A diplomatic incident erupted when a Polish official removed a Russian player’s flag mid-game at the Women’s World Draughts Championship.
In a video of the incident, Russia’s Tamara Tansykkuzhina is deep in concentration, then suddenly distracted by the official’s intervention.
The reigning champion lost the game to Poland’s Natalia Sadowska.
The official later apologised but said he had urgently needed to comply with a sports ruling against Russia.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has banned Russian sportsmen and women from competing under the Russian flag for two years, until 16 December 2022, including at the Tokyo Olympics.
Wada confirmed it had requested action over the flag on Tuesday after an earlier request went unheeded but, in a statement to Reuters news agency, said: “Wada did not intend and did not ask for the flags to be removed during a match. The manner in which they were removed is not a question for Wada.”
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Polish apology meant that “this incident should be considered settled”. But he said he thought the Russian player had lost the game “largely due to that incident”.
The world title match, at a hotel in the Polish capital Warsaw, continues until 3 May. Sadowska and Tansykkuzhina are playing nine rounds and the first to reach 54 points wins. Sadowska is ahead, by 32 to 16.
In solidarity with her opponent, Sadowska removed her Polish flag after the official’s surprise intervention.
Anti-doping ruling against Russia
The Wada ruling bars Russian athletes in a wide range of sports from displaying their national flag in international competitions. The Russian national anthem cannot be played either.
Wada imposed the punishment after finding the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) non-compliant with Wada rules on lab testing to detect illegal doping.
Polish official Jacek Pawlicki, who removed the Russian flag, said “we were really under pressure and we were afraid”. “I’m sure that many Russians are upset and for that I am truly sorry,” he said.
He likened his dilemma to a “zugzwang” – the position where a player in chess or draughts faces only bad moves.
Damian Reszka, president of the Polish Draughts Federation, said “such was the need of the moment” – otherwise his federation would have been expelled from Wada.
На видео флаг России убрали прямо во время матча мирового чемпионата по шашкам. Россиянка Тамара Тансыккужина этому удивилась, но дальше продолжила игру.
Выяснилось, что так исполнили рекомендации ВАДА. Если бы этого не сделали, то Всемирную организацию шашек могли исключить. pic.twitter.com/bMEWwe5rEG
— Газета.Ru (@GazetaRu) April 28, 2021
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It is just the latest episode of friction in Polish-Russian relations. On 23 April Russia expelled five Polish diplomats – a tit-for-tat retaliation for Poland’s expulsion of three Russian diplomats. There has been a spate of such expulsions involving Russia and ex-Soviet bloc neighbours.
The Warsaw match is international draughts – the version with a 10×10 board, also called Polish draughts or international checkers. Each player has 20 pieces and only the 50 dark squares are used.
Another popular version is English draughts (or American checkers), with an 8×8 board and 12 pieces on each side.