Nigalidze stripped of GM title, receives 3 year ban

by Albert Silver
12/26/2015 – Readers may recall that earlier this year, GM Gaoiz Nigalidze was caught cheating in the 2015 Dubai Open, where his smartphone was found hidden in the toilet. The case was sent to the FIDE Ethics Commission, which investigated and ruled on it, and has issued its first judgement on cheating since the Anti-Cheating Commission was created. Breaking news.

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It was the biggest story of the round, and possibly the event, as reported by IM Sagar Shah who was there on location at the 2015 Dubai Open. His story was hardly the first cheating tale to make the news, but was certainly one of the highest profile scandals. In almost all previous cases, it involved amateurs, weak or strong, but not full-fledged grandmasters. To make things worse, he had been on the ascension with back-to-back wins of the Georgian Championship in 2013 and 2014, in spite of being one of the lowest rated participants, and had been the outright winner of the Al Ain Open in 2014.

In April 2015, after complaints by GM Petrosian of highly suspicious behavior, evidence was found of his cheating.

The device was hidden behind the waste bin in the toilet

After initially denying ownership of the phone, officials checked the smart phone and found it was logged into a social networking site under Nigalidze’s account. They also found his game being analyzed in one of the chess applications.

Chief arbiter Mahdi Abdul Rahman checking the device against the score sheet

The device had the same game moves as on the scoresheet
You can read the full report on the incident here.

Gaoiz Nigalidze was stripped of his title on the basis of unworthiness

Official statement by FIDE

official logo

The advent of the rising number of cheating cases, and of course the increased ease with modern technology such as smartphones that can beat even Magnus Carlsen, has made the creation of new guidelines by FIDE and even the Anti-Cheating Commission a must.

This is the first case of a player being investigated, judged, and punished by FIDE, in which the strongest punishments were deemed appropriate. Here is the statement by FIDE, and a link to the full decision.

The FIDE Ethics Commission has recently announced its judgment and sanction in the case against GM Gaioz Nigalidze of Georgia for cheating in the 2015 Dubai Open, held in April this year. Mr Nigalidze was found guilty of violating clause 2.2.5 of the FIDE Code of Ethics and sanctioned with a 3 year ban and revocation of his Grandmaster title. 


The investigation followed an incident when Nigalidze was caught using an electronic device during play to analyze his game against GM Tigran Petrosian of Armenia in the 6th round of the tournament. Nigalidze was immediately defaulted in the game by the chief arbiter and expelled from the tournament. 


The Presidential Board appointed a three-person Investigatory Chamber to investigate the complaint of cheating. Nigalidze admitted his guilt and voluntarily withdrew from participation in all tournaments as of April 2015. 


The Ethics Commission stressed that cheating is a very serious offence. The anti-cheating guidelines adopted by FIDE recommends up to a 3 year ban for a first offence and up to a 15 year ban for a second or later offence, subject to further review in the future. 


Given that the offence was committed by a professional player and reigning national champion in a high profile tournament with substantial prize monies, the Ethics Commission held that a worldwide ban of 3 years from participation as a player in any rated chess competition or any chess activity as an arbiter, organizer or representative of a chess federation is appropriate. The ban will last until 5 September 2018. 


In addition, Nigalidze was stripped of his Grandmaster (GM) title on the basis of unworthiness. However, his international master (IM) title, obtained already in 2009, was left intact in recognition of his remorseful and cooperative conduct in the investigation. 


This case is significant for being the first case of cheating being decided since FIDE’s establishment of an Anti-Cheating Committee and its adoption of anti-cheating guidelines and amendment of the Code of Ethics to provide for much increased sanctions in November 2014. 


The full text of the Ethics Commission’s decision is available here.



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.

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