January 24, 2011 23:45

Three French players accused of cheating; one pleads not guilty

French chess federation accuses three of its players of cheating; one of them deniesIn a communiqué on its website the French Chess Federation (EFF) has accused GMs Sébastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo of cheating. No details were given, but the federation announced that it has "initiated on December 22, 2010 disciplinary action". One of the players, GM Feller, has already issued an official statement denying everything.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave might be doing quite well in Wijk aan Zee, but still the French chess scene is talking about something else at the moment. Last Friday, the French Chess Federation issued the following communiqué on its website:

French Chess Federation engages its Disciplinary Committee against members of the France team for cheating

The French Chess Federation (EFF) announced that it has initiated on December 22, 2010 disciplinary action against the International Grandmasters Sébastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard and against International Master Cyril Marzolo, following suspicions of "organized cheating, serious breach of ethics in sport and undermining the image of the Olympic national team during the Chess Olympiad that took place in Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia), September 21 to October 3, 2010.

Information on this procedure has also been sent to the International Chess Federation (FIDE), and the Ministry of Sports, as the overseeing administration of the FFE.

Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, 21 January 2011

Apparently the federation has good reason not to provide any details, and even better reasons to publish their accusation anyway. It's safe to say that the three players are accused of using computer help during games, which was also more or less confirmed in an interview with French Chess Federation's Vice President Leo Battesti, who mentions that it's "difficult to cope with technological developments" when games are being "live broadcasted".

In its communiqué the French Chess Federation refers to the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, where 19-year-old Sébastien Feller played very well. Rated 2649, he won the gold medal on board 5 with a score of 6/9 and a TPR of 2708. The other GM mentioned, Arnaud Hauchard, was team captain in Khanty-Mansiysk.

We tried to reach both Feller and Hauchard via email. The latter didn't respond yet, but Feller sent us the following "official statement" (translated into English by us):

I completely deny the accusations of cheating from the French Chess Federation. This disciplinary procedure is in fact related to the fact that during the Olympiad I supported the current FIDE President, which was contrary to the policy of the French Chess Federation. The President of FIDE is in fact defamed on the blog of Jean-Claude Moingt [President of the French Chess Federation - CV], which claims that the President has profited from fictitious proxies.

In addition, I have repeatedly mentioned in private conversations accounting irregularities of the French Chess Federation (details will be given later), which have angered the president. I asked my lawyer, Charles Morel, to initiate legal action against the French Chess Federation for creating damages on my side by having unjustifiably mentioned my name in a statement included on all French and foreign sites, as well as in the international press.

The aforementioned Leo Battesti calls Feller's accusations "pathetic":

And insulting to our president and his federation. I think this young player is ill advised because instead of taking responsibility, he tries to distract by disrespecting the honor of a great man of French Chess.

There are several examples of cheating in chess, but also several examples of accusations without proof. The fact that a federation is taking measures to some very strong players indicates that they possess at least some form of proof. We'll have to wait and see what it looks like, and what will happen to Hauchard, Feller and Marzolo (and Feller's gold medal).



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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Reality check's picture

@thomas.... I could go to the venue have a look, but I'm not fond of die Massenveranstaltung. Not my Bier. Too damn crowded. Too many celebrities.

chessnr1's picture

There is an interview with the spokesman and lawyer of the French Chess Federation here:

I must say, that I find this distasteful.
My critic points are:
1. It is still unclear what evidence there is
2. Although there some statesments and thrown into the air, like general discussion of how it might be possible to cheat, it is still unclear what exactly the accusations are
3. I find the last statement, that the president of the Chess Federation somehow has a higher status than the accused players and that somehow should play a big role pathetic. If there are no hard evidence and it only comes to a word against a word situation with the claim that the politically elected president of the French Chess Federation is some angel and that his words should be believed more than the players, then I will definitely believe the players!

The chess world has seen too many politicians, that get elected often with dubious means and seem to believe that being a president or a functionary of some sort makes them something better than the players.

