Teen at centre of new chess cheating scandal
By Ian Rogers
Just a few weeks after a photo of Grandmaster Igors Rausis analysing with a mobile phone inside a toilet cubicle went around the world, a new cheating scandal has blown up in the Netherlands.
a 19-year-old amateur from Utrecht, had enjoyed a dream run over the past few months, winning rating restricted tournaments in Hilversum, Haarlem and Amsterdam with perfect or near-perfect scores.
Boons’ convincing victories, from a player who had never shown exceptional talent previously, aroused suspicions, especially since he seemed to be visiting the toilet rather often.
So when Boons entered the third group of the recent Dutch Open in Dieren the organisers decided to be prepared. Unfortunately, their efforts to source a metal detector proved fruitless – until the penultimate round.
By then Boons had won every game bar one and seemed headed for a new tournament success. However in the eighth round the arbiters stopped Boons on his return from a toilet visit and asked to scan him. Boons refused.
He was taken to the arbiters’ office and after having been told the consequences of refusing screening, admitted to having a phone. The phone was shown to contain chess apps, but Boons claimed that he had never used them during a game. He was nonetheless forfeited (for phone possession), expelled from the tournament, and all his opponents during the event were given back the point they had lost against him.
Boons’ case has been referred to the world body FIDE, which is expected to implement a ban of two years. (The Rausis case, in which the cheating could have been taking place for as many as six years, may become FIDE’s first life ban.)
In many ways Boons is a far more typical cheat than Rausis, a teenage, overconfident, but weak player who wants to prove that they are cleverer than everyone else. (Australia has seen two.)
However the Rausis case is far more worrying. If a strong player decides to get occasional help with a hidden phone for just a few key moments in a game, it will be very hard to identify.
Only when 58-year-old Rausis became greedy, reaching the top 50 after winning half a dozen tournaments in Italy and France over the European spring and summer, did suspicion rise to the point where vigilante players decided to secretly photograph him in a cubicle and present the evidence to the world.
The warning signs have been been clear since at least 2015 when Georgian Grandmaster Gaioz Nigalidze was banned after his mobile phone was found hidden behind a cistern at a tournament in Dubai.
Nigalidze was banned for three years but he had already won two Georgian Championships and a $15,000 first prize at an open event in Al Ain.
The moral seems to be that, despite isolated successes, current anti-cheating measures are inadequate and the integrity of the game is in serious danger.
Because of the internet being down for three days (It was up for about six hours four days ago before going away again, and had been down for at least two days prior to being up. It is like being in a third world country here in the USA. Thanks, AT&T!) I have been in the dark concerning the happenings in the world of Chess. I discovered this latest unfortunate news at the website of GM Kevin Spraggett (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/cheater-caught-in-dutch-tournament/).
Kevin writes, “Reality is that perhaps less than 1% of all the cheating taking place in todays tournaments is actually being identified. This is a serious issue. It is time for FIDE to get serious and purge the current FPC and start over.
It is time for FIDE to invest some money and buy the equipment that will stop cheaters cold.”
Unfortunately, the cost of the “equipment” needed to stop all cheating is prohibitively expensive. Only Draconian means will stop Chess cheating. Unfortunately someone must be made a martyr to send a message to all who may even be considering cheating at the Royal game. On the bright side, the name of the unfortunate human being stoned to death by Chess pieces on live internet TV will live forever.