Reports | October 22, 2012 12:01

First Bundesliga weekend overshadowed by suspected cheating case

Falko Bindrich

In Sunday's second round of the Bundesliga in Germany the chess games were overshadowed by an incident of suspected cheating. Falko Bindrich's game was declared lost by the arbiter when the German grandmaster admitted that he had his smartphone with him while visiting the toilet, but refused to show it.

Falko Bindrich, suspected of cheating | Photo © Georgios Souleidis courtesy of the Bundesliga

Now that cycling is losing its sponsors one by one as a result of the Lance Armstrong case, we can't help wondering if some of these companies could be interested in chess. A new story about cheating – in this case suspected cheating – doesn't really help to create the image of a clean sport, though.

In Sunday's second round of the Bundesliga the match between SC Eppingen and Katernberg, held in Mülheim, ended in 3.5-4.5. One of the games was declared lost for Eppingen after an incident in the following game.

PGN string

After 10.Nge2 GM Falko Bindrich (2532) went to the toilet, even though it was his move. In itself this shouldn't be a reason for suspicion (if you gotta go, you gotta go), but according to the report on the Bundesliga website Bindrich had done the same several times in his game on Saturday against Pavel Tregubov: visiting the toilet while he was to move.

That's why arbiter Dieter von Häfen decided to follow Bindrich, and ask him whether he had his smartphone with him. Bindrich answered positively, but refused to show his phone. The arbiter then pointed out to the player that if his phone wouldn't show anything chess related, he could simply continue his game. As Bindrich still refused to cooperate, the arbiter decided to declare the game lost for him, based on the following Bundesliga regulation, (in PDF here), translated by us into English:

(...) During their game the players may not have or gain access to mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices without the arbiter's permission. In case of clear suspected use of tools mentioned above, upon request of the arbiter the players are obliged to hand over these devices for inspection. In case of clear suspected use of tools mentioned above, upon request of the arbiter the players are obliged to have their clothes, bags or other pieces of luggage inspected. When a player breaches these obligations, the arbiter may take measures in accordance with Clause. 8.1 of the tournament rules.

Cheating is a serious problem in chess – our list of articles on this topic is already impressive. Nowadays the big majority of chess players have a smartphone. According to the Laws of Chess it is not allowed to have it switched on during a game:

12.3b Without the permission of the arbiter a player is forbidden to have a mobile phone or other electronic means of communication in the playing venue, unless they are completely switched off. (...)

However, it's impossible for organizers to check the phones of all the players all the time. And so, with smartphone chess programs getting stronger and stronger, every now and then a case of cheating pops up in the chess world. One recent example is a player who got caught, in June 2011, during the German Championship. He used a chess program on his smartphone during his last-round game. (We may add that back then his opponent was the same GM Sebastian Siebrecht!)

It's clear that measures should be taken, and the Bundesliga has given a good example to other organizers by including a separate regulation to deal with this situation. Bindrich probably felt that the arbiter was overstepping his jurisdiction when he asked to show his smartphone, but the 22-year-old grandmaster should know that the Bundesliga regulations allow this. Like in cycling, a Bundesliga player who refuses to perform a "doping test" will be considered to have tested positively.

On Saturday Bindrich won his white game against Tregubov, and his team Eppingen won 4.5-3.5 against Mülheim. Although Bindrich visited the toilet several times while he was to move, the arbiter didn't intervene. After the incident on Sunday, where the arbiter did intervene, the Mülheim team captain decided to file a protest, in order to have their loss anulled.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, 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.

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Comments

BL's picture

Disgraceful.

Goendi's picture

Not only national regulations allow it. FIDE rules clearly state that all electronic devices should be turned of during the game and inside the playing venue. Therefor he could loose the game by just having his phone turned on.

Shyboy's picture

I like that this article is accompied with an ad for a chess app.

fernando's picture

This behaviour is incredible .Moreover , the captain filed a protest...What a shame!

sohei.katana's picture

@fernando

Not Bindrichs captain filed a protest.
Bindrich plays for Eppingen. The teamcaptain of Mülheim (the team of Tregubov) filed a protest, because they lost on saturday because Bindrich won against Tregubov.

redivivo's picture

"Bindrich had done the same several times in his game on Saturday against Pavel Tregubov: visiting the toilet while he was to move."

Time to finally forfeit Kramnik! :-)

Anonymous's picture

Kramnik never left the board when he was to move.

MindBoggle's picture

Obviously no player can be allowed time alone with an electronic device during a game. Given this, any professional tournament must place either a metal detector or a frisker in front of all toilets.

