Alexandra Kosteniuk is reportedly switching federations and representing Switzerland from 2024. Photo: Timur Sattarov/FIDE
Former Women's World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk is set to become the most high-profile Russian national team member to change federations since the invasion of Ukraine.
Kosteniuk, currently ranked World #10 on FIDE's Women list, has had Swiss citizenship since she married a citizen of the country as an 18-year-old. She is now intending to change federations to Switzerland from January 1, 2024.
Peter Erismann, who is responsible for top-level sport on the central board of the Swiss Chess Federation (SSB), noted the 38-year-old will become a member of the Swiss women's team.
"However, we keep the option open to also use her in the men's national team if there is a need," he said.
Kosteniuk last represented Russia in the World Blitz Chess Championship in 2021, so she will need another year until she can represent Switzerland in official events, Erismann explained.
According to FIDE's transfer regulations, FIDE requires a 10,000 Euro fee, but after a two-year waiting period, the transfer is free.
The grandmaster, currently rated 2519, will become the 6th highest ranked player in Switzerland and could also become a member of the open team during future chess Olympiads. She made headlines when she became the first woman to win the Swiss Championship in 2013. She is also expected to play in the national championship this summer.
The 38-year-old has been one of the most successful Russian female players for more than two decades and won gold medals with Russia in 2010, 2012 and 2014. She was only 17 when she reached the final of the Women's World Championship, losing against Zhu Chen. In 2008 she became the World Champion after beating Hou Yifan in the final.
The news is yet to be confirmed by the player herself, but the 38-year-old grandmaster stopped playing for Russia since the invasion of Ukraine and immediately changed to the neutral FIDE flag. She was a part of the open letter by Russian chess players protesting against the war, appealing directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
She also protested against the invasion several times on her Instagram account. Her first post was an image in all black. She then made an emotional one:
I just pray that this nightmare will end soon and all the actions that are happening now will not lead to huge irreversible consequences for all humanity.
She also wrote:
For now there is so much hate, malice, aggression, suffering and powerlessness around. I just can't go on as though nothing is happening, posting my pictures on here, talking about distractions and pretending that nothing is happening around me or that what is happening is none of my business.
She also wrote in a later post:
You can't believe this madness is possible in the 21st century. I really want people to understand that it is impossible and absolutely unthinkable to justify murder. War is death. Peace is life. It's scary to see that people can still choose death and incite it.
Kosteniuk is the most high-profile Russian player to change federation since the invasion of Ukraine. Previously former national teammate Alina Kashlinskaya switched to Poland after having been married to Polish star Radoslaw Wojtaszek for years. Kosteniuk herself lives in France with her husband, Russian grandmaster Pavel Tregubov.
While some of Russia's top players, such as Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk, Daniil Dubov, Vladislav Artemiev and Evgeny Tomashevsky are still listed with the Russian flag on FIDE's website, several other grandmasters have changed federation and left the country.
One of them is Russian #4 and World no. 20 Dmitry Andreikin, who is reported to be in Turkey, according to a report by ChessTech. He has long been highly critical of the Russian regime on social media.
Among other key players to leave Russia are Vladimir Fedoseev, who is in Spain, according to ChessTech, and Andrey Esipenko, one of Russia's most promising youngsters.
Chess24 has previously reported on profilic trainer Evgeny Romanov who became the first grandmaster to change federations when he switched to Norway.