After the Cold War, chess is once again emerging as a point of controversy as we move toward what some fear could degenerate into yet another Cold War. In fact, anti-Russian Cold Warriors in the United States have already nailed the scalp of a chess-playing “desperado” to their trophy wall. His arsenal reportedly features such deadly devices as the Yugoslav Attack, the Queen’s Gambit, and the dreaded Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation — all weapons of “chess distraction.”
August – Last month, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Russian and president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), was barred from boarding a plane from Moscow to New York because he had been put on the sanctions list by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for allegedly “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria” and related entities. Mr. Ilyumzhinov had hoped to take part in preparations for a match between Russian Sergey Karjakin and Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen.
Mr. Ilyumzhinov had written to OFAC offering to come to Washington to hand-deliver documentation refuting the claims against him, but the office rejected his offer to deliver such evidence, suggesting instead that he mail them as part of his request for reconsideration of the decision to sanction him. Friends of Mr. Ilyumzhinov in Russia, Europe and even the United States suspect the decision to sanction him in the first place was based on politics rather than evidence.