Cheating in chess has now become a reality, especially thinking about the use of computer assistance during a game. Recently, the Bulgarian chess player Borislav Ivanov has been accused of it and some players even refused to face him in competitions (they didn't show if they had to play against him).

Why did they do so? Are the accusations valid? Or is Ivanov simply a genius?

*updated 05 October 2013 with the latest event about this topic, see the bottom of this article*

1. Zadar Open in Croatia, December 2012

Previous strange tournament results are mentioned here and there but strong cheating suspicions really started at the Zadar Open last december. 

Borislav Ivanov, rated 2277 had just realized a 2697 performance [1] and, despite being not titled himself, has defeated several strong Grandmasters.


Headline on the Site (in Croatian), re-used by (in English)

Not only the result was suspicious but also, the way he was playing. Pure calculation moves, very little intuitive or even counter-intuitive and a very high correlation to computer suggestions.

However, officials reported that Ivanov had been strip searched but no evidence were found of any electronic device [5].

Analysis of the Games by FIDE Master Valeri Lilov

The following video shows the analysis of FIDE master Valeri Lilov about the games and why this person is convinced that some cheating was involved.

Some elements shown in the video are indeed disturbing, but sometimes Valeri Lilov may be trying too hard to convince the watchers.

Interview of Ivanov after the Zadar Open

Ivanov gave an interview after the Zadar Open where he clearly stated he was not cheating. Until now, he has always denied it.

2. Georgi Tringov Memorial in Plovdiv, February 2013

Quite incredibly, this player able to beat strong grandmasters in Zadar did not perform well at Plovdiv, finishing with a 1942 performance [2]. This is the level of an amateur club player, not the one of strong grandmasters.

Of course, even strong players have their bad days and a 200 rating points difference is plausible. But going from almost 2700 to less than 2000 is unheard of.

3. Winning the "Bogomil Andonov" Memorial, Bulgaria, April 2013

Suspicions started to rise again when Ivanov won a strong rapid chess tournament which included a win against Bulgarian champion Grigorov Grigor.

Another strange thing: he was using 10 second for each move no matter the difficulty of the position.

But to his defense, many people were witnessing the games and nothing obvious was observed. Ivanov was said to be looking at the board at all time, never leaving his seat and not checking any other person in the public. So how would he possibly cheat?

4. 1st Open "Old Capital" in Bulgaria, May 2013

This is where things started getting wild. Some players simply refused to play against Ivanov and did not show on the board when they were facing him.

A strange and last-minute rule stated that: "If a player has more than two unplayed games did not participates in the distribution of prizes!" [3] (broken English on the original site as well) which deprived Ivanov from receiving his first place prize. He was winning the tournament with 8 points out of 9.

5. Status Today

Ivanov was disqualified by the Bulgarian chess federation for 4 months [4], mainly because of surprising results and strong correlation with top chess engines suggestions.

After that, Ivanov was playing in a Bularian Open but forfeited in round 7 when the refused to let the arbiter check his shoes. The latter had some suspicions and had asked the player to remove his shoes for inspection. Ivanov was allowed to play the remaining rounds without his shoes but he refused and declared it was not possible to play in this conditions: "My opponent wanted me to take off my shoes and socks. I refused because I knew it would not stop there. I will not participate in any more tournaments because I will not be allowed to do so. They will punish me for everything – for improper breathing to poor posture[6]

So this puts an end to the career of the person who was probably the most controversial chess player in the history of chess.

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