Sara Khadem Leaves Iran, Gains Citizenship As Spain’s New Number-1 Woman

Sara Khadem Leaves Iran, Gains Citizenship As Spain's New Number-1 Woman


IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, more commonly known as Sara Khadem, gained Spanish citizenship on Wednesday. The 26-year-old international master, who left her native country Iran in January and transferred chess federations in July, is the number-one woman player by rating in her new home. 

Spain’s top-10 women. Image: FIDE website.

Khadem made headlines at the start of this year when she played without wearing a headscarf at the 2022 FIDE World Rapid and Blitz Championships. This was against Iranian law and, escaping an arrest warrant with her husband and newborn son, she relocated to Spain.

In March, she was featured in the International Women’s Day edition of Elle magazine, as covered by here. She also met with Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. 

She wrote in a message to on Friday: 

Personally, it makes a lot of difference when you’re a citizen of the country you live in. I could apply after 10 years for citizenship through the golden visa that we applied for, but getting the citizenship in a short amount of time will change a lot of things for me. Most of all the ease of traveling for tournaments and no more visa issues. I missed the opportunity of playing the Cairns Cup this year because of the visa.

Her husband, Ardeshir Ahmadi, and one-year-old son, Sam, both have Canadian nationality and Spain residency. She shared that they should be able to apply for Spanish citizenship after one year.

She told Reuters in the video embedded below: “I was told to record some video of saying that I regret what I did…. They told me, ‘If you do that, you can go back,’ but I didn’t wanna do it, so that was when I realized that it’s not possible to go back.” 

Khadem reached her peak rating of 2494 in 2020, six points below the minimum required for the grandmaster title, just before the pandemic shut down over-the-board chess for a year. On the July 2023 published rating list for women, she is number 15 in the world.

She balances a professional chess career with mothering a newborn—and leaving her native land. Since moving in January 2023, she played in one classically rated tournament in France, where she lost two rating points but still remains near her all-time high.

Most recently, she participated in the Tech Mahindra Global Chess League 2023, an extremely strong over-the-board rapid tournament in Dubai. She scored 5/10 against nearly all-grandmaster opposition after replacing GM Nana Dzagnidze, who withdrew for personal reasons.

She will represent Spain in the FIDE Women’s World Cup 2023, starting this Sunday.

With this transition, Iran loses its number-one woman player. It also lost its number-one and world number-six, GM Alireza Firouzja, who gained French citizenship in 2021 and resides in Chartres.


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