Photo
An image of Dorsa Derakhshani from a YouTube video. Credit PowerPlayChess, via YouTube

A female chess champion from Iran has joined the United States Chess Federation, months after learning that she was officially barred from playing for her homeland because she refused to wear a head scarf.

Officials at the United States Chess Federation, the official governing body for chess players in the United States, said on Tuesday that Dorsa Derakhshani, 19, a grandmaster champion who grew up in Tehran, would compete under its oversight after she officially joined in September.

The designation was recorded on the website of the Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or World Chess Federation. The American branch represents the United States in the world federation.

“Iran wasn’t letting her play in certain tournaments that she needs federation approval to play in, such as world champion cycles or world juniors,” Alejandro Ramirez, her team coach at St. Louis University, which she now attends, said on Tuesday. “Of course, America is not going to have a problem with that.”

In July, Ms. Derakhshani moved to the United States to start competing with the university’s chess team, according to a statement from the school.

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In an interview with WBUR-FM last week, Ms. Derakhshani said she competed without a hijab in the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, a weeklong competition that ended in February. She also had not worn one in previous tournaments. Iran requires women to wear the head covering in public.

Just weeks after the Gibraltar tournament ended, she said she learned from friends that the Iranian chess federation had barred her for not wearing a hijab. The Iranians also barred her 14-year-old brother, Borna, because he had played opposite an Israeli player in Gibraltar, she said.

“It was just very out of the blue and without any warning, without anything,” she said in the interview. She did not reply to an emailed message on Tuesday.

Ms. Derakhshani was not in Iran when she learned of the ban. She had moved to Barcelona, Spain, in 2015 to play with a chess club and pursue her studies, according to The Associated Press.

The semiofficial Mehr news agency of Iran reported on Monday that the president of Iran’s chess federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, said it was not unusual for players to change their national federation, and that Ms. Derakhshani was not on Iran’s national team anyway. “She played for Iran only one time in 2014,” he said, The Associated Press reported.

At times, political undercurrents between opponents from countries that do not share official relations have surfaced over the chess board.

In 2011, one of Iran’s top grandmasters, Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, was expelled from an international tournament after he refused to play a match against an Israeli opponent, the tournament director said, according to a report in The New York Times.

He refused again in 2016 at a tournament in Switzerland, the Mehr news agency reported.

The predicament Ms. Derakhshani faced was not the first time the hijab set off ripples in the chess world. In 2016, a United States women’s chess champion, Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, said she would boycott the world championship in Iran in 2017 because religious law would require her to wear a hijab.

“I am not anti-Islam or any other religion,” Ms. Paikidze-Barnes wrote last year. “I stand for freedom of religion and choice. I’m protesting FIDE’s decision not because of Iran’s religion or people, but for the government’s laws that are restricting my rights as a woman.”

Ms. Derakhshani told WBUR-FM that when she learned about the ban, the Women’s World Chess Championship in Iran was taking place, and several women were boycotting the event because of the hijab requirement.

“So in the middle of all this, they needed another distraction,” Ms. Derakhshani said. “And somebody tipped off the reporters to specially ask about my brother and I, which worked perfectly. Everybody started talking about us.”

Mr. Ramirez, who has known Ms. Derakhshani for about three years, called her a “very outgoing, fun girl” who is not that interested in taking political sides.

“She just wants to be known for what she does over the board,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

A female chess champion from Iran has joined the United States Chess Federation, months after learning that she was officially barred from playing for her homeland because she refused to wear a head scarf.

Officials at the United States Chess Federation, the official governing body for chess players in the United States, said on Tuesday that Dorsa Derakhshani, 19, a grandmaster champion who grew up in Tehran, would compete under its oversight after she officially joined in September.

The designation was recorded on the website of the Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or World Chess Federation. The American branch represents the United States in the world federation.

“Iran wasn’t letting her play in certain tournaments that she needs federation approval to play in, such as world champion cycles or world juniors,” Alejandro Ramirez, her team coach at St. Louis University, which she now attends, said on Tuesday. “Of course, America is not going to have a problem with that.”

In July, Ms. Derakhshani moved to the United States to start competing with the university’s chess team, according to a statement from the school.

In an interview with WBUR-FM last week, Ms. Derakhshani said she competed without a hijab in the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, a weeklong competition that ended in February. She also had not worn one in previous tournaments. Iran requires women to wear the head covering in public.

Just weeks after the Gibraltar tournament ended, she said she learned from friends that the Iranian chess federation had barred her for not wearing a hijab. The Iranians also barred her 14-year-old brother, Borna, because he had played opposite an Israeli player in Gibraltar, she said.

“It was just very out of the blue and without any warning, without anything,” she said in the interview. She did not reply to an emailed message on Tuesday.

Ms. Derakhshani was not in Iran when she learned of the ban. She had moved to Barcelona, Spain, in 2015 to play with a chess club and pursue her studies, according to The Associated Press.

The semiofficial Mehr news agency of Iran reported on Monday that the president of Iran’s chess federation, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, said it was not unusual for players to change their national federation, and that Ms. Derakhshani was not on Iran’s national team anyway. “She played for Iran only one time in 2014,” he said, The Associated Press reported.

At times, political undercurrents between opponents from countries that do not share official relations have surfaced over the chess board.

In 2011, one of Iran’s top grandmasters, Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, was expelled from an international tournament after he refused to play a match against an Israeli opponent, the tournament director said, according to a report in The New York Times.

He refused again in 2016 at a tournament in Switzerland, the Mehr news agency reported.

The predicament Ms. Derakhshani faced was not the first time the hijab set off ripples in the chess world. In 2016, a United States women’s chess champion, Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, said she would boycott the world championship in Iran in 2017 because religious law would require her to wear a hijab.

“I am not anti-Islam or any other religion,” Ms. Paikidze-Barnes wrote last year. “I stand for freedom of religion and choice. I’m protesting FIDE’s decision not because of Iran’s religion or people, but for the government’s laws that are restricting my rights as a woman.”

Ms. Derakhshani told WBUR-FM that when she learned about the ban, the Women’s World Chess Championship in Iran was taking place, and several women were boycotting the event because of the hijab requirement.

“So in the middle of all this, they needed another distraction,” Ms. Derakhshani said. “And somebody tipped off the reporters to specially ask about my brother and I, which worked perfectly. Everybody started talking about us.”

Mr. Ramirez, who has known Ms. Derakhshani for about three years, called her a “very outgoing, fun girl” who is not that interested in taking political sides.

“She just wants to be known for what she does over the board,” he said.

Nytimes

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