Suspicion at the European Women's Championship

by Frederic Friedel
5/29/2015 – As we reported last Sunday, the 45th seed at the 16th European Women's Individual championship in Chakvi, Georgia, Romanian WGM Mihaela Sandu, rated 2300, was sensationally leading, with 5.0/5 points. 32 other participants became suspicious of this result and demanded that during the live broadcast of the games the organisation should implement a fifteen-minute delay.

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Suspicion at the European Women's Championship

Romanian WGM Mihaela Sandu, rated 2300 and 45th seed, was the biggest surprise
of this event. After five rounds she was leading with a clean 5.0 score.

After seven rounds Sandu was still leading, in joint first (together with IM Nino Batsiashvili), which led to the action of her colleagues in the tournament. They posted two letters of petition directed at the organisation:

The text of the letter:

We, the participants of the 16 European Women Chess Championship would like to express our grave concern regarding raising suspicion of cheating in the tournament. We would like to ask organisers cooperation in this regard. There are a few ways to fight with advanced technology, and we believe organizers should do their utmost to avoid such situations. We have already asked for a 15 min delay in the live transmission of all the games. It is a common solution, used in many top level tournaments. If this is technically not possible, then we would like to ask organizers to propose another solution of this problem for the remaining rounds of the Championship.

The letter is signed by 32 players: Natalia Zhukova, Alisa Galliamova, Lanita Stetsko, Nastassia Ziaziulkina, Olga Girya, Dina Belenkaya, Anastasia Bodnaruk, Anastasia Savina, Vlada Sviridova, Lilit Galojan, Jolanta Zawadzka, Jovana Vojinovic, Nino Batsiashvili, Bela Khotenashvili, Evgenija Ovod, Inna Gaponenko, Sofio Gvetadze, Nino Khurtsidze, Maya Lomineishvili, Salome Melia, Svetlana Matveeva, Olga Zimina, Alessia Santeramo, Maria Kursova, Anna Hairapetian, Maria Gevorgyan, Marina Guseva, Svetlana Petrenko, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya, Anna Ushenina, Elina Danielian, Alina Kashlinskaya.

Text of the second letter:

We, the participants of the 16th European Individual Women's Chess Championship want to express concern about the situation with M.Sandu's performance. We would like to ask organizers not to include her games from round 8-11 in a live transmission and publish them after the rounds. We do not see any important reason to dislike this precautionary measure for both sides. We hope that such a decision will prevent all possible suspicions.

The letter was signed by 15 players: Natalia Zhukova, Alisa Galliamova, Lanita Stetsko, Nastassia Ziaziulkina, Anastasia Bodnaruk, Anastasia Savina, Dina Belenkaya, Jovana Vojinovic, Evgenija Ovod, Salome Melia, Svetlana Matveeva, Marina Guseva, Anna Tskhadadze, Tatyana Ivanova, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya.

Addendum: We apologize for giving a number of incorrectly rendered names in an earlier version of this report. That resulted from us accepting a Google translation which Chess News had published. There names like Evgenija Ovod had turned into Evgeny Gadfly. We have corrected the names above to the best of our ability.

Tournament director Giorgia Giorgadze replied as follows:

Giorgadze wrote (verbatim):

Regarding to the first letter, organisers agree with 32 players to delay 15 minutes transmission of all games on the internet from round 8 to 11. We are sure, that such solution is a right way to avoid any suspicion of cheating, in general. But we don't share concerns of "rising suspicions of cheating" in this tournament.

Regarding to the second letter, which is a serious accusation of Mrs. Sandhu, organizers do not agree with 15 players. After consultation with the arbiters and also with grandmasters, organizers are sure, that there is not any particular reason not to transmit games of Mrs. Sandu. Grandmasters have checked her games with different programs and did not find any use of computer help during the game.

We consider this accusation as unfair, insulting and creating some psychological pressure. We think that both letters should be seriously discussed in ECU to find the right way to protect players advanced technology, so that not a single chessplayer is put under psychological pressure or undeserved insult.

Organizers ask those 15 players to show their respect to their colleague and to withdraw their signatures.

Organisers, in cooperation with arbiters, follos all rules included in FIDE Law of Chess according to cheating, which was announced during the Technical Meeting of EWICC 2015 in Chakvi.

During play, a player is forbidden to have a mobile phone and/or other electronic means of communication in the playing venue. If it is evident that a player brought such a device into the playing venue, he shall lose the game. The opponent shall win.

