Borislav Ivanov Is Back — "Device Found" But Still No Evidence

  • PeterDoggers
  • on 12/9/13, 2:18 AM.

The alleged cheater Borislav Ivanov is back. Last week the 25-year-old Bulgarian FM started to play an international open tournament again, in Navalmoral de la Mata, Cacéres, Extremadura (Spain). He started to beat grandmasters and was subsequently expelled from the tournament after round 6, but the organizers did give him back the 40 euro entry fee and another 50 euros "compensation".

Early October it was reported in Bulgarian media that Borislav Ivanov had decided to quit chess. He was quoted saying

(...) my career as a chess player is over. The psychological front against me is too strong, you cannot take it. I wanted to be a GM, but apparently that is not going to happen.

But it looks like he changed his mind. Ivanov could be found behind the chess board again last week in Cacéres, Extremadura (Spain). Now an FM with 2318, the Bulgarian played in the 19th Navalmoral Open, and started well. He beat Jose Sanchez Camino (1849) and Oscar Sanchez Diaz (not rated), but then he also won against GM Daniel Campora (2474) and Karen Grigoryan (2604). In the fifth round he drew with GM Manuel Perez Candelario (2568) — which can be described as a fine result for Perez Candelario — and in the sixth round he lost by default against Namig Guliyev. As can be see on Chess-Results, that's where Ivanov's tournament ended. Below you can find the three games against GMs:

Ivanov was expelled from the tournament after round 6. His opponent of that round, Guliyev, had asked the arbiter to search Ivanov, and indeed they took the alleged cheater apart. Ivanov was forced to remove his clothes. Two participants of the tournament (who wanted to stay anonymous) told that an electronic device was found, and the arbiters gave him the choice of playing on but showing them the device, or leaving the tournament. Ivanov decided to leave the tournament and to the surprise of the participants, his 40 Euro entry fee was returned, and Ivanov even received an extra 50 Euros for "compensation".

On Sunday Ivanov himself posted on Facebook: 

Organizer made me undress, I gave up and he threw me out of the tournament tried to speak to Ivanov and contacted him via Facebook. He didn't want to speak on the phone; his reaction below came via Facebook chat. There seems no reason to believe we were dealing with an imposter.

Ivanov first asked "Are you a journalist?" and then started telling his story (grammar and spelling corrected by us). Apparently he was searched already after round 4:

OK, I played the tournament Naval Moral de la Mata. After the fourth round the organizer asked to take off my shoes. I said OK. Before the sixth round they asked to take off all clothes. I asked why. They said because my opponent [asked]. So I took off my cloak but the organizers continued to push to take off my shirt and jeans. I said: "this is a chess tournament, not a striptease bar". My opponent told me that those are the rules of FIDE. I didn't know that the rules of FIDE require you to strip naked before the game. It is humiliating.

And then? They removed you from the tournament?

Yes. They gave me back the fee and gave me 50 euros for compensation. I could not defend myself.

I have to ask this question: how do you explain that your moves are very much the same as Houdini?

Watch my games carefully. This is not true.

It is said that a device with wires was found on your body and that is why they removed you from the tournament. Is this true? What was the device for?


Different people are saying you had electronics on your chest?

And how does it look?

I don't know, I was not there. That's why I ask you. You say it's not true?

These people are lying. Why did the organizer give back the fee of € 40 and gave me 50 euros compensation? Why not call to police?

So you say you did not have any electronics with you?

Of course. The organizer was just looking for a reason to evict me because my opponents subjected him under pressure.

By now many tournament organizers don't even allow Ivanov to participate in their tournaments. In November the Bulgarian was planning to play in Milan, but he was not allowed. According to Focus-News he was also rejected at a tournament in Macedonia last month. Because Ivanov can also be found on the participants list of Christmas tournaments in Zaragoza, Krakow and Montpeller (tournaments that are overlapping!), I asked if he is still planning to play there.

No, I come back to Bulgaria.

The last question I asked was: How do you explain that you were a 2200 player a year ago, and that you have beaten many GMs in one year. This is a unique result. How is it possible? But Ivanov didn't reply anymore.

One anonymous participant gave us more details about what happened.

