Suspected Cheater 'Strip-Searched'

  • SonofPearl
  • on 12/30/12, 3:31 PM.

News has emerged that a Bulgarian chess player was "strip searched" after being suspected of cheating during a tournament in Zadar, Croatia held from 16-22 December.

There were 36 players in the tournament, including 16 Grandmasters, yet the 26-year old computer programmer Borislav Ivanov with a rating of only 2227 Elo finished with a 6/9 score, beating four GMs along the way to claim 4th place.

The top placings at Zadar

# Name Elo Pts
1 GM Predojević Borki  2600 6.5
2 GM Stević Hrvoje  2622 6.5
3 GM Sumets Andrey  2638 6.0
4 Ivanov Borislav  2227 6.0
5 GM Jovanić Ognjen  2538 5.5
6 GM Kožul Zdenko  2638 5.5
7 GM Šarić Ante  2533 5.5
8 GM Martinović Saša  2530 5.5
9 GM Cebalo Mišo  2402 5.5


Despite the "strip search" no evidence of cheating was found. 

Stanislav Maroja, chairperson of the chess union in Zadar District said, “After the eighth round we received a signal about Ivanov’s game and after his game with Borko Predoevic, who later on won the tournament, we decided to check on both of them. There were suspicions that Ivanov has some electronic tools to help him and in my capacity of a judge I decided to make a move in line with the FIDE rules. It is not true that we made him strip naked. He himself took off his t-shirt, while we emptied his pockets.”

The FOCUS Information Agency quoted GM Zlatko Klaric, “Ivanov is chess programmer...he made moves like a computer, which was obvious in the game vs Jovanovic. Technologies are so developed now that theoretically, since the games were aired live, Ivanov’s friends...could have sent him hints for his moves through chips, which could have been placed under the skin, in the ear, or in the teeth.”

Either Ivanov had the tournament of his life, or he found a way to cheat without being detected. All of his games from the tournament are below.

This disturbing story also raises many other questions, two being: a) what are the limits of an arbiter's powers to search an individual suspected of cheating? and b) do we now have to scan suspected players for implanted computer chips?


Games and results table via

22639 reads 167 comments
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  • 4 years ago


    TwoMove:  Again, it's indeed likely that he used computer help; no question about that.  But I wouldn't hang the player, figuratively speaking, over this likelihood -- it's not strong enough for a verdict (proof), it's merely highly suggestive of something fishy going on, and something worth researching and understanding in more depth about this player and about the types of methods he has used (which others may inherit in the future along with similar results).

  • 4 years ago


    _valentin I see what you mean about statisitical reliability but with the other information, it is becoming more likely he cheated isn't it.

  • 4 years ago


    Ok very good, that removed the small amount of doubt in my mind. The large number of wins against GMs, and opening choices was suspicious enough to me. Wouldn't be suprised if using software in opening too.

  • 4 years ago


    TwoMove:  Top-3 analysis is indeed evidence, but it's not proof.  For a proof, you need more than evidence.  In particular, Top-3 analysis does not address the question "What if the player was simply being very smart/inspired on that particular day?"  It only deals with statistics (i.e., when there's a lot of data), but does not address individual situations.  It would apply with more strength, for instance, if this trend is found to be consistent across dozens of Ivanov's games, but 10 games or less is generally insufficient for the statistics to be convincing.  In statistical parlance, the confidence level would be fairly low to make a case...  

    The performance we're talking about here is clearly an outlier, but an outlier is not the same as an impossibility (i.e., a cheater).  Outlier effects (related to standard deviations) have been studied in statistics too, particularly with respect to human behavior, and they're a normal thing that occurs infrequently.

  • 4 years ago


    Someone already has: 

    I ran Ivanov's 9 games through batchanalyzer, letting it determine which were the book moves not to be analyzed (usually I check with MegaBase and a CC database for this, but it's more work than I want to do for this one).

    Settings were 12-22 ply depth/45 seconds, hash 256mb

    Engine Houdini 103a

    Core2Duo 2.00 GH


    { Borislav Ivanov (Games: 9) }
    { Top 1 Match: 223/314 ( 71.0% )  Opponents: 152/313 ( 48.6% )
    { Top 2 Match: 260/314 ( 82.8% )  Opponents: 206/313 ( 65.8% )
    { Top 3 Match: 286/314 ( 91.1% )  Opponents: 246/313 ( 78.6% )
    { Top 4 Match: 294/314 ( 93.6% )  Opponents: 270/313 ( 86.3% )

    As I understand the ChessBase article, round 8 had no live feed, a game which he lost. The following is his round 8 analysis.

