FIDE ACC statement on Sandu affair

by Albert Silver
6/26/2015 – Readers will recall the shocking letter in the European Women Chess Championship, which fifteen players signed, regarding their ‘concerns’ for cheating by WGM Michaela Sandu. Even the most superficial analysis showed the utter lack of evidence to support this. Finally, FIDE’s Anti-Cheating Commission has issued a statement on the matter.

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WGM Michaela Sandu was having the tournament of her life, playing solidly, and enjoying self-destructive play by her opponents, as shown in the final report on the event when round six met with a letter signed by no fewer than fifteen players, casting suspicion on the integrity of the Romanian’s play. They asked that Sandu’s games be singled out and not be transmitted so as to “prevent all possible suspicions.”

Ms. Michaela Sandu

The letter was signed by: Natalia Zhukova, Alisa Galliamova, Lanita Stetsko, Nastassia Ziaziulkina,
Anastasia Bodnaruk, Anastasia Savina, Dina Belenkaya, Jovana Vojinovic, Evgenija Ovod, Salome
Melia, Svetlana Matveeva, Marina Guseva, Anna Tskhadadze, Tatyana Ivanova, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya.

Unsurprisingly, the backlash reply was suitable, with support coming from all corners. Her compatriot Irina Bulmaga’s post on her blog “Cheating and Ego Matters” was but an example. Now the Anti-Cheating Commission, founded at Tromso 2014, has released a statement on the matter.

official logo

ACC statement regarding the European Women’s Individual Championship in Chavki, Georgia

ACC regulations were published in Tromso 2014 as an answer to the rising - yet not unknown - phenomenon of cheating in chess, especially at a time when electronic devices are becoming more widespread. FIDE has dedicated a lot of thought and resources to this particular issue, and supported ACC activity since its inception.

Apart from tackling specific computer-assisted cheating instance, the ACC has also been aware – from the very beginning – of the possibility that players, for whatever reason, could come up with false or unsubstantiated accusations – a phenomenon that is commonly called ‘witch hunting’. It should be pointed out that witch hunting might be not less serious offence than cheating itself, and the ACC Guidelines provide for investigation and possible sanction of instances.

In the last European Women’s Individual Championship in Chavki, Georgia, we seem to have witnessed such a case of unsubstantiated accusations. A letter was sent to the organizers asking to delay the games, singling out a specific player and asking to exclude her from the online transmission - without presenting proper evidence.

The ACC wishes to reaffirm that good or even outstanding performance by a player can never in itself be the basis for an accusation or complaint, and that it has published standards and procedures that must be satisfied by properly-submitted complaints. ACC will undoubtedly investigate and, if necessary, prosecute these instances when they come under the Commission’s attention.

As regards the incident involving Ms. Mihaela Sandu, and following an official Post Tournament Complaint filed by Ms. Sandu, the ACC has decided to nominate an Investigatory Chamber to establish whether there were violations of the existing Anti-Cheating Guidelines or the Laws of Chess.

Israel Gelfer
ACC Chairman

Link to FIDE statement


Topics Cheating

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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LuzhinAcademy LuzhinAcademy 9/16/2015 08:55
Guys, don't throw with tomatoes at me, but I think there might be an easy psychological explanation for this atmosphere surrounding Mihaela Sandu. Some of these girls know each other from the Romanian Superleague and I suspect some of them were -let's say- attracted to Mihaela's coach and partner in life... So they actioned like this partly because of a feeling of feminine revenge. Not all 15 of them, of course, but someone was clever enough to drag the rest into this madness. :)
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 7/7/2015 05:19
Clearly the arbiters/organizers also behaved horribly, and should be attacked just as viciously. But that takes none of the blame off the 15. Whoever was behind the idea, they (the players) still signed that later and never showed any kind of remorse for it...
bronkenstein bronkenstein 7/1/2015 03:09
@MaxMinus My point is simply that organisers/arbiters, instead of undertaking actions and responsibilities themselves, first made Zhukova organise the letter (which was neither necessary nor ment to be public), and then published it, which is, to be generous, extremely controversial thing to do with such an appeal. And these are just few in a series of clumsy improvisatory steps by them, which passed unpunished, furthermore unnoticed.

What actions I have in mind? For example, turning the broadcast off, but without hiding behind women`s skirts and with MUCH more discussion and communication with everybody or at least appropriate timely warning to Mihaela, would be one. But first, mild one, would be, say, 15 min broadcast delay (in my opinion they should do this anyway, from the first round). Nobody was even considering this, and then, after I guess, 3rd round and initial reactions, they spent days trying (very likely not too hard) to make delay technically possible, and failed.


