Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

Russian chess grandmaster against Ukraine war switches allegiance to UK

A Russian chess grandmaster has switched allegiance to the UK due to his opposition of the Ukraine war.

The English Chess Federation reckon Nikita Vitiugov, who is Russia ’s 2021 champion, will now give a huge boost to the sport in the UK as it rises in popularity.

The world number 25 will become England’s highest-ranked player, which makes him eligible to compete in the 2024 Olympiad in Budapest, Hungary – one of the sport’s biggest tournaments.

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Last year Nikita, 36, condemned his country’s invasion of Ukraine on social media, saying: “Russians and Ukrainians are brothers, not enemies. Stop the war.

“Impossible to believe. In 2022, in Europe, people are dying in war, the fates of tens of millions of people are being broken. Horror…’’

Malcolm Pein, of the English Chess Federation (ECF), said Nikita is a “welcome addition” to the team.

He said: “His knowledge and experience is something we look forward to him sharing with our up-and-coming players.”

He has also said he understands why a Ukrainian player would not want to play him until Russia ends its war.

“All their anger and all their emotions towards Russia and Russians are understandable for me,” he added.

Nikita decided to stay in the Costa Blanca, in Spain, with his wife and newborn son after the war broke out.

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He is now in the process of moving to East Anglia with them.

The chess whizz previously explained returning to Russian was not an option.

He said: “I could never have imagined that. You realise that the country of your birth has started a war. It’s unbearable. And I believe a lot of Russians feel the same.”

He is among several Russian chess players who have switched allegiance to different countries over their anti-war stance following the invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

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