The show goes on: Ivanov in Kustendil

by ChessBase
6/3/2013 – Borislav Ivanov is an FM who in the past months has been crushing players hundreds of points stronger than himself. Bulgarian GMs, who suspect computer cheating, are now boycotting tournaments in which he appears, or chosing not to play their games against him. Ivanov has called them antisocial buttheads in newspaper interviews. Alex Karaivanov reports, with new video analysis by Valeri Lilov.

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The show goes on: Ivanov in Kustendil

By Alex Karaivanov

The case of FM Borislav Ivanov, who mysteriously beat a number of highly ranked chess players at several European international tournaments, remains unsolved. Was he cheating or is he a pure genius whom no one wants to accept? Ivanov’s play has repeatedly demonstrated an unprecedentedly high move correlation with that of the strongest chess engine, Houdini. His sharp computer style is easy to recognize for all experienced masters and professional players, who recently signed petitions to FIDE demanding an anti-cheating commission to be formed by FIDE and ACP to deal with the growing problem of computer cheating in chess tournaments.

Meanwhile, Borislav Ivanov continued to beat everyone who dared to sit at the same table with him. He convincingly won the top prizes at tournaments in Sofia (Bulgaria), Zadar (Croatia), and Villava (Spain) earlier this year. His immaculate play continued to dominate local and international competitions, against a backdrop of speculations and suspicions which have received extensive coverage by the mainstream media both in Bulgaria and abroad.

Now, once again, the newly fledged FIDE master crushed the opposition at the 2nd “Bogomil Andonov” Memorial with a convincing result of 7.5 out of 9.0, and took the first prize at this rapid chess tournament held in Kustendil, Bulgaria. Once again he proved his new brand of computer style play against a plethora of famous Bulgarian GMs and IMs, one of whom, GM Kiril Georgiev (2657), had just become the new Bulgarian Chess Champion for 2013.

“Bogomil Andonov” Memorial – final rankings after 9 rounds

Rk. Title Name RtgI RtgN Pts.
1 FM Ivanov Borislav 2303 2196 7.5
2 GM Grigorov Grigor 2510 2508 7.5
3 GM Drenchev Petar 2490 2519 7.0
4 GM Nikolov Momchil 2527 2547 7.0
5 IM Nikolov Sasho 2412 2442 6.5
6 Danov Radi 1999 2092 6.5
7 Danov Lyubomir 2169 2197 6.5
8 IM Milchev Nikolay 2433 2406 6.0
9 FM Filev Georgi 2324 2340 6.0
10 IM Marholev Dimitar 2327 2342 6.0
11 Savov Petar 1969 2178 6.0
12 NM Stoinev Metodi 2236 2249 6.0
13 Kolev Atanas T. 2118 2151 6.0
14 FM Vachev Vladimir 2140 2129 6.0
15 Asparuhov Parvan 2104 2148 6.0

Borislav Ivanov (left) playing at the “Bogomil Andonov” Memorial in Kustendil, Bulgaria

The young FM plays quickly and with a great deal of confidence

Playing GM Kiril Georgiev: Ivanov defeated the 2013 Bulgarian Champion convincingly

A lot of special interest for the spectacular games played by the Bulgarian FM

Borislav Ivanov being awarded the cup and money prize after winning the
“Bogomil Andonov” Memorial convincingly with 7.5 out of 9.0

A couple of weeks later, Ivanov scored another phenomenal performance at the 1st Cup “Old Capital” International Open, where he was controversially thrown out of the final standings and denied the first prize, despite his clear win with 8.0 out of 9.0 in a crushing style of play. A small last-minute change in tournament regulations allowed organizers to disqualify any player with more than two wins achieved by forfeit. Not surprisingly, Ivanov did not qualify for a prize after three opponents failed to appear at the board. The final no-show in the last round was IM Sasho Nikolov, who refused to play Ivanov for the second time in this event (see Valeri Lilov's video below for a full explanation), giving up his immaculate tournament performance in order to help disqualify the alleged cheater. Here is a list of all participants and here the final standings (without Ivanov).

Borislav Ivanov was quick to reach for the mainstream media, as he usually does, by giving two interviews on the case with his denied award which were broadcast on the national TV channels, BTV and TV7.

The “James Bond of chess” is how the Bulgarian TV7 channel described Borislav
Ivanov, who gave interviews and spoke about his opponents’ bias against him

Yet, it was his unseen penchant for bold words and love for short-lived fame that led to Ivanov’s official ban from tournament participation on the territory of Bulgaria for the next four months. The Bulgarian Chess Federation has taken clear stand on Ivanov’s appalling comments on chess players in general and penalized him for slander of Bulgarian chess thanks to his numerous explicit comments given during various interviews published in the local and international press.

