'Zugzwang': Polish draughts official apologises after removing Russian flag

Joanna Plucinska and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
·2 min read
Draught players Polish Natalia Sadowska and Russian Tamara Tansykkuzhina play a game during the Women's World Draughts Championship in Warsaw

By Joanna Plucinska and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

WARSAW/MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Polish draughts official apologised on Wednesday for causing outrage in Moscow by removing the Russian flag from a player's table during a world title match, but said he'd had little choice.

Match official Jacek Pawlicki removed the flag as Russia's Tamara Tansykkuzhina played Poland's Natalia Sadowska in the Womens World Championship in Warsaw on Tuesday.

Tansykkuzhina, a six-time world champion, went on to lose what was the latest round of the final.

Organisers said they had been told to remove the flag immediately by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) because Russians are barred under doping sanctions from competing under their national flag at major international events.

Pawlicki said he had apologised to Tansykkuzhina, but had little option but to remove the flag.

"There's this position on the board called 'zugzwang' which means there's no good move to make ... and that's what we had yesterday, a zugzwang," he told Reuters.

"Maybe we should've turned off the cameras at that moment. We didn't think of that. We were really under pressure and we were afraid."

In an emailed statement to Reuters, WADA said it had requested action over the flag on Tuesday after a request earlier in the championship went unheeded.

It added: "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."

The incident caused outrage on Russian social media at a time of strained relations between Poland and Russia following tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.

The president of Russia's Olympic Committee called it a "gross mistake". Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed the incident for Tansykkuzhina's loss on Tuesday.

Pawlicki said he did not believe his action had affected Tansykkuzhina's performance.

"I'm sure that many Russians are upset and for that I am truly sorry," he said. "We never had any bad intentions."

(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Kacper Pempel in WARSAW, Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Gleb Stolyarov in MOSCOW, Editing by Timothy Heritage)