French cheating case: Olympic team members support their federation

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French chess federation accuses three of its players of cheating; one of them deniesFour members of the French team that participated in the Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad have supported their federation's investigation into the cheating allegations against Sébastien Feller, Arnaud Hauchard and Cyril Marzolo of cheating. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Vladislav Tkachiev and Romain Edouard expressed their "full support for the FFE in its quest to find the truth".Three days ago we 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. Today a communiqué was published on the French website Europe-Echecs, signed by the other team members. Here it is in English:

The French Chess Federation (FFE) announced on January 21, 2011, that on December 22 disciplinary action was undertaken against two International Grand Masters and members of the French team, and against a French International Master, "following suspicions of organized cheating, a serious breach of sporting ethics and undermining the image of the Olympic national team during the Chess Olympiad that took place in Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia) from September 21 to October 3, 2010". As members of the French team that took part in this competition, we wish to express our utter amazement on reading the seriousness of the charges, and our utmost commitment to ensuring that full light will be shed on this matter. The complaints are serious because they are liable to discredit the game of chess not only as a high-level sport, but also as a hobby open to the greatest number of practitioners, whether club members or amateurs. Therefore, without prejudging the outcome of pending or future proceedings, we express our full support for the FFE in its quest to find the truth, and in the willingness it is demonstrating to do everything in its power to combat cheating. We have full confidence in the Federal Disciplinary Committee to decide on the veracity of the allegations, while respecting the necessity for independence and impartiality, and we are entirely at its disposal. If the facts are true, then we will strongly condemn them. Finally, we would like to reiterate the importance we attach to the values of fair play, respect for your opponent and the exemplary role of someone who surpasses himself, which constitute the universal ethical principles of the Olympic spirit, but also to the uniqueness of our sport, based on the analytical and creative capability inherent to human thought.

Earlier this week ChessVibes spoke to one of the members of the French Olympic team. The player, currently active in Wijk aan Zee, 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. Almost two years ago top grandmaster Shakhriyar Mamedyarov accused GM Igor Kurnosov of cheating, but couldn't come up with real proof. If the French Chess Federation turns out to be right and manages to support their case with evidence, we're dealing with so far the strongest player(s) ever to get caught cheating. For chess as a sport it will be of enormous value when some form of jurisprudence is created, demonstrating that cheating carries the risk of heavy penalties. In general it was just a matter of time before a new cheating case would appear. Technology is moving fast, and with the help of today's mobile phones it's extremely easy to obtain the opinion of a strong engine about one's position on the board. (Did you know that with the latest mobile apps one can connect to an engine running at a powerful computer at home?) The only way to rule out this possibility is to deny any mobile phone, carried by players and spectators, into a playing hall. However, few tournament organizers will be looking forward to taking such a drastic measure.

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