One stark example of Ivanov’s chaotic rant against chess players as a whole appeared in a news article titled: “Life between chess and chalga: the miracle from Blagoevgrad believes that other chess players are buttheads.

Borislav Ivanov in, a Bulgarian newspaper.
The title in Bulgarian reads “Life between chess and chalga”


Chess is my passion. Every day I practice three to four hours at the board. I have no girlfriend. The problem is that no one expects me to win. I play brilliantly because I have good training, that is the answer. The grandmasters refuse to accept that I am good and therefore started bringing up suspicions. They had me checked as if I was the biggest terrorist. They stripped off my jacket and shirt. I don't know if they expected to find a bomb strapped to me. I just went to the tournament and won.

Most chess players are absolute buttheads. For too many people, chess is an antisocial game. Therefore, chess players are usually old bachelors, lonely and unhappy people. But there are many cool players, too. I am constantly trying to escape from this stereotype. To be honest, sometimes I feel ashamed to say that I am a chess player.

In addition to blocking Ivanov’s participation in a number of major international open tournaments to be held near Varna, Bulgaria this summer, the Bulgarian Chess Federation included a second clause directed at the suspected cheater, which reads in part: “Due to experts’ common standpoint derived from their analyses of Borislav Ivanov’s games from chess tournaments in the past 9 (nine) months and in connection with the suspicions and accusations of cheating on numerous international tournaments, […] we recommend to Borislav Ivanov to provide his permission for conducting extensive tests on him through various technical equipment, which will be both in his favor for the purposes of clearing his name and in favor of the Bulgarian Chess Federation, which will do everything possible in the future to resolve the problem on a national and international level in case it is proven with scientific means that Ivanov does not use any unfair means during his games.

Analysis of Ivanov's games by Valeri Lilov

Maximize the video player (square icon on the bottom right) to follow Lilov's analysis properly.

Two important points that Valeri makes are: people are constantly demanding that accusers should provide concrete proof of cheating, e.g. show that the player has a concealed electronic device on his body. But strip searches that could discover tiny receivers would require a warrant by a judge and need to be pre-announce, which clearly defeats the purpose. And secondly: a lot can be deduced by looking at the moves of the games. Here's a good example:

Black (Ivanov) to move

It is clear that Black is winning, especially since he has 1...Rc1, stopping the white pawn on c6, followed by ...Bd5 to attack it again. What no human player in extreme time trouble would play is the computer move 1...Bc4!?!? You try to work out, in a few seconds, if this move is sound or not. Lilov explains its intricacies in the video.

FM Valeri Lilov’s extensive analysis of Ivanov’s games have played central role in the international investigation of Ivanov’s alleged cheating scheme. Many sources have refered back to Lilov’s YouTube video annotation of the alleged cheater’s latest games in Kustendil and Veliko Tarnovo.

– To be continued –

About the author

Alex Karaivanov is the manager of FM Valeri Lilov and has managed his coaching career for the past six years. He is the CEO and co-founder of Tiger Lilov’s Chess School and the president of Shanghai Chess Club: Pudong Branch. He is also involved in producing Valeri Lilov's ChessBase DVDs.

Recent ChessBase articles on the Ivanov case

04.1.2013 - Cheating suspicion at the Zadar Open in Croatia
In this event, with 16 GMs and a host of other strong players, one participant stood out especially: the 25-year-old untitled Bulgarian Borislav Ivanov scored 6.0/9 points, with a rating performance of 2697. In the January FIDE list Ivanov has gained 115 points over his previous 2277 rating, gained in over 400 games over three years. A certain suspicion once again raises its ugly head.

08.1.2013 - Cheating scandal in Croatia – feedback and analysis
Recently we reported that the incredibly brilliant play by a 25-year-old untitled Bulgarian player at the Zadar Open in Croatia had raised suspicion that he might have been using illicit electronic assistance during his games. A number of readers criticised us – for linking to the mainstream Croatian media reports?! One of them, an expert in the field, actually analysed all the games in question.

17.1.2013 - Cheating scandal – Borislav Ivanov speaks out
Recently a 25-year-old untitled Bulgarian player scored 6.0/9 points in a strong GM tournament, with a 2697 performance. His opponents complained, he was searched, and no electronic equipment was found. Still, the case put chess on the front pages of the mainstream media, and led to intense discussions on the Internet. Now Ivanov has given the Russian news portal WhyChess an exclusive interview.

23.3.2013 - A Game of Chicken: Ivanov rides again
In the last weeks of 2012 he wowed the chess world with a 2700 performance. Two months later the new Bulgarian star FM Borislav Ivanov finished 88th in the Plovdiv, this time with a performance of 1970. Then came another enviable achievement, a clear win at the Villava rapid (again with a 2700 performance). What is going on? Alex Karaivanov speculates, with new video analysis by Valeri Lilov.

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