Player Suspected of Cheating Is Suspended for 4 Months
Published: July 13, 2013
The Bulgarian player many people suspect of cheating in tournaments over the past year — though the accusations have never been proved — has been suspended from playing for four months by his national federation.
The player, Borislav Ivanov, was punished after he did not show up for a Bulgarian Chess Federation test of his skills at the board. The federation, which said most of Ivanov’s moves in recent tournaments had matched those of the leading computer chess programs, also wanted him to take a polygraph test.
Ivanov has been a controversial figure among Bulgarian chess players, many of whom have been boycotting tournaments in which he participated.
In his last tournament, in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, in early May, the organizers changed the rules to deny a prize to any competitors who won three or more games because their opponents refused to play. Three of Ivanov’s opponents forfeited, and although he finished at the top of the standings, he went home empty-handed.
Ivanov has received the most attention as chess federation officials around the world havefocused on cheating, but the crackdown continues, involving even the youngest of players. Last month, a 12-year-old Russian was expelled from a tournament in Bulgaria when he was discovered using a computer program on his cellphone during a game.
Part of what has convinced top players that Ivanov, a master, was cheating was the way he behaved at the board. Axel Rombaldoni, who became a grandmaster just after the tournament in Veliko Tarnovo, lost there to Ivanov in Round 7. In an interview published on Chessbase.com, he said he knew of Ivanov’s reputation but did not want to forfeit.
Rombaldoni said Ivanov played quickly and did not seem to take much time to think. Kiril Georgiev, this year’s Bulgarian champion, also mentioned Ivanov’s speed after he lost to him in April at the Second Memorial Bogomil Andonov tournament in Kyustendil, Bulgaria.
“From the start of our game until the very end, it was obvious to me that Ivanov was not behaving as a chess player usually does,” Rombaldoni said. “He was looking at the board, the clock, his score sheet, but he never calculated moves and variations.”
Rombaldoni said that Ivanov’s eighth move was unusual, but that it was the top choice of computer programs he consulted after the game.
After his 16th move, Rombaldoni offered Ivanov a draw. “He said nothing, but just made a face, as if suggesting that it was completely winning for him and my draw offer was unreasonable,” Rombaldoni said.
“I believe that it is possible for a very strong player to match top engine moves at a high rate in one, two or even three separate games,” he said. “But it’s impossible in every single game.”