French cheating case: latest updates

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French chess federation accuses three of its players of cheating; one of them deniesBecause of the sensitivity of the subject, so far almost no details have emerged about the French cheating case. However, the French news website Europe-Echecs keeps on adding bits and pieces, and some of these were kindly translated into English by two of our readers.

We'll start with a small recap, summarizing what it is all about. On January 24th we first reported about the cheating scandal in France: the French Chess Federation (FFE) accuses GMs Sébastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo of organized cheating during the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk last year. The French Chess Federation didn't provide details, but it's safe to say that the case is about computer assistance during play.

Not long after the publication of this communiqué, Sebastién Feller completely denied the accusations of cheating. Strangely enough, the 19-year-old French grandmaster immediately added that the accusations must be related to his open support for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov during the FIDE presidential elections (while the French federation supported Anatoly Karpov). French Chess Federation’s Vice President Leo Battesti called Feller's remark "pathetic" and "insulting to our president and his federation".

A few days later a communiqué was published on the French website Europe-Echecs, signed by the other team members in Khanty-Mansiysk: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Vladislav Tkachiev and Romain Edouard. The four grandmasters gave their full support to the federation in investigating the case seriously.

During the Tata Steel Chess Tournament we spoke to one of the members of the French Olympic team. The player told us that the Olympic team members were preparing this joint statement. Because of the senstitivity of the subject, the player refrained from commenting any further.

Later, Laurent Fressinet and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were interviewed on video by Europe-Echecs. Our reader Test left a translation in the comments:

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave says he learned about the affair shortly before Tata Wijk aan Zee when the federation informed him there would be an open letter about the investigation so that he would be prepared and not have to face some kind of news “bombshell”.

Laurent Fressinet says he was surprised and even shocked that their team could be under suspicion.

Both say they didn’t suspect anything during the Olympiad or noticed anything out of the ordinary.

Arnaud Hauchard was going to be mentioned in the open letter about the investigation and he is also the trainer and second of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. He didn’t accompany Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to Wijk aan Zee. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: I talked to Arnaud Hauchard and my sponsor and we decided that under the current circumstances and at least until the investigation has finished it would be impossible that Arnaud Hauchard could accompany me to a tournament.

French cheating case: interview Fressinet and Vachier-Lagrave by Europe-Echecs

Have other players (in Wijk aan Zee) talked to you about the affair? Laurent Fressinet: (in short) Yes, they wanted to know what really happened. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: (in short) Yes, amongst others Anand & Carlsen. We try to cope as best as possible. Laurent Fressinet: (paraphrasing) Considering the gravity of the situation and the accusations we understand all the concerns and that it takes time and have published our open letter to explain our position.


Then, a statement from GM Arnaud Hauchard appeared on the Europe-Echecs website, which was translated for us by Wouter Otto Levenbach aka Dave:

The declaration of the Human rights says that each person is innocent till proven guilty. The European Human rights convention, says itself, in its 6th article, 2nd paragraph that “each individual accused of an offense is presumed innocent till his culpability is legally pronounced”. Finally the article 9-1 of the Civil Code from the law number 2511 of June the 15th 2000, stipulates that everyone has a right to the respect of the presumption of innocence. It is then forbidden to hold somebody publicly, before any conviction, as guilty of acts, under investigation or procedure. To attribute to somebody an offense hurt social values which the presumption of innocence intends to protect.

One of these values is the right for each individual to dignity and respect, the other one is the authority and the serenity of justice. It seems obvious that the Federation didn’t take into account these articles publishing my name on its official site before the end of the investigation. I’m waiting for the disciplinary hearing in order to say more about this case and I deny the facts attributed to me on the site.

Arnaud Hauchard, International Grand Master


Wouter Otto Levenbach aka Dave also translated a communiqué by the Board Director of the French Chess Federation:

The FFE board, seated January the 29th 2011 in Paris, took into account the circumstances which led the members of the Federal Bureau to bring the case to the disciplinary commission December the 22nd 2010, for a disciplinary action against international Grand Masters Sebastion Feller et Arnaud Hauchard, as well as international Master Cyril Marzolo, on grounds : “suspicion of organized cheating, serious breach of sport ethics, undermining the image of the national Olympic team, at the World Team Chess Championship that took place in Khanty-Mansyik (Russia) from September 21 to October 3, 2010”.

The FFE board fully grasped the importance of the alleged accusations, and of the constitution of a file containing evidence. It was decided to fully support the action unanimously.

Furthermore, taking into account the severity of the alleged offense, and of the presence of new elements which could lead to think that the “organized cheating” didn’t occur just in the Olympiads of Khanty-Mansyik, the Board mandated the Federal Bureau to bring the case to a penal court (sic).

