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Prestigious chess tournament in Toronto could be moved to Spain if visa issue not resolved

Chess board (Pexels/Vlada Karpovich0 Chess board (Pexels/Vlada Karpovich0
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The International Chess Federation (FIDE) is asking the federal government to urgently approve the visa of players participating in an elite tournament in Toronto next month.

In a post on X, FIDE said players from various countries who submitted their visa applications a few months ago have yet to receive any updates on their status.

The Candidates Tournament, which will be held at the Great Hall from April 3 to 22, is the most prestigious tournament in the chess world, according to FIDE, as it will determine the player who will challenge the defending world chess champion.

"This is the first time in the history of chess that the most prestigious tournament is due to be hosted in Canada, recognizing the country's growing role in the chess world," FIDE said in a statement.

"With only a month remaining till the FIDE Candidates Tournament, there are grave concerns about the timely arrival of the players to Toronto. Recognizing the popularity of the game in the country and its growing role in the chess world, we kindly ask the Canadian Government for support in urgently addressing this matter."

Vladimir Drkulec, the president of the Chess Federation of Canada, said a deadline had been set for next Friday for the government to give an assurance that the visa issue would be resolved promptly or the tournament would be moved to Spain.

Drkulec said it would be a big loss for Canada if that happens.

"I'm really hoping that … somebody in the government gets interested and makes this happen because it's within their power. If it doesn't, then it's going to be very painful," he said.

"A lot of people have done a lot of work, and to have it just evaporate like that would be very disappointing."

Sixteen elite chess players – eight men and eight women – are competing in the tournament. In addition to them, officials and coaches also need visas.

Many of them, Drkulec noted, have applied as far back as November and are still waiting for approval with a month left before the competition starts.

Drkulec said Canada may never get another opportunity to host such a prestigious tournament if the event gets moved elsewhere.

He added that many people had been working behind the scenes to get the issue resolved, including contacting members of Parliament.

"We won't see this again if this doesn't happen," Drkulec said.

In the social media post, FIDE tagged the account of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Minister Marc Miller.

"Ensuring the safe and timely arrival of players is crucial for the success and integrity of the FIDE Candidates Tournament and for promoting Canada as a host of the most important chess tournament of the year, which will be followed by millions of spectators worldwide," FIDE said.

CP24 has reached out to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and to Minister Miller’s office for comment.

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