Earlier in the tournament one of the spectators said he had found a device on his back. He said he had touched his back, and he felt some device. At the start of round 6 Guliyev wanted everybody to sign a paper to call the police and do a checkout. The organizer stopped Ivanov and took him apart, and started to check him. We were all waiting for the game to start. The round was delayed by half an hour; they checked him. They said that they found the same device, this time in his chest! Ivanov then left the tournament, but everyone was very disappointed. He stole money from the players he beat. We all want this to finish. It is very disappointing that they did not call the police. They let him free. Now there is no evidence.

Although Ivanov still hasn't been caught in the act, by now few people doubt whether he's cheating. It's likely that Ivanov is using a hidden camera wired to a processor that can be placed on different locations on the body. Early October, GM Maxim Dlugy suggested that there is a device in his shoes.

The organizers declined to talk to and on Monday the Federación Extremeña de Ajedrez could not be reached either. This is unfortunate, because questions still remain. For example, why didn't the police find anything when they searched Ivanov after round 4? And why didn't the organizers call the police after round six? Why is there no proof of the "device" that was on Ivanov's body? And why did the organizers give him back the fee and an extra 50 Euros?

A few months ago the Spanish Chess Federation sent a letter to tournament organizers with a request to ban Ivanov from tournaments. Why did the organizers of the Navalmoral Open accepted him anyway? According to one participant, they had no idea whom they were dealing with. 

He hasn't played much in Spain. At the prize giving they said they didn't know him.

Another question is why some grandmasters refuse to play against Ivanov (or even in the same tournament), and others still do. On Facebook, the strong Bulgarian grandmaster Kiril Georgiev wrote:

One advice to all players in Navalmoral de la Mata: Don't play games with him! When you play you legitimate him.

While an anti-cheating commission is working on new rules, Ivanov keeps playing at tournaments. It's about time organizers catch him and collect hard evidence.

49757 reads 150 comments
22 votes


  • 6 months ago


    All this is soon not going to matter companies are developing systems that can be implanted into the brain and graphic plates that can be implanted into ones eye. For a few years cheaters will win then they will be stopped it is technology advancing and people no longer are decent like when my Grandfather won 50 out of 51 tables in Paris long before their were GM's

    So you catch this Bulgarian some wealthy sponsor will help someone else with far better methods of cheating. The problem is humans no longer live by Noble integrity. Mafia makes more money than a educated worker.

    As long as their is a lure for illegal many will try, If many try some will suceed it is the law of averages. Can it be fixed? Yes but not in the USA where it is not allowed to discipline children and as long as schools and parent encourage dishonesty we will continue to have cheating.

     We can only hope that statistical analysis can prevent this. I believe math is the solution.



  • 14 months ago


    I don't believe that he is a cheater. The majority of evidence is hearsay. They searched him a number of times 

    -- So it is questionable as to why he'd let him be searched further times after already being humiliated with this process. Multiple people claimed he had a computer in his shoes or some device, there was no such device. So obviously these claims were not made by those who were 100% sure, or who actively saw any cheating going on. Instead its grump players who can't taken having beaten by what the perceieve to be a "nobody". The fact he is banned from FIDE etc after this whole fiasco, makes chess look like  a joke. If punative action of such a kind is too take place more evidence is needed than a few correlations.  

  • 2 years ago


    I would feel a lot more certain if there was actual evidence. Without fool-proof evidence I don't feel he can truly be accused. It is curious that the organizers of the tournament, after supposedly catching him with an actual device on him, then allowed him to go free. The world of chess is awhirl with this scandal, GMs everywhere inclined to accused him, and yet after catching him with proof are we to believe the organizers just let him go!? Are we to believe they did not call in the police?? Would not the other GMs present call for him to be charged and the evidence filed??

    No, I'm sorry, I don't believe this story, about what happened at the tournament. To my mind it doesn't hold up. Until he is caught in the act I feel he is being unfairly treated. Is it out of the realm of possibility for someone to greatly improve? I admit that it is very unusual, but impossible??