    { White: Borislav Ivanov }
    { Top 1 Match: 14/27 ( 51.9% )
    { Top 2 Match: 19/27 ( 70.4% )
    { Top 3 Match: 21/27 ( 77.8% )
    { Top 4 Match: 23/27 ( 85.2% )

    His numbers for this round were far below his average for all the others.

    Subtracting round 8 from the overall results:

    { Top 1 Match: 209/287 ( 72.8% )  
    { Top 2 Match: 241/287 ( 84.0% ) 
    { Top 3 Match: 265/287 ( 92.3% )  
    { Top 4 Match: 271/287 ( 94.4% ) 

    These are terrible numbers, just terrible. A top GM like Carlsen or Anand only can muster c. 60/75/85%.


    And keep in mind these numbers include game 2, where he obviously was playing computer moves, but at the end for some reason had to play moves by himself and lossed fairly simply. If he would have taken only his wins, the numbers would be even far worse/ridiculous. 

  • 4 years ago


    Have you heard of top 3 or top 4 match analysis? People with statistical ability have looked at games of world champions, and top correspondence players, before software was powerful. Found thresholds acheived by these level of players. This type of analysis addresses your concerns about biased analysis, i.e stopping analysis when players move agrees with software, and different hardware. Think eventually somebody will do and publish such analysis.

  • 4 years ago


    Oh my goodness I go away a day and I come back to all of this, how to proceed?

    First dokter_nee... I'm not underestimating houdini, but believe me that the depth the computer reaches isn't always a sign of how good it is. 10 seconds for any computer running on your standard PC is good, I don't disallow that but I guarantee you that if you let it go 2 min per move it's going to change it's mind. It also sounds like at times you waited for houdini to come up with the move ivanov played and then moved on, hence your statement, "In game 5 I had to wait like 20 seconds for him(houndini) to give 16.Re1 as the top move."  Also I highly doubt your hand signal theory could hold water under the circumstances since people obviously had eyes on him for the last two game at the very least! I'd like to see the time records of the game too, it'd be interesting to see how long he spent per move, was it consistent throughout? 2 min per move no matter the circumstance or did he move faster on more obvious moves and slower on more complex positions? It's just that alone your houdini stuff makes an interesting supposition but does not stand on it's own as proof.

    Paladino2012, Look the guy could be mythical, and I have no idea if he reached GM level but I do remember he had a significant ratings boost in a short amount of time and there was something about it that had a lot of people talking, it was like 3-5 years ago but I can't be sure. As far as your research goes, it makes no sense to go and look at stats tables because here's the thing, what happened is an improbability, but not an impossibility. In fact your own stats show this to be true. Look the problem is that if Ivanov has the possibility of beating a GM player on average 8 out of a 100. That means it's possible for him to beat a GM. If I flip a coin, it's possible that the first 10 flips all land heads and then over the next 90 flips it balances more towards an 50/50. Stats alone cannot tell a story and are just as much anecdotal in this situation as anything. You people forget that chess is just as much a psychological game as it is anything else. Imagine the first GM loosing by taking Ivanov less serious than his GM competition, maybe even the second does the same, then this idea gets spread that maybe he's cheating, then people think they're playing a computer... The mind can do weird things to a player, look at our dear ol' Kasparov after loosing the first game to deep blue and suspecting that the computer had HUMAN help! LOL The thought!

    Rustyknife~I hope you never have to succomb to your own deductive style.

    Look, I cannot hang a man to die just because you guys ran some computer programming and said, "LOOK! His moves coincide with my computer so therefore he must be cheating" You still haven't looked at the games yourself have you? Have you tried to figure out what he was trying to do? I mean I still find it amazing that I can run the same program on my computer on the same game and come up with two different analysis' for most middle game situations but you guys all seem to get the exact same results on different computers. Also think about this, if this guy is running a program off of some mobile device and having it signaled into him and it's as strong if not stronger than dokter's houdini 2.0 on his desktop, this guy is some genius programmer.

    At least though dokter you've got the right idea. Figure out how! I mean if we do want to place a scarlet letter over this guy's chess career then we must do it logical. Fine we all know now that his moves coincide with a computer program more often than is likely, but how then did he do it? I mean the idea that he used the live feed is of course shot down because of his last two games, the idea of a computer chip implanted is silly so we dismiss, but how did he cheat? He was searched and had no known device, and I'm sure they looked in his ears, throat, pockets... I find that if he's always looking up at the same person in the audience and that guy can't keep his hands from looking like he's calling in a play to third base, he would have been found out much earlier. I would have been less likely to offer up defense if it wasn't that he was absolved of cheating with two games left and after they took counter measures and though he lost the one game he lost it by a hair and played incredibly well up till then and again beat a GM the second game.