Brian karen's picture

Bindrich cheated in an obvious manner by leaving the board on his move several times. How many smarter cheaters are getting away with the crime?

Mike's picture

This is not enough. The one tested positively should be banned from chess for years or even forever. Zero tolerance should be adopted against cheating in Chess.

Anonymous's picture

First offense a 1 year suspension; second offense a five year suspension...Unfortunate it has come to this: all bathroom stall doors are to be kept completely open with TWO moniters at all times. Sad but not unexpected. BTW, I assume the TD made an annoucement at the start of each round that cellphones and other e-devices are not to be on one's person during the time one is actively playing a competitive game , (Also note the extraordinary lengths the International Contact Bridge Association has gone to to eliminate cheating.).

Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be ok.
I'm definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

Harrry_Flashman's picture

In order to clarify whether bindrich cheated or not against Tregubov , they should check that game with a program...

Mike's picture

Maybe, but...Which program? All of them? And then decide by finding "similar lines"...No...Justice should be kept simple and fast...The cheater refused to show his phone..."Who owes nothing has nothing to fear..."

Thomas's picture

Ironically (in hindsight) Bindrich's game [with white] against Tregubov was highlighted at the Bundesliga homepage, I give the following fragment: "18.-Ba2 [attacking the Rb1] Black wants too much. The position after 18.-a4 (etc.) is very pleasant for black. 19.bxa5! This exchange sacrifice can be quickly found by process of elimination". Further on in the game, as far as I can tell there is little reason to suspect cheating, i.e. white didn't have to find tricky only moves to convert his advantage. But it doesn't matter because Bindrich's _behavior_ was suspicious.

Parts of the round 2 report may also merit translation from German: "his [Bindrich's] team captain Hans Dekan asked him [to hand his smartphone over to the arbiter]. ... Hans Dekan, who like the entire club SC Eppingen enjoys an excellent reputation within the Bundesliga, was Sunday evening so affected ("mitgenommen") that he didn't want to comment. The club will discuss internally and come up with a public statement in due course."

Harrry_Flashman's picture

It's just enough a couple of the most diffused ones.
Far West justice is not my favourite one..

Frits Fritschy's picture

It seems Bindrich has been caught cheating before, on Playchess. Haven't found the full story yet. Anybody knows?

filiusdextris's picture

On the translation, "cloths" should be "clothes" but more importantly the first "don't" doesn't make sense, but if replaced by "may not" would work. "Don't" states a fact which may or may not be true, "May not" goes to what is permissible.

Peter Doggers's picture

Agreed, thanks, corrected.

Bartleby's picture

I think we must progress from lamenting the depravity of the culprits to acknowledge our failure when such simple fraud is possible in the first place. He only got caught because he was careless and overconfident. Ten others are not. It leads to all kinds of suspicions and protests. It's not possible to prevent cheating entirely but it shouldn't be that easy.

RG13's picture

It might be possible to prevent entirely. Set up a completely sterile area where NO electronic devices can enter whether they are on or off. Frisk people thoroughly before they can enter that sterile area. Coaches, spectators and family members are not allowed in the sterile area and no one can leave it while their game is in progress except for an emergency. And of course there should be a 20 minute delay in broadcasting game moves over the internet.
If I've missed something please let me know.

valg321's picture

yes, you forgot the rectal exam

valg321's picture

its impossible to prevet cheating entirely. Not with today's technological standards when anyone can have his own personal GM in his pocket.
I imagine that for each cheater that gets caught there could be about ten more that don't

What's Next?'s picture

I vote for therapy for cheaters to see if it helps before deciding a life ban.

RG13's picture

No therapy has been proven affective against sociopaths. Some people only care about winning at all costs and to hell with everyone else.

boardgame's picture

If you don't penalize cheating appropriatly, you downplay its severity to not much more than a trivial offense.

valg321's picture

a ban of some years, yes, but a life ban sounds ridiculous to me. After all the cheater will have to live with it for the rest of his life anyway

Polar_Bear's picture

But even limited ban should be accompanied with stripping off FIDE titles and penalty.

Jon`'s picture

I played a national tournament this weekend and they required that all cell phones be turned off and sitting next to the player at the board unless they want to keep them in a bag. Point was, you could not have the phone on your person if you decided to leave the playing room.

Murius's picture

You left out the interesting bits. Did he use a Galaxy SIII or an iPhone 5? What are the best apps to cheat in a major tournament? You should write a comparative review. Chessvibes is a hive for fanboys, biuld on that, bridge the gap between chess fanboy and mobile fanboy!