They then decided to simply turn the game broadcast off, safely hiding behind the letter which they already "ordered" from Zhukova and without giving Sandu timely warning, putting the letter "just in case" on the wall of the playing hall and therefore putting a number of players on both sides of the drama in a very unpleasant position. There is lots of interesting details about this in Zhukova`s and Kashlinskaya`s interviews to chessnews.ru.


If everything was done right, nobody would even hear about the letter or, even better, the letter wouldn`t even exist. Unfortunatelly, people all around the internet prefer witch-hunts and pre-made soapbox rants to actual reading and informing themselves.
MaxMinus MaxMinus 6/30/2015 05:46
@bronkenstein 6/28/2015 05:18 Maybe you're right the people should direct more of the anger towards the arbiters than they have so far, and less at the 15 women. But just keep some things clear: unsubstantiated accusations (Did these 15 women even check the lost games afterwards? They might have noticed the mistakes they made) have been made. We can't have a situation where some players can just think to themselves: 'I can safely occasionally accuse my opponents of cheating , and then hide behind the reasoning that it 'might have been true' somehow. I think we've learned that from the Kramnik-Topalov incident. Very damaging to the image of chess.
Radena Radena 6/30/2015 02:08
Absolutely Mrs. Sandu Mihaela Sandu has shown her strength of tenacity by finishing her participation even though it was just so hard as she faced both the games and embarrassment by false accusation by unfair the other player. It was so easy to say she got lost her game by ignoring her in very bad situation and condition. Salute, you are so fair and tough woman really! I agree with @chessdrummer and @royc, the 15 players must be sanctioned and fined and the FIDE ACC must recover Mrs Sandu's name and the Organizer must make apology for careless decision against the FIDE rules/regulation of cheating. Gens Una Sumus!
mickey cruise mickey cruise 6/29/2015 03:49
@bronkenstein 6/28/2015 05:18: Of course management's handling of the situation appears thoughtless. It can be considered negligent for any business or organization to advertizes anything to its own customers and to the public before taken the time to validate the content. Outside of the top men's chess tournaments, the management of chess tournaments seems less than well thought out.
Derek880 Derek880 6/28/2015 06:06
Most disturbing part is that those women that signed the letter pointed out nothing that would indicate cheating other than Sandu simply taking advantage of blunders by her opponents. No evidence of her displaying odd behavior, or making repeated trips to the bathroom, etc...It's almost as if they sat around gossiping and eventually stirred themselves up into a jealous/envious mob mentality, and someone said, "Let's write a letter!....". I think they should all be ashamed, and that FIDE should take some action. I can't imagine how Sandu must have felt having to sit amongst that group, day after day, knowing that they had made false accusations about her. I always thought that women chess players were better sports than this. I guess they are no different than the men.
MaxMinus MaxMinus 6/28/2015 12:16
@flachspieler Reading the bit of statement from the ACC, I'd say: yes. Strickly speaking that is. It's very clear about the seriousness of unsubstantiated accusations, and that they must be dealt with. The 15 women still haven't made their excuses. They seemed to have convinced themselves they somehow did nothing wrong. My bet is FIDE will issue a statement saying how wrong they were, and then do nothing about it.
Stupido Stupido 6/28/2015 11:56
@Ryan Shirtz - Ms Sandu lost her games because she was upset by filthy destabilizing tactics by her competitors.

In a similar situation Kramnik forfeited a game and the following game was postponed.

flachspieler flachspieler 6/28/2015 08:27
May, in the end, Mrs. Zhukova lose her title?
Ryan Shirtz Ryan Shirtz 6/28/2015 08:11

The complaint is based on the fact that WGM Sandu was winning all her games while they were transmitted LIVE, but when the games had a 15 min delay she lost them. Coincidence or cheating? I think there is grounds for an investigation.
bronkenstein bronkenstein 6/28/2015 05:18
As expected, all the anger is pointed towards the 15, and not towards referees which reacted both way too slowly and quite unprofessionally, amongst (many) other things publishing (and keeping it attached to the playroom wall for days) the letter that was never ment to be public in the first place. Interesting that THEY actually told Zhukova, after one conversation with the arbiter, to make something like that (instead of undertaking appropriate steps themselves - the explanation follows).

By doing so, and then by publishing the letter that was not ment to be public, they did good for themselves - washing their (quite dirty) hands and directing the unwashed masses`s anger elsewhere. And as we can see, these masses obeyed them =)

Speaking of this FIDE reaction, it is of course too little too late, as the D M G already noted.

