Russian Chess Federation tries to keep young players

by André Schulz
10/24/2023 – More than 200 Russian athletes have turned their backs on their homeland and left the country following Russia's attack on Ukraine. 150 of them are chess players. The Russian Chess Federation now wants to retain its talent through long-term financial support. In the summer, it signed a ten-year contract with Andrey Esipenko (pictured). | Photo: Niki Riga

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Since the start of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, many Russian athletes have turned their backs on their homeland, including a large number of professional chess players. Right at the beginning of the war many Russian chess players had expressed their protest against the invasion in an open letter on the Internet. Many Russian players drew their personal consequences out of conviction or for pragmatic reasons, left their home country and changed federations.

Russian sports federations were also excluded from international competitions, especially in Europe. In many sports Russian athletes could not participate at all, but FIDE allowed Russian players to participate in international tournaments under the flag of the World Chess Federation though the Russian Chess Federation remained excluded from team competitions. The Russian Chess Federation then decided to switchefrom the European Chess Union to the Asian Chess Federation.

Among the Russian chess professionals who drew conclusions from this unpleasant situation were a number of well-known players, including Nikita Vitiugov (now in England), Evgeny Alexeev (Israel), Vladimir Fedoseev and Anton Demchenko (Slovenia), Alexander Motylev (Romania), Alexey Sarana and Aleksandr Predke (Serbia) or Sanan Sjugirov (Hungary). Former women's world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk has joined the Swiss federation.

The Russian Chess Federation has now launched a development programme for young players, killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, it binds young players, who want to take part in the programme, to the federation. And it provides work for Russian coaches, who are suffering from a lack of work due to a lack of tournaments.

Young players who want to take part in the development programme must commit to staying in the Russian Federation for ten years. If they fail to do so, they must pay back the benefits they have received.

In this way, the federation hopes to stem the outflow of Russian talent. Last summer, the Russian federation signed a ten-year contract with Andrey Esipenko, Russia's biggest talent. 14 other selected talents have been assigned to six coaches of the Russian national teams for training.

In the FIDE country rankings, Russia recently lost its second place to India and could soon be overtaken by China. Currently, only four Russian players have an Elo rating of more than 2700. Among the top 100 male juniors, Russia is also represented by only four players. For comparison: India has 21 juniors among the world's best, the USA 14.


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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