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An Open Letter

to the President of FIDE,Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, from Grandmaster Boris Gulko

You designated Libya as a host country for the World Chess Championship this year. From the beginning, this was a very controversial choice, considering the long history of terrorism that country has been involved in and the fact that Libya remains on the State Department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Recently, of course, there have been signs that the country’s leader, Moammar Qadafy has changed his ways and is seeking to join the world community as a member in good standing. In light of that shift, and desiring to participate in the most important tournament of the year, I signed the agreement with FIDE regarding my participation in the World Championship. I considered it a positive development that the invitation of the Libyan organizers was extended to all qualified players and I bought a ticket to Tripoli.

Yet on May 5, the son of Moammar Qadafy, Mohammad, who is also the president of the Libyan Organizing Committee, announced (according to the Associated Press) that "We did not and will not invite the Zionist enemies to this championship...We know the Zionists will seize such occasions to enter the Arab society... but we will not give up our principles even if that leads to canceling holding the tournament in Libya."

As you are undoubtedly aware, the phrase "Zionist enemies" refers to citizens of Israel and also to Jews generally. I am a Jew and I also hold Israeli citizenship (in addition to American citizenship). So the Libyan organizers have apparently withdrawn their invitation to me as well as to participants from Israel, a country that is a member of FIDE. This is a clear violation of the charter and spirit of FIDE.

In light of the Libyan statement, on May 6, I sent you a letter supporting Israel’s Chess Federation’s demand to move the World Championship to a more suitable country. On May 7, FIDE stated that the Libyan Organizing Committee has confirmed that the invitations to all participants remain valid. Yet until the government of Libya withdraws the statement of Mohammad Qadafy about “Zionist enemies,” participation in this tournament remains unthinkable. Already, with that designation hanging over them, a long list of Jewish players from the United States, Israel, Russia, and elsewhere are withdrawing.

Mr. President, I implore you not to be the first president of FIDE to preside over the first world chess championship from which Jews are excluded. Our magnificent and noble game does not deserve such a disgrace.


Grandmaster Boris Gulko, former Champion of USSR and USA

Fair Lawn, USA

All text Copyright Alexander Baburin unless otherwise noted