Hence, although I live and work in Aragón, although I am a member of the Federation and pay no less for the privilege than anybody else, I am not permitted to play in its championship. I live here, but I do not belong here. I am an outsider. I am persona non grata.
This is not, as I have said, some ancient tradition, understandable but sadly in need of modernisation in the 21st century. This is new. This is a rule change made this year. Somebody had to think it up, to pass it at a meeting and to write it down, to ask what impact it would have and decide that if anybody was affected by it, if anybody was unhappy about it, it didn't matter. Somebody had to decide that it was all right to discriminate.
Note that this is not a national championship, but a regional one. It is not the championship of Spain, but the championship of Aragón. There might be a case for restricting entry to Aragonese players, for sure, though even then one might wonder if it would be more civilised, more inclusive, to include those who had been resident in Aragón for a certain period. I could understand that. But that is not the case. You can be Galician, Cantabrian, Extremeduran, Andalusian, Catalonian or what you will. You do not have to live in Aragón, which I do. That's OK. But live here and be a foreigner - and no matter what contribution you make to Aragonese life, the door is barred. And you're supposed to be all right with that.
What's the reason? Ostensibly, the reason is that the competition is a qualifier for the Spanish championship, which does have the sort of entry restrictions I mention above. Uh-huh. Except that, as everybody knows, in those circumstances all you have to do is restrict the qualifying places to people who are qualified. As happens in all sorts of competitions, in chess and other sports. You don't have to restrict entry to the whole qualifying competition. You only do that if you want to.
Why am I so angry about this? Well, perhaps you have to have been on the wrong end of discrimination to understand it, but basically, as I say, I live here. I am not transient. I moved here and I moved here in order to stay here. This is supposed to be my home. But home is a place where you belong. It is not a place where the doors are slammed against you. If they are, then you can never belong and it can never be home. And I am angry about that. I'm angry about the sheer needlessness of it and the sheer bloody stupidity involved. Why on earth should it be hard, why should it be a struggle, just to play chess?
Because chess is everyday life. It's not a difficult social issue involving housing shortages or health services or political rights. It's everyday life. You cannot bar people from everyday life. You cannot say that people may not come into this or that bar or that they cannot enter this or that shop or that they may not enter your chess tournament. And if you do any of those things, they are going to be angry about it and they are going to have an opinion about the people who do it. You exclude, you discriminate, when you absolutely have to. And not otherwise.
When I first heard about this rule change I wrote to the secretary of the Federation to say how upset I was. We then had a short exchange of emails, which, whatever its intention, made me angrier than before. It wasn't just being told that it wasn't "personal" (nor was it "personal" when the State of Alabama decreed that people should rink at separate water fountains). It was being told the following:
puedo decirle que Aragón es un pueblo abierto y hospitalario y los ajedrecistas aragoneses tambien"I can tell you that Aragon is an open and hospitable place and Aragonese chessplayers are the same".
Now, in the circumstances, I don't know quite what to make of that. But I do know that there are words for people who discriminate and there are also words for people who say one thing while they are doing the opposite. And if this rule-change is not reversed, I am inclined, very soon, to start using them.