In Sergey Shipov’s latest report from the European Championship in Aix-les-Bains he returned to the issue of cheating in chess, after discussing it with the President of the ECU, Silvio Danailov. Their conversation seems to shed new light on the open letter that was published yesterday.
The presence of Sebastien Feller, found guilty of cheating at the Olympiad by the French Chess Federation, was always likely to provoke debate, but it appears to have led to the European Championship taking place under a cloud of suspicion and even, perhaps, paranoia.
The open letter, signed by around 20 players and made available yesterday by Francisco Vallejo Pons (due to play Feller on the same day), refers to “rumours and allegations about possible cheating using electronic devices and outside help taking place during the European Individual Championship in Aix-les-Bains”. It proposes giving the arbiters the power to conduct searches, electronic devices being banned from the venue (even if switched off) and the option to unplug electronic boards. Jan Smeets scribbled a note when signing to say he didn’t agree with the last point and thought the 15-minute broadcast delay, in place at the event, was sufficient. Strangely ChessBase focussed on the campaign to implement that measure, though the players were clearly stating more had to be done.
No players are mentioned in the published letter, but Sergey Shipov’s report below suggests another letter existed, where names were actually named. The Russian original is at Crestbook.
The spy intrigue at the European Championship has flared up again with new force.
This morning I was calmly having breakfast in the hotel, bothering no-one and discussing an interesting opening variation with my student. And then suddenly Silvio Danailov approached with the words, “And what does the world’s best commentator think about Feller’s cheating?” Such crude flattery didn’t hinder the conversation. We developed and expanded on the theme. It turned out that a group of grandmasters had written a new letter, in which Feller was again accused, but not alone (the French chess player Wirig also came under fire), of cheating – that is, of dishonest play right here, at the European Championship.
I expressed my personal opinion that in the given tournament Feller has clearly been playing on his own. I’d looked at his games and come to that conclusion. Plus, it’s not quite clear how he could cheat at this tournament. The method mentioned in the arguments about the Olympiad clearly wouldn’t work here. For example, today I had a look and assessed the situation in the playing area. That same notorious Feller was sitting at the board – his hair cut short, a thin t-shirt on his back, hands on the table. The man was sitting there, thinking. No spectators were looming before his eyes. It’s not the sort of enormous hangar you get at the Olympiad, but a stage on which there are no extraneous people. Everyone’s visible. And the permanent audience consists of one and a half people at a respectable distance.
How can he, a mere man, learn the computer’s recommendations? Transparent micro-transmitters in his ears? A transmitter on his skin that works using Morse Code? Or does he only get to know the recommendations a few times a game, when he leaves to go to the toilet or pour coffee? Meaning that his assistant would always have to be on duty there?
All in all, it’s unlikely.
I’ll remind you of the phrase I used in the previous letter: “After all he’s not an idiot, and in such a delicate situation he wouldn’t repeat his past deeds… if there were any.” So then, many people think that he is, nevertheless, an “idiot” i.e. that’s he’s persisting in cheating, regardless of the reaction of the whole chess world.
There’s one important nuance in the current situation. If Sebastien plays successfully in the current championship, posting a good performance without any new evidence of cheating appearing, then that in itself indirectly proves his innocence at the Olympiad. He’ll be able to say, look, I can play well on my own, without any computer prompts. And correspondingly, there was no need to cheat before either…
That’s probably why those supporting the accusations have become active just now.
Frankly, I find it extremely unpleasant that all the people around us are talking only about cheating. It’s created an unhealthy atmosphere. Passing smoothly into mass paranoia.
I’ll tell you more. There’s also a second grandmaster letter (or a second point of the first letter – I didn’t clear that up), in which they ask for the arbiters to have the right to search suspected participants. To look into their pockets, ears and other secret places…
In general, that’s already becoming like the security measures when boarding a plane.
I’m not yet ready to express a clear position on that, but I like the second letter (or the second point of the one and only letter – it makes no difference) much more than the first. Although it’s still controversial, it’s nevertheless a constructive suggestion – an anti-cheating measure rather than an attack on particular people.
Measures must be taken. Globally. For everyone!
Let’s not engage in a witch-hunt.
P.S. You’re asking me why I’ve called this letter “Danailov’s Dances”?
It’s because he’s an artist. And when our conversation got onto the methods of transmitting the necessary moves to the player Silvio began to humorously depict various movements.
It was beautiful.
P.P.S. There’s also good news.
Alexander Khalifman’s protest had an effect. Eight tables were removed from the uncomfortable third hall – which immediately made it more spacious and convenient for all those remaining. The aisles between the tables became wide enough for the players to move around painlessly.
It’s good, after all, to be a famous and titled player! If someone else had complained there might not have been a reaction.