Top chess tournament in Canada in jeopardy as several players yet to receives visas | World News - Hindustan Times

Top chess tournament in Canada in jeopardy as several players yet to receives visas

Mar 03, 2024 10:58 AM IST

Canada has delayed issuing visas to several participants, including teenaged Indian sensation Praggnanadhaa R and players like Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, Gukesh D and Vaishali Rameshbabu

Toronto: A major international chess tournament scheduled to be held in Toronto,Canada in April is in jeopardy as several participants, including Indian sensation Praggnanandhaa R, have yet to receive their visas.

Indian Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa during Tata Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz Tournament 2023, in Kolkata. (PTI)
Indian Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa during Tata Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz Tournament 2023, in Kolkata. (PTI)

The 2024 Candidates Tournament, held by the International Chess Federation or Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), is scheduled from April 3 and 23. Described as the “most prestigious tournament in the chess world”, the FIDE Candidates will determine the challengers for the World Champion title in both the Open and Women’s Categories.

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However, nearly 40 participants, including several of the 16 players have yet to receive visas. They include Praggnanandhaa, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, Gukesh D and Vaishali Rameshbabu. The only player from India to have received a visa so far is Koneru Humpy, while FIDE deputy president and former World champion Viswanathan Anand also has one, Vladimir Drkulec, president of the Chess Federation of Canada informed the Hindustan Times.

Participants from four countries, including India are awaiting the travel documents. “If we cannot resolve these issues by Friday March 8th , 2024 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, adding, “I am cautiously optimistic that we may be able to resolve this before the looming deadline of Friday. I will be doing everything that I can to bring attention to this in the remaining few days.”

This follows an urgent appeal issued by FIDE on Friday, in which he said, “This is the first time in the history of chess that the most prestigious tournament is due to be hosted in Canada, recognizing the country’s growing role in the chess world. Regrettably, players from various countries worldwide, who submitted their visa applications few months ago, have not yet received any updates on their status.”

The appeal, posted on X, tagged Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller as well as 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 multiple government ministers with positive responses from at least members of their staff.”

FIDE’s director-general Emil Sutovsky posted they “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. He said participants from four countries including India and Russia were affected.

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.

Drkulec said he appreciated “the hospitality shown to us at the 2022 Chennai Olympiad and FIDE Congress by the Indian people who were wonderful.” But, he added, “I did not enjoy the difficulties and bureaucratic frustrations of getting to India through the process in place for Canadians which my Indian friends have assured me is common even for people born in India and applying from Canada.”

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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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