YACS at the Botvinnik Memorial Open

8/25/2011 – This tournament, part of the International Chess Festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of Mikhail Botvinnik, was won by seven players with a score of 7.0/9. But it was the 98th placed player who got the most attention. Sergey Klimentiev, rated 1698, had been crushing FMs and IMs, until his briefcase and pen were taken from him, after which he collapsed. Yet another cheating scandal.

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Cheating scandal at the Botvinnik Memorial Open

The International Chess Festival "100 Years of Mikhail Botvinnik" took place in the Hilti Sport School from August 11–20 2011 in St. Petersburg, Russia. This is part of an International Chess Festival in honor of the 100th anniversary of Mikhail Botvinnik. The Open is classical chess (Cup Russia) with a prize fund of one million rubles (24,000 Euros or US $35,000).

The tournament was won by seven players, six of them GMs and one IM, with a score of 7.0/9 and performances ranging from 2500 to 2697. Here are the top final standings.

#
Name
Pts
Fed.
Rating
TPR
W-We
BH
1
GM Khismatullin, Denis
7.0
RUS
2656
2697
+0.48
54.0
2
GM Aleksandrov, Aleksej
7.0
BLR
2609
2688
+0.92
53.5
3
GM Ponkratov, Pavel
7.0
RUS
2593
2736
+1.66
53.0
4
GM Dvoirys, Semen I.
7.0
RUS
2554
2711
+1.83
52.0
5
IM Geller, Jakov
7.0
RUS
2535
2647
+1.32
49.5
6
GM Yakovich, Yuri
7.0
RUS
2539
2624
+0.99
49.0
7
GM Neverov, Valeriy
7.0
UKR
2500
2604
+1.21
45.0
8
GM Maletin, Pavel
6.5
RUS
2575
2644
+0.93
54.0
9
GM Zvjaginsev, Vadim
6.5
RUS
2659
2624
-0.23
53.0
10
GM Epishin, Vladimir
6.5
RUS
2553
2581
+0.44
49.0
11
IM Baryshpolets, Andrey
6.5
UKR
2474
2590
+1.49
49.0
12
GM Yevseev, Denis
6.5
RUS
2527
2536
+0.25
48.5
13
GM Kuzubov, Yuriy
6.5
UKR
2630
2554
-0.61
48.0
14
GM Popov, Valerij
6.5
RUS
2550
2488
-0.44
45.0
15
GM Lintchevski, Daniil
6.5
RUS
2553
2479
-0.62
43.5

Now comes the critical part. After six rounds of play the Russian news site WhyChess noticed "something fishy at the Botvinnik Open". Takme a look at the the following segment of the table – do you notice something strange?

19 GM Epishin, Vladimir
4.0
RUS
2553
2549
20 GM Kuzubov, Yuriy
4.0
UKR
2630
2466
21 IM Baryshpolets, Andrey
4.0
UKR
2474
2518
22 IM Polivanov, Anatoliy
4.0
UKR
2435
2480
23 GM Neverov, Valeriy
4.0
UKR
2500
2473
24 IM Rozum, Ivan
4.0
RUS
2464
2395
25 IM Kornyukov, Alexey
4.0
RUS
2485
2467
26 Derbenev, Andrey
4.0
RUS
2331
2557
27 GM Lintchevski, Daniil
4.0
RUS
2553
2407
28 Klimentiev, Sergey
4.0
RUS
1698
2173
29 GM Yevseev, Denis
4.0
RUS
2527
2509
0

You probably spotted it: a certain Sergey Klimentiev, rated 1698, seemed to be doing rather well. A big performance jump by some super-talented youngster? That would be a reasonable explanation.


