Chess player banned by Iran gets a new start in US

Dorsa Derakhshani (right) competing at an international chess tournament in Oslo. Norway, in 2016. (Courtesy: Tarjei J. Svensen‏ via Twitter)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Chess player banned by Iran gets a new start in US

ST. LOUIS, US: A 19-year-old Iranian woman banned from competing in the name of her county after attending an international competition without an Islamic headscarf has taken her game to St. Louis University.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Dorsa Derakhshani is now at a freshman at the Missouri school, which has a new but highly ranked chess team of top international players. The biology major decided to accept a full scholarship to play for the university this spring, in the wake of the controversy.
Issues arose when Derakhshani wore a simple headband during a February competition in Gibraltar. She was competing under the oversight of the Iranian Chess Federation, an affiliation that allowed her to enter several championship-cycle tournaments. Iranian law requires women to wear head scarves in public, but she didn’t think it would be a problem.
“I don’t know why some people have enough free time to worry about what I wear,” Derakhshani said.
She was 18 when she moved to Barcelona, Spain, and recruited by a chess club. She declined to be on Iran’s national team sponsored by the government because she didn’t want to be controlled by the rules of the team, including wearing a head scarf even while outside Iran.
But days after the Gibraltar tournament, the head of the Iranian Chess Federation said Derakhshani and her 14-year-old brother could no longer play in the country or under Iran’s name. He cited Derakhshani’s refusal to wear a head scarf and said her brother had played against an Israeli player. Iran doesn’t recognize Israel and has a policy of not competing against Israeli athletes.
Derakhshani said her brother was paired by a computer and didn’t know the player’s nationality before the match.
“It was just cruel,” she said. “He was just a kid. He didn’t know what to do.”
Her arrival in St. Louis comes as the city becomes a major player in the chess community. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, founded by Republican millionaire activist Rex Sinquefield, hosts several national competitions.
Derakhshani said she wants to become a grandmaster, the top designation for a chess player.


Prince Harry raises Invictus Games flag over Sydney Harbor

Updated 19 October 2018
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Prince Harry raises Invictus Games flag over Sydney Harbor

  • The sporting event, founded by Prince Harry in 2014, starts on Saturday
  • Prince Harry and his wife, American former actress Meghan Markle, will attend the opening and closing games ceremonies.

SYDNEY: Prince Harry scaled the Sydney Harbor Bridge on Friday to raise a flag marking the arrival of the Invictus Games, his brainchild and the focus of his current royal tour of Australia and the South Pacific.
The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, starts on Saturday. It gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball and to find inspiration to recover.
The fact that the Duchess of Sussex never planned to climb the world’s tallest steel arch bridge with her husband had fueled speculation that she is pregnant. The speculation was confirmed on Monday when Harry and the former Meghan Markle announced that their first child is due in the northern spring.
Harry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, four members of the Australian team and the widow of an Australian veteran climbed more than 1,000 steps up the back of an arch to raise the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 flag.
“The Sydney Harbor Bridge is an Australian icon and I can think of no better place to raise the ... flag,” Morrison said in a statement.
During the descent, Harry hugged fellow climber Gwen Cherne, a games ambassador whose husband Peter Cafe, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, took his own life in February.
“We were talking about mental health and really working on changing the way that our global community looks at mental health and deals with it,” Cherne said later.
The flag will fly 134 meters (440 feet) above Sydney Harbor until the games close on Oct. 27.
Harry and his American former actress wife will attend the opening and closing games ceremonies. Around 500 athletes from 18 nations will compete in venues around Sydney.
The couple earlier Friday walked barefoot on Bondi Beach to meet a group of surfers focused on mental wellbeing.
The group, OneWave, meet weekly in an “anti-bad vibe circle” on the sand.
While the group dressed in loud and outrageous fluorescent outfits, Harry and Meghan were more subdued, but their message to the group was clear.
“They’re super passionate about mental health. They are showing that mental health does not discriminate,” OneWave co-founder Grant Trebilco said.
Charlotte Connell, a OneWave member, said Harry spoke of his own experiences seeking counselling more than 20 years after his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997 when he was aged 12.
“Harry said it took him not six months, but 18 months to find the right person to speak to. ‘You’re not going to find the right person to speak to straight away,’” Connell said.
Both Harry and Meghan used exercise as a way of keeping well, Connell said.
“Even in her jetlagged state, she got up in the morning and did yoga at 4.30am,” Connell said.
“She said it’s so good for healing her mind,” Connell added.
After Bondi, the couple made an unannounced visit to Macarthur Girls High School in Parramatta in central Sydney.
The shrieking students gave the couple a rock star welcome to a school assembly.
“When they walked in, I felt like my heart stopped. Their presence just made everyone shocked,” 15-year-old student Rhiannon said.
The couple finished their day’s events with formal meetings with Morrison and opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Harry and Meghan will also visit Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand during their 16-day tour.