Reports | June 05, 2011 1:15

Player caught cheating at German Championship

A participant of the German Championship, which concluded on Friday in Bonn, was caught cheating. FM Christoph Natsidis used a chess program on his smartphone during his last-round game against GM Sebastian Siebrecht to analyse a position from the game. The 23-year-old player from Bannewitz, Germany admitted that he cheated, and was excluded from the tournament, missing out on an IM norm he had scored after 8 rounds.

Christoph Natsidis | Photo © official website Yesterday another example was added to the growing list of cheating cases in chess. In a message put on their website, the organizers of the German Championship communicated that one of their participants, FM Christoph Natsidis, had been excluded from the tournament. His last-round game against GM Sebastian Siebrecht was declared lost after Natsidis had admitted that he used his smartphone, equipped with a strong chess program, during the game. Today we spoke on the phone with Natsidis' opponent Sebastian Siebrecht, and here's what he told us:

"We had reached a complicated position. I had taken on b2 which was a bit risky. However, 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'. During the game [Igor] Khenkin came to me and asked: 'What's going on? Where is your opponent?' I decided to go to the arbiter and try to find Natsidis together. Then, indeed, we did find him in the toilet, but the arbiter did nothing, which made me very angry. I could not play a normal game anymore and in a position that was still complicated, I decided to offer a draw, which he accepted."

This is not where it ended, because after the game the arbiter decided to return to Natsidis, together with Siebrecht, to search the suspect anyway. They found a smartphone in his pocket. Siebrecht:

"Then I knew enough, and I walked away. Later the arbiter came to me and told me that he had asked if the phone had a chess program installed. Natsidis said yes, and showed it to the arbiter - the program was showing a position from our game, about five moves before the end."

Natsidis was caught red-handed, but didn't sweep it under the carpet. He went to his opponent, to apologize. Siebrecht continued:

"He came to me and admitted that he did it, and then apologized. He said: 'I'm completely stupid, I'm really sorry.' And indeed, it was very stupid of him to do it in the final round, because he had already scored his IM norm after the penultimate round."

Before the final round, Natsidis hadn't lost a game yet. Rated 2363, he drew his against Daniel Fridman (2661), Alexsandar Dranov (2465), Christian Seel (2484), Raj Tischbierek (2431), Oswald Gschnitzer (2444) and the tournament winner Igor Khenkin (2620) and beat Christoph Zill (2278) and Hans-Joachim Vatter (2326). It was enough for him to lose against Siebrecht to score an IM norm. No doubt the case will have serious consequences for Natsidis (who, as a law student, should have known better). In their message the organizers of the German Championship already mentioned that he would be excluded from future tournaments and that "other consequences are the subject of investigation after the tournament ends". The regulations of the German Chess Federation don't mention sanctions for cheating cases like this one, only a 2-year ban for doping use. This period of 2 years is borrowed from sports like cycling, where a a normal career lasts about a decade.

"Because a chess career can last forty years, the penalty for such a thing should perhaps be more than two years,"

said GM Sebastian Siebrecht. He added:

"It's absolutely necessary that any technical equipment, like phones, or tablets, or whatever, are forbidden in a tournament hall. If you take it with you, you have to deliver it to the arbiter. These days you cannot do without such a rule."

The news from Germany comes when the chess world hasn't yet forgotten another big story about cheating: in March of this year three players were declared guilty of cheating during the 2010 Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk. Last month, in an appeal, two of the three saw their penalties increased. Igor Khenkin won the German Championship, edging out Jan Gustafsson on tie-break. In the women's group, Sarah Hoolt finished in first place. The tournament was held in Bonn, Germany from May 26th till June 3rd. As always, you can download all games in a PGN file below. In the game viewer you can find the games most readers will be interested in: those of Christoph Natsidis.