Sergey Klimentiev [photo provided by Irina Sudakova]

But no, Klimentiev was born in 1969, he is 42 years old, and his rating has remained stable between 1678 and 1711 over the past several years. In this event he was suddenly playing at a 2200 level, having beaten a series of FIDE Master level players, crushed IM Alexsej Lanin and drawn with IM Ivan Rozum. But, as the Russian Chess Federation web site writes, "players and organisers claim that after a game Klimentiev is unable to show or recall the moves he has played." Apparently he did not even know the names of the openings he played...

We took a look at a random game by Klimentiev – actually the first one. It is fairly easy to chess such games with an engine: in Fritz 12 (or earlier versions) you simply load the game and use a function called Blunder Check:

When you click "Blunder Check" you get the following dialog:

Note that we have given the program ten seconds per move, asked it to annotate only the black moves and store the evaluations with the game notation. We set the threshold to 0, i.e. Fritz should tell us whenever it would have played another move, however small the evaluation difference that led to this decision.

After clicking OK is it advisable to take a short coffee break – the procedure is going to take a number of minutes to complete. This is what we got:

[Event "M.Botvinnik Memorial 2011"] [Site "St. Petersburg"] [Date "2011.08.12"] [Round "1"] [White "Nuretdinov, Igor"] [Black "Klimentiev, Sergey"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D27"] [WhiteElo "2276"] [BlackElo "1698"] [PlyCount "132"] [EventDate "2011.08.12"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "RUS"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 dxc4 4. e3 a6 5. Bxc4 Nf6 6. O-O c5 7. dxc5 Qxd1 8. Rxd1 Bxc5 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. b3 b6 11. Bb2 Bb7 12. Rac1 Rd8 13. Be2 Nbd7 {last book move} 14. Ne1 Rac8 15. Kf1 Be7 16. Rxc8 Rxc8 17. e4 Rc7 ({0.14 Deep Fritz 12:} 17... b5 {-0.16/18 The text move results in -0.14/18}) 18. f3 b5 19. Nb1 Bc5 ({0.00 Deep Fritz 12:} 19... h5 {-0.04/16 The move played by Black results in a 0.00 value.}) 20. Rc1 Bd6 21. Rxc7 Bxc7 22. g3 Ne5 23. Bd4 Nfd7 24. Nd3 Nxd3 25. Bxd3 Bd6 26. Ke2 Ne5 ({0.02 Deep Fritz 12:} 26... f6 {-0.06/19 Fritz considers the text move for about 20 seconds, then switches to 26...f6.}) 27. Bxe5 Bxe5 28. b4 g5 29. Kd2 Bd6 ({-0.38 Deep Fritz 12:} 29... h5 {-0.50/20 Fritz gives the move played by Black a slightly inferior value: -0.49.}) 30. Kc3 h5 ({-0.27 Deep Fritz 12:} 30... Kf8 {-0.41/21 Again, Fritz thinks Black's move is 1/10th of a pawn worse.}) 31. Nd2 h4 32. Nb3 hxg3 33. hxg3 Be5+ ({-0. 97 Deep Fritz 12:} 33... Bxg3 {-1.27/23}) 34. Kc2 Bxg3 35. Nc5 Bc8 36. Kb3 Kg7 37. a4 bxa4+ 38. Kxa4 Kf6 39. Bxa6 Bxa6 40. Nxa6 Ke5 41. Kb5 Kf4 42. Kc6 Kxf3 43. b5 Bf2 44. Nc5 g4 45. b6 Bxc5 46. Kxc5 g3 47. b7 g2 48. b8=Q g1=Q+ 49. Kd6 Qd4+ 50. Ke7 Qxe4 51. Kxf7 {[#]This is where the five-piece tablebases kick in. In the following we have inserted an exclamation mark for every black move that according to the TBs is the perfect move, i.e. it shortens the path to mate more than any other move. It starts at 49 moves to mate.} e5 $1 52. Qb3+ Qe3 $1 53. Qd1+ Kg3 $1 54. Ke6 e4 $1 55. Ke5 Qf4+ $1 56. Kd5 e3 $1 57. Qg1+ Kh4 $1 58. Qh1+ Kg5 $1 59. Qg1+ Kf5 $1 60. Qb1+ Kg4 $1 61. Qb2 Qf3+ (61... Kf3 {is one move shorter.}) 62. Kc5 e2 $1 63. Qg7+ Kh3 $1 64. Qh6+ Kg2 $1 65. Qg5+ Kf1 $1 66. Qc1+ e1=Q $1 0-1