In addition, the FFE board reasserts its intention to fight against any kind of cheating and is pleased that the 4 other members of the French national team Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Vladislav Tkachiev et Romain Edouard, had asserted their total support to this initiative.

The FFE board of directors,

Paris, January the 29th 2011


The latest news is an official statement from the organizers of the 2010 Biel Open. A month after their tournament had been held, they received an email from three anonymous people, who claimed to have witnessed cheating by GM Hauchard (helped by IM Marzolo) in his game against Pelletier. Here is the communiqué in English, again thanks to Wouter Otto Levenbach aka Dave:

The Biel International Chess Festival organizing committee took into account the Fédération française des échecs (FFE) communiqué of January the 21st 2011, in which it is announced that a disciplinary action had been initiated December the 22nd 2010 against the International Grandmasters Arnaud Hauchard and Sebastien Feller as well as against International Master Cyril Marzolo, on suspicion of “organized cheating, serious breach of sport ethics, undermining the image of the national Olympic team, at the World Team Chess Championship that took place in Khanty-Mansyik (Russia) from September 21 to October 3, 2010”.

In articles and interviews published on multiple internet sites, the Biel International Chess Festival of 2010 was mentioned, according to these sources, there as well a possible organized cheating took place by the three aforementioned players.

Ask to give expression on this case at multiple times from various direct or indirect actors, the Biel International Chess Festival releases the following official communiqué:

1.As for the FFE communiqué, the disciplinary action concerns the Khanty Mansiysk Olympiads. It is nowhere said that the Biel Festival is concerned. To this day, we didn’t receive any request from the FFE. 2.Indeed GMs Arnaud Hauchard and Sébastien Feller participated in the 2010 Biel Open. IM Cyril Marzolo was there at the Palais des Congrès for a few days but didn’t participate in the Open. 3.Never a formal and direct complaint from a player was addressed to one of the arbiters concerning the aforementioned players. However, the Festival Bureau recalls a player who complained about “suspicion of cheating”. Because the Bureau deals on a regular basis with such claims, often unfounded, the player had been told to contact an arbiter to share his suspicions. But no arbiters had been contacted as far as the principal arbiter and the organizing committee are aware of. 4.Of course, in the case of a serious complaint, one of the arbiters would have investigated on the case, with the tools set at his disposal. 5.It is only in September, about a month after the Biel Open that we received an e-mail, from a contact, of three anonymous testimonies of players accusing directly the aforementioned players of “organized cheating”. Those accusations are indeed very detailed. A sample game is displayed which could have been manipulated. But the victim GM didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary at the time. 6.Not knowing the identity of those three witnesses and considering the impossibility to initiate an investigation weeks after, without any evidence, the Festival wasn’t yet able to follow up on those suspicions. 7.Subsequently to this case, it has been already decided to reinforce the surveillance system for the next Biel festival, which will happen from July 16th to 29th 2011.

The Biel International Chess Festival The organizing Commitee, 01.30.2011 Peter Bohnenblust, President Peter Burri, Director Olivier Breisacher, Public relations and Grand Masters Tournament Manager Matthias Gallus, Principal Arbiter


Once again thanks to our readers who have so kindly provided us with these translations.




Update, February 2, 15:08: Here's our response to the discussion in the comments about the (quality of the) translations provided by two of our readers. First, we would like to state ChessVibes tries to encourage such contributions by our readers, and we see it as an example of the dedication of our growing community.

Furthermore, in our opinion the translations included a number of new developments. There's the reactions from indirectly involved top players - even when they cannot say much, that's saying something. Then, the directly involved GM Hauchard quoting the European Convention on Human Rights, and the communiqué by the Biel organizers - all this is adding to the newsworthiness.

But... in hindsight we should have come with an accurate translation ourselves instead. If only because in that case it would be ChessVibes, and ChessVibes only, responsible for any errors in style or facts. We're giving the three texts below again, but now cleaned up by a native English speaker:


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave says he learned about the affair shortly before Tata Wijk aan Zee when the federation informed him there would be an open letter about the investigation so that he would be prepared and not have to face some kind of news “bombshell”. Laurent Fressinet says he was surprised and even shocked that their team could be under suspicion. Both say they didn’t suspect anything during the Olympiad or notice anything out of the ordinary. Arnaud Hauchard was going to be mentioned in the open letter about the investigation and he is also the trainer and second of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. He didn’t accompany Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to Wijk aan Zee. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: I talked to Arnaud Hauchard and my sponsor and we decided that under the current circumstances and at least until the investigation has finished it would be impossible for Arnaud Hauchard to accompany me to any tournaments.

