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Why a Chess Tournament in the Malvinas Prompted a Response from the UK Foreign Secretary

The English Chess Federation called the situation "unacceptable"

By | [email protected] | June 4, 2019 3:19pm

charlie-solorzano-1274657-unsplashPhoto via Unsplash
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“The status of this particular square on the board is not in question!” With those words, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt took to Twitter to express his discontent with, of all things, a chess tournament. But not just any chess tournament. This one took place on the Malvinas islands this past March and is now the subject of an international controversy involving both Argentina and the UK’s chess federations as well as the FIDE (World Chess Federation).

So how did we get to this point, exactly? I mean, besides the fact that the two countries fought a war back in 1982 that left scars that, to this day, have not entirely healed. Well, the tournament in question was named Copa Islas del Sur and took place in the Malvinas during March 2019. It was organized by the Argentine Chess Federation (FADA) and enlisted several Malvinas veterans among its participants. The tourney even hosted a symbolic event when two veterans, Colonel Major José Jiménez Corbalán (Argentina) and Royal Navy Lieutenant Marc Villiers Towsend (UK), sat down for a chess match 37 years after battle. Here’s the official poster for the event:

Here’s where things get, let’s say, chippy. If you look closely at the last lines of the poster, it reads Puerto Argentino as the official location where the event took place, a location the British refer to as Port Stanley. But this was just the tip of the iceberg, at least for the English Chess Federation (EFC) which issued an official statement on their website that stated, among other things, the following:

“The English Chess Federation administers chess activity in British Overseas Territories who are not members of FIDE in their own right. We view the staging of these clandestine tournaments as an unacceptable breach of our jurisdiction. The activity is also a diplomatic provocation. The ECF requests that the Qualification Commission remove the rating records of these two events and the FIDE Executive Board make clear to the Argentinian Chess Federation that such activity is unacceptable and demand an assurance from the Argentinian Chess Federation there will not be a repetition. The Falklands Legislative Council and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have been informed.”

Diplomatic provocation? In the words of the immortal Anchorman, Ron Burgundy:

via GIPHY

But all GIFs aside, tension around this issue only increased after the statement by the EFC which prompted a lengthy article by The Times and the aforementioned tweet by the Foreign Secretary, as well as responses from a couple of members of the Malvinas legislature that warned that “chess and politics are not to be mixed.” The World Chess Federation (FIDE) has since taken action and excluded the controversial tournament from their official rating system.

FADA’s president, Mario Petrucci, has done very little to relieve the tensions by telling Télam that the Argentine federation would appeal the decision and claiming that the tournament would be celebrated again next year in the same venue given that “FADA has its rules and the Malvinas belong to Argentina.” He also added that the issue had been looked at by the Argentine Foreign Ministry, although no official statement has been released.

It’s safe to see we probably haven’t seen the last of this issue and we’ll be sure to keep an eye out for further developments here at The Bubble. We leave you with a photo essay we did back in February that shines a light on the ever-lingering presence of the Malvinas war in everyday Buenos Aires life.