Feller's interview, and a solution to the cheating scandal

by ChessBase
8/23/2011 – The French Championship is in its eighth round, with four GMs in the joint lead. The event is marred by continued suspicion and anti-cheating measures, brought on by accusations that one of the participants had in the past engaged in organised cheating. Sébastien Feller has given an interview on the subject, and we have a proposal on how to clear up the matter quickly.

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French Chess Championships 2011

The French Chess Championship is taking place from the 14th to the 27th of August 2011. The venue is the University of Caen, a town located two hours north-west of Paris, just 15 km inland from the English Channel. The rate of play is 40 moves in 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30 seconds increment after every move, starting from move one. There is a delay in the Internet broadcast, which is intended to prevent organised cheating.

The leaders after seven rounds, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Andrei Istrăţescu, both drew their round eight games with white (against Christian Bauer and Iossif Dorfman respectively), while reigning champion Laurent Fressinet and Romain Edouard won theirs (against Andrei Shchenkachev and Emmanuel Bricard).

The round eight results left four GMs in the lead, with 5.0/8 points and performances around 2700.

Video reports Europe Echecs (in French)

Report by GM Robert Fontaine on round eight

This video with general impressions has some neat visual effects (at the beginning) and a lengthy interview with the French Chess Federation (FFE) vice president Léo Battesti. It's all in French. That's what they speak in Caen.

Feller at the French Championsip

The organisers in Caen have implemented a delay in the Internet broadcast, a simple procedure to make organised cheating much more difficult and to give players a sense of security. The main reason these measures have been adopted here is because Sébastien Feller is playing. The French grandmaster was at the center of a scandal that rocked the chess world. Feller was accused of using computer assistance during the Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk in September 2010 and received a five-year ban. However, the players involved in the scandal won an appeal when a judge at the Versailles Appeals Court found a formal defect in the procedure – the Executive Board of the FFE had initiated the actions against Feller, while the judge deemed that it should have been the federation’s Ethical and Disciplinary Action Commission. Feller was thus able to compete again until a final ruling was passed.

Feller in round eight at the French Championship: Black won in 29 moves

Last week Sébastien Feller gave the news site WhyChess an interview on the subject, saying amongst other things:

My problems with the FCF (French Chess Federation) didn’t start this year: in 2006, when I was one of the most promising young French players, I finished second at the French Junior Championship. I wasn’t, however, included in the French junior team, which deprived me of a real chance of winning a title at the European or World Championships. They took only the champion from my category along with four players (all weaker than me!) from the U18 category! In a letter still in my possession the Federation explained their decision by saying that during one of my appearances for the team I’d emptied a pack of nuts and refused to pick them up, and that I went to eat a pizza instead of going to eat along with the team; and that in the evenings I’d play table football.

He goes on to list a number of further grudges he bears agains the FCF, claiming that he has extensive information on financial irregularities, much of it yet to be disclosed, "not to mention the overly inflated salaries of some of those running the FCF." The implication is that the Federation was out to get him and concocted the entire scandal. Feller also rejects any suggestion of a "peaceful settlement": "Given the fact that I’m innocent no settlement is possible until the Federation withdraws its false accusations." You can read the full interview here.

The French cheating scandal is causing a lot of damage to the image of chess and a lot of suspicion amongst top players. At the crux of the matter are the SMS messages sent from Nancy by Cyril Marzolo to the cell phone of Sébastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard during the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk – and in fact during the games. These were determined by a French judge to be inadmissible as evidence, since although he was not the personal subscriber of the telephone service, Marzolo has the right to secrecy of correspondence exchanged through this line, since it was permanent was granted to him by the line’s owner. Full details are to be found in our report and in the others listed below.

We have the following proposal, which would clear up the entire cheating scandal quickly: the accused players, Marzolo, Feller and Hauchard should waive their formal confidentiality rights and simply publish the SMS messages sent during the Olympiad, and especially during the games. They are stored by the mobile phone service provider for one year (this is compulsory) and can be easily retrieved if permission is granted by the user of the phone. If there are any clearly personal messages unrelated to the affair these can be filtered out by a clerk or a trusted person.

