A couple of readers (Marc Beishon and Ross Hytnen) alerted me to the news that chess has been proscribed in Saudi Arabia, on the grounds that the game is "a waste of time" and "encourages gambling". (I'm inclined to joke that for some readers those are features rather than bugs - but I digress.) Further, the clerical ban claims that chess "causes enmity and hatred between people". (One might wonder if this is something that the Saudi leaders have a problem with in any general way, but perhaps the response is that they're worried about discord arising among Sunni Muslims.)
Of course, there are benefits to playing chess as well: it's (generally) a safe way to channel one's competitive instincts, and helps kids in particular (but adults too) in their cognitive development. It can be a source of aesthetic pleasure, and as entertainments go chess is about as harmless an activity as can be. Alas, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia disagrees.
What does this mean for Saudi chess players? Some sources have referred to this as a total ban on the game in that country, but it seems to be a religious rather than a legal proscription. That noted, Saudi Arabia is a theocracy, so I'm not sure how much room there is in between the religious and the legal. Perhaps it means that it's forbidden to Sunni Muslims, but anyone else can play?