Top GMs Sign Open Letter Urging Ukraine To Let Vasyl Ivanchuk Play FIDE World Cup

Top GMs Sign Open Letter Urging Ukraine To Let Vasyl Ivanchuk Play FIDE World Cup


In an open letter published on the FIDE website a number of top grandmasters urge Ukraine’s government to allow GM Vasyl Ivanchuk to leave the country and play the upcoming FIDE World Cup.

The event begins in Baku, Azerbaijan on July 29 and lasts until August 25. Among the 206 participants in the open section is Ukrainian chess legend GM Vasyl Ivanchuk. The 54-year-old received a wild card from the International Chess Federation (FIDE).

However, due to the Russian invasion and the ongoing war, the Ukrainian Ministry of Youth and Sports has a policy of not letting athletes between 18 and 60 years take part in events where players from Russia and Belarus are also competing. In chess, players from these countries are able to take part in international competitions as long as they compete under the neutral FIDE flag.

In an open letter, signed by grandmasters Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, and Boris Gelfand, the Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine is asked to “review the relevant decision and issue the necessary permission.”

20 July, 2023
To Vadym Gutzeit
Minister of Youth and Sports of Ukraine

Dear Mr Gutzeit,

FIDE World Cup will start on July 29 in Baku, Azerbaijan. This is one of the most
important chess competitions of the year. All of us were glad to learn that the
Ukrainian GM Vasyl Ivanchuk received a special invitation to participate.

Ivanchuk is a true chess legend, known and loved by fans all over the world, a player
who has glorified Ukraine countless times, including two team victories at the Chess
Olympiads. For each of us, the opportunity to play with him has always been a cause
of special pride and pleasure.

In this regard, it was a significant disappointment for us to learn that the Ministry
refuses to grant Mr Ivanchuk a special permit allowing him to leave the country to
participate in the World Cup. We believe that his participation and play would bring
happiness to many, especially Ukrainians, and we respectfully ask you to review the
relevant decision and issue the necessary permission.

Magnus Carlsen (Norway), 16th World Champion, no. 1 world rating since 2010
Viswanathan Anand (India), 15th World Сhampion
Hikaru Nakamura (USA), No. 2 world rating, Fischer World Chess Champion
Fabiano Caruana (USA), No. 3 world rating, World Champion challenger (2018)
Wesley So (USA), No. 8 world rating, former Fischer World Chess Сhampion
Boris Gelfand (Israel), World Championship challenger (2012)

The Ukrainian Ministry of Youth and Sports recently made changes in the order where national teams take part in events where athletes from Russia and Belarus are present. Instead of “prohibit” the order has now been changed to the less conclusive “not to send.”

It’s unclear whether Ukraine will make exceptions to the policy, but the Ukrainian sports minister has threatened to boycott the 2024 Paris Olympics if Russia and Belarus are allowed to take part.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has called on athletes to be treated equally, regardless of the passport they hold and said, as reported by The Guardian: “Governments must not decide which athletes can participate in which competition and which athletes cannot.”

Gutzeit later responded by saying the matter is a question of principle. He wrote on Facebook on January 19 of this year: “Part of the international federations are outraged by the IOC’s efforts to promote the return of Russians and Belarusians. We have addressed and will address all international organizations that can influence the situation and whose opinions the IOC members can listen to. Our position is unchanged: as long as there is a war in Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be in international competitions.”

Two days ago, he expressed a similar view: “We are fighting for the complete elimination of Russians and Belarusians from international competitions while the war continues. They should not play under any flag.”

The eccentric and unpredictable Ivanchuk has been a favorite among chess fans for his brilliance on the chess board in the world elite for more than 30 years. He was able to take part in the Bydgoszcz GM tournament in Poland at the end of June, an event he won on tiebreaks with 3/5.

Weeks after the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, the chess legend signed a joint letter by Ukrainian grandmasters calling for a blanket ban on Russian chess players and for the resignation of the Russian FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. 

The letter stated that Dvorkovich, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, should resign because as a former aide to Putin he is “personally responsible for the formation of Russia’s aggressive foreign policy.” has contacted the Ukrainian Ministry of Youth and Sports seeking comment.


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