Reports | July 03, 2011 7:30

French cheating case: sanctions suspended, Feller and Hauchard can play again

A Versailles court has suspended the French Chess Federation's disciplinary sanctions against Sebastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard, due to a formal defect. The two grandmasters are allowed to play official chess games again, pending a ruling in a trial court on the merits of the case.

The French cheating case seemed to have reached a 'case closed' status, but last Wednesday another chapter was added. The Court of Appeal in Versailles ruled that the disciplinary sanctions against Feller and Hauchard should be suspended until a trial court has ruled on the validity of the case. At the end of May, the players had decided to appeal against the decision of the court in Versailles to dismiss their emergency procedure. According to Europe-Echecs they argued that their suspension exposed them to substantial damage to their careers (and therefore created a prejudice), and that the procedure contained errors. As it turned out, they won this appeal, and regained their 'licence to play'. In January of this year, in a communiqué on its website, the French Chess Federation accused GMs Sebastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo of cheating. There were 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." They had already started an investigation. On March 19, 2011, the Disciplinary Committee of the French Chess Federation declared Feller, Marzolo and Hauchard “guilty of a violation of sporting ethics”. The three were accused of using computer assistance through SMS text messaging during the games - news that reached international mainstream media. 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. If he refused, the 2 years would be added to the suspension period. Hauchard was condemned to a lifetime ban from the duties of captain. The players decided to appeal, but this didn't have the desired result. On May 19, 2011, the Appeal Committee of the federation increased Feller’s ban to 5 years and a 3-year ban as a player was added to Arnaud Hauchard’s life ban as a captain or team manager. This was possible because not only the players, but also the French Chess Federation itself had appealed the first verdict in March. Feller and Hauchard decided to continue the fight (Marzolo didn't) and took the case to an even higher body: the French National Sports and Olympics Committee. However, on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 this committee advised them to stick to the decision of the federation's Appeal Committee. Then, on the first day of the French Team Championship, the players started an emergency procedure at the court in Versailles, hoping to suspend the decision of the Appeal Committee, so that they would still be able to play for their team. On May 27, 2011, the judge in Versailles dismissed their application, but Hauchard and Feller appealed. The two grandmasters won this appeal. The judge of the Versailles Appeal Court had a close look at all the regulations of the French Chess Federation, and found a formal defect. As said before, the federation itself had appealed the first verdict in March. However, it was the Executive Board who appealed the decision, and according to the judge it should have been the federation's Ethical and Disciplinary Action Commission. The board wasn't the qualified authority, and therefore the Appeal Commission's decision was declared illegal. On its website, the French Chess Federation writes that it 'takes note of the decision'. They're

'surprised that the federal statute could be interpreted in this way, the legislature certainly did not want to give all powers to the CADE [the Ethical and Disciplinary Action Commission - CV], to the detriment of the prosecution.'

The French Chess Federation also announced that it will continue to demonstrate the validity of their approach in French court but also with the FIDE Ethics Commission, which has already been informed of the case. The federation stresses that their actions are

intended primarily to fight against the development of all forms of cheating by electronic means, which (...) represents a serious danger to the future of chess.

As their appeal was granted by the Versailles Appeal Court, the two players can compete again. They're allowed to play in the national championship which takes place in August. Feller has also qualified for the FIDE World Cup later that month, so it remains to be seen how the FIDE Ethics Commmission will deal with the latest developments. Marzolo, who had not appealed, remains suspended. It's still possible that a trial court will rule a reinforcement of the disciplinary sanctions against Feller and Hauchard. However, in the mean time the French Chess Federation has a new President, who said to have "no emotional involvement" in the case. It remains to be seen whether the federation will start a trial court case, or try to settle with the players.



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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.


Thomas's picture

In any case, Feller's chess career is unlikely to continue "as if nothing has happened". For example, he lost his spot in the German Bundesliga - his former club Werder Bremen writes rather laconically "after just a very short period, we parted with Sebastien Feller" and replaced him with another young Frenchman, Romain Edouard. I wonder if he will get (m)any invitations to round robin events, or conditions at Swiss Opens. The FFE probably cannot prevent him from playing the French Championship in August, but most likely he won't be back on the national team.

