Chess Cheating - Episode 4: A New Hope

It’s been a rough month for Bulgarian professional players taking part in major chess events held in my home country. The newly-fledged FIDE master Borislav Ivanov has taken on every GM and IM ‘daring’ to enter a chess tournament here in Bulgaria, and in his notorious and pure Houdini 3.0 style of play, he has beaten a number of titled compatriots, as well as visiting professional players representing other countries, that even Bulgaria’s third best player, GM Kiril Georgiev, rated 2657, was literally demolished in a dramatic 10m+5s blitz game several weeks ago! 

In the meantime, there have been great efforts on the part of Bulgarian leading grandmasters and tournament organizers to curtail the trail of destruction Borislav Ivanov is leaving on the image and reputation of Bulgarian chess. With the Zadar cheating scandal having traveled the globe in less than a month earlier this year, speculations on why FIDE and the Bulgarian Chess Federation are doing little on the issue have escalated. Still, Ivanov was due to strike again last week, when he nearly grabbed the 1000 EUR first prize at yet another major international open in my country, only for a last-minute rule update and the selfless act of two Bulgarian chess masters to spoil his plans. The first “Old Capital” Open tournament started with 100 participants on Labor Day, but the final standings featured only 99. The first prize was ironically taken away from FM Ivanov, who was banned from the final standings due to his failure to comply to a small rule requiring no more than two unplayed games for him to qualify for the prizes. Unfortunately, Borislav had earned three points from forfeits after three of his opponents chose to boycott his play at the tournament and pay the high prize of losing a point and failing their immaculate participation, as well. Here is my latest report on the biggest chess cheating scandal happening this year:

If you want to follow this case from the very beginning, please check out my previous three videos with earlier reports and extensive game analysis.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


  • 3 years ago


    Last week they caught another one, Jens Kotainy (2400+ FIDE rated IM), cheating in an A-Open in Dortmund:


    This guy was kicked out of the tournament and reported to the police for fraud.He had his hand in his pocket after every move and his cellphone was sending some type of vibrational morse signals. 


    Maybe Ivanov used the same technique, just a little bit more advanced, where he got the morse signal vibration by a special device somewhere on his body ? With quite simple equipment and a second cellphone he could even send such signals back with his toes without anyone noticing ..

  • 3 years ago


    I would propose a most single measure to any tournament in the future.

    - Any player has the right, only once in a tournament, to play his opponent in private. For this game there will be no online transmission (or a delayed one only), only one arbiter shall be present.

    - All electronic instruemnst are fobidden (no handy, no enotate.....)  

    - Both players have (in this private game) the right to object to any person, means they have to agree on the arbiter.

    - If they dont agree on an arbiter, the game is counted as a draw.

    - if two players claim on her right to play private a coin ist tossed.

    This is quite simply to be organized at any tournament, only one room for private games has to be prepared.

    This measure take the whole situation away from any rules or measures to identify a cheater - it just prevents him to be successful in the tournaments, the players will take care for that. Additionally, by being this measure successful a possible cheater leaves ever icreasing patterns of his difference in cheated play to own ones.

  • 3 years ago


    FM Lilov, is not a new hope.

    1) if Ivanov is cheating using that lents you mentioned or any other thing, these techniques will get more sofisticated in the future so many other Ivanovs will be arising

    2) The players who get double defeated by FIDE norms asking byes are just quitting their chances to get a deserved FIDE performance (beside the miserable prizes usually shared in chess)

    So my suggestion is an inmediate police check up. No matter the laws this is what happens when somebody is subject to criminal activities. Maybe the simplest thing is to slightly change laws and qualify chess cheating as a criminal activity.

  • 3 years ago


    Yes manny, that´s what Lilov has done, matching the games with houdini moves. It´s also surprising that his opening knowledge is as great as a program opening book...

  • 3 years ago


    has anyone matched his moves with the moves oh Houdini 3? i.e. put opponent's moves into computer and see what Houdini spits out and cross reference those moves with what he has played?(assuming the engine spits out the same result each time, which should technically happen right? or is there something im missing?)

  • 3 years ago


    I wonder what "Houdini 3 style" could possibly mean - chess engines are configurable, and configuration determines outcome, not to mention the depth of a search. Is there a suggestion that Ivanov is able to match the configuration and depth of search of the engine that his auditors are using? Wow, he must be psychic :-)

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    There's no debate if he does or not.  It's the TD's responsibility to ban him OR examine his eyes and wand (handheld metal detector) him without touching him (specifically his shoes).  If he passes let him play. GM's aren't playing lowering the standard of the tournament. If not, let him play Super GM's and we'll see how they do with houdini.

  • 3 years ago


    I know Im coming late to the conversation, but has anyone been recording the audience? It seems to me that anyone creative enough to cheat (assuming he is) would be clever enough not to have the device on his person.

