Mobile phone to g2, mate!

by ChessBase
10/13/2003 – A new page in the colorful history of chess was written on Saturday when for the first time a player was disqualified at a representative event when his mobile phone rang during the game. This misfortune did not befall any ordinary player; the miscreant was none other than Ruslan Ponomariov, reigning FIDE world champion. More...

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The following report, an abbreviated version of which has appeared in the Daily Telegraph chess column, was sent to us by IM Malcolm Pein (London Chess Center).

The twenty year old Ukrainian's phone sounded during a match between Ukraine and Sweden at the European Team Championships being held in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv.

The disaster was compounded by the fact that the Ukrainian GM had celebrated his birthday the day before and had been presented with gifts by the tournament organisers at the start of the game. The identity of the caller was not disclosed but it might have been his mum wishing him many happy returns.

The beneficiary of Ponomariov's gaffe was the Swedish Grandmaster Evgeny Agrest a fine player in his own right who looked to be well on the way to victory before his cogitations were disturbed, to the great displeasure of the match arbiter Toncho Demirev from the host nation who disqualified Ponomariov quoting article 13.4 of the tournament regulations. Mobile phones are banned in chess tournaments because players could receive advice during the game or even use them to access computer databases of chess moves online.

Ponomariov protested, refused to sign the scoresheets, on which both players are required to record the moves and result of the game, and slunk off. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

This is the latest setback for the former Fide World Champion, who failed to sign a contract and so lost a chance to play world number one Garry Kasparov Yalta this year.

The Fide President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov the ruler of the Soviet state of Kalmykia eventually became frustrated with the demands of the youngster's advisors and after two deadlines had been ignored he cancelled the match. Ponomariov, slightly built and quiet spoken, dresses in old style Soviet suits and because of this has been dubbed ' Little Karpov' after the former Soviet world champion. He thus achieved the dubious distinction of becoming the only player apart from the mercurial American Bobby Fischer to be stripped of a world title.

[According to FIDE Ponomariov has not been stripped of his title as FIDE champion. Apparently there was some confusion with Malcolm's FIDE sources and he says he will issue a retraction. –Ed.]

Opportunities to cheat at chess have multiplied with the advent of portable communication devices and computers which can analyse accurately and at speed. Before his historic match against Boris Spassky in 1972 Bobby Fischer insisted the organisers at Reykjavik check the lights for Russian electronic devices but only two dead flies were found and in 1978 the defector Viktor Korchnoi accused his Soviet rival Anatoly Karpov of receiving messages in his yoghurt.

However nowadays even a PDA can run a powerful chess program. Garry Kaspaov has often called for players to go through metal detectors before important games and at a tournament in Philadelphia a previously unknown Rastafarian player in dreadlocks and wearing a walkman defied several Grandmasters before it was discovered he was receiving moves through the headset from a master in a car parked outside the playing hall. In Germany an amateur won a Grandmaster tournament with a perfect score but was subsequently discovered to be using a chess program called Fritz – he refused to return his prize money.


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