Local MEP and chess player, Jonathan Arnott, has congratulated Maria Muzychuk, a former women’s world chess champion, for her stance against Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women.
His comments come on today’s International Women’s Day – which ironically coincides with a controversial visit to this country by Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has been welcomed by Theresa May.
Mr Arnott, an independent Euro-MP, met the former champion at the European Parliament yesterday (Tue) where she simultaneously played chess against about 25 people, including Mr Arnott.
“I managed to win my game, thanks to the somewhat lopsided nature of a simultaneous display. I was able to devote 100% of my attention to the game, whereas she was not,” he explained
“Her sister Anna was the reigning world rapidplay and blitz champion. They refused to compete in the most recent world chess championships in Saudi Arabia in protest at the Saudi Kingdom’s treatment of women.
“Those women who were prepared to compete had to dress according to the Kingdom’s rules. The ‘when in Rome’ principle my apply as far as tourism is concerned – but it is wrong to insist that this must be a condition of defending a title. In this, I think, FIDE (the world chess governing body) erred by holding the event in Saudi Arabia.
“They were principled – and right – to refuse to compete. Doubtless, their claim that they would have ‘earned more than in a dozen events combined’ is probably absolutely true, and demonstrates how important this sacrifice was to them.
“One of the great things about chess is that there exists no barrier to competition – to win, or to lose, depends first and foremost on your ability and skill level. If you’re sexist (or racist or any other kind of ist) during a game of chess, that arrogance will lead to underperformance. The game itself is the ultimate meritocracy.”