Ethics Commission Proposes 3-Month Ban For Zhukova

Ethics Commission Proposes 3-Month Ban For Zhukova

| 75 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Natalia Zhukova has sent a document* in which she objects against the FIDE ethics commission's provisional decision to ban her for three months as a result of cheating allegations against WGM Mihaela Sandu at the 2015 European Women's Championship. The Association of Chess Professionals backs** Zhukova.

Natalia Zhukova left; Mihaela Sandu right (photo Fiona Steil-Antoni).

On April 24, the FIDE ethics commission came with a provisional verdict on the "Sandu case," two years after the incident at the 2015 European Women's Championship in Chakvi, Georgia. Romanian WGM Mihaela Sandu (then 38) played well above her expected performance, and was subsequently accused of cheating by 15 participants. 

Sandu defeated Aysel MammadovaIM Salome Melia, WGM Aleksandra Goryachkina, WGM Olga Girya and IM Lela Javakhishvili. After losing to IM Nino Batsiashvili (incidentally during a round where the live games were transmitted with a delay, reportedly due to technical issues) she also beat GM Antoaneta Stefanova.

By then, a number of players started to suspect cheating. Some 38 of them asked for a 15-minute delay in the live transmission of the games, which was granted by the organizers. 15 players went even further and specifically named Sandu in a second letter. They asked for her games not to be included in the live transmission.

This request was not granted by the organizers, who described the accusation as "unfair, insulting and creating some psychological pressure."

The 15 players who signed the most serious letter were Natalia Zhukova, Alisa Galliamova, Lanita Stetsko, Nastassia Ziaziulkina, Anastasia Bodnaruk, Anastasia Savina, Dina Belenkaya, Jovana Vojinovic, Evgenija Ovod, Salome Melia, Svetlana Matveeva, Marina Guseva, Anna Tskhadadze, Tatyana Ivanova, and Ekaterina Kovalevskaya.

The letters were given directly to the organizers, but ended up on the tournament's bulletin board and then reached the media as well. Sandu lost her four remaining games.

Both letters were put up on a bulletin board. Click for a bigger version.

Eventually Sandu (40) decided to file a complaint to the FIDE ethics commission. The commission's provisional verdict (posted in full at Chessbase) was that all 15 players were guilty of "a breach of art. 2.2.11 of the FIDE Code of Ethics for making reckless and unjustified accusations of cheating against WGM Mihaela Sandu, thereby injuring and discrediting her reputation as a honest chess player."

Under this provisional decision Zhukova (37), who was considered to be the initiator of the letter, would be imposed a three-month ban from playing any FIDE-rated chess tournament "The sanction is wholly suspended for a period of one year, on the condition that she is not found guilty of making reckless or unjustified accusations of cheating against any other chess player during the period of suspension."

The other 14 players got lower punishment; nine received a "reprimand" and five a "warning."

Meanwhile, the Association of Chess Professionals has issued a statement on the case. The ACP supports** the players, and blames the organizers and arbiters:

In a nutshell, the mistakes of the organisers and arbiters played a very significant role in leading to very unfortunate consequences. Some may even say it was mainly their fault that exploded the whole situation. That is why we strongly disagree with the decision of the Ethics Commission that blamed and sanctioned the players while hardly mentioning the unfortunate role of the officials.

* Update May 11, 1:30 pm Pacific: a previous version of this article mentioned that Zhukova had "appealed" the decision of the FIDE ethics commission. However, this term was inaccurate since there was no definite decision yet. Everything stated by the EC, included the proposed sanction, was provisional.

The ethics commission had invited the parties to provide statements before May 10, and in fact received those from both Zhukova and Sandu as well as the ACP. The commission will soon publish its final decision, after due consideration of the arguments received, and also publish a fully motivated judgment at its page on the FIDE website.

** Update May 12, 5:10 am Pacific: ACP President Emil Sutovsky denied that the ACP letter "backs" Zhukova. He pointed out that the letter only mentions "the signatories," and that these players did not file their complaints in Chakvi according to the regulations, which was certainly their fault.

Previous report:

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.

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