One of the existential themes in Russian thinking is that Russia is both European and Asian simultaneously.

Given Russia’s vast geography, such thinking is not surprising or even wrong. It’s hard not to visit St Petersburg and be impressed by its European grandeur. I have not recently visited Khasan on the faraway Russia/North Korea border, but it feels rather different in an Asia sort of way. It does have a railway station.

Thus classic Russian literature anguishing over Russia’s Soul – where is it really? In the smart salons of Western Russian cities where wealthy Russians bicker over the benefits of French or English nannies for their children and sigh at the drunken fecklessness of Russia’s peasant masses? Or in a darker, more cruel, collectivist Eastern tradition where the individual counts for nothing?

Thus to chess. Where else? Where should Russia properly fit? In the European Chess Union (ECU) or the Asian Chess Federation (ACF)?

Embarrassed if not humiliated by the strong European condemnation of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent invasion of Ukraine including in the chess world, the Russian chess authorities are now applying to leave the ECU and join the ACF instead:

Considering the date of the Asian General Assembly and the obvious fact that a federation cannot be simultaneously member of two continents, the ECU expects the Russian Chess Federation to withdraw its membership of the ECU by Friday 24th February 2023.

The Russian chess bureaucracy might now become Asian. But what of Russian chess players as such who might not feel so inclined?

Several players belonging before to the Russian Chess Federation have been transferred, at their request, to the FIDE flag under the FIDE special status arrangement and they have permanent residence in Europe. The planned move of the Russian Chess Federation to Asia could result in many difficulties for these players. To support them, the ECU would accept any of these players who wish to remain members of the European chess family as participants in the forthcoming European Championships under a special status to be agreed with FIDE.

The global chess body FIDE is, needless to say, under severe Russian pressure to do what Moscow wants. And odious chess has-been Putin sycophant Sergey Karjakin will always parrot the Kremlin line:

“In view of the anti-Russian politics, we are barred from playing at European tournaments and this is why it’s logical to switch to Asia,” Karjakin said.

Off you go.