Mihaela Sandu replies to FIDE Ethics

by Albert Silver
6/2/2017 – When Mihaela Sandu was given the results of the investigation by the FIDE Ethics commission on her complaint, the verdict seemed quite good: punishments were to be handed out to all the signatories casting doubt on her integrity. The problem is that even the most severe sanction, a 3-month ban, was a suspended sentence, not to be carried out. At best, this was a symbolic slap on the wrist. Mihaela Sandu protests in this letter to FIDE.

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(cover photo by Lennart Ootes)

For those wishing a reminder of the details of the incident, we refer readers to the initial report from the European Women's Championship, in which 15 colleagues signed a petition denigrating her integrity under the shadow of cheating. A ludicrous accusation as was clear to any who examined the games.

No fewer than two years later, the FIDE Ethics Commission handed down a verdict that wasn't to everyone's satisfaction, and here Mihaela Sandu replies:

Attn: FIDE office

Attn: The Ethics commission of FIDE

I am writing following the letter I have received from the FIDE Ethics Commission regarding my case.

I acknowledge that some part of justice was made. The Respondents, viz.

(Ms Natalia Zhukova (Resp. no. 1)
Ms Alisa Galliamova (Resp. no. 2)
Ms Lanita Stetsko (Resp. no. 3)
Ms Anastasia Bodnaruk (Resp. no. 4)
Ms Dina Belenkaya (Resp. no. 5)
Ms Jovana Rapport (néé Vojinova) (Resp. no. 6)
Ms Svetlana Matveeva (Resp. no. 7)
Ms Marina Guseva (Resp. no. 8)
Ms Anna Tskhadadze (Resp. no. 9)
Ms Tatiana Ivanova (Resp. no. 10)
Ms Natassia Ziaziulkina (Resp. no. 11)
Ms Anastasia Savina (Resp. no. 12)
Ms Evgenija Ovod (Resp. no. 13)
Ms Melia Salome (Resp. no. 14)
Ms Ekaterina Kovalevskaya (Resp. no. 15)

were found guilty of breach of code 2.2.11 of the FIDE Ethics Code, which reads:

"Any conduct likely to injure or discredit the reputation of FIDE, its events, organizers, participants, sponsors or that will enhance the goodwill which attaches to the same."

But I think that the measures taken are too mild and are encouraging unsporting behavior.

Basically, the sanction, in the case of Zhukova, applies for making false accusations and discrediting my image and the image of FIDE. I consider that a 3 month suspended ban is a very light sanction for making false accusations and discrediting my name.

But you are not taking into consideration the attack she made on me and how this helped her to gain an indisputable advantage in our direct encounter, a conduct which is similar to cheating. I don't see anything like that mentioned in your letter.

This decision doesn't take into consideration the effect this attack had on me back then, on my chess career afterwards, nor the direct gains Zhukova obtained from the attack. Zhukova attacked my reputation and during the tournament I had to defend myself, to write letters instead of preparing for our encounter. All of the sudden my mind was busy with something different instead of my chess games. She confiscated my good tournament and turned it into her own good tournament. She beat me in our direct encounter and even won the event. I lost to her and to the rest of my opponents (including Alisa Galliamova -she signed the letter and also benefited from beating me, in the last round of the European Championship) when only half a point was enough to qualify for the World Chess Championship. I was also very close to winning a prize.

Another ethical thing I have noticed during the reading of the Anti-Cheating Report is that Zhukova denied to have drafted and collected the signatures, but many respondents(as written in the ACC report) said that they were approached by Zhukova to sign it. I was told the same by my friends who saw her at the Delphinarium during the free day, that Zhukova drafted the letter and collected signatures. Also, I don't think the letter came from nowhere, or wrote itself, and Mrs. Zhukova is the first to have signed it. So, on another ethical angle, isn't Zhukova's behavior a form of lying and of impeding of the investigation? In any country in the world there are severe punishments for that.

Another question to FIDE: Isn't this mild punishment a way of telling other players that they can do this again? They would only risk a suspended ban which is only a joke(for people without character) if they would get a chance to win a good prize in a strong tournament. Unfortunately, people without character are everywhere, that's why you need firm rules and punishments to make sure attacks like that don't happen again.

Coming back to my situation, yes, I lost a lot of things during that Championship. My good name and reputation was stolen from me and also my balance was affected for a long time. When you are innocent and fall victim to false accusations your whole life turns upside down. You start asking yourself all sorts of questions and your mind is diverted and cannot focus. During the year that followed I have lost a lot of rating also (about 100 elo points) and my spot in the Olympic Team. So there was also serious financial losses I endured because of that.

