The bank account of FIDE, a premier chess organization that governs some major international chess competitions, maintains rules adhered to at many other tournaments, calculates players’ ratings, and awards titles such as Grandmaster, was shut down this week. Peter Doggers reports at chess.com that FIDE officials say UBS Bank was terminating FIDE’s account because FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is included “on the sanctions list of the US Department of the Treasury” though “Ilyumzhinov himself has stated that the sanctions were not mentioned by UBS.” Doggers notes that FIDE, also known as the World Chess Federation, has been unable to establish an account with another bank since UBS, a Switzerland bank, announced in February that the FIDE account would be terminated.
In November, the United States government included Ilyumzhinov in a list of people being sanctioned for purportedly assisting the Syria government. Also, because Ilyumzhinov lives in the Russian Federation and is a former president of the Republic of Kalmykia, sanctioning him is a twofer, striking at both Syria and Russia.
US sanctions have reached into international chess competition before. One prominent example involved the extraordinary American chess player Bobby Fischer competing against chess great Boris Spassky in 1992. Because their match occurred in Yugoslavia that was then the subject of US sanctions, the US government pursued Fischer for years, threatening him with incarceration. In 2005, with the US then seeking to have Fischer extradited to America from Japan where Fischer had been living, Fischer was saved from prison by moving to Iceland after the Iceland government offered him asylum.
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