Indian Delegation withdraws from World Cadets 2023 at Egypt
The FIDE World Cadets Chess Championships is scheduled to be held at Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt from 16th-26th October 2023. However, due to the severe conflict between Israel and Hamas going on right now at the Gaza strip, and Egypt sharing a border with Israel, the 83-member Indian delegation has withdrawn from the World Cadets this year. The event was originally scheduled to start from 14th October, but after an one-day postponement it is starting from 16th October. In this article, we bring you the views of the Indian players, coaches and officials about this situation.
Indian Delegation of 83 members are not travelling to Egypt for World Cadets 2023
The World Cadets are one of the most exciting events for young players all across India, and they perform spectacularly each year. There are 3 age categories - Under-8, Under-10 and Under-12, divided further into the Open and Girls section. The event is scheduled to be held at Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt from 16th October. Counting the players, Team coaches, official and accompanying parents, a total of 83 people were scheduled to travel to this tournament.
However, due to the current circumstances regarding the situation between Israel and Hamas, the Indian delegation withdrew from the event keeping the safety of the players in mind. This is what the All India Chess Federation mentioned in their press note:
In the meanwhile, the World Cadets originally scheduled to start from 14th October was postponed by a day and scheduled to 16th October. The International Chess Federation (FIDE) put out a tweet on the matter:
It is also interesting to note that Team USA also withdrew from the event due to security reasons. They put out an announcement article on their website:
According to the Official website and the chess-results tournament link, a total of 502 players from different countries are taking part in this event which is supposed to start from 3 p.m local time and 5:30 PM IST on 16th October. In this article, we take a look at the views of players, coaches, and officials regarding this difficult situation for the Indian players.
Bharat Singh Chauhan, Asian Chess Federation Deputy President:
"We had consulted many people, even the organizers of the event. The kids are very young - Under-8, Under-10 and Under-12, so the All India Chess Federation decided not to send the team with approval from the Government of India."
On FIDE rescheduling the event:
"FIDE has also rescheduled the event. If everything is alright, then why has FIDE rescheduled the event? Initially, the tournament was supposed to start on 14th October, and now it is scheduled to 16th October. Things are not good, and actually the issue is - in such cases, the international commercial flights stop. These young Children, leaving them there, and already things are not under control, because in Egypt itself some Israeli tourists were killed in retaliation. Things are not healthy and things are very scary, and we don't know what is going to happen. In this situation, I think sports can wait, life is more important."
On further opportunities for the players who missed the World Cadets:
"I don't really know, it is too early to say for me. I spoke with the main organizer, he said he is also requesting FIDE to postpone it - that was two days back. When organizer themselves are saying to postpone, there is no point in India sending any team. Actually, this was a very difficult decision but I think safety of our young players is more important than anything. We requested FIDE to postpone, organizers are also told to postpone and by seeing the situation, I think FIDE will also postpone. They will not run the tournament, because now the ground offensive is starting, I just saw the news. The things will become worse, and even if things improve, at the moment things are really scary and it's highly risky to send our young players and parents."
On the missed opportunity for the Indian players:
"Some of the players are very serious, they want to go. Of course, very rarely some players win the National Championships, them and their parents have worked very hard for it, I can understand. But the situation is not correct to travel, that is what the All India Chess Federation felt."
Sanjeev Thakur, Manager of the Indian Team
"This is very unfortunate that we could not participate in the world cadets chess championships. We had a strong team in every category, but on the other hand protection of players was also necessary since the Gaza strip was only 370 Kilometers away from the venue. The Government of India categorically declined to send the teams to championship, keeping in view the safety of the players and all coaches and total delegate. If FIDE postpones this tournament to any other venue, we would be pleased to participate. Life is most important than any other thing, tournament will come and go. But for those who had last chance, hard luck for them, now all depends upon what decision FIDE takes on this."
Manasa Kongot, Coach of Team India for World Cadets 2023
"It's very unfortunate that the situations had a dramatic turn around in the last couple of days, and I had least expected when the war began that it will potentially affect our participation in the World Cadets to be held at Egypt. A day before our domestic flight was scheduled to leave from our respective home towns towards Delhi where we were all meeting and then heading to Cairo, everything seemed to be almost fine, although there were fears and anxiety about flying to Egypt among us and all parents. However FIDE as well as Egypt Chess Association released statements that players will be safe and there is nothing to worry.
But the war situation was changing minute by minute. We all had our concerns specially because kids until age of 12 were travelling along. And they being the future citizens of our Country, it's not easy for Indian Government to make a bold decision of sending kids in risk- prone areas and making them stay at a city which is less than 400km far from the war zone. So I guess India had to take a hard decision of withdrawing from the World Cadets, considering the safety of the young players.
