A seven-year-old Israeli chess prodigy will not be able to participate in the World Chess Championship because the host country, Tunisia, will not allow Israelis to compete, the Times of Israel reported Saturday.
Schoolgirl Liel Levitan will instead participate in the World Alternative Championship, which is currently being crowdfunded via a campaign led by fellow Israeli chess player Lior Aizenberg.
Levitan, who has only been playing for three years, had qualified for the tournament by winning her category at the European School Chess Championship in Poland earlier this month, proving victorious in six of her seven matches.
“It was very moving,” Levitan said about standing on the winner’s podium as “Hatikvah” played. “I love chess. I think it’s a game for all ages, not only for grown-ups. My dream is to be the champion of the world.”
Israeli athletes are frequently subjected to discrimination at tournaments held in Arab countries, which refuse to display the Israeli flag or play Israel’s national anthem, if they let the athletes in the country at all. The International Judo Federation announced Friday that it was cancelling two upcoming tournaments in Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates for not ensuring “free and equal participation of all nations” — a veiled reference to past unfairness against Israeli athletes.
Israeli chess players were also banned from the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Saudi Arabia last year.