DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Saudi Arabia is hosting a world chess tournament for the first time, despite religious edicts by conservative clerics who frown upon the board game.
Two years ago, Saudi Arabia's top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, said chess is "forbidden" in Islam because it wastes time and can be used for gambling, which is not permissible in Islam. Similarly, top Iranian clerics have also decried the game.
The chess tournament is also engulfed in regional politics. Israelis say Saudi Arabia ignored requests by Israeli players to obtain visas to participate in the tournament that begins on Tuesday. Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations.
Meanwhile, players from Qatar and Iran, which have strained ties with Saudi Arabia, have been granted visas to participate in the tournament.