Arab teams and individual players have been known to forfeit their matches against Israelis in protest of the Jewish state while some countries have even banned Israeli players from participating tournaments hosted in their countries.
But in an astounding bit of news, and thanks to coronavirus which forced most events to go online, Israeli chess players recently competed in a tournament against a team made up of Arab players including representatives of Syria, Algeria and Tunisia — countries that have no diplomatic ties with Israel.
This probably would not have happened had the tournament occurred on the soil of one of these countries, however, some 65 Israeli and Arab players competed against each other in what has been called a “historic occasion,” by an Israeli activist Lior Aizenberg, a chess player who has been battling these and boycotts in the chess world.
Aizenberg, who organized the event, said the dialogue between players was “very civilized” and never got political.
“Sport is a wonderful thing to get people together and build ties,” Aizenberg said. “We plan to continue to connect people through chess and we hope that through this initiative we will continue to succeed in doing so.”
The Arab countries beat Israel 371 -311, but the victory was that they actually played.
Saudi Arabia banned the Israel national team last year from a tournament in its country, a decision that cost them hosting rights as the championship was relocated to Russia.