Joeri's picture

Below is what I found on Bindrich concerning a supposed cheating on playchess with the handle "Endorphin".

http://www.chess-forum.com/content/142-Chess-Who-is-Raffael-Kasparov

"Grandmaster Falko Bindrich, under the handle "Endorphin", played some games against Raffael. His rating was over 3000 and later by Chessbase he was accused of cheating and his rating got deleted. His father Oswald Bindrich tried to refute the accusation (there never has been a real proof for cheating). Oswald Bindrich gave reaons why the deletion of the rating upsets his son. Only if you have a 3000-rating you can play against very strong Grandmasters online and improve your own play and opening repertoire in his opinion and he said his son played against Harikrishna, Mamedyarov, Raffael (Kasparov), Bologan and other strong Grandmaster. This idiciates he and his son, who has played against him, know that Raffael is Kasparov."

Frits Fritschy's picture

I had found the same quote, and another where Nakamura (on shaky grounds) accused Bindrich of cheating on Playchess. And another one where his father is said to be ready to sue anyone about these allegations. But I can't find any really hot proof.
By the way, in the same German championship Natsidis was caught using a chess app in his game against Siebrecht, Bindrich left the tournament after losing a game being two minutes too late at the board. He made a lot of fuss about other players not having been treated equally in previous rounds.
What I was looking for was a clue about what kind of character Bindrich has. Somehow I can't believe chess players are really inclined to cheating but in very special (personal) circumstances. In most cases, there is very little to gain and very much to lose. Sanctions may not even be the worst; you become laughing stock in what for many chess players is their principal social environment.
Chess cheating may be something like juvenile shop lifting: you try it out just for fun and when you don't get caught, the next time you want the same adrenaline kick. By the way, it is something of all times: players taking a pocket set to the toilet. The effect has just become a little bigger, but I don't think the kind of person is different.

Bartleby's picture

I think, too, the overwhelming majority of chess players don't see a point in cheating. The problem are young ambitious players who will try anything once, and may find it easy and efficient. And the really big problems come when a group of young ambitious players see it as just the thing you have to do to get ahead. Peer pressure, like what happened in cycling. For a long time cycling officials pretended there were only singular cases and you never can stop it entirely. And under this cover, the next generation grew used to systematic fraud.

Frits Fritschy's picture

One of the things I would like to know is whether there has been any connection between Natsidis and Bindrich. Still, peer pressure may be too strong an expression; peer copying is a more likely form.
I don't think the comparison with cycling will stand. As far as I know, cycling used to be a way to get yourself out of poverty. (Some might say chess has always been a way to get yourself into poverty...) If your friends found a way to do that quicker, you wouldn't hold a grudge (for long), you just did the same. It was just another way to beat the system that once held you down. In this way doping and cycling got securely linked to eachother, even when nowadays business school students swop their books for a bike.
There is no such tradition in chess. The majority of chess players have or had access to a reasonable level of education. The amount of money going on in chess, except for the absolute top level, can't be compared to cycling. As a 2500 IGM (what Bindrich has been for quite some time), you'd better get a job on the side, except when your love for chess is unlimited - but then you wouldn't cheat.

Thomas's picture

Bindrich and Natsidis are both from Saxony, but this doesn't prove anything - obviously Bindrich could copy or be "inspired by" Natsidis without knowing him at all. Nor are they directly competing with each other.

They actually do have a "connection": First Saturday April 2011 - "in the last round the most ambitious player, the winner of the event, GM Bindrich Falko (21, GER) defeated his fellow citizen Natsidis Cristoph who needed only a draw to reach the IM norm." http://www.fide.com/component/content/article/4-tournaments/5180-german-... - how much time did BOTH players spend at the toilet?

As to supposed cheating on Playchess, my colleague Olaf Steffens on a German blog found the open letter by Bindrich's father:
http://www.chess-international.de/80617Betrug.swf
It's far too long to translate, Oswald Bindrich's version is: Nakamura lost two consecutive Internet games against Bindrich and then writes in the chat visible for everyone: "You are cheating!"