  • 4 years ago


    In my opinion, Chess is a game of 95% skill and 5% luck. However, the 5% luck needs to happen some time. Maybe this is Ivanov's luck coming into effect. So, Ivanov beat a couple GM's and had a performance rating of around 2600. Does that make him a cheater or the next Carlsen no. If Ivanov decided to cheat he could have used houdini to win first place. Obviously getting 6/9 points instead of 7/9 points didn't make him less suspicious. Plus he'd net an extra thousand dollars. As I see it there are three possibilities. 1. Ivanov is a cheater and he used Houdini or Fritz or some engine to win. 2. Ivanov is actully a GM strength player and has gotten considerably stronger in the last few years. 3. He had a great tournament and netted a hundred rating points. However, It is just a fluke. I would predict option 3. Houdini doesn't perform at a 2600 level. 

  • 4 years ago


    Please let's all give him a break. Is it impossible? Is it also a crime that he is a programmer? In my own analysis, playing against Houdini most of the time makes me play Houdini-like moves too. Besides Houdini didn't become Houdini by a miracle but by learning from Human and Computer GMs. Let us all celebrate his victory with him and let time tell us all wether this was a fluke, a cheat or truly awesome and incredible chess. The future holds the truth

  • 4 years ago


    What if Houdini was implanted and absorbed completely into his

    brain  - would that be cheating or a breakthrough in chess training?

  • 4 years ago


    If he's a cheat, he just hasn't been caught ...... yet. It's just a matter of time. After all, the great Kreskin doesn't actually read minds, but he is able to make it seem so before thousands, even millions of people. If he's the greatest unknown player ever, it will become obvious in the fullness of time. If not, he'll be found out and the only question remaining will be "who will play him in the movie?"

  • 4 years ago


    doktor_nee's cheating idea is much more practical than a computer chip!

    @paladino2012:  That chart means nothing in this case.  It assumes accurate ratings.  If Ivanov really played those games, then his rating would be 500 points higher, maybe more.

  • 4 years ago


    dokter_nee:  "But to make any statement about anything, we must assume that your personnal reality is in fact reality."

    If you do so, you need to be ready for a surprise when you discover that others' realities are just as valid (to them), and they made the same assumption you did (namely, that their personal reality is in fact reality).  That can easily create (unnecessary) conflict, unless people are aware of their assumptions and interpret them in the proper light.

    An alternative and more peaceful way of living is to always qualify your assumptions (as being yours) and to allow for other realities to exist without compromising yours.  This approach has no downsides -- even in formal mathematical reasoning there is a field called "modal logic", which deals in part with alternative realities.  Only many people insist on there being a single reality for everyone -- that has historical reasons but is unsupported by both social sciences (e.g., psychology and philosophy) and precise sciences (e.g., quantum physics, mathematical logic, and biology).

  • 4 years ago


    Valentin, you also make somewhat of a good point. Yes I believe my reality is the reality, this makes me sane, but maybe it is not true. Maybe we are all just dreaming. I can't prove my existence. But to make any statement about anything, we must assume that your personnal reality is in fact reality.

    And you cannot refute the fact that his games follow houdini to a degree that Carlsen(officially the world's best player) has never managed.


    By the way I now have checked his last game from the bulgarian student championship against a 2400+ (Borislav was accused earlier already)

    Ivanov, Borislav 1-0 Enchev, Ivajlo

     Again a wonderfull amount of Houdini Top moves, a spectacular Rook sacrifice at the end, and very few 2nd or third houdini choices never more than 0.10 difference of course in evaluation.

    I no longer have a reasonable doubt. 

  • 4 years ago


    We all seem to agree that it's extremely unlikely that a player of Ivanov's rating would come up, on his own, with so many great chess moves in a sequence.

    Where some of us differ is in the apparent willingness, or not, to make the jump from an assumption that seems all but certain to a declaration of truth.  It's a fine line...  Crossing it is, in essence, ignoring discipline (in making sound conclusions) and ignoring respect (toward other humans), in favor of declaring that one's own assumption of reality must be everyone's truth.  (This tendency, by the way, is quite wide-spread in humans and has accounted for countless misunderstandings and inter-personal problems throughout the history of mankind.)  

    To justify this jump to a conclusion, different people offer different excuses (e.g., "all Bulgarians are such-and-such", "if it's 99.999% certain, then it must be 100% true", "every single case must comply with a general statistical model", etc.), all of which can be easily refuted upon closer examination, even if all you care about is the technical soundness of the arguments presented and conclusions made.

  • 4 years ago


    I believe that Sittingpawn is correct to say let's see the whole picture. Unfortunately he just quotes hearsay, he doesn't say the name of this mythical player who made GM in one year. Because Kasparov, Carlsen or Fischer we know them, but they were professionals, Ivanov is a nobody who plays 1 tournament a year.

