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World Blitz/Rapid Champs To Begin In Riyadh

It would be odd for the Saudis to make such a high-profile investment then score an own goal with negative publicity

Chess: lucrative world speed events to open in Saudi Arabia amid controversy

Magnus Carlsen is among those scheduled to appear at the event in Riyadh which has been dogged by issues surrounding visas for Israeli participants and the dress code for women competitors

The 2017 world rapid (half-hour games) and blitz (five-minute) championships will be played from 26-30 December in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, amid continuing controversy. A huge prize fund of $2m, split $1.5m for the two men’s events and $0.5m for the women’s, dwarfs previous contests.

The world champion, Magnus Carlsen, will play, as will Shak Mamedyarov, Levon Aronian and Vishy Anand from the top 10. Several other elite GMs will be absent. Nigel Short is the leading English entrant. For the first time in a sporting event in Saudi Arabia, women will not be required to play with a hijab or an abaya as head covering.

Riyadh will also host the world rapid/blitz in 2019 and 2020. The Saudis were the only bidders for the event, and the cash-strapped global chess body, Fide, will benefit.

Fide also announced that Saudi visas would be issued to Israeli players wishing to participate. There were seven applicants, although the country’s top three GMs, led by the 2012 world title challenger Boris Gelfand, stayed away.