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Saudi faces test of normalising ties with Israel via World Chess Tournament

Mohammad Bin Salman Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is facing test of normalising ties with Israel as it is hosting World Chess Tournament next month, where Israeli players are eligible to participate, Quds Press said on Sunday.

The Kingdom is hosting the World Chess Federation’s International Speed Championship, which is given the name: The King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championship. It is planned to be held in Riyadh between 25 and 30 December.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said, according to Quds Press, that 11 Israeli players are eligible to participate in the tournament, including a number of the best chess players in the world.

An Israeli news website reported that the 11 Israeli players have already applied for entry visas to participate and they are waiting for the Saudi response.

Read More: The myth of an Israel-Saudi alliance

If Saudi Arabia denied Israeli players’ visas, it might lose the chance to host the international event and the World Chess Federation could confiscate the awards which worth millions of USDs.

However, it Riyadh granted visas for the Israeli player, it would have carried out a historic step by allowing Israelis to enter the Kingdom overtly.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported the Spokesman of the Israeli Chess Union Leor Eisenberg saying: “Our policy is to develop this game in Israel and use it as a bridge to develop relations among organisations and states.”

He added: “We are interested that our players apply for entry visas to Saudi Arabia and we expect to get the visas by the assistance of FIDE [World Chess Federation].”

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