Reports | February 05, 2013 12:41

Ju Wenjun stuck between the Rock and a hard place (UPDATE)

Ju Wenjun

The Gibraltar Chess Festival finished last Thursday, but Ju Wenjun still hasn't been able to travel home. The 22-year-old Chinese chess player is not allowed to travel back to China via London because she is missing a transit visa; something that didn't prevent her from arriving in Gibraltar in the first place.

Ju Wenjun | Photo Zeljka Malobabic

Last Friday Ju Wenjun, like many other international participants of the Gibraltar Chess Festival, was supposed to be on a flight to London from where she would travel further back to China. However, when tournament director Stuart Conquest returned to the Caleta Hotel after a lunch, he saw the Chinese Women Grandmaster sitting in the lobby with her luggage. As it turned out, British Airways had denied her access to the airplane to London because she was lacking a transit visa.

The strange thing is that she did not need this to get here,

Conquest told us on the phone.

In Hongkong and in London, the airline allowed her to get on the plane. But not this time.

Ju, China's 3rd female chess player, travelled to Gibraltar on January 19th with British Airways. She told The Guardian by telephone:

I don't have a UK transit visa and they let me board (in Hong Kong). When I arrived in the UK, I told them I was going to play in Gibraltar at the Tradewise festival. I showed them my airline ticket and they let me pass through. They let me show my tickets and my invitation.

According to Conquest, the authorities in London want Ju to send her passport to London, where they will arrange the transit visa and then send the passport back. However, the Chinese is reluctant to send her passport. She doesn't understand why this is necessary if she was allowed to travel to Gibraltar in the first place.

Yesterday Conquest assisted Ju to the visa office in Gibraltar, but there the officials can't do anything. Sending a copy of her passport won't do the trick, but they did take Ju's fingerprints.

Two other Chinese players, Yu Yangyi and Zhao Xue, travelled separately from Ju Wenjun and seem to have arrived back to China without problems. They probably had the necessary transit visa with them.

We're doing everything we can to solve the problem,

said Conquest.

We've already contacted the Chinese Chess Federation as well; perhaps they can help. Obviously she got a free room in the hotel, and we're trying to get her a free airplane ticket as well.

In December the Russian grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi had visa problems and only reached London with a few days delay, to assist Magnus Carlsen as a second. In July last year Dutch grandmaster Loek van Wely wasn't allowed to enter the USA for lacking a working visa.

Update: The situation was solved on Wednesday afternoon, February 6th. Stuart Conquest tweeted:

Ju Wenjun is flying home! Now en route to Heathrow, with later flight to Hong Kong, then connecting to Shanghai. Thanks to all who helped!

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Septimus's picture

The desk-jockeys simply do as they are told without being pro-active about anything beyond their lunch break. All in the name of being on the frontline of the "war on terror"...utter bull!#$%.

noyb's picture

Sounds like the Brits need to get their craniums out of their posterior regions.

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