Reports | August 12, 2011 23:00

German cheater gets two-year ban

FM Christoph Natsidis, who was caught cheating at this year's German Championship, was sentenced a two-year ban by the German Chess Federation. The 23-year-old player from Bannewitz, Germany used a chess program on his smartphone during a game and afterwards admitted that he cheated.

Christoph Natsidis | Photo © official website One June 4th, 2011 we reported on the cheating case in Germany. Natsidis' last-round game was declared lost after he had admitted that he used his smartphone, equipped with a strong chess program, during the game. We spoke to Natsidis' opponent Sebastian Siebrecht, who said:

(...) in a very concrete position where calculating was necessary, he was constantly away from the board. Three times, I made a move and it took 8-10 minutes for him to show up at the board. Naturally I started looking for him and I even waited for a while in the toilets. One toilet was occupied, but I didn't hear any typical 'toilet sounds'. (...)

After the game the arbiter and Siebrecht went to Natsidis. They found a smartphone in his pocket, with a chess program that was showing a position from the game, about five moves before the end. Natsidis then admitted, and apologized to Siebrecht. The 23-year-old FM was disqualified from the tournament, and missed out on his IM norm, which he had already secured after the penultimate round.

Two-year ban

The German Chess Federation has now published the following statement on its website (translated into English by us):

  • The two-year ban issued by Federal Tournament Director Ralph Alt, running from July 6, 2011 till July 5, 2013 has been accepted to the full extent by the Germand Chess Federation and is therefore immediately in effect.
  • The results of Natsidis scored at the 82nd German Championship will be annulled. All games played by him will be declared lost, and they will be declared won for his opponents. The German rating results will be corrected accordingly.
  • During the complete period of his ban, Christoph Natsidis won't be indexed in the ratings database. Games where Christoph Natsidis is involved during his suspension period, are not taken into account. Upon the expiration of his ban, Natsidis' rating is reactivated.
  • The German Chess Federation will inform FIDE, ECU and the national federations about this decision.
  • The German Chess Federation examines the creation of an additional category on [its website]. In this category imposed sactions by the Federation against players will be publicly documented, to provide tournament organizers with the information.

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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

Thomas's picture

The arbiter could search Natisidis' pockets because he allowed him to do so. If he hadn't agreed, could the arbiter (or tournament organisers on his request) call the police? Which, cf. my previous comment, might make things even worse for Natsidis, it's no longer just a chess affair. Or would refusal to have your pockets searched - combined with other suspicious behavior, frequent toilet visits _even when he was low on the clock_ - be considered admission of guilt?

Again, analogies with doping in other sports are the best or closest ones we have: there you're declared guilty if you miss or refuse a doping test.

Remco G's picture

The police should have refused. Cheating in chess isn't against the law, and the police shouldn't just come by whenever anybody wants someone else searched.

David's picture

When it's about price money in this tuney it will be illegal. If you cheat at the final table of the world series of poker where hundreds of millions dollars are the price money, it is also not illegal in itself but as a consequence you get arrested because of cheating.

arkan's picture

Ofcourse i applaud this decision, however i have one technical question:

"The results of Natsidis scored at the 82nd German Championship will be annulled. All games played by him will be declared lost, and they will be declared won for his opponents. The German rating results will be corrected accordingly."

He didn't admit to cheating in those other games or am i mistaken?

I would love to see how this would hold up in a court of law

PircAlert's picture

Depending on his pocket, the courts might say he cheated only on one move so the game in question should be replayed from that move! You never know.

Wonder if it is a regular loss or a forfeit loss. I think it would be appropriate to give him forfeit loss to all of his won games in that tournament. His draws again should not be accounted unless it resulted in some rating gain for his opponent.

Mauricio Valdés's picture

Is he gonna become a member of Topalov Team?

Zeblakob's picture

Offside.