We can only hope that such late reactions will maybe help some folks orientate better in the future. Maybe so we will be able to avoid another mess of this kind.
mickey cruise mickey cruise 6/28/2015 04:30
@firestorm: When it comes to certain sophisticated events - like this one (referring to objectionable posts) - leaving it up to the discretion of the masses is rarely a good choice. The post from @Algorithmy is design to inject further doubts about the character of the person in question. I speak from experience in such matters, and I believe I understand the finer points. No matter, its just my opinion. I just have a philosophical issue with the whole event, and I hope it is dealt with swiftly and with great rigor.
Jean Dalidis Jean Dalidis 6/27/2015 10:04
What is done cannot be undone. However, let's look to the situation from a different point of view. I feel good when I know that the elite of the chess superpowers are frightened and trembling in front of a young Romanian chess player. David and Goliaths.
An Amateur An Amateur 6/27/2015 08:53
Good to know that FIDE will investigate this case. While there is little doubt that Sandu was NOT cheating, I wonder if any sanctions will be issued against the aggressive group of players. Humanly and legally speaking, this would be the only correct decision, but politically I find it difficult. Would FIDE really have the strength to mess things up with the Russian and Georgian federations?!
hpaul hpaul 6/27/2015 08:22
So FIDE has appointed a commission (ACC) that will nominate an "Investigative Chamber" which will perhaps employ investigators and psychologists to prepare a draft report to the Chamber, which will develop a finished report to the ACC, which will massage the report and write an Executive Summary for Kirsan. Yeah, that should get it done.
genem genem 6/27/2015 07:11
"... about the situation with M.Sandu's performance. We would like to ask organizers not to include her games ... in a live transmission."
Signed by: Natalia Zhukova, Alisa Galliamova, and others.

1. So wrong to ask that M.Sandu's games be singled out for different treatment.

2. FIDE is kinda stoopid for allowing any player's moves to be live transmitted, when a 15 minute delay eliminates large potential sources of suspicion. FIDE is the first target of appropriate blame for this incident, followed by the Tournament Organizer who can implement a 15 minute delay without involving FIDE.

--- ---

FIDE ACC wrote:
"The ACC wishes to reaffirm that good or even outstanding performance by a player can never in itself be the basis for an accusation or complaint, ..."

But in the Boris Ivanov case, what else did his correctly suspicious opponents and Tournament Directors have as evidence?
* They had the excessive degree of his "outstanding performance".
* They could see by his body language that he was not truly calculating during his turns.
* They could see he walked oddly, as if he developed a limp, and foolishly only much later decided to ask Ivanov to remove his shoes for inspection (even though earlier news reports misleadingly told us Ivanov had be thoroughly searched).
Wallace Howard Wallace Howard 6/27/2015 07:06
"The Kramnik-Topalov WC match displayed a case of precisely that."

Exactly. Very well said, sir.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 6/27/2015 06:58
" Imagine the situation where when a player is having a great performance you can use the tactic of throwing them off their game by accusing them of cheating."

Imagination is not needed. The Kramnik-Topalov WC match displayed a case of precisely that.
The D M G The D M G 6/27/2015 05:33
Too little too late! Michaela's performance, if indeed it was clean, and I believe it was, has already been compromised by this action. How, therefore, do you make good to that? How do you make amends for lost points, lost Elo and, worst, an unfairly bruised confidence, an aspect crucial to a competitor.
firestorm firestorm 6/27/2015 04:26
You can't remove a post simply because you think it is biased. That's a very bad road to go down. Who is to judge what "bias" is?

Its much better to leave it up and trust in the judgement of the people who read it and comment on it.
mickey cruise mickey cruise 6/27/2015 04:13
I believe this post by @algorithmy should be removed for its calculated attack against Mrs. Sandu. @algorithmy 6/27/2015 03:02: How many dogs do you have in this fight? Or put another way, who is paying you to write this, here on chessbase.com? Clearly it is someone siding with the 15 players. Such organized attacks as received by Mrs. Sandu are not uncommon in the professional (if you can call it that) world, and it is up to all of us to ensure the proper processes are put in place such that this doesn't happen again. Additionally, the further innuendos against Mrs. Sandu by @algorithmy are sickening.
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 6/27/2015 01:50
"ACC will undoubtedly investigate and, if necessary, prosecute these instances when they come under the Commission’s attention."

Including this one, I hope...

"Let's put it in FIDE hands to deal with it."

Yes, let's put our faith in FIDE! FIDE will protect us! FIDE is good and just... And great! Let's not forget great! :))

"but I also don't think the hysterical campaign against the 15 players is the right reaction. "

It is PRECISELY the right reaction. It should be even MORE hysterical.

