Russian chess plots to ditch Europe for Asia
The Russian Chess Federation (RCF) will seek membership as part of the Asian chess family after a unanimous vote in favor of the step, the organization has announced.
The RCF said a meeting of its supervisory board on Thursday had fully backed the switch to become a member of the Asian Chess Federation (ACF), which would entail departure from its current status with the European Chess Union.
The ACF is headquartered in the UAE and contains national federations representing Australia, China, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Singapore, among others.
A source from the Russian chess authorities told TASS that a potential move to the ACF would likely take two or three months.
“First of all, they need to submit an official letter with the Asian federation and, in case, it is approved, to forward it to the European [confederation] asking it to exclude them. In fact it is a very complicated bureaucratic process,” the source was quoted as saying.
Commenting on the development, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov – who is also chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Chess Federation – said the move would be the right one.
“Our athletes, who play chess, will continue participating in tournaments and this is what is the most important,” Peskov said.
Chess has not been immune to the swathes of sporting sanctions placed on Russia following the military offensive in Ukraine.
International governing body FIDE announced in March that it was banning Russian and Belarusian teams from its competitions, although players from the two nations can continue to compete under neutral status.
FIDE has taken specific measures against Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin, who has been a vocal supporter of President Vladimir Putin and the military campaign in Ukraine.
Karjakin, who is a former world rapid and blitz champion, has been suspended for six months and has announced he could aim to set up a rival organization to FIDE.
Reacting to the news that the Russian Chess Federation would seek a pivot to the east, Karjakin welcomed the idea.
“I believe that this is an absolutely right decision to make,” said the 32-year-old.
“Just take a look at the policy of European officials in regard to Russia in all of its sports activities, and not chess only.
“We must not be humiliated and beg for forgiveness; we made the right move, initiating the transformation.
“India and China have powerful chess schools. I believe that we will be holding joint tournaments soon. I see only positive outcome in today’s decision.”
Even though the move would reportedly not require FIDE’s blessing, some have cautioned that it should not be assumed that Russia will be welcomed by all members of the Asian chess community.
“It is still not known whether the Asians will agree to accept us, anything could happen,” said State Duma Deputy and former Olympic speed skating champion Svetlana Zhurova.
“Now there is a culture of canceling Russia in all areas, those who support it may be pressured. Let's wait for the final decision,” Zhurova added.