Chess World Hit By Cheating Scandal

Sebastien Feller

Two Chess Grandmasters and an International Master have been suspended by the French Chess Federation for cheating. IM Cyril Marzolo and GMs Sebastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard were found “guilty of a violation of sporting ethics.”

The cheating involved heavy usage of text-messaging during the 2010 Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiys. An investigation showed that Marzolo sent almost 200 messages to Feller and Hauchard during the tournament, with the majority of them during times when Feller was playing. has a thorough story on the investigation, reveling how the scandal unfolded:

Joanna Pomian, Vice-President of the French Chess Federation, told the committee that she had uncovered the matter on September 27, 2010. Cyril Marzolo, who was beset by financial difficulties, had worked for her company. Since he was blacklisted by mobile operators she had paid for his mobile phone account. On September 27, Cyril Marzolo was in the Pomian’s home to give back some papers, and while he left the room a few minutes and left his phone on the table. She saw a sms message arriving, from Arnaud Hauchard, mentioning “Hurry up, send moves…”. Subsequently, when checking the dues, she discovered that she had access to the records of the SMS text messages sent during the Olympiad. Pomian said she knew that Feller and Marzolo were very close, and that she has also heard rumors of cheating during the 2010 Paris Championship (which Feller won with 8.0/9 and a 2859 performance).

Arnaud Hauchard

The report cited by ChessBase explains how they did it:

  • Cyril Marzolo, who was in Nancy at the time of the Olympiad, sent SMS texts with phone numbers
  • The first two digits of the numbers were always 06
  • The next two were the move number
  • The fifth and sixth were the “from” square
  • The seventh and eighth were the destination square
  • The final two digits were random and of no importance
  • For example: 06-01-52-54-37, 06-01-57-55-99, 06-02-71-63-84, 06-02-67-65-43 are the first moves of the Latvian Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5).
Cyril Marzolo

Hauchard, the captain of the French team, had his phone and Feller’s. He would go to the bar, check the messages, and then return to the hall during play in order to give Feller a signal for the proper move. There is some evidence that Marzolo was consulting a computer chess engine.

Marzolo is suspended for five years. Feller is suspended for three years, and has to do two years of community service with the French Chess Federation or he gets an additional two-year suspension. Hauchard was reprimanded and banned for life from being a captain or coach.

h/t: R. Wayne Schmittberger