Another thing I want to touch upon is that in your letter, you assert that there was an inappropriate handling of the situation by the officials.

I totally agree with that. In a normal institution (like FIDE should be), when a decision like that is reached, measures of additional investigations are taken. Why did this happen? How did the officials handle the situation? What were the mistakes?

Why did the organizer allow for the letter to be published, thus making it official? How did the main arbiter react and how he should have reacted instead? Why did they allow for such a bad thing to happen?

And another point: You mention the punishment was mitigated because a lot of time passed since. Who's to blame for that? A situation like that, which affects the image of chess players and the reputation of FIDE itself, should have been on the list of extremely urgent matters of discussion, not postponed for 2 years. Who was affected by this postponement? I was affected first because I have waited for a long time to have an official statement about the case. But also FIDE's image was affected by this postponement.

In conclusion, I was greatly prejudiced, both reputation wise and financial wise, and the FIDE measures so far did not take into consideration the situation as a whole. I am expecting from FIDE officials and from The Ethics commission of FIDE a reply which deals with the addressed issues.

Mihaela Sandu

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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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Martas Martas 6/7/2017 06:52
In the evening I played few online blitz games, last one remembered me this article again. Opponent with similar strength, due to mistake in the opening I lost Q+p for R+N but I managed to beat him badly on time (I ended with 2 minutes in 5+3 when he flagged). He got frustrated so he accused me from cheating (few seconds after game) and reported to site admins, as he said I played too well the ending RBB vs QB. I don't blame the guy, at least he forced me to open the game with engine and check it myself, as expected game full of mistakes from both sides, overlooked some +10 continuations etc - I should do such checks more often to improve :-)
Genefreaks Genefreaks 6/6/2017 03:48
There should be some sort of moral-damage fee for Ms. Sandu. She was unlikely to be mistaken as only griping. There must be something, may it be of monetarial means, to be granted to her as she suffered a lot not only as a player but as an individual from such a woeful scandal.

FIDE should take this seriously and as they take a keen action to discourage cheating, they must also watch out for false accusations as it may, as Ms. Sandu did say, cause something more than just the career of the accused.

We can onlysay that a player (chess player) is a professional if we are treating him/her professionally. How much more issues like this need to be raised to move FIDE to review their rules and enforce their authority. How many Nigel Short called as a "chicken" or GM Zhang to be banned from succeding Asian Continental will it take before we could finally safeguard our "pro" players' welfare?
David Herz David Herz 6/5/2017 08:55
FIDE: Failing Inspidly to Decide Ethically
TMMM TMMM 6/5/2017 05:11
This is somewhat comparable to false claims of rape. It is an incredibly serious offense, and accusing someone of such a thing is never taken lightly. If it then turns out you made up the whole story for your own benefit, maybe the punishment should be as severe as the punishment that was being faced by the one accused.
The_Tenant The_Tenant 6/5/2017 06:43
How many variations are there to replace FIDE or at least replace its leadership with someone like Kasparov?
drahacik drahacik 6/4/2017 08:10
Zhukova's punishment was nothing. It was only words. She was not banned from playing chess and did not receive any other punishment. The "ban" which was in headlines only applies if she does the same thing again in the following year. So absolutely no consequences for her actions.
fons fons 6/4/2017 01:15
You go to work. You see somebody steal money from the office petty cash. You tell management but they ignore it and tell you to take a hike. What do you do?

Posting letters to billboards is not the proper way to handle these things.

But what everybody seems to forget is that it was the officials who published the letter openly. (At least according to the ACP Statement, I wasn't there.)
tomohawk tomohawk 6/3/2017 06:42
I go to work. A group of co-workers draft a letter then post it in the company cafeteria for all to see saying I stole money from the office petty cash. They have no proof but I can't really disprove it, either. I am pretty sure my mood over the next little while would be at least a wee bit affected.
RARaines RARaines 6/3/2017 03:54
Given the blatant miscegenation above, below, might be time to abolish comments.
Martas Martas 6/3/2017 01:51
RayLopez - well, if it's found out you had a good reason for accusation, you might be fine, however you end up in big troubles if it's found out that you accused your ex without any reason and only in order to win your kids. Accusing somebody from an act which leads to years in criminal or life time ban is on one hand good thing to prevent such thing, on the other hand it's a strong weapon to destroy your opponent, whose only fault is that he became your opponent. The time when you were allowed to use such a weapon without any consequences is supposed to be centuries over.
mitfit mitfit 6/3/2017 01:17
FIDE ethics = Oxymoron.
fons fons 6/3/2017 12:11
The statement by the Association of Chess Professionals sums up the situation very well:

