Check Mate: Female Chess Champ will Skip Tournament, Lose Titles in Protest of Dress Codes for Female Competitors in Saudi Arabia

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A two-time female world chess champion from Ukraine, has decided to skip an upcoming tournament in Saudi Arabia even though doing so will cause her to lose her titles.

Because she refuses to be treated like a “secondary creature” in the oppressive Saudi Kingdom.

Champion Anna Muzychuk is boycotting the upcoming tournament in Saudi Arabia to make a stand for women’s rights, she said in a December 23 social media post.

“In a few days I am going to lose two world champion titles – one by one,” Muzychuk wrote. “Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. Not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied outside, and altogether no to feel myself a secondary creature.”

Muzychuk went on to say how proud she is of her titles, but that she is ready to stand for her principles. Her action will cause her to miss out on the possibility of winning a grand prize of $2 million put up by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined,” Muzychuk said of missing out on have a shot to take home the winner’s purse.

“All that is annoying, but the most upsetting thing is that almost nobody really cares,” Muzychuk continued. “That is a really bitter feeling, still not the one to change my principles,” she wrote.

Muzychuk concluded her post saying that her sister Mariya shares her views and promised, “And, yes, for those few who care – we’ll be back.”

The controversy over what female contestants would wear at the tournament had already become a sticking point. Still, the World Chess Federation declared a victory of sorts when it negotiated a dress code it termed “historic,” which excluded full-body abayas and substituted headscarves and high-necked white blouses. The change in dress code, though, wasn’t enough for Muzychuk and her sister who still decided not to compete.

Other controversies have also shaken the tournament. The Saudi authorities refused to invite Israeli competitors, and the teams from Iran and Qatar have thus far refused to accept an invitation over regional political rivalries.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.


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