Reports | July 30, 2012 11:39

French cheating case: FIDE Ethics Commission confirms suspension Feller, Hauchard & Marzolo

The French Chess Federation's website announced the news on Saturday

The FIDE Ethics Commission has confirmed the French Chess Federation's suspension of Sébastien Feller, Arnaud Hauchard and Cyril Marzolo for cheating at the Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk in September 2010. The judgement was published today at the FIDE website.

The French Chess Federation's website announced the news on Saturday, FIDE two days later

After a year long silence in the French cheating case, suddenly big news appeared on the French Chess Federation's website last Saturday and on the FIDE website today. The FIDE Ethics Commission has released its decision on the French cheating case, on which we reported first in January 2011. Back then, the French Chess Federation (FFE) accused GMs Sébastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo of organized cheating during the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk in September 2010.

In March 2011 the Disciplinary Committee of the French Chess Federation suspended the three players: Marzolo was sentenced to a 5-year suspension from play, Feller received a 3-year ban followed by 2 years of community service with the federation or another association and Hauchard was condemned to a lifetime ban from the duties of captain.

The last thing we heard, in July last year, was that a Versailles court had suspended the French Chess Federation's disciplinary sanctions against the chess players due to a formal defect. The two grandmasters were allowed to play official chess games again, pending a ruling in a trial court on the merits of the case.

Suspension confirmed

The FIDE Ethics Commission has now confirmed the French Chess Federation's suspension. The commission ruled that Hauchard has to be excluded from participation in all FIDE rated tournaments for 3 years, Feller for 2 years and 9 months, and Marzolo for 1 year and 6 months, with a suspension of the sanction for the last 9 months, under probation, in accordance with the decision of the CNOS (Comité National Olympique et Sportif Français). All suspensions are due to commence on 1 August 2012.

On Sunday night the French news site Europe-Echecs published a report on the case, which included a link to the full text of the FIDE Ethics Commission's judgement (PDF here). Besides some font corrections, an identical (official) version was published today at the FIDE website (PDF here). The document provides some interesting details, the most important being that all three players, at some point, seem to have confessed.


After returning from Khanty-Mansiysk, Feller and Hauchard attended a meeting with officials of the French federation. We quote from the FIDE Ethics Commission's judgement:

The meeting was held on 11th October 2010 and Mr MOINGT, Mr VERAT and Mr LOPEZ GARCIA have declared that on that occasion Mr. FELLER and Mr HAUCHARD admitted to having cheated in in [sic] Khanty-Mansiysk during the Olympiads and also in other 2 previous tournaments (the Paris Championship and the Bienne Open, in July 2010), jointly with Mr MARZOLO (adding that “they were acting under pressure from Mr. MARZOLO”). Mr. MARZOLO followed FELLER's Olympiad matches live on the internet, analyzed them using a chess engine and sent his suggestions via SMS to the mobile phones of Mr. HAUCHARD and of Mr FELLER, during the games both used by Mr HAUCHARD outside the playing area. Then HAUCHARD transmitted the suggested moves to Mr. FELLER, into the playing area.

Mr VERAT, in the oral hearing in front of the EC, confirmed this point: “I was present and I listen at the beginning a confession by all of them. FELLER and HAUCHARD admitted in front of us that they cheated, in October 2010, they spoke for 2 hours. HAUCHARD said this also in a telephonic discussion from Khanty-Mansyisk, that he made a mistake by cheating. FELLER admitted in front of the three leaders of the FF. There were no many details about the way they cheated. After that, they did not mention this meeting. At the hearings [of the FF disciplinary Commission] they talked about consequences and then Feller should talk to his father about the situation. After the meeting and apparently after the discussion with his father, Feller changed his position”.

Last year Marzolo appeared before the CNOS (Comité National Olympique et Sportif Français), where he apparently confessed as well:

On 16 August 2011, in front of the CNOSF, following a procedure of conciliation, Mr MARZOLO admitted his responsibility in the cheating, without adding any details, and obtained a reduction of the disciplinary sanction against him.
During the hearing in front of the EC Mr MARZOLO more clearly confessed his responsibility: he admitted his role in the cheating organised in cooperation with Mr FELLER and Mr HAUCHARD, he followed FELLER's Olympiad matches live on the internet, analyzed them using various different chess engines and sent his suggestions via SMS to Mr. HAUCHARD. He added that he received money for this: “I did it just for money, just for money, not for friendship but for money. I was paid”, he needed money because he was in a difficult economic situation.

English language

Another issue regarding the verdict of the FIDE Ethics Commission is about language. At an early stage, Hauchard and Marzolo claimed that the case involved a violation of article 6.3 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects the right to a fair trial. They argued that they received communication from the Ethics Commission only in English and not in French, their native language, and they requested "the free assistance of an interpreter”.

