The fake Heroes of Chernobyl revisited

5/23/2005 – A few weeks ago we reported on a tournament that had supposedly been held in Óity a Slavutich, Ukraine. Nigel Short commented on this fake event in his Telegraph column. Now the Ukraine Chess Federation tells us it has investigated and found that the event was indeed an 'open and shameless falsification'

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Fake Heroes Tournament revisited

The spurious nature of the event was originally uncovered by TWICThe Week in Chess, reported that the International Chess GM Tournament called "Memorial Heroes of Chernobyl", which took place in Óity a Slavutich (Kiev region, Ukraine) from April 14th-26th, 2005, never actually happened.

Our story on the fake tournament, which appeared shortly after the TWIC revelations, was picked up by news outlets all over the world. FIDE discussed the matter in their Presidential Board meeting in Doha a week ago, sent out a warning to all federations that there will be "severe punishments for players, arbiters, officials, organisers and Federations" if tournaments and results are falsified.

Today we received a message from the President of the Ukrainian Chess Federation V. Petrov, informing us that indeed the "Memorial Heroes" tournament had been faked and had been an "open and shameless falsification". Although the matter is still under investigation, Petrov accuses a number persons of collusion. He writes: "My basic question to the direct organizers is: Did not you understand what a sin you were committing thus humiliating memory of the numerous victims and real heroes of that terrible catastrophe? How cynical was your thirst for ratings and titles?" And Petrov issues a stern warning: "I would like to warn all chess schemers: do not play with fire – UCF Management will suppress all attempts of falsifications." The full letter is given below.

In his Telegraph column Nigel Short picked up the subject of dishonesty in chess, accusing some of the FIDE officials who had issued the stern warning of not having a lilly-clean vest themselves. Here is Nigel's most recent column in The Telegraph.

Filed: 22/05/2005. This week the 17-year-old GM Timur Gareev and fellow Uzbek IM Anton Fillipov were disgraced when they were caught using analysis engines while competing in tournaments on the popular PlayChess server. The fraud – the equivalent of taking a crowbar to a cash-dispenser – was detected by the use of sophisticated software programs. A recent scam on an altogether grander scale was the Heroes of Chernobyl Memorial Tournament which, it was claimed, took place in Slavutich, Ukraine, about a month ago.

It is not clear whether any of the games were actually played, but what is certain is that some of the alleged participants were nowhere near the place at the time. Alexander Nosenko, the man who defaulted against me by not appearing in the Monarch Assurance, Isle of Man, a couple of years ago, apparently won this fictitious tournament – thereby obtaining a grandmaster norm.

After the deception was uncovered by Mark Crowther of The Week In Chess, the Ukrainian Chess Federation was galvanised into avowing to penalise the perpetrators. As the stench of corruption has grown ever more pungent, FIDE itself has finally woken up to the problem. At the recent presidential board meeting in Doha, Qatar, it solemnly declared: “There will be severe punishments for players, arbiters, officials, organisers and Federations in proven cases of malpractice, up to a ban for life.”

Noble intentions for an organisation that collects money for the awarding of each and every FIDE title. The statement noted: “FIDE is aware that instances of misconduct are far from easy to prove.” Indeed. Therefore it should confine itself only to cases where there have been serious allegations. For its words to carry any weight, FIDE might begin its investigations with the presidential board itself.

The FIDE vice president Zurab Azmaiparashvili of Georgia won the 2003 European Championship, on his own admission, by retracting a move during the decisive game against Malakhov. There is not much point in expressing regret about this later, as he did in an interview in New in Chess (2003/5), when the deed, which is totally forbidden under the laws of chess, has already been done.

FIDE might also care to make an official inquiry into the highly irregular tournament that took place in a restaurant in Strumica, Macedonia, in 1995, to determine whether there is a case to answer. Azmaiparashvili, who won it with a massive 16/18, gaining 40 rating points, admitted no wrong-doing, but conceded in the same NIC interview that it had been a mistake to play there – a very peculiar comment considering that this was undoubtedly one of the greatest results of his career.