In the above game Fritz deviates from the text moves by Black only six times, and for reasons that are always worth less than 1/100th of a pawn. Using a different engine – Rybka, Hiarcs, Junior, which you can do using the same interface – will give you closer or worse correlation. If you want to do your own experiments here is a PGN file with all nine games played by Sergey Klimentiev at the Botvinnik Memorial Open.

Now all of the above does not in any way represent irrefutable proof that an engine was used. We should mention that we have done similar experiments with the games of José Raúl Capablanca and discovered that the third World Champion occasionally used computer assistance. Just kidding, of course – but the fact is that sometimes very strong players will play an entire game where most of the moves meet will the full approval of chess engines.

But let us return to our hero: we do not know exactly what happened after game six, but surfing the Russian chess blogs seems to reveal that the authorities, suspicious of Klimentiev's extraordinary performance, did not allow him to bring along his briefcase or use the pen he had used that far. In addition he had to play on-stage, where spectator access was restricted. This was his next effort:

Polivanov,Anatoliy (2435) - Klimentiev,Sergey (1698) [C57]
M.Botvinnik Memorial 2011 St. Petersburg (7), 18.08.2011
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7 Bg4??

The counter-attack on the queen doesn't work: 7.Nxd8 Bxd1 8.Bxd5 Rxd8 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Kxd1 and Black is simply a piece and pawn down. 10...Bc5 11.Ke2 0-0 12.f3 e4 13.Nc3 exf3+ 14.gxf3 Rde8+ 15.Ne4 Re5 16.d3 Be7 17.Be3 c5 18.Rag1 Rf6 19.Rg3 Bd6 20.Nxd6 cxd6 21.Rhg1 g6 22.f4 Re8 23.Kf3 a6 24.Rg5 Rf7 25.h4 Rfe7 26.Bd2 Kf7 27.h5 Re2 28.hxg6+ hxg6 29.R1g2 Rxg2 30.Rxg2 Re6 31.Rh2 Kg8 32.Bc3 d5 33.Be5 Kf7 34.Rh7+ Kg8 35.Rc7 Rb6 36.Rxc5 Rxb2 1-0.

Klimentiev lost all three remaining games, as you can see in the following extract from the final tables:

97 FM Duzhakov, Ilya 4.0 RUS 2338 2259
98 Klimentiev, Sergey 4.0 RUS 1698 2005
99 Kobzar, Alexandr 4.0 UKR 2184 2303

We leave you – and the organisers, and FIDE – to decide how this and similar cases should be handled. It seems like the problem of cheating simply will not go away and is becoming harder to ignore.

Addendum

Erik Kaukonen of Chicago, USA, informs us that apart from the Botvinnik Open, Klimentiev had two fantastic results from his two other most recently completed tournaments: White Nights 2011 Open and Summer on Petrograd Side 2011. In White Nights, he entered the tournament rated 1698, and scored 6/9 for a 10th place finish, even though seven out of nine opponents were rated more than 400 points above him. His K score= 77.55 which is far and away the largest increase in the field. In Petrograd Side 2011, he ended up tying for first with 7.0/9 even though 8 out of 9 opponents were rated more than 400 points above him. Again he had a K score of 93.60- by far the greatest increase. In just two tournaments he increased his Elo by 171.15 points and scored a remarkable 13.0/18 against 15 opponents rated more than 400 points above him. "Stands out like a sore thumb IMO, Erik writes. "More evidence is needed to prove guilt but I wonder if he had his trusty pen and briefcase along for those tournaments?"


Links

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