Another case of cheating?

by Johannes Fischer
9/15/2015 – Smartphones, mini cameras, strong chess programs - the better the technology, the more cheaters rejoice. But how to explain your new playing strength? Or your strange behavior at the board? Or (when discovered) the hidden electronic devices? At the Imperia Chess Festival in Italy one player raised a lot of suspicion and left many questions unanswered.

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Cheating at the Imperia Chess Festival?

The Imperia Chess Festival in Italy has a long tradition - this year the 57th edition was played. The open tournament, which took place from 30. August to 6. September, attracted 63 players and was won by the Russian Grandmaster Igor Naumkin. He scored 7.0/9 and finished half a point ahead of five players with 6.5/9 each.

Final standings

1 GM Naumkin Igor 2437 RUS 7.0 2154.4
2 IM Mazur Stefan 2378 SVK 6.5 2225.6
3 FM Zach Andreas 2326 GER 6.5 2162.5
4 FM Stoppa Omar 2260 IM 6.5 2159.4
5 FM Passerotti Pierluigi 2264 PT 6.5 2052.8
6 GM Legky Nikolay A 2407 FRA 6.5 2046.3
7 CN Raineri Valerio 2070 SO 6.0 2035.0
8 CF Popa Claudiu 2114 VR 6.0 1972.0
9 FM Albano Marco 2303 SP 5.5 2160.1
10 FM Luciani Valerio 2249 VR 5.5 2108.7
11 CN Olivetti Davide 2014 BZ 5.5 2002.7
12 CN Di Chiara Mauro 1886 TO 5.5 1933.0
13 M Cugini Verter 2089 RE 5.5 1841.9
14 1N Rossi Cassani Gianni 1795 IM 5.5 1820.6
15 CN Malano Francesco 1917 TO 5.5 1784.6
16 -- Ahner Thomas 2100 GER 5.0 2192.1
17 CN Nastro Federico 2029 TO 5.0 2048.4
18 CN Mercandelli Claudio 1881 SV 5.0 2004.0
19 -- Blum Gernot 2052 GER 5.0 1997.3
20 -- Wunder Fabian 2062 GER 5.0 1996.6
21 CN Mina Marco 2011 TO 5.0 1992.6
22 -- Kopischke Maik 1854 GER 5.0 1992.3
23 CN De Vita Gianni 2041 BZ 5.0 1944.2
24 1N Arnaudo Davide 1885 CN 5.0 1919.6
25 -- Walter Tobias 1884 GER 5.0 1910.7
26 CN Arigoni Bruno 2004 RM 5.0 1868.8
27 1N Cavalieri Riccardo 1828 MB 5.0 1854.4
28 CN Ruffini Pier Luigi 1884 IM 5.0 1766.0

...63 participants

This year international media such as the BBC or the Telegraph reported about the tournament. Sadly, the reason was a case of alleged cheating. The player suspected of foul play is Arcangelo Ricciardi from Italy who is 37 years old and has a rating of 1829. After seven rounds he was leading the tournament with 6.0/7 and had aroused the suspicion of International Arbiter Jean Coqueraut. "In chess, performances like this are impossible", the arbiter told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Coqueraut had watched Ricciardi closely and noticed that the Italian behaved in a suspicious way. As the arbiter observed, Ricciardi did not once get up during the game and constantly had his hand under his armpit. He was also "batting his eyelids in the most unnatural way". Finally, the arbiter decided to check Ricciardi with a metal detector and it turned out that the player had a camera hidden in a pendant around his neck. The camera was connected to a small box under his armpit.

Ricciardi claimed that the pendant was a "lucky charm" but the organisers decided to ban him from the tournament and declared all his games as lost by default because of the forbidden electronic equipment he had on him. They assumed that Ricciardi's equipment was used to transmit moves to someone with a chess computer who used Morse code to transmit the computer moves back to the player. Arbiter Coqueraut suspected that Ricciardi  "was deciphering signals in Morse code" when he blinked.

Scoresheet of the game Passerotti vs Ricciardi

Games by Arcangelo Ricciardi (Rounds 1 to 6)


Tournament page...
Report at the BBC...
Report in the Telegraph

Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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