  • 3 years ago


    Michell78, you support your point well. But the fact that he's been seen in possession of the device by multiple, reliable, disinterested parties, ...witnesses (as well as having been once patted down, so to speak, leading to evidential "discovery" of it attached to his back), yet, far more weighty, was later-strip searched and "witnessed" to be in possession of said device attached to his chest, sorta renders the excellently argued statistical probability point rather needless. He chose to leave "this" event before the police were called. Even if argued, that the device cannot be proven as such an implementation, any sanctioning body has more than enough to "ban him for life", given the additional weight of expert witness testimony, along the lines as you laid out. You are correct sir; ...he cheats, yet quite cleverly. Don't get me wrong, I like your logical mind in action of debating logical causation vs statistical probability & correlation of extant realities as significantly different, ...and merely distant cousins, at best. But, at this point, it seems almost a case of "eye-witness", easily proven civil liability (given the "preponderance of the evidence", the "standard of proof" of most civil liability, at least here in America), rather than retrospective forensics (it was not seized), so to speak. He did it. Your right. And he should be held accountable, the results negated (ala-Armstrong), compensation given to aggrieved parties (various GMs) made (monies potentially denied them in the course of various events), and banned. His action were incredibly damaging further to chess, setting a precedent, the adverse consequences of which may never be measured, it becomes eminently easier to accomplish and be repeated, as it will, the inevitability of it as sure as that of the explosion & ubiquity of the digital technology & the miniaturization thereof.

    And, as always, chessdoggblack, a pleasure to read, as usual, expresses this point best: "Winning at Chess is just that important to many. Nothing else in the world really matters to these (obsessive) driven chess types. They are addicted to winning only and only winning." Those darn engines! ;') Peace to ya bro!

  • 3 years ago


    Ranx0r0xyou might have read the posts, but as not carefully as you claim. You say "Correlation can only point to the possibility of cause." Yes, indeed, that is basically repeating what I wrote in my previous post: "When a strong correlation between two events is found one has to check explicitly whether they are linked by a cause/effect relationship".

    So in this case a previously unknown player, Ivanov, starts producing outstanding performances, never seen in previous tournament practice by any player of his level, beats one after the other several strong GMs, is reported to have a suspicious behaviour, and plays non-human moves in complex positions, according to the consensus among a vast number of professional players that analyzed and commented his games. When asked to show up for a test in controlled conditions by his federation, he comes up with a last minute excuse not to show up. So we have a plausible explanation, he cheated, and we need data to support it. Then, a professional player and statistician uses an accurately designed test to find huge statistical evidence of correlation between Houdini's and Ivanov's moves, beyond that ever reached on average by the absolute chess elite in history. This result is confirmed by independent analyses. Is this "proof" of cheating, in a mathematical sense? No. Does it provide very strong statistical evidence in support of the hypotesis that he cheated? Absolutely yes. What would be an alternative model to explain the observations? That we are in presence of a statistical fluke? Not really, he repeated his performances over several tournaments, and many hundred moves. Any other way to explain why he became better than the absolute elite all of a sudden, jumping from ~2200 ELO level to ~3000 ELO, and matching engines at a level never seen before?

    Here is a nice article on correlation and causation:

    Let me quote a couple of sentences:

    1. The assumption that A causes B simply because A correlates with B is a logical fallacy – it is not a legitimate form of argument. However, sometimes people commit the opposite fallacy – dismissing correlation entirely, as if it does not imply causation. This would dismiss a large swath of important scientific evidence. 

    2. For example, the tobacco industry abused this fallacy to argue that simply because smoking correlates with lung cancer that does not mean that smoking causes lung cancer. The simple correlation is not enough to arrive at a conclusion of causation, but multiple correlations all triangulating on the conclusion that smoking causes lung cancer, combined with biological plausibility, does.

    Ah, BTW, you might be happy to know that the disagreement between Einstein and Bohr on Quantum Mechanics was settled long ago. Quantum Mechanics is a cornerstone of modern Physics. God does play dice with the Universe. 

  • 3 years ago



    I've read the posts carefully and I'm glad you took statistics 101 but that isn't where yo get into the sort of analysis that this entails.  It does give you a good idea of why correlation is just that.  There have been many famous and terrible scientific "truths" based on high degrees of correlation.  It does not matter how high the correlation it does not mean causation.  They are exclusive terms. 

    Einstein hated quantum mechanics because of its statistical nature and the lack of cause. "God does not play dice", he'd said.  Bohrs shot back that Einstein should stop telling god what he can do.

    Causal proof is just that -- proof.  Correlation can only point to the possibility of cause.

    That's it.  Nothing c\aus. And no sophistication in the ANOVAs, ANCOVAs or more appropriate non-parametric statistics are going to change the very nature of statsistics.

  • 3 years ago


    GM's are just jealous cause they got their butt beat down. Now scared to play him. Wow I didn't know it is impossible to beat GM'S when they are humans as well. Beat them all Boris. Oh yeah if he was using a device (which I don't think he was) JUST BEAT HIM AND THAT DAMN COMPUTER!

