The International Chess Federation fined a 23-year-old chess player from the Netherlands at its World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, for wearing “sports shoes.”
FIDE, as the federation is known, fined Anna-Maja Kazarian 100 euros ($111) for wearing what the organization’s arbiters deemed “sports shoes” during the tournament this week. It also required Ms. Kazarian, who streams her games to more than 34,000 followers on Twitch, to change into more formal shoes in between games.
Failing to change into other shoes, which she needed to retrieve from her hotel room across the river from the tournament’s venue, would “result in not being invited in the pairings for the next round,” according to the official warning, which she received on a yellow laminated card.
The shoes in question are plaid, canvas Burberry sneakers with white rubber soles. She held them up in a YouTube video that she recorded after the incident, and said that the shoes had been a gift from her sister.
“I barely ever wear them because they’re fancy,” Ms. Kazarian said in the 48-minute video, in which she recapped the day and her games.
The first rule of FIDE’s dress code for the tournament is “dress to impress,” the federation’s website states. The dress code is supposed to promote a “good and positive image of chess” and “shall be strictly enforced,” according to the website.
Generally, sneakers are allowed, but “sports sneakers” are not. The difference between the two is not clearly stated in the dress code.
For women in particular, the following is not allowed: “sport’s sneakers, clacking shoes, any kind of jeans, any kind of inappropriate cloth (e.g. torn cloth or cloth with holes, unclean cloth), sport caps, sun glasses, revealing attire.”
The rules for men are similar. “Sports sneakers, T-shirts, any kind of jeans, any kind of inappropriate cloth (e.g. torn cloth or cloth with holes, unclean cloth), sport caps, sun glasses” are not accepted.
The ambiguity of the definition of “sports shoes” is tricky for players deciding what to wear, said Pavel Tregubov, FIDE’s technical delegate at the tournament and a chess player. “I understand her point of view,” he said of Ms. Kazarian. FIDE will work on a clearer definition of sports shoes for future dress codes, Mr. Tregubov said.
Ms. Kazarian wasn’t the only one who received a yellow card with a warning during the tournament this week. Arbiters gave out two yellow cards in the open section for all players and three in the women’s section, Mr. Tregubov said, adding that all of them were issued because of sports shoes. The arbiters gave out the cards only in cases in which they were 100 percent sure that the shoes was too sporty for the tournament, he said.
The yellow cards that were given out at this year’s tournament, which has 330 participants, were a new feature to make sure that more people followed the dress code, Mr. Tregubov said.
Ms. Kazarian was the only player who objected, Mr. Tregubov said, adding that “all other players accepted it.”
Critics on the internet were quick to condemn the strict dress code, with some people arguing that the chess organization has the wrong priorities.
Others questioned why a male player was allowed to wear white sneakers at the tournament, as seen in a picture posted by FIDE itself, while Ms. Kazarian’s were deemed inappropriate.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Ms. Kazarian expressed her disappointment with how FIDE had handled the situation and said that being rushed from the venue and driven to the hotel had been stressful and unpleasant. In the YouTube video, Ms. Kazarian also said that she felt she had been treated as if she were a criminal.
“If she felt like a criminal, I’m very sorry for that,” Mr. Tregubov said. “Usually the arbiters are shy,” he added. “It’s not like in football.”
Ms. Kazarian said the experience left her stressed and unfocused during her rounds of chess games on Thursday, a day after the incident. On Thursday she wore heels, she said.
“They should adjust the rule so it’ll be clearer,” Ms. Kazarian said, adding that a blanket ban of all sneakers would have been easier to follow.
After Ms. Kazarian took a car to her hotel on Wednesday and changed out of her sneakers, she returned to the venue to finish the day of games. But she was preoccupied by the situation, she said, which reverberated into the next day.
“They acted as if I didn’t read the dress code,” she said. “Their attitude toward me just was not friendly.”