"There is also a case to investigate the handling of the matter by the organisers. Normally the first stage of a complaint procedure is to consider whether there is even a case to answer before informing the person complained about (or making it public), since that protects the person concerned from unnecessary distress. Ms. Sandu could always have been informed of the letter after the tournament was finished if the organisers were satisfied there was no evidence to support the allegations, but wanted to give her the opportunity of making a formal complaint about the signatories. What did the organisers do to satisfy themselves there was any case to answer before informing Ms. Sandu of the letter? It was obviously highly likely that it would have a detrimental effect on her performance."

Well said, sir! I agree 100%.
firestorm firestorm 6/27/2015 10:51
@Wem420: Since you're bored and making suggestions, here's one you might not have considered: how about getting Borislav Ivanov to investigate allegations of cheating on behalf of FIDE and the ACC? If that suggestion doesn't fly, maybe he could join Magnus's team.

@algorithmy: "also let's not forget that they know each other well after all these years of competition and they might know about WGM Sandu what you might not know."

Its very simple: if they knew anything, the time to say it was when they made the allegations. They didn't. Unsubstantiated allegations or suggestions, as you just made, are precisely the problem here. Because they are groundless they are damaging rumour mongering, and its absolutely right that issues of motive for the letter and whether due diligence was exercised before making a damaging allegation should be considered about the fifteen who signed the letter, together with the context of derailing an excellent performance up until the letter was submitted.

There is also a case to investigate the handling of the matter by the organisers. Normally the first stage of a complaint procedure is to consider whether there is even a case to answer before informing the person complained about (or making it public), since that protects the person concerned from unnecessary distress. Ms. Sandu could always have been informed of the letter after the tournament was finished if the organisers were satisfied there was no evidence to support the allegations, but wanted to give her the opportunity of making a formal complaint about the signatories. What did the organisers do to satisfy themselves there was any case to answer before informing Ms. Sandu of the letter? It was obviously highly likely that it would have a detrimental effect on her performance.


Final word to Michaela: the best revenge is success. Keep studying, keep training, keep improving and play your best.
royc royc 6/27/2015 05:37
For throwing false accusations without an iota of evidence, the 15 accusers should be sanctioned!!
KevinC KevinC 6/27/2015 05:32
@algorithmy, I could not disagree more. If you want to make such a complaint, you better have VERY strong suspicions, or outright proof. Such an allegation can not only stay with a player for a long time, but in the short run, can ruin a very good tournament, and you said this yourself, "it's way of make living". When they make such a false accusation, it is very possible the target of the accusation will falter, and lose money they deserved to earn.

And what should the penalty be when you level a false allegation? If I were Sandu, depending on the practicality of it, would be suing every one of those signatories for defamation.
airman airman 6/27/2015 03:36
"most of the comments before were blaming the 15 players for signing the letter but for those player chess is more than a hobby it's way of make living"

So is it for Sandu. Imagine the situation where when a player is having a great performance you can use the tactic of throwing them off their game by accusing them of cheating.

That is all to say that if you make an accusation of cheating you damn well better have solid evidence. Not that you are just getting your ass whooped by someone you don't think you should have. If your accusation turns out to be false then you should be penalized yourself. If we do not watch out it will not be the cheaters that ruin chess, but the paranoid or the ones that take advantage of distracting the accused for advantage.
algorithmy algorithmy 6/27/2015 03:02
Chess fans, let's not be hysterical about this. This case is not clear as some might think. And neither accusation or sympathy with WGM Sandu is the right thing to do. Let's put it in FIDE hands to deal with it.
most of the comments before were blaming the 15 players for signing the letter but for those player chess is more than a hobby it's way of make living, and for them cheating in tournaments is life threatening problem. also let's not forget that they know each other well after all these years of competition and they might know about WGM Sandu what you might not know.
I'm not accusing WGM Sandu of cheating, of course, but I also don't think the hysterical campaign against the 15 players is the right reaction.
And I think it's FIDE that should receive the greatest share of blame for allowing such a farce, although to be honest, I really don't see how this problem of cheating is going to be solved, since the really scary thing about it is not unknown player who receive move by move instruction from computer, but the real threat is a strong player who receive a hint from time to time, this is really the biggest challenge and I really don't see how this can be prevented!!
fistoffury fistoffury 6/27/2015 01:55
Good to know this. Hope FIDE kicks the hell out of those 15 players, seize their prize money and distribute to me and Sandu :)
chessdrummer chessdrummer 6/27/2015 12:57
I believe the 15 players should be sanctioned and that such actions are recorded by FIDE.
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