This request was dismissed by the Ethics Commission, who pointed out that Article 2 of the Ethics Commission's Procedural Rules (PDF here) states that "The working language of the EC is English".

The EC shall, at the request of any party, authorize a language other than English to be used by the parties involved. In that occurrence, the EC may order any or all of the parties to bear all or part of the translation and interpreting costs.

Other sports bodies have similar rules. For example, the FIFA statutes (PDF here) state that English, Spanish, French and German are the official languages but that English is the official language for minutes, correspondence and announcements. "Members are responsible for translations into the language of their country." FIFA does publish statutes, regulations, decisions and announcements in the four official languages, but "if there is any divergence in the wording, the English text is authoritative".

The official languages of the IOC are French and English. In the Olympic Charter (PDF here) it says that "in the case of divergence between the French and English texts of the Olympic Charter and any other IOC document, the French text shall prevail unless expressly provided otherwise in writing".

On a final note, the 26 page document that comprises the Ethics Commission's judgement is written in English, but includes many grammatical errors. The author, Chairman of the FIDE Ethics Commission Roberto Rivello of Italy, is not a native English speaker. We wonder why FIDE didn't have their text proofread, either by an interpreter, or by one of the two commission members who are English native speakers. The way the judgement was published, not only the French players have difficulty understanding everything, which is unacceptable for such an important case.

And now?

As we haven't been able to reach one of the European based members of the FIDE Ethics Commission this Monday morning, questions like the following remain unanswered for now: Is this judgement in effect, and are the players now actually suspended from play, or does the Presidential Board or another FIDE body need to confirm the judgement? What options are there for the players to appeal, or is this the final word? Will Feller indeed get stripped of his rating points and board prize earned in Khanty-Mansiysk, as suggested by the EC? We'll have to wait and see.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Tarjei's picture

Yes, I agree that the English in the document is very poor. It wouldn't take long to prood read the whole thing.

I have to compliment the French Chess Federation though, for being very firm in this case, against three of their top players. This may not have been the case in other countries.

Mikel Larreategi's picture

Mmmmm, just a question: the judgments says "has to be sanctioned with the exclusion from the participation in all FIDE tournaments, as a player or as a member of a national delegation".

All "rated" tournaments are "FIDE tournaments" or it justs refers to official FIDE tournaments?

Tarjei's picture

I believe that refers to all FIDE rated tournaments. However, now even rapid and blitz tournaments are FIDE rated, so I suppose they are counted as well.

I am not sure what would happen in the unlikely case that one of them actually takes part in a FIDE rated tournament despite the sanction.

Hopefully none of the players will be invited to a tournament during the suspension.

Jøran Aulin-Jansson's picture

This is good news for the chessworld. A proof that cheating can and will be delt with. Hounor to the French chessfederation !

Zeblakob's picture

"We wonder why FIDE didn't have their text proofread, either by an interpreter, or ... English native speakers.".
-> FIDE has not enaff money.

Casaubon's picture

Feller's rabid denial it seems had no bearing on the length of his suspension. Odd.

NN's picture

Better late than never.

Born's picture

Poor feller, such a strong player really doesnt need to cheat. His reputation will be torn forever.

Anonymous's picture

Feller will be back, this is all a misunderstanding.

Bartleby's picture

Yeah, with better technique.

randi's picture

This must be specially hard for GM Vachier-Lagrave. Hope he finds a good trainer and plays in Istanbul, the chess community stands by your side. Well deserved punishment for Feller, who might miss out on Troms 2014 as well, and kudos on the gossiping Mrs. Pomian, a true badass!!

Septimus's picture

Cheats should be banned for life.

test's picture

So where are all the deniers and apologists that were so vocal when the news first broke now?


Just asking. ;)

Ruben's picture

I was sure about that this were cheaters all the time because I checked the games from them with the computer. Good for the sport of chess they are finaly sanctioned.

valg321's picture

i don't have a formed opinion on the matter since i never bothered to examine it, but just a reminder that a human being under constant and systematic pressure can admit to anything and as i understand it, these three have certainly been under psychological pressure for at least a year now

Thomas's picture

A German blog post (ösischenSchach:AuchFIDEsperrtFellerundCo ) has the answers of Ralph Alt, member of the FIDE Ethics Commission, to the three questions raised at the end of the Chessvibes article:
- Feller and Hauchard are banned starting 1st August (so they could still play today ...). For Marzolo, the ban by the French federation was confirmed (27 May 2011 until 27 November 2012, with the last 9 months on probation), hence he is currently again allowed to play. [This must be because he hasn't taken legal action and didn't play during the period concerned?]
- Feller and Hauchard can still appeal at the CAS in Lausanne (but would remain banned until a decision is reached, unless the CAS says otherwise).
- As to whether Feller keeps his board medal, prize money and Elo earned in Khanty-Mansiysk: (to make a longer story short) that's up to different FIDE instances

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