Thomas's picture

I suggest you go to the venue for a reality check: it's rather hard (though maybe not all impossible) to cheat in the GM groups, because you cannot talk to others during the game. Some years ago, whenever Bacrot wanted to smoke during the game - only possible in a tent outside the building - he was accompanied by an arbiter. Just coincidence that he's also French, and he wasn't suspected of cheating. It was "just to be sure", and to protect him against potential cheating accusations. Or do you mean the amateur groups with several hundred players, where cheating would be much easier?

If you specifically mean the French players, let me repeat that those playing in Wijk aren't under investigation. Incidentally, this may be the reason why the FFE felt the need to give names rather than just "two GMs and an IM". That could lead to all kind of speculations:
- It must be Vachier-Lagrave who's overperforming (never mind that he missed an engine continuation against Wang Hao, else he would be in shared first)
- It must be Fressinet: he underperforms because he can't cheat
- It must be Tkachiev, not his first scandal (though earlier ones were of a different kind).

greg's picture

you said "I never said I didn’t like Leo Battesti but I think it would be more fair to tell people who this guy is : he is a former Corsican nationalist who went to jail in the early 80ies"
Leo Battesti in Wikipedia:

He was born in Bastia. He earned a Master of Law at Université Paris-Sorbonne. He served as General Secretary of Corsican Students (CSC), 1976–78, in Nizza. He became a political prisoner from 1978 to 1981, following his commitment to Corsican nationalism. He was amnestied in 1981 by President François Mitterrand.

He worked as a journalist from 1981 to 1992, chief Editor of a Corsican weekly.

He was elected to the Corsican Assembly from 1986 to 1992 and was vice-president of the Culture and Sports Commission from 1990 to 1992. He was also Bastia town council member from 1988 to 1992.

He is the organizer of the Corsican Circuit, largest international rapid chess tournament in the world[www.opencorsica.com], with a prize fund of €.175.000 and 140 companies sponsoring.

He was the founder of the “Ligue Corse des Échecs”, which has 4060 registered players for 260.000 inhabitants in Corsica. Thus, the island of Corsica is the place in the world where chess is the most played. Chess is taught on school time in almost every Corsican primary school.

He is Vice-President of French Chess Federation since January 2005, in charge of communication and thus, chief-editor of the quarterly “Échec & Mat”.

From wikipedia

Raj's picture

A long delay casts aspersion on the association of political bias. Such suspicions must be handled within 2 weeks after tournament completion to give time for investigations to be completed and accused players given a chance to defend their position and not based on assumptions/perceptions without evidence.

Wouter Otto Levenbach aka Dave's picture

I just released Feller's missing part (from Chessvibes) of his statement to balance it out. I didn't say that what it was true but it is certainly not less true than the FFE's statement as for now considering the lack of concrete evidence and details.

I never said I didn't like Leo Battesti but I think it would be more fair to tell people who this guy is : he is a former Corsican nationalist who went to jail in the early 80ies. It is kindda ironic he accuses a promising teenager of cheating at chess...

As for the chessbase incident I didn't know of it but as an online blitz player I can tell that half of players of the ICC and playchess server is cheating one way or the other, you can't compare online blitz and Olympiads of classical chess anyway...

SXL's picture

It is too easy to cheat today.

The suggestion that there should be a fifteen minute delay in transmission of moves to the outside may help some. It would be very simple to set up ten different and undetectable ways of relaying moves directly to the player, after processing outside the hall.

One might want to consider a ban in WiFi in playing areas, plus a block against mobile phone signals in the same (easily available technology and much used by theatres, cinemas, etc., in some countries).

And as Anand pointed out once, all you really need is a signal, a few times each game, that you are solid in a complicated position - you don't need actual moves to be transmitted. The knowledge that you are solid will help you relax, and become more effective.
Getting actual moves would be a bonus.

Impulse units in shoes can be used to transmit moves, if you want. Undetectable impulses against the sole of either foot. Left for vertical, right for horisontal, and you have your coordinates in short order - for instance.

As there's money and prestige in chess, and as this opportunity has opened up, it's necessary that official chess enacts countermeasures.

Septimus's picture

I don't see any evidence presented. Do any of you?

Reality check's picture

The timing of this accusation was well calculated: a tip to the organizers at Wjik aan Zee!? Let us hope the arbiters at the TATA Steel tournament watch the rest of the games with heightened awareness.


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