Italian Chess Player Suspected Of Cheating, Expelled From Tournament

Italian Chess Player Suspected Of Cheating, Expelled From Tournament

| 63 | Chess Event Coverage

Earlier this week an amateur chess player was banned from the Imperia chess festival after suspicions of cheating, using morse code. This was reported by La Stampa and meanwhile picked up by dozens of media worldwide.

37-year-old Italian Arcangelo Ricciardi, rated 1829, started the 57th Festival Scacchistico Internazionale di Imperia with the monster score of 6.0/7 (five wins and two draws).

Then, aided by a metal detector, chief arbiter Jean Coqueraut discovered that the player had equipment on him.

Ricciardi reportedly had a pendant hanging around his neck, underneath his shirt, which contained a tiny video camera. He also had wires attached to his body, and a small box hidden under his armpit. 

“I kept on looking at him. He was always sitting down, never got up,” the arbiter told La Stampa“Very strange, we are talking about hours and hours of play. Above all, he always had his arms folded with his thumb under his armpit. He never took it out.

“And he blinked in an unnatural way, as if it was concentrated on the board, but lost in some other thought. Then I realized: he was deciphering the signals in morse code. Point line point line. That was it.”

The arbiter had insisted on checking the player with a metal detector after he had received a complaint letter by four participants. It's not exactly clear how the sophisticated equipment was connected to an outside computer or accomplice.

Ricciardi was removed from the tournament and his games declared lost. However, he denies that he cheated.

“It's only envy,” he told La Stampa in a follow-up article. “I always knew my potential, but I was never able to express it. It's all false. I've played for 30 years, it's a genuine passion. But only now, thanks to yoga and self-training I managed to free my mind from tensions and emotions.”

There are countless examples of cheating in chess, and only this year there were two clear examples that were reported on by international media. 

In April, at the Dubai Open GM Gaioz Nigalidze was caught using an electronic device in the toilet. The player, who happened to be the reigning champion of Georgia, was expelled from the tournament.

In the same month an amateur chess player was caught cheating at the Dr. Hedgewar Open in New Delhi. The 1500-player, who beat several much stronger opponents, was caught after round five carrying two mobile phones strapped to his legs.

GM Emil Sutovsky, the President of the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP), on Facebook expressed his worry about this development that affects chess very negatively. 

“I keep repeating it — we have to enhance the fight against this plague of the modern chess. Those rare successes, catching several primitive cheaters with their gun smoking shall not mislead us — it is just a tiny pinnacle of the iceberg. It is THE PLAGUE, and it presents a deadly threat to chess.”

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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