ECU President Azmaiparashvili Mentions Cheating, Then Apologizes
ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili. | Photo: Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

ECU President Azmaiparashvili Mentions Cheating, Then Apologizes

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Nov 2, 2018, 2:42 PM |
89 | Chess Politics

Zurab Azmaiparashvili, the president of the European Chess Union (ECU), apologized on Facebook for having insinuated a possible case of cheating at the World Youth U14 Championship in Porto Carras, Greece.

If anything could be learned from the Solozhenkin case, it was that cheating in chess is a serious matter, but so are unfounded accusations of cheating. This week there was another example—by a chess official.

It was the ECU president himself.

Azmaiparashvili, right after the last round of the World Youth U14 championship in Greece, posted on Facebook:

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White to move and black is becoming world champion under 14! Is it cheating or not? I’m asking this question to FIDE and ACP. Unfortunately I cannot react because by this result Georgian player Nikolozi Kacharava didn’t become a world champion and I’m Georgian too...

Here's the actual game:

Behind the black pieces was Pedro Gines of Spain, who ended up winning the gold medal as he edged out Georgia’s Nikokozi Kacharava on tiebreak. With his Facebook post, Azmaiparashvili, also Georgian, undeniably suggested that the blunder by the player behind the white pieces (from Germany, but whose name will remain undisclosed for protective purposes) might have been the result of foul play.

The post by the ECU president was heavily debated on Facebook, especially in a special group about cheating in chess. It was pointed out that blunders such as this are quite common. In fact, only two days before, the strong grandmaster Michael Adams overlooked something very similar in his game with Baskaran Adhiban at the Chess.com Isle of Man International.

A day later, "Azmai" (as he is often called) apologized, also on Facebook.

My fb friends and not only, I think I was to emotional and overreacted about suspicion of cheating in the last round of world youth under 14. Analyzing what happened I’d like to say that from my position of ECU president I’ve no right to post something without any clear evidence even feeling is based on logical suspicion! Of course I’ve to take into account my official position and care more about young generation. Without any conditions I’d like to apologies to both players if they felt insulted! Thank you for your understanding Already in my speech of closing ceremony I mentioned that Spanish player will become a great athlete of his country and now I’d like to add about German player the same! Good luck to both of you guys!

While investigating the story, Chess.com spoke to several witnesses who were present in the playing hall when the game between Gines and his opponent ended. Azmaiparashvili was also there, and according to our sources he said multiple times: "This is a scandal."

He came to the board, wanted to reconstruct the final moments of the game and was especially surprised about the facial expression of the player who lost the game.  

"I asked them how the game ended, and why the player with the white pieces was laughing," Azmaiparashvili told Chess.com.

Later, the Georgian delegation filed an official appeal, which was rejected by the tournament's appeals committee.

Update November 6, 2018: Chief Arbiter Takis Nikolopoulos sent us more details about this appeal:

The appeal was submitted in time, according to the regulations, by the head of the Georgian delegation Dato Codua. In the appeal it was requested both players to be penalized for unsporting behavior and the result of the game to be 0-0, based on the fact that the position was drawish and the German player was smiling after his blundering move Ke5 and the Spanish player was also smiling when he played the winning move Nc4, which caused the resignation of the German player.

The three members of the Appeals Committee (IA Anastasia Sorokina (BLR), as Chairperson, IA/GM Efstratios Grivas (GRE) and FM/FT Arben Dardha (BEL) as members had a meeting and discussed the case. The arbiter of the game IA Jamie Kenmure (AUS) was invited and answered to all questions they asked him about the incident.

The Committee, after taking into consideration:
1. the appeal statement,
2. the statement of the Arbiter on the case IA Jamie Kenmure (AUS),
3. examining the game in question,
4. taking into account the fact that the first game player could finish in positions 3-9 places by a draw,
unanimously rejected the appeal "based on lack of factual reasons, as they found no clear proof of fraud."

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Gold went to Pedro Gines of Spain, silver to Nikolozi Kacharava of Georgia and Kazybek Nogerbek of Kazakhstan won bronze. | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich/FIDE.

In a reaction, a representative from the German Chess Federation said: "In the interest of the German boy involved the German Chess Federation will not comment before having discussed the case and its implications with the parents."

It has been suggested that the incident could be a case for the FIDE ethics commission. There might be grounds for the German Chess Federation to take that path, such as the following parts of the FIDE code of ethics that involve a breach of the code:

2.2.3  Organizers, tournament directors, arbiters or other officials who fail to perform their functions in an impartial and responsible manner.

2.2.4 Failure to comply with normally accepted standards of courtesy and chess etiquette. Misbehavior of a personal nature which is generally unacceptable by normal social standards.

2.2.9  Players or members of their delegations must not make unjustified accusations toward other players, officials or sponsors. All protests must be referred directly to the arbiter or the Technical Director of the tournament.

Azmaiparashvili is not new to controversy. Last year, the Association of Chess Professionals accused him of "bullying and threatening" grandmaster Anton Kovalyov, who had appeared in the World Cup playing hall in shorts and left the tournament after a verbal fight with Azmai.

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Azmai and Kovalyov last year at the World Cup in Tbilisi. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

At the closing ceremony of the 2004 Chess Olympiad in Calvia, Spain, he got into a fight with security officials and was arrested by local police.

Critics on Facebook this week reminded Azmaiparashvili of the time when he was still an active player. People such as Mark Crowther in TWIC and Nigel Short in his Telegraph column suspected that the results of the 1995 Strumica tournament, which Azmai won with 16/18, were rigged. What exactly happened there was never revealed.

In 2003, he won the European Individual championship but during the decisive last-round game, he retracted a move. In an interview with New in Chess he later admitted, and apologized.

The Georgian grandmaster was re-elected as president of the ECU last month in Batumi. There was no other candidate.

On Twitter, Thanasis Serntedakis, who was responsible for the live boards and was sitting close to the table in question, claimed that Azmaiparashvili accused the German player of bribery. However, Chess.com wasn't able to confirm this claim. Sector arbiter Jamie Kenmure, also standing close to the board, denied that Azmaiparashvili had made such accusations. A Greek arbiter, also present, declined to comment.

A member of the Spanish delegation said it was not planning to take action because Azmaiparashvili has now apologized.

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