European Championship participants fight cheating with open letter

PeterDoggers
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0 | Chess Event Coverage

The French cheating case is clearly having an effect on the atmosphere at the European Championship in Aix les Bains. Since day one it has been widely discussed among participants, and now many of them have signed a letter in which they demand that "arbiters reserve the rights to search player’s pockets", "no electronic devices can be brought into the playing hall" and "electronic boards can be unplugged if one of the players demands it".On Tuesday night Spanish grandmaster Francisco Vallejo Pons posted the following open letter on Facebook, which he allowed us to cross-post:

Open Letter Dear French chess federation, dear ECU, dear chess community, In view of the rumours and allegations about possible cheating using electronic devices and outside help taking place during the European Individual Championship in Aix-les-Bains, we have an atmosphere that makes it impossible for the players to approach their games calmly and being sure that their opponents do not break the rules. We therefore demand that - the arbiters reserve the rights to search any player’s pockets in case of suspicion - no electronic devices can be brought into the playing hall, switched off or otherwise - electronic boards can be unplugged if one of the players demands it Respectfully,
Open letter
(Click for bigger version)

From the letter we recognize that players like Victor Bologan, Boris Grachev, Jan Gustafsson, Anna Muzychuk, Tomi Nyback, Jan Smeets, Peter Svidler and Natalia Zhukova have already signed. The question is, whether these players really intend to change tournament rules while a tournament is being played, or rather want to make sure that the European Chess Union takes their suggestions into account for subsequent events. We asked Vallejo about this. "Paco" didn't want to speak on the phone this morning as he's preparing for an important game (he's currently sharing second place and plays, lo and behold, Sebastien Feller today.) He did reply shortly, though: "I love rules, especially when you have a brain to break them if absolutely needed." On the letter there's also the note "except for electronic boards. 15 min. delay should be OK." And indeed the last sentence "electronic boards can be unplugged if one of the players demands it" is a remarkable one, especially since the tournament already works with a 15 minute delay for the online transmission of the games. The note seems to have been written by Jan Smeets, because in the comments on Facebook, Vallejo writes: "Actually Smeet [sic] made an interesting point there, saying that with 15 min delay will be enough to avoid some "things" :)" Update: Jan Smeets has confirmed to us that he wrote that note about the 15-minute delay. Vallejo further explained to us: "We didn't have much time to do it as we started yesterday night, and specially today there is a game so we will not disturb people till after the game." This open letter signed by top players is another, very clear sign that the chess world desperately needs better anti-cheating measures. The European Chess Union and the World Chess Federation (FIDE) need to get their act together. Now that the French cheating case has been picked up by international media, our sport has been damaged too much already.

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