Top Grandmasters leave Russia

by André Schulz
4/20/2022 – Russia's attack on Ukraine also affects Russian chess professionals. A number of players voiced criticism or signed an appeal for peace, and a number of top Grandmasters such as Nikita Vitiugov (pictured), Russian Champion of 2021, Alexandr Predke, Dmitry Andreikin and others, have left Russia to play under the FIDE flag, to change federations or to settle in other countries. | Photo: Nikita Vitiugov at the World Cup 2019 | Photo: FIDE

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After Russia's attack on Ukraine, the Russian Chess Federation, like all other Russian sports federations, was sanctioned and excluded from international sports events. This does not affect the Russian athletes personally. They can participate in the events as individual players, but not under the Russian flag.

The World Chess Federation offered a simplified change of federations and the possibility to play and participate in tournaments under the FIDE flag.

A number of Russian Grandmasters made use of this. From the top 100 in the FIDE world rankings, seven Russian Grandmasters are now listed under the FIDE flag.

The sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian federations do not only affect the possibility to participate under the flags of the two countries. There are also many practical problems, for example with travel. Flights between EU countries and Russia and Belarus are no longer possible. The only European country that still has flight connections to Russia is Serbia.

Therefore, some of the players who decided to change federations have left Russia to settle down in another country.

Evgeny Romanov, who was one of the first Russian Grandmasters to change federations after the outbreak of the war, now plays for Norway. According to an article by Stefan Löffler on Chess Tech, Dmitry Andreikin, who played the Grand Prix in Belgrade when the war began, did not return to Russia, but went to Macedonia, where he has been playing for the club Alkaloid for some years.

Daniil Yuffa, Vladimir Fedoseev and Kirill Alekseenko have found a new home in Spain. Yuffa had already changed to the Spanish federation last year. Nikita Vitiugov left Russia with his family and moved to Spain before the Russian invasion began, and Grigori Oparin, who has already been studying in Saint Louis, USA, for two years, has now left the Russian federation and plays under the FIDE flag.

Alexandr Predke did not return to Russia after playing the FIDE Grand Prix in Berlin, but is said to have gone to Turkey with his girlfriend Marine Severin.

Some players consider a permanent change of federation, but for Grandmasters of this strength this usually requires a "transfer fee". FIDE usually imposes a two-year ban on players who want to change federations, but the receiving federation can avoid this ban if it reaches an agreement with the transferring federation, usually in the form of a fee. For top Grandmasters, a fee of 20,000 euros is quite common. But how such a payment to the Russian federation could be possible at present, is completely unclear.

But not only the players are leaving Russia. The Russian-based marketing organisation "World Chess", organiser of the Grand Prix tournaments, wants to leave Russia, or has already done so, and is distributing its staff among offices in Berlin, Tbilisi and Israel. The World Chess Club in Moscow is to be sold, Stefan Löffler cites World Chess CEO Ilya Merenzon.

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer


"Leaving Russia": Chess Tech article by Stefan Löffler

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