  • 3 years ago



    As specified several time in previous posts (including mine, that you seem to have read quite selectively), sophisticated statistical analysis by experts (both in chess and statistics) show that the probability to achieve the level of human/engine correlation displayed in Ivanov's game is ridicolously small for a player of his strenght (and still very small even for >2700 elo players). 

    We are all well aware from our statistics 101 classes that correlation and causation are not the same thing in general. When a strong correlation between two events is found one has to check explicitly whether they are linked by a cause/effect relationship. Here we are testing the hypothesis that some guy cheated at chess using computers, and we find, guess what, huge correlation between their moves and the engine choices. In this case the link between correlation and causation is present, and quite obvious.

    The sample size is of several hundreds of moves (several tournaments) and so definitely not too small, contrarily to what you say. In any case, the analyses mentioned above (links and sources provided in mine and other people's previous posts, if you want to check) provide a final statistical significance (again, a huge one) that of course already reflects all statistical limitations due to the sample size.

    As you say, you are not found guilty in sport because you excel. In fact nobody finds Ivanov guilty because he does well in tournaments and beats GMs. Sorry to repeat myself, but one finds him guilty because accurate statistical analysis probes it, as well as a blood test probes doping in other sports, even if you don't catch the guy in the act of taking drugs.

    Of course, if you still want to believe that consistently playing stockfish moves at a level superior to that of any world champion in chess history is just possible for this guy, please feel free to do so. 

  • 3 years ago



    You aren't found guilty of doping in sports just because you excel or have a great improvement.

    Statistical correlation is just that -- correlation.  The price of hookers in New York went up correlated to the number of bombs dropped on Vietnam.  I can prove it.  Therefore the government must have been in cahoots.

    The sample size is far to small to make such accusations as if they are concrete facts.

    Maybe Ivanov is doping. I think he should be found guilty of doping.

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago


    That guy is an idiot. I mean who cheats in the game of kings?????Yell

  • 3 years ago


    IF you start beating GMs way far higher than your ELO,remove everything upon entering the playing hall & make sure to play in nude form! hahahaha. 

  • 3 years ago


    Do you imagine having a leering retired spanish cop strip you down and have a go at your nipples? No wonder Borislav recoiled in horror, who could blame him?

  • 3 years ago


    game 1 - well played by Campora even gaining a nice advantage against Ivanov who did not play no.1 moves - then starting mass exchanges ending up a pawn down

    game 2 - white violates several times the rules of a good opening play by releasing the central tension - then the strange Queen manoueveres ending with a trapped queen - no need for "devices" to loose a game like this

    game 3 - how to force a draw with black - yawnFoot in Mouth

  • 3 years ago


    It appears this gentleman may be pathological. Any player who has been suspect would do whatever is expected to remove all doubt including clearly disproving this "device" he was wearing is not providing assistance.

    If the tournament organizer report is correct then I would believe FIDE will persue this. So sad for the sport of chess!

  • 3 years ago

    FM OneLastBreath


    Wow, this guy is a lot dumber then I thought. Had he said something less ridiculous I might have ended up believing him. If what he is saying were true he would not mind stripping at all, and in fact even if he were so embarassed by the organisers that he wouldnt strip, he could still simply stage an open Human vs Machine match and shut everyone up. I simply don't understand such blatant stupidity. Removing all doubt he cheats, no need to even look at his games after such a claim, he simply digs his own grave!

  • 3 years ago


    "Ivanov was uncovered"

    Yes, good that the organizers finally came out with a public statement about what happened. Not that it will stop his fans from supporting him, but then nothing will stop them from that :-)

  • 3 years ago


    There is a notice of the organization in this web:

    Ivanov was uncovered. He had something in the chest.

  • 3 years ago


    When will watches be banned by FIDE in a tournament hall? After all they are electronic devices, many of which can communicate or have the power of a computer. Until watches are banned in the playing hall cheating at chess will be easy...

    And in a few years glasses will need to be banned too...

  • 3 years ago


    My suggestion to the FIDE:

    Let Ivanov play in a Grandmaster 3-Minutes-Blitz otb tournament with an average rating of ELO 2550.

    If he can outplay his opponents: He is an improvement genius or has a 'six million dollar brain'.

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