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Alexandra Kosteniuk officially switched to Switzerland almost a year earlier

The Swiss Chess Federation announced on December 30th 2022, that the Russian GM Alexandra Kosteniuk switches Federation and will play for Switzerland in 2024. A rule change though allowed an earlier switch than planned, and Kosteniuk has officially switched to Switzerland on March 3rd, 2023.

Photo: Lennart Ootes

Like many other Russian chess players, Alexandra Kosteniuk decided to leave the Russian Federation due to the Russia-Ukraine war, and will play for the Swiss Chess Federation (SSB) from 2024. Due to a rule change though, Kosteniuk was allowed to switch earlier than planned, which happened on March 3rd, 2023. The 2008 Women’s World Champion has dual Swiss-Russian citizenship for more than a decade after being married to the Swiss-born Diego Garces and was also the first woman to win the Swiss men’s title at the SEM in Grächen in 2013.

How do you feel about the change? Are you sad to leave your country? Anthony Levin for chesscom asked Kosteniuk.

“It’s a mixture of feelings. If I’m in an optimistic mood, I would say that, okay... it was a wonderful chapter, 20 years on the Russian national team, but it’s over and now there is another one, another chapter: me playing for the Swiss national team. It was not really expected and... I never thought it would happen this way, but that’s of course quite a sad feeling, to tell you the truth, and I think it’s a wound that I’m going to require more time to somehow get over... to accept it because it’s still too emotional and too early, I think, to say and comprehend [it].” Alexandra replied, adding: “‘The decision that I took, it’s not an easy decision for me, but for several reasons I felt that I cannot leave everything as it was. So I needed to act somehow, to send a signal that I’m not accepting what’s going on.’.

The reason why Kosteniuk couldn’t play for Switzerland in 2023 was financial. If she were to change federations before 2024, the SSB would have to pay the Russian Chess Federation a transfer fee of 10,000 dollars. After a two-year waiting period, the change of Federation is free of charge. Kosteniuk last time played for Russia in December 2021, and after that she competed under the flag of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), so in 2024 she would have been able to switch Federation fee-free.

FIDE recently decided that players who wanted to switch to joining another European Federation as a result of the Russian Chess Federation switching from the ECU to the ACF, would not have to pay any fees. ‘Players previous belonging to the CFR [Russian chess federation] will be allowed to represent their new federation with immediate effect, from the next day of submitting their application, without any restrictions. All transfer fees, to FIDE or CFR, are waived,’ FIDE has announced to make Alexandra’s transfer possible almost a year earlier.

‘However, we keep the option open to also use her in the men’s national team if there is a need’ Peter Erismann, the one responsible for top-level sport on the central board of the Swiss Chess Federation commented.

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