Although this is quite disappointing to the players themselves who have been preparing for this event from a long time, I feel this was a very necessary decision and the need of the hour considering unforeseen circumstances which could unfold in the coming days in the war. I stand by the decision. In fact, I got this opportunity to travel as a Coach for the first time ever in my life and I myself was so looking forward to it.
However, I am sad that FIDE or the Egypt Chess Association are not postponing the World Cadets. Conducting a World event in a potentially risky area which lasts for almost 2 weeks with participants from all over the World is not a good idea, and I personally feel that the event should have been postponed as soon as the war situation escalated. I am with the players and parents who have put in so many months of hardwork for this event and ultimately are not being able to take part. So I personally want to appeal to the Government and AICF to provide opportunity for these players in any other upcoming prestigious events to compensate for the World Cadets. I also appeal to FIDE to postpone the event if possible, which I think may be too late right now."
Charvi A (1580) , qualified for Under-10 Girls in World Cadets 2023
Some notable accomplishments of Charvi's chess career so far: Won U-8 World cadet championships 2022
Statement from Charvi's father, Anilkumar Hebbal:
"The Federation and Indian government has taken right decision considering the player safety. But, FIDE could have postponed this event considering the security of player. Players are not able to focus on the game since war is happening very near to the Playing area. Parents are also under the fear of safety. This is very big loss for Indian players, and also whoever is playing now will also be in lots of fear. Because of this decision, every player has lost huge money, close to 5 lakh per player.. For every player, the dream is to win world championship once, lots of player missed this year. I wish all of them good luck for upcoming events."
Ethan Vaz (2396), Qualified for Under-12 Open in World Cadets 2023:
Some accomplishments of Ethan's chess career so far:
Ethan has won 15 medals for India, including Gold at Asian Youth and Commonwealth Chess Championships (U12) in 2022. He had won Silver at FIDE World Cup and FIDE Super Finals (U10, Online) in 2021, and missed Silver at World Cadet Chess Championship 2022 by half a point. Ethan achieved the FM title earlier this year and is currently ranked World No. 2 in the U12 category.
Statement from Ethan's father, Edwin Vaz:
At 8pm on 12th October, AICF had a zoom meeting with parents and after discussions it was decided that India would participate in the event. People scheduled to travel early next morning were advised to delay their domestic flights if possible, in case of any last moment change in decision. However, by 10:30pm we got a message informing that it's been decided that our delegation will not participate, citing safety and security concerns. It was told that the decision was final. When parents asked whether players could participate as individuals, the answer was a clear "No".
Initially, we didn't understand the reasons behind the sudden change in decision, but later we were told that the call to withdraw was taken by the Government of India. Given the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and especially considering the aspect of terrorism, we think it was a prudent decision. We believe the decision would have been based on intelligence reports of the deteriorating situation, and we expected that the event would get called off.
Meanwhile, one player and their parent reached Egypt that evening, and said that everything looked normal out there. We didn't know what to make of it. All our officially booked flight tickets and insurance policies were canceled by AICF the same night. It was all so sudden that we barely had any time to react.
The next day, we were disappointed to learn that everything was business-as-usual as far as the event was concerned. When parents expressed concerns, we were told that Egyptian Chess Federation has also asked FIDE to postpone the event, but that they were not paying heed to their requests. That's when we took to social media in an attempt to know why FIDE was choosing not to postpone the event even though the organizers themselves were asking for it to be postponed. Meanwhile, all names from the Indian delegation were deleted from the tournament listings.
In what seemed to be a cruel joke, FIDE published an announcement that the tournament was rescheduled... and the first round was to start one day later, on the 16th (instead of 15th). So, we still had two more days to decide to travel if required. Many parents started pushing for permission to participate, but it was ruled out stating that the Government's decision was final. We can understand that such decisions can not be changed overnight.
Why FIDE has chosen not to postpone the event, despite the war and terrorist activities happening within less than 400 kms from the venue, is beyond our comprehension. That all other nations decided to participate in the event, is also interesting to note. One tends to think that our decision to withdraw was probably not right, but maybe such decisions can neither be considered right, nor wrong. To err on the side of safety would have been expected, but it appears that FIDE would prefer to take the risk. Not sure who takes the responsibility in case of some untoward incident.
What was shocking to see was that one Indian player's name made a comeback on the list. When asked how it's possible that one player gets to play on Indian flag when the government of India has taken a call to withdraw citing safety and security concerns, we didn't receive a response.
Ethan is disappointed, to say the least, and still hopes he can fly to Egypt and make it in time for the first round that is now scheduled to start on the 16th.