Rapport To Switch Federations To Romania; Hungarian Federation ‘Protesting’

GM Richard Rapport no longer plans to play for Hungary but will represent Romania instead. His wife Jovana will join him, making the switch from Serbia to Romania. This news was announced by the Romanian Chess Federation. Meanwhile, the Hungarian Chess Federation may file a protest.

“We are honored and happy that a player of this caliber has chosen to represent our country,” said Vlad Ardeleanu, President of the Romanian Chess Federation. His intention is to have Rapport, the current world’s number-eight, play for the national team as soon as possible.

“At the same time, we want to continue the good professional relations we have with the Hungarian and Serbian chess federations,” Ardeleanu added.

Meanwhile, Laszlo Szabo, the president of the Hungarian Chess Federation, said he will do the utmost to ensure that Rapport will continue to represent the red, white, and green tricolor. 

“A federation has 90 days to file a protest,” Szabo told Hungarian news agency MTI. “We asked FIDE a lot of questions, as the regulations regarding a federation change are quite liberal and we asked them to interpret the situation.”

Another statement by the Hungarian federation on Facebook mentions that questions have been raised about the necessity of a Romanian citizenship or permanent address. The statement further notes that Ardeleanu and Szabo have been in touch and that “negotiations will continue.”

According to FIDE’s legal advisor Alexander Martynov, a federation cannot block a player’s federation change by their own desire. “If the federation may show that there is wrong documentation, then this protest will be discussed,” he added.

Richard and Jovana Rapport. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

FIDE regulations stipulate that Rapport would have to wait two years before he could represent Romania since the last time he represented Hungary in an official FIDE event, which was the Grand Prix in Belgrade in March of this year. However, if the required compensation fees are paid, Rapport and his wife could play for Romania immediately.

In the case of Richard, the fee due to the Hungarian federation is 50,000 euros (the stipulated amount for 2700+ players) and an additional 5,000 (the stipulated amount for GMs) to FIDE. For Jovana, the Serbian federation would receive 2,000 euros because she is rated between 2200 and 2299, and another 2,000 euros would go to FIDE because she is a WGM. 

It is very likely that these fees will be paid because the billionaire Sacha Dragic, who is the owner of the Romanian gambling portal Superbet, is said to be supporting the Rapports. Superbet has sponsored top chess events as part of the Grand Chess Tour in Romania since 2019.

The Hungarian sports website 24.hu spoke to Rapport’s father, Tamas Rapport, who confirmed that Dragic made an offer that the Rapports “couldn’t refuse.” Chess.com reached out to both Rapport and Dragic for comment, but at the time of this writing, they were not available.

Rapport became a grandmaster in February 2010 at the age of 13 years and 11 months. He finished second in the overall FIDE Grand Prix this year, with which he qualified for the upcoming FIDE Candidates Tournament.

Taking into account the possible protest by the Hungarian federation and the 90-day timeframe, it is unclear whether Rapport will be playing under the Romanian flag during the Candidates.

If Rapport wins the Candidates, he would be the first world championship challenger born in Hungary since Peter Leko in 2004 and the first-ever challenger from Romania.

The timing of the federation change is also unfortunate for Hungary, which will be hosting the Chess Olympiad in 2024. In 2014, Hungary won the silver medal in Tromso with Rapport on the team. For that result, Rapport will receive lifetime financial support from the Hungarian government but starting only from his 35th birthday.

Last year, GM Levon Aronian switched federations from Armenia to the U.S. Due to the war in Ukraine, several Russian players have stopped representing Russia this year and are currently playing under the FIDE flag. IM Alina Kashlinskaya also recently finalized a transfer from Russia to Poland.



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