    For Ivanov, why Sittingpawn didn't check the FIDE database? Same tournament in 2011, Ivanov made 6 points, but against 1900/2000 players. He lost and draw few games against 1900/2000 players, which is expected statistically.

    But let's show FACTS, not Opinions, here is the statistical tables, and everyone can understand what it means, no need for Houdini, or the gods whispering in Ivanov's ear the right moves, or other absurd explanations.

    H:  % of games expected to be won by the higher rated player
    L:  % of games expected to be won by the lower rated player


    Now, out of 100 games, a GM, against Ivanov would win 92 games, and lose 8. Here Instead we found the only group of unlucky GM who couldn't follow statistics, which are generally made upon thousand of games, and apply to the whole human race.

    But maybe Ivanov has been replaced by an Alien.

    If instead we apply the same table above to Houdini vs. Humans, then we still see the possibility that Houdini would win most of the games decisively. But Houdini is about 4-500 points above GMs.

  • 4 years ago


    By the way, a way to cheat without him having an engine on his phone or smth, would be to have a friend with an engine who is in the hall/audience.

    He can give small handsignals to him. Like left hands are the ranks, right hands are the files. this would already be enough to signal pawn moves. Like he taps his left hand 4 times to signal 4th rank, and than taps 2 times his right hand against his thigh to signal the b file, so b4. To signal pieces, the could use the fingers, like left hand pinkie is the a rook, ring finger next to it, the queens knight, etc.. This would be 1 simple system that would really be unnoticeable. by the way, the audience member could have an earpiece and a person with engine could be outside, but it could also be the same person. He can go outside the playing hall, to check the engine and come back in to signal a move. These kind of cheating systems are quite simple, cheap and way more probable than some hightech chip implants....

  • 4 years ago


    Ok so I took another game, game from round 6 against Zdenko Kozul (2638)  

    In this game from move 8 until the very end, he made no less than 5 moves which were not the absolute top line on my Houdini. And in these cases the moves he made were still within 0.10 of the first move, and the 2nd, or 3rd line given..

    So that makes 4 games, where he played exactly like Houdini. I wonder if Magnus Carlsen has ever played 1 of such games (I never saw one). This 2200 rated player 26 year old, apparently never an abnormal talent. Has now played 4 of the strongest games I've ever seen, in 1 tournament.

    If this was not computer assissted. This must be the most incredible thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind. Yes, it is that amazing.

  • 4 years ago


    Hello Sittingpawn, I think you are severly underestimating how strong Houdini actually is.

    I waited like 10 seconds on average for the lines (after 10 seconds my houdini 2.0 has analysed at depth 15 !, PC is 4Gig RAM, I5 processor, 64 bit windows 7)).

    In game 5 I had to wait like 20 seconds for him to give 16.Re1 as the top move (0.03 better than Rb1 and bxc5)

     By the way I mixed up the games, it's actually the game of round 5: Borislav Ivanov (2227) vs. Robert Zelcic (2560)

    where he plays the top houdini choice from move 7 until the very end.


    By the way, there is also a difference to jump from 1900 to 2300, than a 2227 achieving ATP 2697  against 2500 2600 + GM's and this TP includes the lost game when they stopped the Live Transmission...

  • 4 years ago


    @dokter~ When you talk about how he didn't pick the first move but the third move and there wasn't much difference in points comparing the two... That doesn't amount to cheating. It was just the best move.

    Here is how you all miss the point. You're using computers to try and decide if he was cheating instead of looking at the whole picture. I've poured over the games too... not just with a computer program but with my own eyes. Why would he pick this move in this situation, where was his plan what was he trying to achieve?

    I do that, I look at computer moves, I look at the fact that nothing was found to show he was cheating. You people with your houdini engines suspect he played above is paygrade but everyone has magical moments. I have no idea when you say he picked the best moves according to houdini what your time limits were, if they were say 30 seconds a move, that's not really good enough for deep analysis and depending on your machine that could be crap no matter what the program.

    As far as rustyknife's allegations go... who really can respond to such drivel. I mean seriously? I'm not going to get all sappy about how chess should bring different cultures together instead of driving a wedge, but you cannot attack one man for the actions of his country. You blight an entire people just because those in power have made bad mistakes. Heck rusty, based off of your own logic, since you admit that croatia is full of corruption, I guess that means you're a cheater too?

    I can't recall the person, I tried to look it up but there's too much spam on the internet these days, but I recall a guy who was like 1900 rating or 2000 or something and his goal was to achieve GM status in a year and he either almost made it or did make it but he jumped his rating like 400 points or more in  a short time. These things occur, we don't know all the facts and of course people are going to keep an eye on him from now on, I would suspect him to falter badly his next tournament just from the pressure, but we'll see.

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