If our proposal is rejected then the players must tell us (and the chess public) why. It is as if a crime has been committed, a person stands accused, there is video surveillance tape, but the accused refuses to allow it to be used as evidence since it compromises his privacy rights. The final clarification of a very damaging scandal that has been going on for far too long takes precedence over abstract privacy concerns.

So: please release the SMS messages immediately! You can put an end to the suspisions levelled against you and clear your names once and for all. We await your response.

Previous reports on the cheating scandal

Cheating scandal: Opinions, concerns and revelations
06.04.2011 – In a series of interviews, Robert Fontaine from Europe Echecs, culled the opinions of the players, to get a clearer idea on how players both French and foreign viewed the cheating scandal. A lengthy interview with Jean-Claude Moingt, the president of the French federation, revealed not only the next steps to be taken, but also that confessions were not only made to the players. An eye-opener.
FFE accuses its own players of cheating
22.01.2011 – Shocking news: the French Chess Federation (FFE) has announced that it has initiated disciplinary action against three players – one of them one of France's most promising talents – on suspicion of "organized cheating, serious breach of sport ethics, undermining the image of the national Olympic team in Khanty-Mansyik". We are following the investigation. Press release.
Feller replies: 'I completely deny the cheating accusations'
24.01.2011 – Two days ago the French Chess Federation announced the investigation of three French players on suspicion of "organized cheating" at the Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansyik. Now one of the three, 19-year-old French GM Sébastien Feller, has replied emphatically, implying that the entire action was a result of his support of the current FIDE president (the FFE supported his rival Karpov). Open letter.
Battesti: 'It's insulting to our president and his federation'
24.01.2011 – Instead of adopting an ostrich position the President of the French Chess Federation and his VP have initiated an investigation of French Olympiad members suspected of cheating. They have appointed Leo Battesti, a Sorbonne-educated lawyer, as the spokesperson for the Federation. Battesti has reacted to the criticism of one of the accused player with an interview in Europe Echecs.
French GMs: ''We express our full support of the FFE
27.01.2011 – Four grandmasters Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Vladislav Tkachiev and Romain Edouard have expressed their dismay at the charges brought against three of their colleagues who are accused of cheating. "If the allegations are found to be true, we will condemn them firmly," they write, in this public statement in Europe Echecs.
FFE: cheating not the first time, Biel statement
01.02.2011– The French Chess Federation disclosed they had evidence that the "organized cheating" accusation, which has rocked the chess world recently, is in fact not the first time. They have now mandated the Federal Bureau to take the case to trial in a court of law. Meanwhile the Organisers in Biel have issued a statement on the same players earlier last year in their Master Group. Open letters.
FFE Cheating: Judge rules incriminating SMS inadmissible
11.03.2011– After unearthing a series of SMS messages between players accused of cheating at the Olympiad using a phone lent by the French Chess Federation vice president, the FFE sought to have those messages transcribed and included as evidence in the upcoming Disciplinary Committee. A judge ruled that secrecy could only be waived if the FFE sued in court, as the FFE explains in a public statement.
French Chess Federation suspends players accused of cheating
21.03.2011 – On Saturday the Disciplinary Committee of the French Chess Federation suspended GMs Sébastien Feller, Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo, finding them “guilty of a violation of sporting ethics” for allegedly cheating during the Chess Olympiad 2010 in Khanty-Mansiysk. The three received suspensions, after evidence was presented, including a detailed description of how it was done.
Cheating in chess: the problem won't go away
30.03.2011 – As you know the recent suspicion of organized cheating during a Chess Olympiad has led to three French players being suspended. One is currently playing in the European Individual Championship, where his colleagues have published an open letter demanding additional security. For years we have been proposing a remedy for this very serious problem. It needs to be implemented now.


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