Female grandmaster wins Hamilton Rookies Shield!

3/3/2011 – Here's an unusual bit of news: two players, apparently father and daughter, registered for a New Zealand tournament which is restricted to players rated under 1700. They gave false names. One, it is suspected, was a WGM and the other 2200+. The damage they did was moderate: they won a combined prize money of $55. But still, the incident has led to animated discussion.

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"At great expense to the Hamilton Chess Club management, two strong chess players were secretly imported from Europe to test the resolve and current skill level of the Waikato juniors and beginners on 20th Feb.," writes the editor of the Hamilton Chess Club news page, somewhat tounge-in-cheek. The organisation, which had run a "Rookies Shield" (under 1700 rated) event recently in Hamiton, New Zealand, received prima facie evidence that two of the entrants had provided false names and both were FIDE rated over 2200. One, a WGM, and her father, rated 2200+, cleverly kept their relationship, ages (she was over 18) and identities secret by using false names. Both convincingly blitzed the field of up and coming but unsuspecting chess enthusiasts. "We all enjoyed the lessons learned – both on and off the chess board, of honesty and integrity or what happens when there is a lack of it." The site publishes two pictures of the undercover chess players, taken at the prize-giving ceremony:

The organiser was subsequently contacted by someone who recognised the two players, one of them is FIDE titled player at the highest level. A felony and scandal? Before people get too worked up here's what the organiser said: "The tournament 'damage' was not too great and the financial impact was slight – the entry fees for them totalled $25, the prize money they won combined to $55. However, this is (chess) fraud, and so I wanted to bring this to the attention of the chess community."

As the players had registered on the morning of the event, as allowed for, they could call themselves whatever and the organisers would have had no way of verifying their playing strength (no Internet on site). "However, this is (chess) fraud, and so I wanted to bring this to the attention of the chess community. In future I will ask for some id before registering a player I do not know, and especially for those turning up on the day." He goes on to ask the chess community if others have had a similar experience and what he should do about this:

  • try to gather more evidence?
  • name and shame (leaves one open to some libel actio,n however)?
  • notify FIDE? (if so, how/who?)
  • is there an avenue to report names/photos of suspected chess sharks??
  • report them to immigration (they were overseas players)?

He concludes: "It does seem rather bizarre that titled players (on holidays) would go to these levels just to get a free lunch! But there you have it. Is this just a scratch on the surface of other frauds being done?!?"

Responses on Chess Chat (an Australian chess forum):

  • That's quite something. It possibly seemed like innocent fun to them, but notifying FIDE would seem to be a fair response. It is cheating and they should be sanctioned for it.

  • I would like to point out that two rather strong players (father and WGM daughter) are known to have been touring Australia recently. Personally I have no proof that the players in the Hamilton event are the same couple, but I would advise any tournament organiser in New Zealand to check passports for any foreign players. If they won't provide passports, then you shouldn't allow them to play in rating-limited sections. Unless it's under 2400....

  • We had an interesting pair at MCC some weeks ago... they called themselves Mullers.

  • These two tried to do the same thing at the Melbourne Chess Club and were ejected.

  • She is a pretty girl, would be good to have her name published

  • It might have seemed like good fun when they hatched the plan but when money changes hand it isn't just a lark, it's fraud and they should be reported.

  • Disgusting slimy cheats. They should be reported to FIDE, there home federation and banned from playing in New Zealand again for a long time. Whether NZCF wants to implement a ban offically or not chess clubs could be warned not accept their entries.

  • I've just found my way through to the results of the event and the photos of the winners. They're the same two players who showed up here in Hobart club two weeks in a row and said they were going on to NZ. We originally thought they were Russians, but the guy clearly spoke German, as when I mentioned that I work on snails it took some time to explain what they were to him, and then when he realised he said the German word for snail. Seemed like friendly people; the guy even brought along a bottle of wine and shared it with me. He was very strong; although I was lucky enough to win three casual games out of six against him I thought he was probably 2100+. The girl (who I scored 2/3 against) seemed to me to be about 1700 strength most of the time, except for when I made a silly mistake in a double rook ending while three (!) pawns up and she showed exceptional endgame skill over 20+ moves to win the position. The guy then said her endgame was better than his.

  • It was great having them. I hope they come again.

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