The King Salman Blitz and Rapid Championship marks the first time a major chess event takes place in Saudi Arabia.
Clerics in Saudi Arabia previously claimed that chess is ‘makrooh’, or frowned upon in Islam, despite the Islamic Empire widely regarded as responsible for chess popularity as the most well-known tabletop game.
Chess, or “shatranj” as it is known in Arabic, was introduced from India to Ancient Persia where it became mandatory as part of the princely upbringing.
The game was introduced to the rest of the world after the Islamic conquest of Persia and became a popular pastime for both middle class civilians and the Islamic world's elite.
“Chess is no longer 'makrooh' in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Chess Association was formed in 2009 and became a full member of Fide in 2016,” Nigel Freeman, Fide executive director, told The National.