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Iran’s top chess player ‘wants to change his nationality’ over ban on facing Israelis

Iran’s top ranking chess player is reportedly seeking to renounce his citizenship to get around the country’s policy of not competing against Israeli athletes.

Mehrdad Pahlavanzadeh, the president of Iran’s Chess Federation, tells the Tasnim news agency that Alireza Firouzja wanted to participate in an upcoming tournament in Russia that Tehran has decided not to take part in.

“Firouzja has made his decision and has told us that he wants to change his nationality,” Pahlavanzadeh is quoted saying by Reuters.

“Firouzja is currently living in France … and may want to play under the French or US flag,” the chess federation head adds.

Firouzja, 16, is No. 2 in the International Chess Federation’s rankings of junior players.

Iran does not recognize Israel and its sport teams have long avoided competing against Israeli athletes.

Saeid Mollaei, an Iranian judoka, announced in September he would no longer compete for Iran after being forced to throw a match to avoid facing an Israeli rival.

Mollaei has since received asylum in Germany and the International Judo Federation has indefinitely banned Iran from competing over its refusal to face Israelis.

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