Saturday, 5 January 2019

Scandal at the George

It is nice to be back in Auckland again and to be playing at the Auckland chess centre. I am staying with an old friend and colleague, Bruce Watson. He was kind enough to pick me up from the airport and take me back to his house. I asked if I could stay with him rather than a motel, as I had pleasant memories of my previous stay.

As luck would have it, we were playing in round one. 

I have always enjoyed playing in NZ and perhaps not playing even more, as it is the most beautiful country I have seen so far. If you have been reading my blog for a while you will have seen many posts with plenty of spectacular pictures, taken with a phone by an incompetent but enthusiastic photographer.

This time, however, it is not all cookies and teddy bears. Everyone is a bit disappointed that the star GM Timur Gareyev couldn't make it due to visa issues I believe, so GM norms are no longer possible. No biggie though, we are all chessplayers and there is no more welcoming and friendly place than the Auckland.

Unfortunately this year the tournament has started on a sour note.

Ian McNally Bruce Watson Brandon Clarke

Round 1

About 10 minutes after the round started I visited the bathroom. Below is a picture of the view out of the window. I observed IM Izzat using his phone. He glanced up in my direction and swiftly put it in his pocket. 

I immediately informed the chief arbiter and returned to my board.  He went outside and found Kanan still in the carport next door and told him to return to his board ?! Some time later, when I noticed no action had been taken I saw the organiser, Michael Steadman, and the zone president, Paul Spiller, in the car park I informed them as well. They also seemed to show little interest. But perhaps it was more shock as these things don't happen here.

By this time my position was a little suspect so I offered a draw, which was accepted. I won't bore you or embarrass myself with the moves. If you must have them here is the link.

 During our postmortem, Brandon Clarke and Izzat Kanan also walked in having drawn their game at Kanan's suggestion.

On the way home I relayed the events to Brandon. Naturally, he was incensed. Soon after arriving back at our host's house, Bruce Watson, Brandon started making phone calls and also perceived a distinct lack of interest. 

I noticed a friend online, who is in FIDE, and he did show considerable interest. First, he sent me a link to the relevant FIDE regulations and then sent an email to NZ, asking for clarification. Coincidentally about an hour later Brandon got a call from the arbiter and there was some movement on the issue.

Kanan was emailed with a request to respond to the allegation that he was on his phone and he confessed, claiming it was his second phone (he handed one in) and he had inadvertently left it in his jacket pocket and when he realised, he went outside to switch it off. I guess it's up to each individual to judge the plausibility of this explanation.

Izzat Kanan has now been forfeited for the first round. It will be interesting to see what further action, if any, will be taken.  

Round 2

Bob is always a tough nut to crack and today was no exception. I did get a nice position out of the opening but it was never much more than half a pawn, although it looked like more to both of us. I was the first to blunder with 30...h6, overlooking 31.Bc7 Rc8 32.Rd6 so had to bail with swapping the bishop and trying to trick Bob in the double rook ending. Because of his time pressure, it succeeded. He missed 50.Rg2! sacking a rook to queen a pawn. Lucky me.

