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Iranian Chess Champ to Renounce His Citizenship

FILE - Men play chess outside their shop in downtown Tehran, Iran, July 17, 2019.

The top-rated Iranian chess champion says he will not play for Iran in an upcoming tournament and is ready to renounce his citizenship because of a ban on competing against Israeli players.

Alireza Firouzja is "currently living in France...and may want to play under the French or U.S. flag" the head of the Iranian chess federation told Tehran's ISNA news agency, adding that the 16 year-old Alireza "wants to change his nationality."

There has been no reaction from Iran to Alireza's apparent decision to give up his citizenship. There has also been no word from Alireza's family.

Iranian authorities announced they were pulling out of the upcoming World Rapid & Blitz tournament in Moscow after two other Iranian players competed against Israelis in an earlier match.

But Alireza objected to the Iranian withdrawal. He is Iran's top-ranked player and the world's number two ranked junior player.

Iranian officials have called on all Iranian athletes to refrain from competing against Israelis.