Read it, before getting your pitchforks out.
Masquer Masquer 6/3/2017 04:09
"Zhukova did a favor..." to whom? ROTFL.
RayLopez RayLopez 6/3/2017 12:44
@iamwell-right you are, IM Sandu showed weak nerves
@fons - "This letter is for the Ethics commission of FIDE, so why is it on ChessBase?" -correct! And who leaked the letter?
@Martas - surely you jest: if I complain that my ex is molesting my kids, I end up in jail if it turns out I'm incorrect? Not in any country I know of.

Bottom line: there's two sides to every story, and IMO the "Sandu posse" or "Sandu clique" here is just on a witch hunt vs Sandu's accusers. They should be unmasked head to toe. GM Zhukova did a favor for reporting a suspected chess cheat, and this is her reward, a ban? (Bonus trivia: GM Zhukova is the wife of IGM Grischuk).
Martas Martas 6/2/2017 11:53
Ray Lopez - your example with neighbours party shows you miss the main point. If you accuse somebody with an intention to take some advantage against that person, you can pretty much end up in jail yourself. Imagine you are divorced, fighting with your former wife for your kids and you start accusing her (let's say pointing to possible sexual harassment targeting your kid). You end up in jail once your accusation is found false - main reason is your intention to win your kids.
Same thing is this case - the accusation was done directly before their encounter, intention to win the game is quite obvious.
drcloak drcloak 6/2/2017 09:53

What do you mean? According to many chess base staff and article writers, women are just as great as men and are equal in all ways.
Inaki Inaki 6/2/2017 09:50
While the behaviour of Zhukova et consortes deserves punishment, Mihaela Sandu errs on one point. She states that the fact that Zhukova claimes that she had not written the letter nor collected the signatures would in real world constitute a crime - quoting her:
"So, on another ethical angle, isn't Zhukova's behavior a form of lying and of impeding of the investigation? In any country in the world there are severe punishments for that."
Generally you are not obliged to confess to a crime in any civilized jurisdiction, and it's legal to maintain innocence despite being factually responsable for some unlawful act.
genem genem 6/2/2017 09:12
@iamwell wrote: { I can hardly imagine Viktor Korchnoi being rattled in her place. } This is an odd claim, given that Kortschnoj was rattled when he believed a spectator was sending confusing brainwaves into Kortschnoj.

@RayLopez mentions the only minor weakness in an otherwise exceptionally compelling essay written by Ms. Sandu. She need not doubt that her reputation is fully intact.
therook1357 therook1357 6/2/2017 08:07
I agree with mihaela all those people who signed the petition,should
have got a severe ban,not a slap on the rist.also mihaela should get
good financial compensation
fons fons 6/2/2017 08:04
This letter is for the Ethics commission of FIDE, so why is it on ChessBase?

Creating more drama around this case is not going to do anybody any good. Publicly shaming people who voice cheating suspicions to organizers... is that how you're going to solve the problem?
RayLopez RayLopez 6/2/2017 08:02
Sandu is wrong when she says: "But you are not taking into consideration the attack she made on me and how this helped her to gain an indisputable advantage in our direct encounter, a conduct which is similar to cheating" - absurd, since you must play the board, not the person. In any event, the Fide sanction was too severe: imagine being thrown in jail for calling up the police for a neighbor's dispute that sounds bad, when it turns out the neighbors were not fighting but partying. That's the same here: Sandu's accusers had a right to bring to the attention of Fide any suspected cheating, even if it turns out they were wrong.
diegoami diegoami 6/2/2017 06:43
People go to tournaments also because they like to mingle and to find like-minded people. The social aspect is important in this game, and yes, especially for women. What would be the motivation of going to tournaments, playing and improving your game if you found out that your colleagues are a bunch of @holes ?
I bet most people would give up chess or anything else if something like that happened to them, I know I would. Life is too short.
turok turok 6/2/2017 05:22
her being female has ZERO to do with her reacting one way or another. Korchnoi was known to be an @hole as well so lets not start comparing that as strength. She was falsely accused and has a right to react and protect her reputation.
skypags skypags 6/2/2017 05:21
I feel sorry for Mihaela and felt bad for prolonging her agony. Imagine, 2 years before a decision was made! And still the decision fell short!
Daniel Quigley Daniel Quigley 6/2/2017 05:10
By the way, I am philosophically opposed to the writing of chess articles that include no chess moves at all. It just should not be done. So check out this nice game Ms. Sandu played and won against her higher rated Israeli opponent late last year:

