Reports | September 05, 2013 11:12

World Juniors venue too close to Syria, moved at the last minute

World Juniors venue too close to Syria, moved at the last minute

The World Junior Championship is scheduled for 12-27 September. When it became clear that the venue would be Hatay, Turkey — about 20km from the Syrian border — many federations had their doubts about sending their players to the tournament. Because of the recent developments in Syria, the organizers have decided to move the tournament to Kocaeli.

A few months ago it was announced that the Turkish Chess Federation had decided to hold the World Juniors U20 in Hatay, Turkey. When the tournament website went online, a number of hotels were mentioned: the Büyük Antakya Hotel, the Narin Hotel, the Anemon Hotel and the Saadet Grand Hotel. Because of the proximity with Syria, this choice of location was remarkable. The tournament was going to take place less than 20km from a country where a civil war is taking place.

Whereas the Turkish organizers assured everyone that the location would be safe, and the tournament would be held without problems, many chess federations had their doubts. One reason was a number of incidents in the region. The U.S. Embassy notes the following:

On May 11, two car bombs exploded fifteen minutes apart in the Reyhanlı district of Hatay province, killing an estimated 49 people and wounding more than 100. Additionally, on February 11, a car bomb exploded at the Turkish/Syrian border crossing at Cilvegözü in Hatay province, killing 14 people and injuring 25. Turkish towns located along the border with Syria have also been struck by bullets and artillery rounds originating in Syria, with some resulting in deaths or injuries.  The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas in close proximity to the Syrian border.

The Dutch chess federation was one of the first to decide not to send their top U20 players to Hatay. Early June we contacted a number of federations, and most of them decided to wait a little. If we look at the current list of participants (PDF here), we can see that the players from almost all Western federations are missing. Some players might have decided not to play for different reasons, but it's clear that the field is much weaker than it could have been.

Yesterday we received the news that, a week before the start, the venue has been changed to Kocaeli, a city 108 km eastern of Istanbul. The Turkish Chess Federation wrote the following letter to FIDE:

With a small note on its website, FIDE has confirmed that this change of venue has been accepted.

The whole thing has been quite unfortunate. Even without the recent developments, with the U.S. Senate committee backing the use of force in Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack, Hatay was not a good location. For many players it's too late to play anyway, and so the tournament will be much weaker than in other years. The Turkish Chess Federation should never have chosen Hatay in the first place, and FIDE should not have accepted it as a venue.


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.


S3's picture

One wonders why mainly only Western Federations seemed to have their doubts about sending junior players to Hatay...are other Federations oblivious of the events in the region or do they just not care...

-:)'s picture

cos all the western federation prawn sandwich brigade are cowardice pussys thats why.

calvin amari's picture

Wow, just think about all the kickback deals the Turkish Federation has to unwind!

Why FIDE is in this absurd situation is difficult to believe. The Syrian was has been going on for years, and cross-border attacks into Turkey have been going on at least since April 2012. Ilyumzhinov, visited Assad later that very same month. (Needless to say, if a word leader starts to be compared to Hitler, an admiring Ilyumzhinov will come calling !)

Of course, even absent the minor issue of a WAR, many other federations would likely boycott a FIDE event in Turkey is the Turkish Federation has developed a reputation as an organization that puts profit motivations well before chess.

Anonymous's picture

Do you remember that Khaddafi was also Kirsan's friend? So that explains a lot.

calvin amari's picture

...and don't forget Saddam Hussein. Maybe if that spaceship Ilyumzhinov was in was capable of time travel, he also kissed the asses of Hitler, Attila The Hun, Pol Pot, and Stalin.

Evgeny's picture

haha, this was just too good!

s3's picture

I mostly wonder why you use "my" name for your comments.

Timmer's picture

Although I agree with your last sentence, I don't think a chessnews website should be so subjective. All in all this tournament will most likely be a failure, I think..

Anonymous's picture

Why are chess events always in these desert like locations?

Anonymous's picture

You could teach yourself something here

Carlsen's Hand Speed's picture

Cause they often out-bid the Western nations. i.e. the U.S. hardly ever bids for FIDE events. They are too busy spying on and meddling with the rest of the world.

Anonymous's picture

Chances of Turkey's own Ipatov have definitely increased now: he's seeded no. 3...

Thomas Oliver's picture

Last year Ipatov was seeded 6th and won, but this time those ahead of him by rating (Wesley So and Yu Yangyi) seem relatively clear favorites. Which other strong players are actually missing? I doubt Giri would have been interested (he doesn't have much to win and more to lose in such an event), maybe Rapport.

As to the venue or organizing country: either some countries are well-connected to FIDE, or other countries aren't interested in organizing this event. Since 2000, the World Junior Championship was held 3 times in Armenia (Yerevan), twice in Greece (Athens), 3 times in India (Goa, Cochi, Chennai) and 3 times in Turkey (Istanbul, Gaziantep, now Hatay becoming Kocaeli). The three remaining events were held in Azerbaijan, Argentina and Poland.

Anonymous's picture

If Rapport is playing, i bet on him !

Anonymous's picture

What about Wei Yi ? Is he playing ?

Thomas Oliver's picture

Wei Yi is playing (confirmed according to the latest list available via the tournament website). Wesley So hasn't yet confirmed [his name isn't marked in green]. Missing players include Negi, Sjugirov, Zherebukh, Giri, Swiercz, Robson, Rapport, Nyzhnhyk and Dubov - but I think the world junior championship never had the strongest possible field.

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