Cheating Accusations at the World Open

8/10/2006 – Two players are under suspicion of having received help from computers at the World Open in Philadelphia. One locked himself in a bathroom stall, the other, who was leading the event before the last round and stood to win $18,000, was caught wearing a "hearing aid" which turned out to be a wireless receiver used for surreptitious communications. The New York Times reports.

The two players who were involved in the scandal at the World Open in Philadelphia last month, where the total prizes were $358,000, are named by the New York Times. One player, Steve Rosenberg, was expelled, the other, Eugene Varshavsky, was allowed to finish the tournament but was searched before each round, then watched closely during the games.

Varshavsky was one of the lowest-ranked players in the main tournament, but he started off by beating two high-ranked masters in his first three games. After that he beat FM John Bartholomew, rated 2452, with the black pieces, then lost to GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, 2643, and went on to defeat GM Ilia Smirin, 2659, again with the black pieces, in a virutally flawless game. GM Larry Christiansen, who did not play at the world Open, ran the moves through the program Shredder and found that the last 25 moves matched those played by the program. [You can replay the two wins, against Bartholomew and Smirin, on our JavaScript board using the link given below.]

Bill Goichberg, the director of the World Open, asked to see Varshavsky before the next round, at which stage the player hurried off to the bathroom. Goichberg waited ten minutes outside a stall until he came out. Varshavsky consented to be searched, but no electronic device was found. So he was allowed to proceed in the tournament. When a couple of tournament directors went to search the bathroom stall later on they found it occupied. They waited 45 minutes before a director peeked under the door and saw Varshavsky’s shoes. After Varshavsky left the stall, nothing was found in it. In the last two rounds, Varshavsky played against two grandmasters and lost each game quickly.


The Phonito wireless receiver

In the second case Steve Rosenberg, playing in a lower section, was leading before the final round. A victory would have been worth about $18,000. Before the round began a tournament director noticed that Rosenberg was wearing something in his ear and asked to see it. Rosenberg told the director it was a hearing aid, but the director wrote down the name and the serial number of the device and looked it up on the Internet. It turned out to be a "Phonito", a wireless receiver used for undetected communication between two people. Part of the paraphernalia of the device was additional equipment that had to be worn elsewhere on the body to boost and receive signals. Rosenberg was wearing a heavy sweater and declined to be searched.

World Open director Goichberg said the discovery of the device did not prove that Rosenberg had cheated, but he felt he had no choice but to remove him from the tournament. Goichberg said that the incidents were troubling because of the players’ stealth and effectiveness. In the future he planned to take countermeasures to try to catch people who might be using hidden electronic devices but he would not be specific for fear of tipping his hand.

Amongst the signals that organisers had to look for were sequences of moves that are different from what a player would do, error-free play and, as in the case of Varshavsky, if a player shows a sudden dramatic improvement in strength over a short period of time, something that is rare among adult players.

Two Varshavsky games from the World Open

Bartholomew,John (2406) - Varshavsky,Eugene [C69]
World Open Philadelphia, 2006
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.0-0 f6 6.d4 exd4 7.Nxd4 c5 8.Nb3 Qxd1 9.Rxd1 Bg4 10.f3 Bd7 11.Bf4 0-0-0 12.Nc3 c4 13.Na5 Bc5+ 14.Kf1 Ne7 15.Nxc4 Be6 16.Nd2 h5 17.Nb3 Bc4+ 18.Ke1 Bg1 19.Ne2 Bb6 20.Nd2 Bf7 21.Bg3 Be3 22.Nf1 Bc5 23.Bf2 Bd6 24.h4 f5 25.exf5 Nxf5 26.Ne3 Ne7 27.Ng3 Rde8 28.Kf1 Rhf8 29.Kg1 Bg6 30.c3 Nc6 31.Nc4 Be7 32.Nf1 Bf7 33.Nce3 Rg8 34.Nd5 Bd8 35.Nf4 g5 36.hxg5 Bxg5 37.Nh3 Bh6 38.Ng3 Bg6 39.Re1 Ne5 40.Bd4 Nd3 41.Rxe8+ Bxe8 42.Nf5 Bf8 43.Nf2 Nxb2 44.Re1 Bg6 45.Ne7+ Bxe7 46.Rxe7 Re8 47.Rg7 Bb1 48.f4 Re1+ 49.Kh2 b6 50.Be5 c5 51.g4 Nc4 52.gxh5 Nxe5 53.fxe5 Rxe5 54.Rg8+ Kb7 55.Rh8 Bxa2 56.h6 Kc6 57.Nd3 Re7 58.h7 Rc7 59.Ne5+ Kb5 60.Kg3 Bb1 61.c4+ Ka5 0-1. [Click to replay]

Smirin,Ilia (2659) - Varshavsky,Eugene [C83]
World Open Philadelphia, 2006
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Be3 Be7 10.c3 Nc5 11.h3 Nxb3 12.axb3 0-0 13.Re1 Qd7 14.Nbd2 a5 15.Nf1 Bf5 16.Ng3 Bg6 17.Qd2 h6 18.Rad1 Rad8 19.Qe2 b4 20.Rd2 Rfe8 21.Qd1 Qe6 22.Nd4 Nxd4 23.cxd4 f6 24.Bf4 fxe5 25.Bxe5 Qd7 26.Rde2 c5 27.Re3 Bg5 28.f4 Bh4 29.Rf1 Rf8 30.Kh2 Rf7 31.Qd2 cxd4 32.Qxd4 Qa7 33.Ne2 Qxd4 34.Nxd4 Be4 35.g3 Re8 36.Rc1 g5 37.f5 Rxe5 38.gxh4 gxh4 39.Re2 Ree7 40.Rf2 Rc7 41.Rcf1 Rf6 42.Rf4 Rg7 43.R1f2 Kf7 44.Rxh4 Ke7 45.Rg4 Rgf7 46.Kg3 Bxf5 47.Rgf4 Bd7 48.Re2+ Kd6 49.Rh4 Rg7+ 50.Kh2 Rg5 51.Rd2 h5 52.Re2 Rf1 53.Rd2 Be8 54.Rg2 Rxg2+ 55.Kxg2 Rd1 56.Kf2 Rd3 57.Ke2 Bg6 0-1. [Click to replay]


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