The eccentric head of chess' global governing body, who is under sanctions in the United States, says he has written to President Barack Obama to request U.S. citizenship in a bid to fight the measures.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the wealthy Russian businessman and former regional governor who has headed the chess federation FIDE since 1995, was sanctioned by Washington last year for allegedly aiding members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's circle.

Ilyumzhinov was quoted by the Tass news agency on Sunday as saying he wrote to Obama to "protect my rights" and asking for U.S. citizenship, if necessary, "for protection of my business reputation and dignity."

Ilyumzhinov has attracted attention in the past for claims that he had met extraterrestrials and that chess was brought to Earth from another planet.