Game viewer


Game viewer by ChessTempo

German Championship 2011 | Final Standings
# Name Title Fed Rating Points Perf
1. Khenkin, Igor g GER 2620 2654
2. Gustafsson, Jan g GER 2646 2645
3. Buhmann, Rainer g GER 2579 6 2586
4. Fridman, Daniel g GER 2661 6 2596
5. Gschnitzer, Oswald m GER 2444 6 2561
6. Stern, Rene m GER 2483 2577
7. Huschenbeth, Niclas m GER 2502 2529
8. Siebrecht, Sebastian g GER 2460 2505
9. Seel, Christian m GER 2484 2438
10. Natsidis, Christoph f GER 2363 5 2506
11. Tischbierek, Raj g GER 2431 5 2464
12. Svane, Rasmus   GER 2297 5 2484
13. Vatter, Hans-Joachim f GER 2326 2381
14. Kummerow, Heiko f GER 2326 2399
15. Rietze, Clemens   GER 2283 2392
16. Andre, Gordon   GER 2363 2392
17. Jugelt, Tobias m GER 2403 2407
18. Lubbe, Nikolas   GER 2422 2345
19. Krassowizkij, Jaroslaw   GER 2356 2329
20. Bastian, Herbert m GER 2332 2351
21. Poetsch, Hagen f GER 2424 2296
22. Mueller, Oliver f GER 2327 4 2387
23. Mertens, Heiko   GER 2355 4 2351
24. Dranov, Aleksandar   UKR 2465 4 2293
25. Krause, Ullrich f GER 2283 4 2301
26. Seger, Ruediger m GER 2412 4 2224
27. Strache, Michael   GER 2317 2333
28. Molinaroli, Martin   GER 2286 2298
29. Bracker, Frank   GER 2355 2276
30. Zill, Christoph f GER 2278 2219



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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.


Sumit Balan's picture

Attention Cheaters !! If you play the move 0-0-0 (Queenside castling)with white ,then there is no need to cheat on that particular game really,because the result will automatically be 1-0 (White will win ),0-0-0 =1-0

TMM's picture

If mathematically 0-0-0 were equal to 1-0, then maybe (with emphasis on maybe) this would've been a funny comment.

Player's picture

There is a bigger problem here, the new generation has very low morality and no responsibility.

help's picture

In the past computer programs were not strong enough. And mobile phones (or other electronic devices) not small and powerful enough. That is the difference.

jussu's picture

Yeah the youth is rotten, as always :p

Brad Hoehne's picture

A relevant quote: "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt forauthority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers." --- Socrates as reported by Plato

The "youth of today" always seem worse than those of previous generations to those of the elder generation.

sss's picture

The French and this cheater are 20 something. The risk they were taking was tremendously stupid and selfish.

Zeblakob's picture

lol@" ...One toilet was occupied, but I didn’t hear any typical ‘toilet sounds’. "

FP's picture

LIke drilling a hole for cables, setting up a computer etc, ref. toiletgate ...

Thomas's picture

This wasn't even the only scandal of the tournament: In round 4, GM Bindrich was two minutes late and tournament director / arbiter Ralph Alt (more widely known as judge in the Demjanjuk case) declared his game as lost. It's an official FIDE event, hence zero tolerance rules applied. Bindrich then dropped out of the tournament.

Two rounds earlier, Alt delayed the start of the round because another player wasn't yet present: FM Natsidis. As Siebrecht said in another interview, it would have been better for him (Natsidis) if he had quit the tournament at that stage ... . [in German]

Oh well, there were also interesting games: the Evans gambit in Huschenbeth-Gustafsson was already mentioned by Chessvibes Openings. Later, "Gusti" played another remarkable game against 14-year old talent Rasmus Svane: after some complications (which, with best play, apparently should have favored the opponent) he managed to win an ending three minor pieces vs. queen (plus one pawn each) in "just" 44 moves. Carlsen couldn't win a similar ending against Shirov last year in Bilbao. I couldn't tell if Gustafsson played better than Carlsen, Svane played worse than Shirov (that's quite possible) or if a subtle difference (f-pawn against f-pawn in Bonn, e-pawn against f-pawn in Bilbao) changes the assesment of the position.

TMM's picture

Thanks for the comment Thomas, that gives even more to think about. Maybe ChessVibes should hire you as an editor, so that you can add such interesting facts to the story :)

S3's picture

Agreed Thomas always has interesting info. Thanks!

Thomas's picture

Thanks, but it's fine with me to leave such stuff in the comments section. I (obviously) followed the tournament as a whole, out of personal interest: in the last century, I played maybe a few dozen blitz and rapid games against one of the participants (FM Krause) and also some blitz games against - at the time - teenage rising star Gustafsson. Maybe Chessvibes didn't pay much attention to the event - they cannot follow everything, and such events attract international media attention only if there is at least one scandal (in the given case only the second one was deemed worthwhile mentioning).

