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Chess Personality of the Year: Grandmaster Anna Muzychuk

I wept when I read Anna Muzychuk's statement. It is rare that a statement from any chess player moves me to any extent let alone to tears. Anna Muzychuk the double world champion at Rapid and Blitz from the 2016 Qatar Rapid and Blitz World Championship decided to forfeit her right to defend her title because she decided that she could not reconcile the conditions for women in general in Saudi Arabia with her complying and playing chess there.

Photo Credit: Anastasiya Karlovich

Now what makes what Anna's actions amazing is that she competed in Iran for the Women's World Championships earlier in 2017 and even wore a hijab and whilst the then Women's US Champion, Nazí Paikidze, decided not to compete citing the restrictions on women in general in Iran. Anna managed to find her justification for competing on this occasion.  This is normal as we are all given the freedom to weigh up our ethical decisions based on our values at the time, our evaluation function as it were. There were Iranian women competing in the competition and some had publicly appealed for the tournament to go ahead for those who wanted to attended. Eight months later when news reports confirmed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were to be hosting the World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championship her views crystallised into the eloquently heartfelt statement she issued to the public. Her evaluation function had changed significantly based on these new conditions and her values.

"I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. Not to play by someone's rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature."

-- Two-times world chess champion Anna Muzychuk. pic.twitter.com/mqO5urfD5v

— dwnews (@dwnews) January 2, 2018

Anna would have been likely to have finished well in both Rapid and Blitz events in Riyadh and got paid well for parking her ethical concerns. She choose not to and lost material but gain compensation in her reputation and stature as a spokesperson for the conscience of the chess world.

I have never seen such sincerity and frankness from anyone in public life, let alone the insular rarefied world of chess, pouring out their thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams, so for this Grandmaster Anna Muzychuk will forever capture our hearts and be the queen of ethical protest in Chess.

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