Have other players (in Wijk aan Zee) talked to you about the affair? Laurent Fressinet: (in short) Yes, they wanted to know what really happened. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: (in short) Yes, amongst others Anand & Carlsen. We’re trying to cope as best as possible. Laurent Fressinet: (paraphrasing) Considering the gravity of the situation and the accusations we understand all the concerns and that it takes time and have published our open letter to explain our position.


The Declaration of the Human Rights says that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. The European Convention on Human Rights itself states in Article 6, paragraph 2, that “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”. Finally the [French] Civil Code, Article 9-1, under Act 2511 of June 15, 2000, stipulates that “Everyone has the right to respect of the presumption of innocence.”. It is therefore forbidden prior to a conviction to hold somebody publicly guilty of acts under investigation or on trial. Attributing an offense to somebody damages the social values which the presumption of innocence is intended to protect.

One of these values is the right of each individual to dignity and respect, the other one is the authority and serenity of justice. It seems obvious that the Federation didn’t take into account these articles when it published my name on its official site before the end of the investigation. I’m waiting for the disciplinary hearing in order to say more about this case and I deny the allegations made against me on the federation website.

Arnaud Hauchard, International Grand Master


The FFE Committee, meeting on January 29, 2011 in Paris, took into account the circumstances which on December 22, 2010 led the members of the Federal Bureau to bring before the disciplinary commission a case for disciplinary action against International Grand Masters Sebastion Feller and Arnaud Hauchard, and also International Master Cyril Marzolo, on the grounds of: “suspicion of organized cheating, a serious breach of sporting ethics and undermining the image of the national Olympic team at the World Team Chess Championship that took place in Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia) from September 21 to October 3, 2010”.

The Executive Committee took full account of the allegations and of a dossier containing evidence. It unanimously decided to give its full support to the actions taken.

Furthermore, taking into account the severity of the allegations and the presence of new evidence which might suggest that the “organized cheating” didn’t only occur in the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansyik, the Committee has mandated the Federal Bureau to bring the case before a penal court (sic).

In addition, the Executive Committee reasserts its intention to combat cheating of any kind and is pleased that the 4 other members of the French national team, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Vladislav Tkachiev and Romain Edouard, have asserted their full support for this initiative.

The FFE Executive Committee.


The Biel International Chess Festival organizing committee took into account the Fédération française des échecs (FFE) communiqué of January 21, 2011, in which it was announced that disciplinary action had been initiated on December 22, 2010 against International Grandmasters Arnaud Hauchard and Sebastien Feller and International Master Cyril Marzolo, on suspicion of “organized cheating, a serious breach of sporting ethics and undermining the image of the national Olympic team at the World Team Chess Championship that took place in Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia) from September 21 to October 3, 2010”. The 2010 Biel International Chess Festival has been mentioned in articles and interviews published on multiple internet sites. According to these sources it is also possible that organized cheating by the three players mentioned took place there. Asked to give its opinion on this case on multiple occasions from various direct or indirect parties, the Biel International Chess Festival is releasing the following official communiqué: 1. As regards the FFE communiqué, the disciplinary action concerns the Khanty Mansiysk Olympiad. Nowhere is it stated that the Biel Festival is involved. To date we have not received any requests from the FFE. 2.GMs Arnaud Hauchard and Sébastien Feller did indeed participate in the 2010 Biel Open. IM Cyril Marzolo was there at the Palais des Congrès for a few days, but didn’t participate in the Open. 3.No player made a direct, formal complaint to the arbiters concerning the aforementioned players. However, the Festival Bureau recalls a player complaining about a “suspicion of cheating”. Because the Bureau deals on a regular basis with such claims, often unfounded, the player was told to contact an arbiter to share his suspicions. However, as far as the chief arbiter and the organizing committee are aware, no arbiters were contacted. 4.In the case of a serious complaint one of the arbiters would, of course, have investigated the case with the tools at his disposal. 5.It was only in September, about a month after the Biel Open, that we received an e-mail, from a contact, with three anonymous testimonies from players directly accusing the aforementioned players of “organized cheating”. Those accusations are indeed very detailed. A game is given as an example of where manipulation might have occurred. But the GM in question didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary at the time. 6.Not knowing the identity of those three witnesses and given the impossibility of initiating an investigation weeks later, with no evidence, the Festival hasn’t yet been able to follow up on those suspicions. 7.In light of this case it has already been decided that the surveillance system will be enhanced for the next Biel Festival, which will take place from July 16-29, 2011. The Biel International Chess Festival The Organizing Commitee, 01.30.2011 Peter Bohnenblust, President Peter Burri, Director Olivier Breisacher, Public Relations and Grand Master Tournament Manager Matthias Gallus, Principal Arbiter


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