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Friday, July 13, 2012

No Work Visa, No Chess Camp: U.S. Authorities to GM Van Wely

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2012

Hi everyone,

The Chess Vibes has just reported that On Monday night at Newark Airport Loek van Wely was denied to enter the United States because he "lacked a work visa". When the Dutch grandmaster told the authorities that, among other things, he was going to teach chess to American kids, they considered this an illegal working activity. As a result of that, Van Wely's entry was refused, he got detained, handcuffed and escorted by police to a plane and deported.
Monday, July 9th at 21.30 Loek van Wely arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport. He had just started a big trip to the USA. As always, at customs he was asked what he was going to do in the USA, and he explained that he would celebrate holidays, play poker, play chess and participate in two chess camps.

This attracted their attention,

Van Wely told Chess Vibes on the phone on Wednesday night.

"I explained that I was going to teach kids chess, and they asked if I would be earning money with this. I said yes, and told them how much. Then they detained me." 

Van Wely was held in a small room for eight hours, and had to hand over his mobile phone.

"I was allowed to make one phone call, as if I was some dangerous criminal. I called the Duch consulate, but they couldn't help me," said Van Wely. On Tuesday morning at 04:30 AM he was handcuffed and escorted to a terminal. There he had to wait for another 4.5 hours before he was escorted by police to a plane which flew him back to London. (He had also flown to Newark via London.)

Besides visiting Atlantic City, New York and Las Vegas, Van Wely was going to coach quite strong teenagers, rated between 2200 and 2500, in Saint Louis for a few days. Later he would also join a short chess camp in L.A.

"Instead of considering this a noble act, they looked at this as an illegal working activity. (...) I was surprised I didn't end up in Guantanamo Bay," Van Wely wrote on Facebook, where he revealed the whole affair in a status update on Wednesday.

The Dutch grandmaster said he understands that a working visa is required for his coaching work. "However, the reaction was heavily exaggerated. The thing is, they are never bothered when you tell them you will play a chess tournament, and you have a chance to win some money. And for a chess player, making money with coaching comes down to the same thing, but for the authorities it's very different. They see coaching, much more than playing, as work."

Last year Van Wely also took part in a chess camp in Los Angeles, before playing in a tournament there.

"I only started recently with these chess camps, so it's not a regular income or anything. And it was just going to be ten days; it's not that I was going to doing a lot of work in the States."

From Alexandra Kosteniuk's
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