The arbiter may require the player to allow his clothes, bags or other items to be inspected, in private. The arbiter or a person authorised by the arbiter shall inspect the player and shall be of the same gender as the player (11.3 FIDE Law of Chess).

So If you suspect, during the play, that your opponent is cheating you may announce this to the arbiter. Arbiter should observe your opponent and may decide to control him. But in case of a false accusation you may be penalized by the arbiter according to the Article 12.2 and 12.9 of the Laws of Chess (from warning to expulsion from the competition).

Top standings after nine rounds

After the delay was implemented Mihaela Sandu lost the next two games and decended to place seven on the scoreboard.

Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3 
1 7 IM Batsiashvili Nino GEO 2473 8.0 2416 46.0 49.0
2 15 GM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2456 7.5 2345 41.5 44.5
3 30 IM Guseva Marina RUS 2391 6.5 2415 44.5 48.5
4 14 GM Danielian Elina ARM 2458 6.5 2413 44.5 48.0
5 4 WGM Girya Olga RUS 2479 6.5 2405 47.0 51.5
6 16 IM Melia Salome GEO 2452 6.5 2333 43.5 46.5
7 45 WGM Sandu Mihaela ROU 2300 6.0 2472 50.5 53.0
8 20 IM Kashlinskaya Alina RUS 2423 6.0 2434 47.0 50.5
9 25 IM Bodnaruk Anastasia RUS 2402 6.0 2385 44.0 47.5
10 11 GM Socko Monika POL 2467 6.0 2354 43.5 48.0
11 29 IM Gaponenko Inna UKR 2391 6.0 2333 40.5 43.0
12 6 WGM Goryachkina Aleksandra RUS 2474 6.0 2332 40.5 44.5
13 8 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2473 6.0 2332 38.5 42.0
14 13 IM Mkrtchian Lilit ARM 2459 6.0 2314 40.0 43.5
15 19 WGM Zawadzka Jolanta POL 2434 6.0 2266 37.0 40.0

Individual performance of Mihaela Sandu

Rd. Bo. SNo Title Name Rtg FED Pts. Res.
1 45 94 Mammadova Aysel 1862 AZE 2.5 w 1
2 12 16 IM Melia Salome 2452 GEO 6.5 s 1
3 4 6 WGM Goryachkina Aleksandra 2474 RUS 6.0 w 1
4 1 4 WGM Girya Olga 2479 RUS 6.5 s 1
5 1 10 IM Javakhishvili Lela 2472 GEO 4.0 w 1
6 1 7 IM Batsiashvili Nino 2473 GEO 8.0 s 0
7 2 3 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2512 BUL 4.5 w 1
8 2 15 GM Zhukova Natalia 2456 UKR 7.5 s 0
9 3 14 GM Danielian Elina 2458 ARM 6.5 w 0
10 6 11 GM Socko Monika 2467 POL 6.0 w
We have quickly scanned the games of Mihaela Sandu and reached the following preliminary conclusion: it would seem that the Romanian WGM was not using computer assistance. Naturally there is a theoretical possibility that players may be getting very sophisticated forms of help, which may conceal the deceit from cursory investigation. But that seems unlikely in this case. However, our readers can judge for themselves, using the following PGN file – and perhaps the computer correlation function in ChessBase 13 (highlight the games in the games list, right click and use "Edit – Let's Check Engine Correlation").

Replay all games of Mihaela Sandu

Select games from the dropdown menu above the board


  • Sandu leads European Women's Championship

  • Cheating in chess: the problem won't go away
    3/30/2011 – 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.

  • Anti-cheating: the fifteen minute broadcast delay
    5/13/2011 – For five years we have been trying to get FIDE to implement a 15-minute delay in the Internet broadcast of important games – to make organised cheating harder. A chess journalist has now pointed out a fatal flaw in the plan: it would force chess journalists to walk many yards to find out the current status of the games. Damn – and we thought it was such a good idea! What is your opinion?

    Anti-cheating: the fifteen minute debate continues
    6/29/2011 – Our recent reply to stern criticism leveled against us in the Dutch magazine New in Chess resulted, unsurprisingly, in a large number of letters from our readers, many quite effusive. But we decided not to publish any until at least one turned up supporting the views of our NiC critic. Six weeks went by until it at last came, authored by the critic himself. Now we can publish your letters.

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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