Smart move

Teenage chess grandmaster banned from playing in Iran over refusal to wear a hijab will compete for U.S.

Dorsa Derakhshani (YouTube)

Dorsa Derakhshani, a 19-year-old Iranian chess grandmaster who in February was banned from playing in her home country after she was seen competing without a headscarf, has moved to the U.S. and officially joined the U.S. Chess Federation. Since moving to the U.S. in July, Derakshani has begun attending St. Louis University, where she now competes on the school team.

“Iran wasn’t letting her play in certain tournaments that she needs federation approval to play in, such as world champion cycles or world juniors,” explained Alejandro Ramirez, the St. Louis University chess coach. “Of course, America is not going to have a problem with that.”

Speaking with WBUR-FM last week, Derakhshani suggested that the Iranian government had scapegoated her and her 14-year-old brother, who was also banned for having played against an Israeli player in a tournament. They were targeted, she said, in order to distract from the embarrassment caused by many women players, including American chess champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, who decided to skip the Women’s World Chess Championship in Iran because of hijab requirements.

“In the middle of this, they needed another distraction,” Derakhshani said. “And somebody tipped off the reporters to specially ask about my brother and I, which worked perfectly. Everybody started talking about us.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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