Off-topic, more of the other c (chess rather than cheating): The interview with Khenkin (also part of the Youtube link I gave) is rather funny - body language and maybe even his looks remind me of Ivanchuk. It "helps" that his German is soso, and mixed with some English words. He mentions that he wanted to play on the German Olympiad team (unlike a few other players who had financial disagreements with the federation) but wasn't chosen because he is considered too old. Khenkin is 43, about the same age as Anand and Gelfand. I am also 43, share an interest in chess with those guys - but am not nearly good enough to play in Kazan, Khanty-Mansiysk and/or wherever the next world championship match will be held :)

S3's picture

Stupid arbiter. I hate it when they rigidly interpret laws and regulations instead of using them for a fair purpose. I guess law student Natsidis shows promise of being just as good a judge as Alt. Bwegh!

RealityCheck's picture

Naughty boy that Natsidis. Outlaw. But, at least he admitted his stupidity.

Sumit Balan's picture

Rekthna would never do such a thing ! FIDE should ban these cheaters for Life !!!

Mental 'Balan'ce lost?'s picture

Sounds like Sumit has lost some 'Balan'ce with these constant silly posts.

sumitbalan's picture

Thats what they said about Fischer too ! so i take it as a complement :)..but let me tell you,i am as sane as American President !

Arne Moll's picture

Though I think cheating is overrated as a problem, this is indeed a clear case of it. But notice how risky is was for Natsidis, and how small the possible reward was: he was bound to get caught even against a less attentive opponent than Siebrecht.

Perhaps cheating in chess should be treated as a form of compulsive addiction rather than a clever way to improve one's rating ;-)

TMM's picture

"But notice how risky is was for Natsidis, and how small the possible reward was: he was bound to get caught even against a less attentive opponent than Siebrecht."

If he had not cheated in the last round but just played and lost, he would have scored an IM norm. So your statements that (a) he would get caught anyway and (b) there is no reward both make no sense.

And note that the only cases of cheating we hear of are cases where the cheater got caught. Do you honestly think those are all the cases? There may be players like Natsidis who did not take such unnecessary risks and got away with it, getting a free IM norm.

ejh's picture

And note that the only cases of cheating we hear of are cases where the cheater got caught. Do you honestly think those are all the cases? There may be players like Natsidis who did not take such unnecessary risks and got away with it

Well the answer is that we won't know whether there are any such successful long-term cheaters until one of them gets caught and it shown to have cheated (or confesses to it) over a long-term period.

As it is, while it's possible for individuals to cheat, the fact that it is very hard to do so without drawing attention to oneself by being away from the board a lot is a serious problem for the long-term cheater. The risks of getting caught are very high. (And if you get away with it once, are you going to leave it at that, or try again? And again, until you do get caught?)

Not sure what we're going to do about phones though. Next month I'm playing in an open tournament with several hundred participants. What are the arbiters supposed to do, have a table with five hundred mobiles on it?

Thomas's picture

One problem is that it's hard to catch a cheater: suspicious behavior is no proof whatsoever. There may be valid reasons for being away from the board a lot ("I cannot handle the opponent's aftershave or garlic breath") and even for frequent toilet visits (diarrhea or just being extremely nervous during the game).

As a matter of fact, Natsidis could have known that he was under suspicion - it doesn't happen every day that the opponent and arbiter wait for you in front of the toilet. Yet, to Siebrecht's disappointment, the arbiter "did nothing", i.e. didn't search Natsidis' pockets while the game was still in progress. What if Natsidis had then been 'smart' enough to flush his smartphone down the toilet at the next occasion??

Thomas's picture

We don't know if Natsidis cheated in earlier rounds - if he did he wasn't caught. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that he cheated in earlier games - would it make sense to cheat only in the final round? He had already achieved one aim (an IM norm), the last round was about icing on the cake: some prize money, roughly 400-600 Euros. You might have a point about "compulsive addiction", combined with a false sense of security: "I wasn't caught on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, why should I be caught on Friday?" And maybe not every arbiter takes the opponent's complaints seriously.

"how risky it was for Natsidis" - hmm, which risk did he actually take? I guess he is an amateur who doesn't aim for a professional chess career (Elo 2363 at his age of 23 isn't that promising after all). He may now have to find another hobby, or play chess only on the Internet, that's basically it. Unless it has consequences for his forthcoming career in law, before it even starts?!

