Alireza Firouzja, Iran’s top-ranked chess player, has decided to change his nationality in order to get around Tehran’s ban on competing against Israelis, according to Iranian media reports quoted by Reuters on Tuesday.
Firouzja is the world’s second-highest rated junior player.
In November, Germany granted refugee status to Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who was seeking asylum in the country after claiming Iranian officials earlier this year pressured him to withdraw from a competition in order to avoid fighting an Israeli opponent.
As a result, Iran was banned from participating in international judo events by the sport’s world body until it allowed its athletes to face Israelis.
“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 semi-official news agency Tasnim, according to the report.
“Firouzja is currently living in France … and may want to play under the French or U.S. flag,” Pahlavanzadeh told the news agency ISNA.