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Iranian Chess Player Who Refused To Play For His Country Wins Silver Medal At World Championship

Alireza Firouzja (file photo)

Alireza Firouzja, a top-rated chess player from Iran and the world's No. 2 ranked junior player, has won the silver medal at the World Rapid & Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow after competing under the flag of the International Chess Federation (FIDE).

Firouzja, 16, had decided not to play for his country in an apparent reaction to the Islamic republic’s ban on competing against Israeli players.

Iran does not recognize Israel, and Iranian sports teams have employed a policy of not competing against Israelis for the past several decades.

“Congratulations to Alireza Firouzja on a fantastic silver medal. And shame on all those who seek to thwart his career,” FIDE Vice President Nigel Short said on Twitter on December 28.

There was no immediate reaction from Iranian authorities.

Firouzja, widely praised as a chess prodigy, is the second Iranian sports figure in recent months to try to renounce his citizenship over state pressure on Iranian athletes to forego matches with Israeli competitors.

In October, Iran was banned from international judo competitions indefinitely over the country's refusal to face Israeli competitors. The decision by the International Judo Federation (IJF) came after Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei said he was pressured to drop out of bouts to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.

"Firouzja has made his decision and has told us that he wants to change his nationality," the president of Iran's Chess Federation, Mehrdad Pahlavanzadeh, told the semiofficial news agency Tasnim last week.

Firouzja and his father are currently living in France.

In April, Iranian media reported that Firouzja had refused to play against an Israeli player in a tournament in Germany.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised athletes who have refused to face opponents from Israel.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, Reuters, and The Guardian
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