TMM's picture

I have to admit I do not understand Natsidis' reasoning anyway, and I think you're right that it must be some sort of compulsive addiction. But I do not believe that he only cheated in the final round, since that makes even less sense; Have the tournament of your life and cheat in the final round only for some prize money, but risking your whole career and the IM norm? I do not believe this was his first attempt.

S3's picture

To you it's not a problem but an advantage maybe :) ?

help's picture

I'm wondering if you are not suffering from some sort of cognitive dissonance about this issue.

At some point you have formed an opinion and from then on, no matter how much evidence to the contrary, you keep sticking to your original opinion.

Arne Moll's picture

Not at all, help. I don't deny the cheating cases and I can see the problems with mobile phones, etc. It's just that I think it's (still) a very time-consuming, impractical and risky way of achieving success, where much more can be lost than gained.
And all speculation about situations where cheating has not been actually established is just that: speculation.

That said, I do hate it when everybody states the obvious ("cheating is bad", "everything used to be better in the old days", etc.) - sometimes it can't hurt putting things into perspective.

Zomerschaker's picture

Hi Arne, it seems that you have written about this subject before. I am curious how you want to put this in perspective. Maybe that the chess world is the cheater's social environment and that it would make a punishment of, say 10 years, too harsh on him? Or, as you say, that cheating is a kind of addiction and that the cheater needs to be treated?

SXL's picture

Arne Moll is totally out to lunch on cheating in chess. First of all, our German computer adept may have cheated in earlier games in this tournament, thus being totally undeserving of the IM-norm in the first place. It also affect the standings of the other players he met, of course, if he was taking recourse to a computer program.

It's all over the place, and needs to be dealt with severely. But as a law student, he probably risks being thrown out of the law school, and that's pretty serious punishment.

MH's picture

I prefer losing to winning by cheating.

hc's picture

Perhaps because chess to you is just a hobby not not your livelihood.

help's picture

There is rampant cheating on the online servers. (As in pretty much any online games unless they have extremely strong protection against it.)
Which would invalidate your argument.

Also: it's possible to be a professional and still have honor and ethics.

hc's picture

I guess you don't follow professional cycling ( or if you are an American baseball ).

mvhx's picture

It is encouraging to see the French Chess Federation imposing stiff penalties for cheating and raising the penalty bar for those who choose to appeal their ruling. I'm all for innocent until proven guilty, but the evidence in both cases is pretty overwhelming, not to mention admissions of guilt by at least some of the parties involved.

It would be nice to see some clear rules and strong penalties imposed by FIDE regarding this problem. I am also not opposed to hacking off one of the offender's fingers as an additional deterrent. Why not? :-)

AAR's picture

The facts are........we really don't know how long he had this "chess program" on his phone! Maybe he has been using it for a long time! Hard questions need to be asked about this sort of thing because it keeps coming up, especially with more pda's and recordkeeping devices along with mobile phones with google and excellent memory capabilities........we will see more...rather than less of this sort of thing! Thank goodness his opponent counted his "bathroom breaks"

David's picture

Pretty obvious Natsidis cheated in the earlier rounds, probably earlier tournaments too.

Cheating needs to be punished harshly. Can't believe some commentators here are willing to give him a free pass because he confessed once he was caught.

Best to ban him 10+ years, strip his FM title, and forever black mark him as a cheater (between Natsidis and the French guys, we are going to need a new informant symbol for cheating). Additionally, Germany should give him a lifetime ban from their Championship.

Why am I not surprised he is studying to be a lawyer....

Janis Nisii's picture

David, I agree on all you wrote but...

"Why am I not surprised he is studying to be a lawyer…."

Hey! I'll wait for you outside :P

max's picture

Online games-- who can tell? I played in blitz once, the opponent repeatedly disconnected from server on his move to gain time on the clock . Not content with just winning, he sent an insulting message at the end.

Septimus's picture

Ban his ass for 10yrs and call it a day.

Ruben's picture

I think is its very credible and plausible that if someone is cheating in the last round of the tournement the cheating also took place in the previous rounds.
Because why you would cheat in only one round?
So you should exclude these players because they really harm chess.
If you look at his rating from 2363 it is not liky at all that he made so many draws
against players with more than 2600 and 2400 rating.
So I am convinced he did cheated the hole tournement.
The feasibility in this case is for me sufficient proof.

Ruben's picture

Haha now I have seen the games I am very sure! Computer moves all the time!
Cheating all the games for sure!