[Event "Women's European Club Cup"]
[Site "chess24.com"]
[Date "2016.11.09"]
[Round "4.1"]
[White "Efroimski, Marsel"]
[Black "Sandu, Mihaela"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B43"]
[WhiteElo "2312"]
[BlackElo "2207"]
[PlyCount "94"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Israel"]
[BlackTeam "ROU"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "ISR"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3 b5 6. Bd3 Qb6 7. Nf3 Qc7 8. O-O
Bb7 9. Bd2 Nc6 10. a4 b4 11. Na2 Nf6 12. Qe1 Rb8 13. Qe2 Be7 14. c3 bxc3 15.
Nxc3 Nb4 16. e5 Ng4 17. Be4 f5 18. Bxb7 Qxb7 19. h3 Nh6 20. Bxh6 gxh6 21. Rad1
O-O 22. Qd2 Rbd8 23. Qxh6 Rf7 24. Qd2 Rg7 25. Kh1 Kh8 26. Rg1 Bc5 27. a5 Ba7
28. Qe2 Rdg8 29. g3 Nc6 30. Kh2 Nxa5 31. Ra1 Nc6 32. Rg2 Rb8 33. Rxa6 Qxb2 34.
Qxb2 Rxb2 35. Nd1 Rb3 36. Nh4 Rg8 37. g4 f4 38. g5 Bb8 39. g6 Nxe5 40. gxh7
Rxg2+ 41. Kxg2 Kxh7 42. Ra4 Rd3 43. Rb4 Bd6 44. Rb1 f3+ 45. Kg3 Nf7+ 46. Kg4
Nh6+ 47. Kg5 Be7+ 0-1
koko48 koko48 6/2/2017 04:59
Anybody else notice the common nationality/regionality of the fifteen signatories? Ten of the fifteen are Russian. Of the remaining five we have two from Belarus, one from Ukraine, one from Georgia, and one from Serbia.

Perhaps these fifteen women could be accused of collusion? The punishment for that accusation should be a slap on the wrist as well, no?
Daniel Quigley Daniel Quigley 6/2/2017 04:58
I agree that FIDE sanctions on the offending players were far too light. An imposed ban of six months on all FIDE events, all, including correspondence chess and problem solving contests, seems a fairer penalty. I would support it even as late as today, justice delayed isn't always necessarily justice denied. To be fair, I also wonder if Ms. Sandu's letter might overstate her damages. Maybe their behavior affected the outcome of this tournament for her, but did it really affect all the results of all of her tournaments afterwards? That's a bit much to try to hang on the necks of these misbehaving ladies. Where does one's responsibility for simply making good chess moves begin?
daniel7472 daniel7472 6/2/2017 03:58
@iamwell ... you miss one detail though: Mihaela is a woman, Korchnoi was a very strong man. Women are more exposed to this kind of attacks, men take them differently. Being more sensible doesn't mean a weak character.
J Nayer J Nayer 6/2/2017 03:53
I completely agree.
A7fecd1676b88 A7fecd1676b88 6/2/2017 03:36
Chess would be better without FIDE.
iamwell iamwell 6/2/2017 03:33
I feel for Sandu, knowing what it is like to be attacked by many people (extremely unpleasant). However regarding her results in that particular tournament... a bit of it has to do with weak character IMO. For instance I can hardly imagine Viktor Korchnoi being rattled in her place. I read an incident where he was accused (maybe correctly) of writing a false letter of apology, it being dubbed a mask of an embittered indivualist etc. etc. and he still became one of the greatest players ever.
geeker geeker 6/2/2017 03:25
All good points by Sandu. FIDE is a travesty (as if we all didn't already know).
KevinC KevinC 6/2/2017 02:12
She could (should?) still sue the players for their defamation, and the money she subsequently lost as a result.
conillet conillet 6/2/2017 01:49
Mihaela Sandu has to be congratulated for the lucidity of her letter. It is nothing short of amazing how FIDE manages to miss the point time and time again.
kingmater kingmater 6/2/2017 01:15
100 % correct
mekbul99 mekbul99 6/2/2017 12:56
100 % agree!
AgainAgain AgainAgain 6/2/2017 10:49
Mihaela Sandu is 100% correct here