The following game from that tournament has an interesting history: from beginning to end it is Garry Kasparov’s analysis. As a former second of Garry’s, Zurab would temporarily have had access to that information. Please forgive me for having skipped over most of the opening moves, but I wanted to get to the meat of the story. In the evening before the last round of Novgorod 1997, when I was due to play Garry Kasparov, I was set upon by a large dog while walking. I received a nasty bite in my arm and was admitted to hospital.

Bandaged and bleeding, I was in no condition to play chess. Thus, for the only time in my life, I proposed a pre-arranged draw to the great man, which he duly accepted (in fact a draw with black guaranteed him at least a shared first place). We then decided to concoct the following game for public benefit. Garry thought that, as we were playing a fake game, it would be hilarious if we followed Azmai’s game for as long as possible.

I might add that he was still livid that Azmai had exposed chunks of his analysis to public scrutiny, which in his eyes was the act of a disaffected ex-employee. Of course, we had to arrange a different result and, for the sake of aesthetics, do it as prettily as we could.

Annotated game Azmaiparashvili vs Rashkovsky, Strumica,
1995, with the Kasparov-Short persiflage given.


The Ukrainian Chess Federation President V. Petrov
“On falsifiers and their accomplice”

Can you imagine leader of Ukrainian chess Vasiliy Ivanchuk losing an “agreed game”? Of course not! His devotion to chess leaves no place for doubt. And though people like Vasiliy constitute a majority, there are still “masters” of another kind – masters of cheating and falsification. In the last decades, when FIDE made requirements to the high titles’ owners more liberal and it turned out it was not always justified, a number of machinators increased. Now, FIDE attempts to stop the “cloudy tide” and extremes also happen from time to time when honest players come under suspicion.

However, it would not be right to pretend that nothing like this could happen in Ukraine and that is why in the years 2002 and 2003 CFU Executive Committee adopted decisions aiming to introduce order in this sphere. But the recent scandalous case brought our attention to the problem of obtaining dubious results and titles again. An attempt to falsify not only separate parties but the whole international tournament had been suppressed.

It started at the UCF Executive Committee session (April 14th,, 2005) where we learned about TWIC announcement of the “The International Chess GM Tournament Memorial Heroes of Chernobyl” opening on April 15th in Slavutich city. The fact that this tournament had not been registered and some other details were suspicious. Right from the session a telephone call to one of the participants, residing in another city, was made and he honestly replied he was at home. Which made us submit an official inquiry and get an official reply stating there were no chess tournaments in Slavutich at the time at all! On April 19th, a real international tournament was opened in Kiev, among participants we could see Chohonelidze, who was mentioned as a “Memorial” participant. In the meantime, a pseudo-tournament table in Internet was regularly updated with new pseudo-results. Of course, we informed TWIC about it and learned from its editor, that he had been already warned by M. Krasenkov, that one of Slavutich “heroes” was playing in the Polish tournament at that time.

Obviously, we came across an open and shameless falsification. The investigation is being held with the purpose to find out what participants and judges conceived and realized the idea and whose names where just used by machinators. And now I would like to draw your attention to the following. Could it happen if UCF Qualification Commission – Chairman M. Seleznev was really standing guard over lawfulness and morals? What they needed, in fact, was only to observe the above-mentioned Executive Committee decisions. Moreover, M. Seleznev withdrew from this incident investigation. It looks like honesty of Ukrainian tournaments is more important for Polish grandmaster M. Krasenkov than for the UCF Qualification Commission Chairman. Which makes us think M. Seleznev must report on Commission activity at the nearest session of the Executive Committee.

My basic question to the direct organizers is: Did not you understand what a sin you were committing thus humiliating memory of the numerous victims and real heroes of that terrible catastrophe? How cynical was your thirst for ratings and titles? Some have already denied their involvement, said they knew nothing. It could also be, so, I repeat: we continue investigation. Many of us are eager to learn how will grand master D. Komarov explain his name appearance in the pseudo-tournament table, while his remarks that he was ignorant could hardly be serious: A person who publishes as a chess observer of a serious newspaper simply must analyze all news on a daily basis. It is not likely, he could be unaware of anything like this… Or was he “aware”? Knowing Mr. Komarov as an author of articles passionately calling to morality in chess, we request him to make clear his role in this unseemly story.

I would like to warn all chess schemers: do not play with fire – UCF Management will suppress all attempts of falsifications.

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