Septimus's picture

lol wut?

luar1609's picture

As a law student, he should have known better.

faulkner's picture

well i suppose two years is a good start ... but i don't think a longer sentence with a threatened lifetime ban for any future offenses would be out of order ... cheating in chess is on the rise and it seems to be a sharp rise ... it only makes me wonder how many lower level players are doing the same thing as i'd guess it is easier to get away with it at those levels rather than in a semifinals of a major tourney ... so many up-and-coming players may not be as sound as some think ... i don't know why they simply can't have players relinquish their phones, pda's, etc before coming to the table ... why would anyone object if they don't plan on cheating to begin with ...

silvakov's picture

Two years ban? Currently I'm on a self-imposed 3 years "ban" 'cause I'm short of money...
I mean, he's gonna take these 2 years as a sabbatical and come back stronger than ever. It might even be good for his career...
Of course he might lose some money from playing in local tournaments and there'll always be a bleach in his curriculum, but IMHO 2 years is too little...

G.Gerhardt's picture

Just two years is a mild decision. Much better was a perpetual ban plus stripping off MF title.

Who wants to play against a cheater?

iLane's picture

2 years is too soft. He can still play, practice without losing any ELO...

Septimus's picture

This guy should have been banned for at least ten years.

Tim's picture

Two or three years, it doesn't matter that much. The chess world is small. After the ban people will still remember what he did. Will he be able to show his face in the chess arena ever again?

And thanks to Google he will be known as a cheat forever, even in the "real" world. Not good for a career in law.

Brandon's picture

Oh- not good for a career in law? If I was guilty of a crime and looking for a lawyer I'd want one that'd be willing to "cheat" for me...

Tim's picture

True. To be more precise, his problem as a possible lawyer isn't that he cheats, but that he gets caught ;)

Septimus's picture

Brilliant!

Mike's picture

He won't be a lawyer because is actually not studying law but a softer version of law, where you don't have the chance to become a lawyer after your B.sc

Csaba's picture

2 years sounds too short, but I'm sure his cooperation was taken into account. Not saying he is some great guy who deserves applause, but other than he is a silly cheater, I think he is not an evil person who deserves to be banned for life. Like someone upthread mentioned: the chess world is small, so why kick people out of it?

Donegani Peter's picture

It must be more, because it is a crime.
Those cheaters destroy our tournament chess-
We must have a stronger punishment.
It must be law, they have to pay for this!!
Why can this cheater GM Feller play again?? - i would like to beat him-
Other players should show him, what they think- in strong way!
he destroys our best hobby: Chess!

Peter Donegani

Bill's picture

2 year ban may seem a little light, but murderers in Germany get like 3-5 years in jail, so it is all relative.
Perhaps some credit is due to the guy for admitting guilt and not trying to tie something up with legal threats and such like the jokers in France did.

Now perhaps it is time not to look so much at the individual, more at the system. I cannot go to release of a hot premier movie or watch a live golf tournament without checking my phone in at the door. Same rule should apply at a tournament. I have no interest in competing against someones computer program.

Thomas's picture

Two years is the usual fine for cheating (doping) in other sports - Natsidis' opponent/victim had commented that it's rather short in chess because a chess career can last much longer than a "physical sports" career. But the German Chess Federation is probably bound to rules that apply to other sports. Hence the fine is 'standard' rather than too soft or too harsh.

As to Natsidis' chances in court: unlike Feller, he is an amateur who cannot claim loss of (essential) income. Unlike the Feller case, the evidence is 100% crystal clear and he confessed - but only what was obvious anyway so I wouldn't call it "cooperation". As a law student, he probably has his reasons for not taking legal action; it could only have negative consequences for his CV and professional career if a regular court endorses the decision of the federation?

Michael Lubin's picture

Doping just enhances your body, but it's still you who achieves the result. I'm not condoning it, or saying you really "earned" the result--but it's a lot different from having a computer come up with your moves for you. Put it this way: doping is an illegitimate way to ENHANCE yourself, but when a chess player cheats with a computer, the computer REPLACES his thinking power.

I'd say five years, with automatic life ban for a second offense, should be the minimum. If he hadn't fessed up, I'd say a ten-year minimum.

