not issued: official - Hindustan Times

Candidates chess could be moved to Spain if Canada visas not issued: official

Mar 03, 2024 10:03 PM IST

Players from four countries, including Indian GMs Praggnanandhaa, Gujrathi, Gukesh and Vaishali have not been issued visas for next month's tournament.

The 2024 Candidates chess tournament scheduled in Canada by the sport's world body from April 3 to 23 will be moved out unless the visa problems for players and other participants are not resolved this week, Vladimir Drkulec, president of the Chess Federation of Canada, has said.

Vidit Gujrathi is one of the GMs who has not received his visa
Vidit Gujrathi is one of the GMs who has not received his visa

“If we cannot resolve these issues by Friday, the tournament will be moved to Spain,” Drkulec said on Saturday in an emailed response to queries. "This situation requires some political will by those in power to resolve,” he said. “I am cautiously optimistic that we may be able to resolve this before the looming deadline of Friday. I will be doing everything I can to bring attention to this in the remaining few days.”

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The tournament faces uncertainty as many players, including India's teen sensation R Praggnanandhaa have not received their visas. The 2024 Candidates Tournament will determine the challengers for the world champion title in both the open and women’s categories. China's Ding Liren is the men's champion and Ju Wenjun the women's title holder.

As many as 40 participants, including many of the 16 players, are yet to get visas. Vidit Gujrathi, Gukesh D and Vaishali Rameshbabu, Praggnanandhaa's sister, have not been issued the papers. The only Indian player to receive visa is Koneru Humpy while Viswanathan Anand, five-time world champion who is also FIDE deputy president, also has one, Vladimir Drkulec told Hindustan Times.

Participants from four countries in all are awaiting travel papers.

FIDE (International Chess Federation) had made an urgent appeal last Friday, Drkulec said, “This is the first time in the history of chess that the most prestigious tournament is due to be hosted in Canada, recognising the country’s growing role in the chess world. Regrettably, players from various countries who submitted their visa applications a few months ago, have not yet received updates on their status.”

The appeal, posted on X, tagged Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Miller, and his department. It added, “With only a month remaining till the FIDE Candidates Tournament, there are grave concerns about the timely arrival of the players to Toronto.”

Drkulec said, “We have contacted multiple members of parliament and government ministers with positive responses from at least members of their staff.”

FIDE director general Emil Sutovsky posted: “won't replace players for visa issues or postpone the event.”

“We have a strong team and enough resources to ensure staging it elsewhere at the same dates. But we really focus on Canada now. A lot of effort was put into making Toronto an exceptional event,” he added.

This will be the first time the nearly 70-year-old tournament is being held in North America and will feature 16 of the world’s best players.

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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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