    If you've got a couple of friends in the audience the number of hand signals they could give you alone goes well beyond the characters it would take for just standard chess notation. With a little practice you could even have many signals for the same character to avoid detection. A new take on a very old charlitain's carnival trick.

  • 4 years ago


    ICC (Internet chess club) and are regularly expelling cheaters for using computer assistance. They are understandably coy about exactly how they are doing it but I assume a statistical analysis of the quality of moves and correlations to engine moves. They claim that they only expel people if they are sure they are cheating so couldn't FIDE set up new rules that enable these analysis to be used as proof beyond reasonable doubt of cheating in OTB tournament games?

  • 4 years ago


    pousseur37 is not about "Houdini Style" is about Calculation.

    You just get the tactical moves by calculation, and he never miss a tactic.

    His games have perfect coincidence with H3, you don´t need memory to do that, you need H3 running for you to cheat.

    At least in the games when he win against GMs, because when he plays as a human, he can lost and draw to 1800s.

  • 4 years ago


    To me, it is a lost battle. More and more young players are imitating strong software playing style. With a pretty good memory, the combination will be explosive. So called GM will soon face the harsh reality that their openings were never that good. I personally think that as long as a player is not using live computer assistance or any kind of high tech device during tournaments, no one has the right to accuse him of cheating. He is just using one of the multiple brain features: MEMORY. Banning a player just because he prefers Houdini style over Tarrasch's is just pointless.

  • 4 years ago


    I think he use some kind of beeper under his skin or maybe in his shoes under his toes. If the police took him to a hospital to scan him it shoudn't be difficult to find out how he does it.

  • 4 years ago


    @zezpawn: the only thing that is not right, is that those brave guys who denied the cheater the game, lost their chance for playing for the first place.


    If he's using a bionic lense or somesuch, what if someone slapped him on the back part of the head, while walking by his table. I mean not a serious assault, just a little spanking so that the lense falls on the board.


    I know this sounds unsportsmanlike, but this cheating could kill the fun of chess and bring the whole game into disrespute. In a couple of years lot's of people might use this. Just look at the bicycle racing sports, the tour de france etc. After all those doping affairs, they lost the public interest in their sports. In our country TVs refused to broadcast major cycling events because of all the cheating with doping, and the cycling teams lost a lot of sponsors. If today someone says, he's a professional cycler, everyone has the question in mind "does he dope ?".


    We don't want that fraud athmosphere in chess, it will definitely turn people away from the game. This is why such things should be fought energetically and choked off whenever they occur. A laissez-faire attitude is wrong here.


    (PS: sorry for bad english)

  • 4 years ago

    NM Petrosianic

    episode 5: the empire strikes back.  was the star wars reference intended? Smile

    anyway, of course the responibility during the event to curtail cheating lies with the organizer but no action by the authorities for so long?  theft is a criminal offense.  insane.

  • 4 years ago


    Wait, so he was denied the prize simply because his opponents dropped out of the tounrament? That doesn't seem right...

    I think I'm missing something here. How do we know this guy is cheating, and if everyone is so sure, why is nothing being done?


    EDIT: Oh, you provided those youtube links. I should probably watch those.

  • 4 years ago

    NM axelmuller

    I agree, it looks suspicious. Any theories how he is doing it? 


    Ok, I listened to your video by now. You clearly thought about it a lot and your reasoning makes sense. But I think not playing him doesn’t solve the problem. What about other people that may use the same technology without raising red flags? For example there is no need to play computer moves only. A more sophisticated cheater would consult the engine in critical situations and not all the time. While this is not guaranteeing 100% against GMs it also removes the need to have to draw against 1800 players. 

    I guess jamming cell signals is a reasonably reliable and relatively low-tech technology that makes transmission of moves more difficult. Also, there is no need for anyone to have a cell phone switched on while playing. Ideally lockers to store electronic devices during the game should be provided. Also while some chess events perform ridiculous anti-doping measurements it might be an idea to randomly select people and search them for electronic devices. This could be done with a metal detector rather than a strip search. Participants should have to agree to this when they enter the tournament. 

    I also don’t think that this is at smaller tournaments, but it might be worth considering as soon as the price fund becomes sufficiently attractive. 

  • 4 years ago


    Nice work, Mr. Lilov. I'm quite upset by this, this guy is destroying our game.

    Just banning him is not a solution because others might use this method as well. This guy should be asked how he was doing it (maybe after a few minutes of waterboarding) and then everything should be done to prevent such cheating.

    Whenever someone now performs well in a tournament or even a single game, people will have suspicions, just because of such cheaters like this guy. He poisons the athmosphere and does much greater damage to chess than just cheating off his prizes.

  • 4 years ago


    real life accroding to his earlier's a shame, but where there is money and people desperate to have it, this is what happens. The bad thing is I could see this at club tourneys for fun as well, which I believe is a worse crime. This steals the fun people are having for no other reason for fame at a local level.

  • 4 years ago


    this is real game or online game he cheat?

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