Henk de Jager's picture

For a law student it seems quite dumb not to know that the arbiter does not have the right to search his pockets. Only the police could have done that. At that: two years is a bit mild IMO. Idiotic act two btw in this case: cheating AFTER already having secured the IM-norm. This guy really does not act like the brightest bulb in the box lol.

LMedemblik's picture

How do you think he got this IM-norm?
Who can prove he did not cheat BEFORE having secured the IM-norm?

In general there is so much going on around the chessboard wich can influence the game and its outcome and now direct cheating due to improved technology can be added to it.
Saying that, I would constantly watch out for hidden earplugs, hidden camera's etc. when playing against a "convicted" cheater so that creates not a great atmosphere to play chess in.
A life ban intended as a deterrent example or detection gates is the alternative.
And I do not go into what kind of world we are living in.

sergio's picture

It is not him who has to prove that he got the IM title in a fair way. It is the other party to prove he didn't.

I think an additional punisment for this kind of things should also be to take any title (fm/im/gm) away from the player. If he was really good enough and obtained them without cheating i am sure he will get it back someday.

2 year ban sounds fair to me, simulair to other sports. And for the people that think 2 year ban is light, it is not, cause 2 year is a long time if you can't play your favourite hobby. Another thing is that he will be marked for life, and if he returns arbiters probably going to watch him more closer.

LMedemblik's picture

Who = not him. Who = anybody. Please read carefully.

arbiter's picture

As an Olympian convicted of cheating must forfeit their medals, A lawyer who presents false evidence will lose their liscense. Natsidis should have lost his title.

Part of being a chess master is conducting oneself like a chess master. A chess master does not cheat, and the German Chess Federation's decision to leave him this honor cheapens the title for everyone.

Shame on you.

Jhoravi's picture

What smartphone was he using?? What chess software??

Thomas's picture

No info on the smartphone, but this is what one of the arbiters had written on a German blog ( http://schach-welt.de/BLOG/Blog/ChristophNatsidiswegenBetrugsvonDMausges... ):
"immediately after the game we found on the mobile phone of Mr. Natsidis PocketFritz 4 with an analysed position roughly corresponding to move 30-34 of the game. Confronted with these facts, Mr. Natsidis admitted engine assistance for this game."

MyName's picture

I now know of Natsidis from Germany to be a cheator for a lifetime.
priceless.

lecter's picture

That's really a harsh decision in my opinion. Lots of my friends who are masters or nearly masters cheat now and then...

LMedemblik's picture

Because in the past I was a master in another playing kind of sport I cheated on my girlfriend now and then.
When I finally confessed I too was banned for life.
So action / reaction - satisfaction / dissatisfaction - reward / punishment.
Accept the outcome for your choise.

sergio's picture

I think you should find some other friends with more ethic values.

LMedemblik's picture

Get a life and learn to read!

sergio's picture

Yes ok, but it is still that you have to prove someones guilt instead of proven he is innocent, like is statet by you.

arbiter's picture

As an Olympian convicted of cheating must forfeit their medals, A lawyer who presents false evidence will lose their liscense. Natsidis should have lost his title.

Part of being a chess master is conducting oneself like a chess master. A chess master does not cheat, and the German Chess Federation's decision to leave him this honor cheapens the title for everyone.

Shame on you.

efaistos's picture

"greek statistics", now Natsidis...Greeks (Natsidis is a greek surname) are famous for cheating aren't they?

Scrambled Table Postulator's picture

The corrected table is listed on the earlier report. I added a phrase "Two year ban" to help others find it if they are interested in viewing the corrected results.

http://www.chessvibes.com/reports/player-caught-cheating-at-german-champ...

max's picture

He is lucky. In China he would be sentenced to death.

Wim's picture

He is still nailed, for the rest of his (chess) life!

Ed's picture

A minimum of 5 years should be imposed by FIDE,

The world federation must take the initiative here to
stem the global tide in chess cheating.

In many countries, 5 years is the period of incarceration
seperating summary and trial convictions, so seems an
good choice for suspensions with no hearing.

kengol's picture

It's sad that a strong player (FM) feels the need to cheat....where is the 'satisfaction' in doing that?

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