In the wake of Russia’s war with Ukraine, many Russian chess players have left their homeland, prompting the Russian Chess Federation to implement a development program to retain young talent.
Since the beginning of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, a significant number of Russian athletes, including professional chess players, have chosen to distance themselves from their homeland. Expressing their protest against the invasion in an open letter on the internet, these players have either left Russia out of conviction or for pragmatic reasons. As a result, Russian sports federations have faced exclusion from international competitions, particularly in Europe. However, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) has allowed Russian players to participate in international tournaments under its flag, despite the Russian Chess Federation’s exclusion from team competitions. In response, the Russian Chess Federation has launched a development program aimed at retaining young players and supporting Russian coaches.
Russian Chess Players Seek New Opportunities Abroad
As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalated, numerous prominent Russian chess players made the decision to leave their home country and switch federations. Among them are Nikita Vitiugov, who is now playing for England, Evgeny Alexeev in Israel, Vladimir Fedoseev and Anton Demchenko in Slovenia, Alexander Motylev in Romania, Alexey Sarana and Aleksandr Predke in Serbia, and Sanan Sjugirov in Hungary. Even former women’s world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk has joined the Swiss federation. These players have sought new opportunities abroad, distancing themselves from the Russian Chess Federation.
Russian Sports Federations Face Exclusion from International Competitions
Following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, international sports federations imposed sanctions on Russian athletes, preventing them from participating in various sports competitions, particularly in Europe. However, FIDE has allowed Russian chess players to compete internationally under its flag, providing them with an avenue to continue their careers. Nevertheless, the Russian Chess Federation remains excluded from team competitions, prompting them to switch from the European Chess Union to the Asian Chess Federation.
The Russian Chess Federation’s Development Program
In response to the exodus of Russian chess players and the exclusion of the Russian Chess Federation from team competitions, the federation has launched a development program for young players. This initiative serves a dual purpose: it binds young players to the federation and provides work opportunities for Russian coaches who have been affected by a lack of tournaments.
Commitment and Benefits of the Development Program
To participate in the development program, young players must commit to staying in the Russian Federation for ten years. Failure to fulfill this commitment would require them to repay the benefits they have received. By implementing this requirement, the Russian Chess Federation aims to stem the outflow of talent and retain promising players within their federation. Last summer, the federation signed a ten-year contract with Andrey Esipenko, considered Russia’s biggest talent. Additionally, 14 other selected talents have been assigned to six coaches from the Russian national teams for training.
The Impact on Russian Chess Rankings
The recent departure of numerous Russian chess players has had a significant impact on the country’s rankings. Russia recently lost its second-place ranking to India in the FIDE country rankings and may soon be overtaken by China. Currently, only four Russian players have an Elo rating of over 2700. Furthermore, among the top 100 male juniors, Russia is represented by only four players, while India boasts 21 juniors and the USA has 14.
The Russian Chess Federation’s development program for young players aims to address the exodus of talent from Russia and provide opportunities for Russian coaches. By requiring a ten-year commitment from participants, the federation hopes to retain promising players within their ranks. However, the impact of the war with Ukraine on Russian chess rankings remains evident, with Russia losing ground to countries like India and China. As the chess world continues to adapt to the changing dynamics, the Russian Chess Federation’s efforts to retain talent will play a crucial role in shaping the future of Russian chess.