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Rapport Returns To Play For Hungary In Budapest Olympiad, Teams Up With Leko
Richard Rapport is set to return to play for his native Hungary for the 2024 Chess Olympiad. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Rapport Returns To Play For Hungary In Budapest Olympiad, Teams Up With Leko

TarjeiJS
| 21 | Chess.com News

In a surprising turn of events, the Hungarian Chess Federation has announced that GM Richard Rapport will return to play for his native country just two years after transferring to Romania. GM Peter Leko also confirmed his participation.

Hungary has received a significant boost with the return of Rapport, three months before the Chess Olympiad begins in its capital Budapest and runs September 11-22. The news was presented at a press conference on Monday, with Rapport expressing his happiness to be back. He's quoted by Telex.hu:

"A long-awaited moment has arrived in my life. I am very happy to be here. For a long time I felt that I was not important to my native country. Now it seems that they have discovered value in me, which I am happy about."

For a long time I felt that I was not important to my native country. Now it seems that they have discovered value in me, which I am happy about.

Zoltan Polyanszky, President of the Hungarian Chess Federation, is also thrilled, telling Chess.com: "Richard Rapport has always been a Hungarian chess player. He played under another flag for two years, owing to an understandable decision related to his individual career, but we always took him as our man. It means a lot that we could bring him home, but this is not enough to say."

Rapport's Romania Switch After Benefactor Backing

The 28-year-old became Hungary's biggest prospect when he gained the grandmaster title in 2010 at the age of 13 years and 11 months. Rapport has been among the world's top 30 players since 2018, reaching a peak rating of 2776 and ranking fifth in 2022. Although he has dropped to 29th with a rating of 2715, he remains a fan-favorite due to his creative and unorthodox playing style.

In 2022, Rapport fell out with the Hungarian federation and surprisingly switched to play for Romania. The transfer came after Sacha Dragic, the owner of the Romanian gambling portal Superbet, made an offer that the Rapports "couldn't refuse," according to Hungarian media.

Since then Rapport has been a regular in the Dragic-backed Grand Chess Tour events, but he was absent in this tour's first event, the Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland in Warsaw, with the "Romanian spot" taken by the Ukrainian-born GM Kirill Shevchenko.

Rapport recently denied a rumor that he had received Romanian citizenship, instead confirming that he had turned down such an offer.

Richard Rapport against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Grenke Chess Classic. Photo: Grenke Chess Classic
Richard Rapport against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Karlsruhe. Photo: GRENKE Chess Classic.

During the GRENKE Chess Classic in March the 28-year-old was already using the Hungarian flag, however the transfer has not yet been confirmed by FIDE. Its Legal Director Aleksandr Martynov tells Chess.com that they have not yet received the official documentation for the transfer, but that it's expected in the next few days.

Hungary will have to pay the transfer fee of 50,000 euros before the grandmaster can play FIDE competitions for Hungary without a two-year waiting period. Polyanszky told Chess.com that this process has started.

"As soon as the Romanian colleagues declare that they let him leave, we are ready to pay the fee instantly," he said.

Polyanszky added that the federation also intends to pay the transfer fee for Rapport's Serbian wife, WGM Jovana Rapport. "She is a decent player who could strengthen Hungarian women's chess if she decides to focus on her tournament play in the coming years."

Leko Rejoins National Team After Long Hiatus

Rapport will re-unite with former world championship challenger and Chess.com commentator Leko, who also confirmed that he will play for the national team for the first time since 2018. The duo were key members of the team that scored a silver medal in the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway.

Leko told Chess.com that his only condition for returning was that Rapport would be on board: "I have no intention just to participate, but if given the chance to fight for something, it is a completely different story."

The Hungarian chess legend praised the efforts by Polyanszki and the State Sports Secretary, calling it a miracle. "Despite holding my ground, I have been very impressed and touched by all the efforts they made to try make me return to the Hungarian national team. This is the reason why I have offered that if I am not playing then I would like to contribute as a coach to help preparing the team. We really had a fantastic time together during the training camp when I was acting as the coach of the team. The chemistry had been excellent."

Richard Rapport and Leko with Adam Schmidt (left), Hungary's State Sports Secretary and Zoltán Polyánszky, President of the Hungarian Chess Federation. Photo: Hungarian Chess Federation
Rapport and Leko with Adam Schmidt (left), Hungary's State Sports Secretary and Zoltan Polyanszky, President of the Hungarian Chess Federation. Photo: Hungarian Chess Federation.

With the addition of GM Sanan Sjugirov, who transferred from Russia last year, Hungary is now expected to fight for medals in Budapest.

Hungary's Secretary of Sports Adam Schmidt told Nemzeti Sport: "Chess is a serious sport, here every step has consequences. Preparing for the Budapest Chess Olympiad, Mr. President and I set the goal of being able to compete with the strongest possible team. In the last thirteen months, we have had a lot of phone conversations and meetings, thanks to which I can report results today."

The Hungarian team could look like this, even if there is great competition for the two remaining spots:

# Name Title Rating World Rank Born
1 Richard Rapport GM 2715 29 1996
2 Sanan Sjugirov GM 2691 43 1993
3 Peter Leko GM 2666 70 1979
4 Tamasz Banusz GM 2623 130 1989
5 Imre Balog GM 2621 134 1991
6 Benjamin Gledura GM 2619 137 1999

[Updated May 30 with comments from Leko]

TarjeiJS
Tarjei J. Svensen

Tarjei Svensen is a Norwegian chess journalist who worked for some of the country's biggest media outlets and appeared on several national TV broadcasts. Between 2015 and 2019, he ran his chess website mattogpatt.no, covering chess news in Norwegian and partly in English.

In 2020, he was hired by Chess24 to cover chess news, eventually moving to Chess.com as a full-time chess journalist in 2023. He is also known for his extensive coverage of chess news on his X/Twitter account.

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