Under a World Anti-Doping Agency ruling, Russian athletes are banned from competing under their national flag until 2022—and that applies to checkers players too. The rule caused what the BBC calls a "diplomatic incident" this week when a Polish official removed the Russian checker player's flag from the table when she was mid-game at the Women's World Championship in Warsaw Tuesday. The Russian player, reigning world champion Tamara Tansykkuzhina, broke her concentration to look up (you can watch it here). She went on to lose the game to her Polish opponent, Natalia Sadowska, who had removed her own flag in solidarity.
Kremlin officials blamed Tansykkuzhina's loss on the flag removal, calling it a "gross mistake," the Guardian reports. Jacek Pawlicki, the Polish official who removed the flag, apologized but said the anti-doping agency had requested action. "There's this position on the board called 'zugzwang' which means there's no good move to make ... and that's what we had," he tells 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." The anti-doping agency acknowledged making the request but said they didn't expect the flag to be removed mid-match. Sadowska is leading in the nine-game world title match, which lasts until May 3. (Read more checkers stories.)