Early in October, the World Chess Federation announced that Dorsa Derakhshani, the second female chess grandmaster in Iran’s history, is leaving Iran to play for the United States. Now her younger brother Borna has revealed he will play for England at international chess tournaments.

Earlier this year, Borna, who is only 15, and his sister represented Iran at the 2017 Gibraltar Chess Festival. During the tournament, he competed against an Israeli chess player, a taboo in Iran, leading authorities to announce that he faced a permanent ban on competing for and in Iran. Iranian athletes are forbidden to compete against Israelis, although they are often forced to find excuses in order to not run afoul of international federations, which ban discrimination based on nationality, race and religion.

Borna’s sister was also banned from playing for Iran because she did not wear hijab during the tournament, leading to a wave of outrage among hardliner media. Mehrdad Pahlevan-Zadeh, the head of the Iranian Chess Federation, who announced the double ban, told the semi-official Fars news agency, “As a first step, these two will be denied entry to all tournaments taking place in Iran, and, in the name of Iran, they will no longer be allowed the opportunity to be present on the national team.”  

Ahmad Salek, an influential hardline member of the Iranian parliament, went even further and said that Iran’s security agencies should deal with the brother and sister. “It is not necessary for individuals with dual nationality who do not believe in the [Islamic Republic] system to compete under the Iranian flag,” he said, and urged serious action against them.

The 19-year-old Dorsa Derakhshani, who will compete for the US from now on, won three gold medals at the Asian Youth Chess Championships, in 2012, 2013 and 2014. She came sixth in the 2015 World Youth Chess Championships. The same year, she moved to Spain at the invitation of Montcada chess club in Barcelona to both continue her studies and play chess for the club. After attending World Chess Federation (FIDE) classes in Baku in 2016 she qualified for the title of FIDE Trainer and is now an accredited FIDE journalist.

In an interview in September 2016 with the website Chessbase.com (on YouTube), she explained her reasons for moving to Spain. She is now an active reporter for the website Chess24

Many people in and outside the world of chess refer to Dorsa as a genius.

Her brother Borna, who is now studying at a boarding school in Kent in the UK, is no less brilliant, and is a  FIDE master. After he learned of the authorities’ ban from the Iranian National Chess Team, he wrote a letter to the English Chess Federation asking to be allowed compete for England. On Wednesday, October 4, the Times of London reported that his request had been accepted. “Borna Derakhshani, 15, will now be able to play in international events after making a personal appeal to the English Chess Federation,” the article said.

At the time of publishing, Borna Derakhshani’s profile on the World Chess Federation website provides no details regarding his national chess federation allegiance. But soon, the site will be updated to confirm that he will now play for England, and that yet another gifted Iranian has been forced to pursue his talents outside of the country. 

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