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March 4, 2024

Visa Woes Threaten 2024 Candidates Chess Tournament in Canada; Possible Move to Spain Looms

The highly anticipated 2024 Candidates chess tournament, slated to take place in Canada from April 3 to 23, faces uncertainty as players from multiple countries, including India’s top grandmasters, encounter visa troubles. Vladimir Drkulec, president of the Chess Federation of Canada, has cautioned that unless these visa issues are resolved by the end of the week, the tournament may be relocated to Spain.

Drkulec emphasized the need for urgent political intervention to address the visa challenges faced by players and other participants. Expressing cautious optimism, he stated, “If we cannot resolve these issues by Friday, the tournament will be moved to Spain.” He underscored the importance of resolving the matter swiftly, highlighting the looming deadline and his efforts to draw attention to the issue.

The tournament’s uncertainty stems from the visa delays affecting numerous players, including India’s rising chess stars such as R Praggnanandhaa, Vidit Gujrathi, Gukesh D, and Vaishali Rameshbabu. With only a few weeks remaining until the event, as many as 40 participants, including some of the 16 players, are yet to receive their visas. While Koneru Humpy and Viswanathan Anand have secured their visas, many others are still awaiting travel papers.

The urgency of the situation prompted FIDE to issue an urgent appeal, marking the first time in chess history that such a prestigious tournament was scheduled to be hosted in Canada. The appeal, directed to Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Miller, highlighted concerns about the timely arrival of players and urged swift action to resolve the visa delays.

Efforts to address the issue have included contacting members of parliament and government ministers, with positive responses received from some members of their staff. However, FIDE director general Emil Sutovsky reiterated that the tournament would not replace players due to visa issues or postpone the event. While acknowledging the possibility of relocating the tournament to Spain, Sutovsky emphasized the organization’s commitment to ensuring the event’s success, particularly after extensive efforts to make Toronto the host city.

The 2024 Candidates chess tournament holds historical significance as the first time the nearly 70-year-old event would be held in North America. Featuring 16 of the world’s best players, the tournament’s relocation to Spain would mark a significant shift in its traditional hosting venues.

Rajan Shukla

Rajan Shukla

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