Hence, the investigation by the FFE made sense and, in a way, was successful even if they should in the end lose or give up the legal battle. Most likely that would be a pyrrhic victory for Feller and colleagues!? BTW, what would have been a "professional" way to deal with the situation?

RainPiper's picture

"BTW, what would have been a “professional” way to deal with the situation?" -- I really like this final question. Thanks a lot for your many insightful contributions. Always worth a read!

Burnett's picture

Professional would have been not to lose the legal battle. If Feller get things his way in a court he can simply -with the thread of a new lawsuit- demand to be treated "as if nothing happened", that is his right according to the law after all.

Thomas's picture

I disagree ... in a democratic country, the outcome of a legal battle is always a bit unpredictable Federations from Azerbaijan or China might not run into such problems - but in France and some other countries, even the best professional lawyers [professional in the sense that it's their job which provides them with bread, butter and champagne] may not win every single one of their cases!? If the French federation had asked for legal advice before starting to investigate (maybe they did) and the answer was "you MIGHT lose in court", should they have rested the case?

As to Feller's rights: He retained or regained the right to play chess events which are open to everybody (European Championship) or for which he qualified (French Championship, probably World Cup). But he doesn't have, and never had the following "rights" - neither has anyone else:
- play in the Bundesliga or any other team competition, and get paid for it.
- play invitational chess events (organizers/sponsors choose whom they invite and are by no means obliged to explain and justify their choices).
- get conditions at Swiss Opens. [This may be a borderline case: if organizers specify that GMs rated above 2600 get free accomodation, can they still refuse Feller?]

Just as one example: Feller cannot sue the Tata (B) organizers if they do not invite him next year. Or well, of course he can - but I think and surely hope he would not succeed in court!

Burnett's picture

All this very true........stil the french love their crooks, this young Arsène Lupin even succeeds in fooling the court and will continue his chess cheats and everyone will watch in amazament and doubt....nothing more attractive than a magician. (Okee, maybe the Germans dont like it.)

runyonm41's picture

They are cheaters!!. This is pathetic!. This is only the start of this cheating thing, just wait, you ain't seen nothing yet!!. The French Federation should make an example of them, and so should "FIDE".

Zeblakob's picture


TMM's picture

I just hope that one day a cheater is caught and actually convicted for cheating. It seems that getting a conviction in these kind of things is really hard.

choufleur's picture

They probably cheated, but this is not the issue.
This is all about punishing them while respecting the rules of the french federation.

Zeblakob's picture

None on earth can prove that Shakespeer is Shakespeer. A semi-honest advocate of Feller has the right to ask :" prove me that Feller is Feller". Since there is no such "proof" then any accusation is not legitimate.

related topic:

Alexander's picture


jhoravi's picture

They should take the punishment anyways 5 years is not that long. They can no longer play their potential anyway because the guilt and psychological thought about everybody's eyes starring on them will have negative effect on their games.

Martin Matthiesen's picture

Feller played great during the European Championship, despite everybody talking about the french team cheating at the chess olympiad.

Janis Nisii's picture

Could have cheated there too, as far as we know.

Thomas's picture

Some additions: Europe Echecs states/speculates that Marzolo didn't continue the procedure"for financial reasons" ["pour des raisons financières semble t-il"] - much had been written about Marzolo's personal situation, being unemployed etc. . So "money matters" - somewhat off-topic: any similarities with (recent developments in) another court case that involves a slightly more prominent Frenchman, Dominique Strauss-Kahn??

And IMO the last sentence of the French Federation Communique is also worthwhile citing/translating:
"Il agira donc en conséquence dans l'intérêt général, et poursuivra son action pour faire triompher le fond."
"He (Bureau Federal de la FFE) will therefore act in the name of public interest, and continue to take action so that justice prevails."
[I gave the French original because I am not 100% sure that my translation is accurate]

Burnett's picture

Well, much amateurism and too much emotions that was clear from the beginning, so Feller and co will just buy their way back in and after that they can always reemploy the poor Marzolo for a more sophisticated set up. FIDE with our "pitoresque" preident will clearly be happy with cool guys like Feller and with enough money for llawyes.....everything is Feller up for the world cup, vive la France!

Grahamski's picture

they should be suspended for life

Martin's picture

Lol, the decision of the appeals committee was annulled because the wrong part of the federation appealed? Is that the best they could find? Idiots...

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