Russian chess grandmaster Sergey Karjakin, one of the world’s top players, has been suspended for six months by the International Chess Federation after publicly voicing support for his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Karjakin, who was at one point the youngest ever player to attain the title of grandmaster (at just age 12), had previously represented Ukraine in international competition before switching his allegiance to Russia in 2009. He has been vocal in his support of Russia’s invasion on social media since hostilities began, which has led to confrontations with fans and his fellow chess players.
He has also been circulating Russian propaganda:
In light of this, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) recently opened disciplinary action against Karjakin and another Russian player who has been publicly pro-invasion, Sergei Shipov. While clearing Shipov because he “is considerably less known and has, therefore, a less powerful platform”, Karjakin has been found to have breached FIDE’s code of ethics.
The ruling was published on the Federation’s site:
“The statements by Sergey Karjakin on the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine has led to a considerable number of reactions on social media and elsewhere, to a large extent negative towards the opinions expressed by Sergey Karjakin”, reads point 7.37 of the 10-page document where the EDC explains the reasons and legal background for its decision.
It continues: “A necessary condition for the establishment of guilt is that the statements have reached the public domain. This concept, with respect to disrepute clauses in sport, is not the world at large but the sport in which the accused engages, such as chess. Information concerning the accused’s conduct which is not published in the media, but which can be learnt without a great deal of labour by persons engaged in the chess world or a relevant part of it, will be in the public domain and satisfy the public exposure element. The EDC Chamber is comfortably satisfied that this condition is fulfilled in this case.”
“The EDC Chamber finds, against the background given above, on the standard of comfortable satisfaction that the statements of Sergey Karjakin, which, by his own choice and presentation, can be connected to the game of chess, damage the reputation of the game of chess and/or FIDE. The likelihood that these statements will damage the reputation of Sergey Karjakin personally is also considerable”, it concludes.
Responding to the suspension, Karjakin wrote on his Telegram page (as translated by The Guardian):
An expected, but no less shameful decision by FIDE. All sports selections have been trampled, the basic principle that sport is out of politics has been trampled. Most importantly, first of all I am a patriot of my country and only second of all I am an athlete. If I thought back to the situation when I supported the president of Russia, the people and the army I would have done the same thing! I don’t regret anything.
A gentle reminder that from labour to gender to sportswashing, sports are entirely about politics.