CFR President Andrey Filatov claimed the switch to the ACF represented a "historical new chapter" ©Getty Images

The Chess Federation of Russia (CFR) has completed its switch from the European Chess Union (ECU) to the Asian Chess Federation (ACF) in a move hailed as a "historical new chapter" by President Andrey Filatov.

Filatov has been elected as a zonal President of the ACF after Russia became a qualification zone, with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the national and continental organisations.

The move aims to ensure Russian players can compete in international chess competitions.

As part of the MoU, the CFR has committed to hosting at least one continental event each year, although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) continues to recommend a ban on staging competitions in Russia and Belarus because of the war in Ukraine.

It has also vowed to work with the ACF's member National Federations and emphasised the importance of the development of professional and children's chess.

Filatov expressed his thanks to ACF President Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, and declared interest in hosting this year's Asian Youth Chess Championship in Moscow in December.

"Today, May 1st, 2023 marks the beginning of this historical new chapter, which we are very excited about it," the CFR President wrote.

"The CFR is pleased to share our vast experience in organising high-level chess events and is eager to start our partnership with the ACF, which we hope will be long-lasting and mutually beneficial."

Sultan said the ACF "look forward to close cooperation between the Chess Federation of Russia and the Asian Chess Federation".

The CFR together with the Belarus Chess Federation were suspended by the ECU in response to the invasion of Ukraine and their national teams banned from International Chess Federation tournaments (FIDE), although players have been able to compete at individual competitions under the FIDE flag.

Russian-born Ian Nepomniachtchi played under the FIDE flag in his defeat to China's Ding Liren at last month's World Championship Match in Astana.

Russia's Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has hailed the move as "a positive and significant decision, first and foremost for the athletes".

ECU vice-president Malcolm Pein accused FIDE, led by former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, of being "directed by the Kremlin" by allowing the CFR's switch to Asia.

FIDE has sought to impose measures aimed at supporting Russian players wishing to join European National Federations.

Russian-born Ian Nepomniachtchi played the FIDE World Championship Match under a neutral flag because of the war in Ukraine ©Getty Images
Russian-born Ian Nepomniachtchi played the FIDE World Championship Match under a neutral flag because of the war in Ukraine ©Getty Images

Most sports in Russia have opted against transferring their affiliation from Europe to Asia, with chess representing an exception.

The IOC in March lifted a recommended blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes because of the war in Ukraine, allowing them to compete as individual neutrals provided they do not support the conflict and are not affiliated to the military.

There has been a mixed response to these recommendations from International Federations.

Practical issues remain with the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to competitions, particularly in Europe where there remains strong opposition from several countries to their presence,

Critics argue Russian and Belarusian athletes would be used for political purposes by both nations and there should be no place for either country in international sport while the war is ongoing.

Opponents in Russia and Belarus have claimed the conditions laid out are "discriminatory", but the IOC insists that it has "found some middle ground".