[Event "George Trundle Masters 2019"]
[Site "Auckland Chess Centre"]
[Date "2019.01.05"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Smith, Bob"]
[Black "Wohl, Aleksandar"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[WhiteElo "2233"]
[BlackElo "2332"]
[ECO "C55p"]
[EventDate "2019.01.04"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.e5 d5 6.Bb5 Nd7 7.O-O Be7 8.Re1
O-O 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.Nxd4 Nb8 11.Qh5 c5 12.Nf5 Bxf5 13.Qxf5 Nc6 14.Qd3 c4
15.Qd1 Bc5 16.Bf4 Qd7 17.Bg3 Rad8 18.Nd2 Qf5 19.Nf3 d4 20.Qe2 d3 21.cxd3
cxd3 22.Qe4 Qxe4 23.Rxe4 Nd4 24.Rd1 Nxf3+ 25.gxf3 Rd5 26.b4 Bb6 27.Bf4 f5
28.Rc4 Rfd8 29.e6 Re8 30.Rc6 h6 31.Bxc7 Bxc7 32.Rxc7 Rxe6 33.Rxa7 d2 34.
Kf1 Rde5 35.Rxd2 Re1+ 36.Kg2 Rg6+ 37.Kh3 Rg5 38.f4 Rg4 39.b5 Rb1 40.f3
Rxf4 41.Kg3 Rc4 42.a4 Rb3 43.Kg2 Rb1 44.Ra6 Rcc1 45.b6 f4 46.a5 Rg1+ 47.
Kf2 Rh1 48.Kg2 Rhg1+ 49.Kh3 Rb5 50.Kh4 g6 51.Rd8+ Kf7 52.Ra7+ Ke6 53.Re8+
Kd6 54.Rd8+ Ke6 55.Re8+ Kd6 56.Rd8+ Ke6 1/2-1/2


After the round, the arbiter asked me for a witness statement. This time he wrote it down, having acquainted himself with the exact regulations, including the compulsory "form A". He was also kind enough to inform me that there are sanctions available for players making repeated unsubstantiated accusations 😡, quickly adding that this does not apply in this case as the perpetrator had confessed.

I must add that in all the years that I have been coming to NZ, this is my first negative experience. I'm guessing that the situation has taken everybody here by surprise, as these things never happen here.

I'm sure that with due consideration of the facts the right decisions will be made. Rules about leaving the venue will undoubtedly be tightened up and there will be less reliance on people doing the right thing.


  1. Now can anybody explain to me, what kind of fool would I have to be, to decide and cheat in such an insignificant event, after having blown away all my chances for my so wanted last GM norm, yet in such idiotic fashion such as going outside in an open court and pulling out my phone to cheat in ROUND 1 OUT OF THE OPENING against someone that I am friends with? Like would it make any logical sense for me to have such intentions? Besides, IF my intention WAS TO CHEAT, why the hell would I offer a quick draw to Brandon on move 13? I did not see anyone observing me, the arbiter that could have "caught" me, just had a good old chat with me, so in my mind, if I am to cheat, I just got away with everything right? Like cmon now, I understand all of this story doesn't look good on me and all, and I sincerely apologize to my opponent that this entire situation has happened in a game against him, but if you just think logically about it, how would it make sense for me to try and cheat in this event, in the first round, OUTSIDE IN AN OPEN BLOODY LAND, then go and offer my opponent a draw. It's really obvious in my opinion that there were clearly no motives for me to cheat in this event whatsoever.

    One thing that I will say is that yes, it may seem that my story seems a bit flaky, coz why would I have TWO phones on myself?? But as I have said already, it was merely an innocent mistake, and an understandable one, and once again if my intention was to cheat, I would simply deny all the accusations in first place, because there was literally no proof and no action taken by anyone at the time. I decided to be honest about this and take the full responsibility for the mistake I made. AND YES, I SHOULD HAVE TOLD THE ARBITER. Yes. I know. But understandably, I got scared that it could be misunderstood, especially given I have never met the arbiter before and it's a different country. I was wrong, I admit, but I panicked, did not want my reputation to suffer from it, so made a wrong judgement. However, all I am standing up here for is that there was no malicious intent whatsoever, and according to the FIDE rules 11.3, I breached the rule of "not possessing any electronic device" for which I was rightfully penalized by receiving a loss for that game. Cheating involves a level of maliciousness and intent. I had no intent and I deny any such accusations.

    In conclusion, everyone who knows me somewhat well and has played any type of quick chess with me (blitz or rapid or allegro) knows that my chess strength is around 2500 mark, so it really wouldn't make sense for me to try and cheat in order to beat people who are lower rated than me, given I am the top seed in this event.
    - Kanan

  2. Kanan - I don't doubt your version of events at all and I don't think others will either. Sometimes things go wrong and are open to misunderstanding. cheers, Ralph Hart