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

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

| 126 | Chess Event Coverage

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.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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