Mauricio Valdés's picture

I love the smell of CHEATING in the morning....
It smells... like VICTORY!

P.N.John's picture

Banning for 2 years is really insufficient.Maybe 5 -7 years will be a good enough deterrent.Its quite horrible considering what sort of advantage access to software gives.

Scrambled Table Postulator's picture

Here is a table if they re-score all his games as losses. The table might get scrambled:

1 Khenkin, Igor 7
2 Gustafsson, Jan 6½
3 Fridman, Daniel 6½
4 Gschnitzer, Oswald 6½
5 Buhmann, Rainer 6
6 Seel, Christian 6
7 Stern, Rene 5½
8 Huschenbeth, Niclas 5½
9 Siebrecht, Sebastian 5½
10 Tischbierek, Raj 5½
11 Vatter, Hans-Joachim 5½
12 Svane, Rasmus 5
13 Zill, Christoph 4½
14 Kummerow, Heiko 4½
15 Rietze, Clemens 4½
16 Andre, Gordon 4½
17 Jugelt, Tobias 4½
18 Lubbe, Nikolas 4½
19 Krassowizkij, Jaroslaw 4½
20 Bastian, Herbert 4½
21 Poetsch, Hagen 4½
22 Dranov, Aleksandar 4½
23 Mueller, Oliver 4
24 Mertens, Heiko 4
25 Krause, Ullrich 4
26 Seger, Ruediger 4
27 Strache, Michael 3½
28 Molinaroli, Martin 3½
29 Bracker, Frank 3½
30 Natsidis, Christoph 0

Scrambled Table Postulator's picture

Two Year Ban -

"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."

Deep Mikey's picture

Btw, Feller is on the list of the Qualifiers for the World Cup 2011 on the FIDE site...

No sanctions at all or just a mistake?

Thomas's picture

For the time being, FIDE may hope that Feller does not sign the player's contract to confirm his participation. The deadline is 20th June, but it's already more or less known that some qualified players will not participate: Anand, Carlsen, Aronian and Kramnik play the Botvinnik Memorial that overlaps with the World Cup. Gelfand mentioned that he will not defend his World Cup title because he is now already (at least) qualified for the next candidates event.

But I guess Feller wants to participate - after all, he could only play the European Championship (ignoring the verdict of the French federation) because it fell into the appeal period of the first decision. Then there are several cans of worms:
- Could the French federation prevent his participation? If not, can they punish whoever might be Feller's second in Khanty-Mansiysk (provided that person is also French)?
- Should FIDE automatically accept and adapt a verdict by a national federation? A hypothetical but not all absurd example: what if the Azeri federation bans Gashimov (for whichever given reason, but the actual one would be that federation officials don't like him)?
At an early stage of the Feller case (right after the Olympiad), FIDE (or one FIDE official) apparently advised the French federation to handle the case internally - which actually makes sense to me, they had access to all the evidence. But now FIDE can no longer consider it an internal French affair ... .

To make things even more "interesting", double justice would be done if Feller is, after all, excluded from the World Cup: Next in line would be Parligras, who was the main victim of the tiebreak scandal during the European championship.

Capablanca's picture

I have the feeling that open chess tournaments are in a transitional period. With today's technology, chess programs on a mobile phone for example, very serious measures have to be taken by organizers and even those measures are not a guarantee for fair play. In a tournament with a limited amount of players mobile phones should be banned. If FIDE gave an automatic loss for a phone ring during a game why can't they do the same for a mobile phone at a table. In a few minutes we will see Federer vs Nadal, do you think either one of them consults his mail during rest periods?

In this new cheating affair, which is much less elaborate than the one in the Olympiads, the german player had the manhood to admit that he had cheated, unlike the french players. I wonder, how come the cycling world can perform blood tests and can examine team vehicles during a major competition and the chess organizers can do practically nothing.

help's picture

Exactly, in other sports they can't carry their phones either.

Can the chess world get real here?

Janis Nisii's picture

I can't think of a sport where hundreds of players play simultaneously for many hours in the same place without having a locker or a dressing room to leave their personal belongings.
This is the problem with chess tournaments.
Of course I agree that any electronic device should be banned during tournaments, but this is not an easy task at all.
I imagine stolen/damaged phones claims, if we let the organization take care of the phones, and insurance policies to cover these things (which are very expensive), if doctors who claim they have to be reachable because of their duties,, not easy to solve.


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