Grandmaster Caught Cheating, Banned From Dubai Open

Grandmaster Caught Cheating, Banned From Dubai Open

| 108 | Chess Event Coverage

A cheating incident took place on Saturday at the Dubai Open where GM Gaioz Nigalidze was caught using an electronic device in the toilet. The player, who happens to be the reigning champion of Georgia, has been expelled from the tournament.

The organizers first announced the news on Sunday morning on their Facebook page

“A cheating incident was found during round 6 by Georgian Grand Master Gaioz Nigalidze .. bravo to Chief Arbiter Mahdi Abdul Rahim for taking the complain seriously and raising it to the Tournament Director. An electronic device was found in the toilet ... Full story with pictures to be published soon.”

The Russian news website quickly picked up the story and spoke to Nigalidze's opponent GM Tigran Petrosian. The Armenian grandmaster said that he already suspected Nigalidze during the Al Ain tournament in December, won by the Georgian GM.

About his round 6 game in Dubai Petrosian told Chess-News:

“Nigalidze would promptly reply to my moves and then literally run to the toilet. (...) I noticed that he would always visit the same toilet partition, which was strange, since two other partitions weren't occupied.

I informed the chief arbiter about my growing suspicions and asked him to keep an eye on Gaioz. (...) After my opponent left the very toilet partition yet another time, the arbiters entered it. What they found was the mobile phone with headphones; the device was hidden behind the pan and covered with toilet paper.”

An arbiter of the Dubai Open holding the notation form and phone. | Photo Dubai Open.

Meanwhile the tournament website has published a report on the case. It is confirmed that Nigalidze has been banned from the tournament, and some more details about the phone are given:

“When the officials initially checked Nigalidze, they did not find any device with him. Tournament Director and Chief Arbiter suspected he is using the same cubicle . When they checked the cubicle in question, they found a mobile phone and a headset hidden behind the pan and covered with toilet paper.

When confronted, Nigalidze denied he owned the device, but officials opened the smart phone and found it was logged into a social networking site under Nigalidze’s account. They also found his game being analyzed in one of the chess applications.”

On the phone a chess program was active with the actual game position. | Photo Dubai Open.

Nigalidze is the reigning champion in Georgia. Still an IM, he won the national championship in both 2014 and 2013, scoring 9/11 and 8.5/11 respectively.

Over the last decade the chess world has seen many similar cases of cheating. The most recent case was that of Borislav Ivanov, a Bulgarian amateur player who was suspended twice by his federation after overwhelming indirect evidence of cheating.

Many of his games showed a higher level than those of Magnus Carlsen, and his behaviour at events was strange. He had refused to take off his shoes when asked, and at a tournament in Spain the organizers found a device with wires on his back. 

Ivanov refused to show it and instead left the tournament even though he was topping the standings at that point.

In 2008, an Iranian player was also banned from the Dubai Open after he was found to be receiving help from someone who was watching the game’s live broadcast on the internet and was sending the moves through text messages.

Most known cheating cases are related to amateur players; very few chess grandmasters have been caught cheating.

A well-known case is that of French players GM Sébastien Feller, GM Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo, who used a sophisticated system to cheat during the Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad in 2010. They were all suspended from tournament play by the FIDE Ethics Commission. 

In 2010 German GM Falko Bindrich was suspected of cheating during a Bundesliga game. Because he didn't want to show his mobile, his game was declared lost.

The German Chess Federation suspended him from play, but this decision had to be nullified on formal grounds. Bindrich then started a lawsuit against his federation which was eventually rejected by Berlin court.

As a result of such incidents, an Anti-Cheating Committee was established that has an advisory role towards the world chess federation. In 2014 FIDE adopted many of its recommendations in its Laws of Chess.

Specifically, Law 11.3b was altered and now reads:

During play, a player is forbidden to have a mobile phone and/or other electronic means of communication in the playing venue. If it is evident that a player brought such a device into the playing venue, he shall lose the game. The opponent shall win.
The rules of a competition may specify a different, less severe, penalty.
The arbiter may require the player to allow his clothes, bags or other items to be inspected, in private. The arbiter or a person authorised by the arbiter shall inspect the player and shall be of the same gender as the player. If a player refuses to cooperate with these obligations, the arbiter shall take measures in accordance with Article 12.9.

The Chief Arbiter of the Dubai Open said that he will send a report about the incident to FIDE, who may ban the player for a period up to three years, and up to 15 years in case of a repeat offence.

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