If true, it comes down to another young ambitious player being a sore loser - indeed unfounded cheating accusations are as much a problem as cheating itself? But even if Bindrich DID cheat back then: the games were played in 2007 when he was 16 or 17 years old, by itself it might be just a youth sin.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Thanks for the digging. I've tried to read Oswald Bindrich's open letter, but it is quite long, even more so because it's in German.
Not unimportant: I read Bindrich was accused of cheating on playchess not just by Nakamura, but also by the sysop (Holger Lieske), and more than once. And at one moment he even admitted to it, although he later retracted that.
What I mainly read is a father defending a son that he is very proud of. But a 17-year old should be able to defend himself, is the first that comes to mind. Did Oswald do the right thing? My own experience with being a father is that it is a kind of management by wandering - or blundering - around, so I won't comment on it.
Most people grow over their youth sins (I committed a few myself - not cheating in chess!). But if you seem to repeat them later on in life, they become relevant again. If only to give us a clue about how to prevent young players going astray.
Of course this could all be a conspiracy against the Bindrich family, but I wouldn't bet on that.

Soviet School's picture

Bindrich only got caught as he was so blatant , repeatedly getting up when it was his move. Other famous cheating cases that have been uncovered like the Allerman case involved him announcing mate in 8 ! It is likely that there are more devious cheaters around. I gave up chess for a few years after losing a very difficult game and realised afterwards I had my pocket Fritz on me and could have used it at any point in the game which would have been decisive, this caused me to lose some faith in slow time control chess.
Also this cheating takes away from others who may have made genuine improvements in their chess results and leaves me feeling suspicious of them.

The comparison with cycling is quite apt, I think one route is to have shorter time limit games with participants not allowed to get up, for example play best of 6 five minute games instead of one long game as this would make it harder for andindividual to cheat with an accomplice as well as on their own.

Soviet School's picture

Correction to my last post Allwermann case not Allerman

Anonymous's picture

If Kasparov and Carlsen can get away with cheating, than why not Bindrich? I really don't see what the fuss is about. For Bindrich the evidence is at least only circumstancial.

Anonymous's picture

Oh, I´d love an in depth explanation on Kasparov and Carlsen's cheating.

Anonymous's picture

Google is your friend. I found the following:

"Garry Kasparov took a move back in his game against Judit Polgar. Except Judit, no one else saw the takeback, but Spanish TV filmed the scene. Kasparov dropped the Knight on c5, lifted hand a bit, then saw he was losing a Rook, took the Knight back to d7 and few seconds later played Nf8. Judit was stunned, looked around for the arbiter but didn’t complain at all."

"The game, which started as a ‘Berlin Wall’, saw a peculiar finish when on move 43 Carlsen played his rook to a3 only to realize that this move would drop the rook. He ‘corrected’ his mistake by playing the rook to c1, but Aronian didn’t accept this change and claimed that his opponent had released the rook. The arbiter checked the video of the game, confirmed Aronian’s version and Carlsen resigned immediately."

It's a different kind of cheating though, but it can also make the difference between a win and a loss.

redivivo's picture

The thing about Kasparov being a cheater is a bit exaggerated though, that story has been repeated time and again but there's still no reason to question Kasparov's statement that he didn't think the hand left the piece for that small fragment of a second it seems as if it did just that.

At least the quoted description makes it seem totally different, with Kasparov first dropping the knight on the square, then lifting the hand, then seeing the move wasn't good (it only drew), and after that taking the move back.

The difference between what Kasparov did and serious cheating a la Feller etc is quite big.

Anonymous's picture

Unlikely that Kasparov and Carlsen didn't know what they did when their opponents could see it. Unfortunately the videos haven't been released either.
What Feller did was far more systematical obviously.

harvey's picture

Bindrich? Totally innocent.

Sergio's picture

I think in this case the player might be innocent. Why would he awnser he had his phone with him and refuge to show it. I would think he was making a statement that looking into someones phone is a private mather.

However according the rules it is ok what happend and he is punished I guess. He should not been in that situation in the first place.

I think bringing your phone with you has some risks. If I play in a hotel I always leave it in my room. If it is a leagua game and you have to travel without accomodation then I bring it with me.

S3's picture

Perhaps FIDE should make a rule that limits players to leave the playing hall, say 2 times a game. It would make cheating difficult and is easy to implement.

seriously's picture

Seriously? How do you think it is ok to look into someone's phone without reasons for some serious crime? There are tons of reasons I can think of why Bindrich does not want someone to look at his phone. Of course take his phone with him. But who would not take his phone with him when traveling to a league game?

William's picture

Well since a phone is now a handheld grandmaster, you need to reconsider your feelings about players being allowed to carry them around during a game, and when going to an enclosed bathroom stall. Would you like to sit at a board for 6 hours in a tournament, while your opponent is freely allowed to consult a grandmaster at his leisure throughout the game?

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