I haven't slept well since arriving in Auckland and the incident in the first round has not helped me focus on the tournament. Today especially I went in completely unprepared and decided early on to just kill the position and offer a draw. Judging from this game I'm pretty good at it 😀
[Event "George Trundle Masters 2019"]
[Site "Auckland Chess Centre"]
[White "Wohl, Aleksandar"]
[Black "Garbett, Paul"]
1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 dxc4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxc4 c5 7.Ne5 Qc8
8.O-O Nc6 9.Nxd7 Qxd7 10.Nc3 Be7 11.d3 O-O 12.Be3 Rac8 13.Ne4 Nd4 14.
Bxd4 cxd4 15.Nxf6+ Bxf6 16.Qb3 1/2-1/2
After the game, I approached Izzat Kanan to clear the air. First I wanted to assure him that I bear him no Ill will. We didn't know each other so why would I? Also, I wanted to clear the air about the incident which has caused a lot of controversy.
I asked him what he would have done in my place and he agreed he would have acted in exactly the same way. What he would not have done is written publicly about it, or at least not during the tournament. I am still in two minds about that.
But first, let me share Izzat's side of the story.
Originally Posted by Kanan Izzat
Alright fellas, as expected this is getting out of hand, and people who love me so much in chess community without a doubt are onto this and trying to paint the situation in much worse colors as it was. Here is what exactly happened - I’m sure for those of you who knows me well I don’t need to defend myself, the rest can judge as they want:
I was invited for a GM norm tournament in New Zealand - a country I have never been to and was very excited to visit as a tourist. Unfortunately due to the late withdrawal of one of the foreign GMs, the tournament became only IM norm, and lost a huge chunk of significance to me, as I am hunting for my final GM norm. My hunt for the last norm has been very unsuccessful leading up to this tournament, so my passion to play chess was likewise - very low. I’ll try to keep this short for tldr purposes. I own two mobile phones. One is my relatively old Galaxy Note and a relatively new Iphone. As we all know Iphone (mine is 16gb) has memory issues, and I am planning on traveling around NZ after the tournament and taking a lot of pics. So I decided I’ll take both phones for this tournament, as partly I am visiting this country for traveling purposes too. Long story short, being a bit of a sciencey guy, I didn’t want to keep both phones in the same pocket of my shorts, as it is pretty bad for electronics, so I put the other one inside the inner pocket of my jacket ever since the airport check in. Why inner pocket? Because the outer one is too shallow and it kept popping out. Okay. So I arrive to NZ. First round begins at 2pm, my opponent Brandon Clarke and I are at a cafe nearby, having a chat and waiting for our drinks, which are taking ages to be served, so we are late for the game. It’s all good though, being late for the game is a usual thing for me. Its around 2:06pm, so we quickly rush back to the venue, I am still wearing my jacket, we both hand in our phones to the arbiter, and begin the game.
The game has begun, we are even cracking some jokes as we are playing out first few moves (yep, I know, unprofessional). Anyway, we reach some sort of a position out of the opening, where Brandon starts to think, and I get up to go for a usual walk around the boards. As I am walking, I put my hands in my pockets, and realize “Oh shit”, I still have the phone in my jacket. Okay now, before going ahead with the story, let me admit to something. In hindsight, I most definitely should have gone up to the arbiter and laid out everything as is. Why didn’t I do so? In all honesty, I was just very scared that I will be misunderstood, and it will become public and hurt my reputation (ironic). So I panicked a lot, and made a rushed decision that alright, I need to turn it off so it doesn’t make any sounds. So I decided to go outside and turn my phone off. ALRIGHT, THIS IS WHERE the false story-telling begins by Mr Alex Wohl, who already wrote a lovely post about me few years ago when I pulled out of Doeberl Cup, clearly indicating his sympathy towards me. So this is what ACTUALLY happened:
I went outside, and obviously just looked around to make sure there are no people around. Mr Alex Wohl portraying this act as “he glanced up in my direction and swiftly put it in his pocket”. If you look at the angle of those glass things on the window, how the hell can anyone from down outside even notice anybody observing me? Anyway, that’s not even an important part. Who cares. THIS IS where it gets really weird: so I turned off my phone, put it in my pocket, and as I am walking back to the playing hall, I see the arbiter walking up in my direction. Mr Alex Wohl claims “the arbiter asked him to return to the playing hall”. First of all, wtf? If the arbiter is informed I am possessing an electronic device DURING a game, why doesn’t he confront me on the spot? He has all the rights. And I bloody wish he did, then my phone could be checked and it would just be a normal forfeit without any accusations. But anyway, you know what the arbiter said to me? “Oh this is another part of the Auckland Chess Centre (pointing at the house right nearby)” and just having a good old chat about the chess centre as we are naturally walking back to the venue. LOL! I have nothing against the arbiter, seems like a good bloke, if anything he just treated the situation quite unprofessionally. So I returned back to my board, we played out few more moves, my opponent made pretty strong moves in my opinion, leading to him getting a better position out of the opening, and having a higher rating than my opponent I felt I had the right to offer a draw, which was accepted.
Alright, so let's imagine the situation from my perspective at that given time:
I just avoided a situation that could be quite unfortunate for me, I felt bad inside that it happened this way but ultimately knowing that I had no malicious intentions, I was like okay, let's make sure I just never make such mistakes again.
So, I return back to my motel room, everything is alright, and I receive an email from the organizer of the tournament Mike Steadmann. The email says: "You have been seen with a phone outside the playing venue during the game, could you please clarify this situation for me?"
When I got the email I was honest and explained the situation to the organizer. I told him I did have an electronic device and I didn't use it to cheat or intended to use it to cheat. I got a reply from Mike in couple of hours, saying that the same thing happened to him once too, and he had to forfeit the game, and that the rule is strict and it has been discussed with the arbiters, and since I admit to it, I have to forfeit the game. To which I was like okay, fair enough. Ofc I was unhappy, but hey I did breach the rule, and I gotta take full responsibility for it.
NOW, for those of you who have some basic logic, let's analyze the motives of me trying to cheat, according to the accusations of Mr Alex Wohl:
1) Everybody who knows me knows that all I care at this point of my chess career is my final norm, for which I only get 2 chances during a calendar year, which are the GM round robin events held in Adelaide and Melbourne. In both of those tournaments I performed average, having played some good and poor games. Didn't get my norms.
2) The 3rd tournament coming up after those two was Aus Open, while it was technically possible to get a norm in that event, anyone who understand chess a little bit realizes how hard it would be to score a GM norm in that field, basically requiring me to beat all the top seeds and play 3 GMs out of all 3 available, and get some luck with federation counts. Either way, I lose to much lower rated player than me in Round 3, then in Round 4 I have a completely lost position against 1900, I get lucky and win, Round 5 same story, very bad position against 2000 rated player, got lucky and won. Round 6 Yi Liu walked into my preparation, so it was quite a quick game, Round 7 was a quick draw against GM Papin. Round 8, in a crazy battle against GM Darryl everything came down to a mutual time scramble, with an evaluation going up and down with each move, I was the more fortunate one at the end. Last round I offered a quick draw to my friend Bobby Cheng, but my position was a bit worse at that point, and he rightfully refused, but turned out he had pushed a bit too had and I ended up being up a pawn and winning the game from there. Series of fortunate events, and I tired for the first place.
3) Okay, here comes NZ tournament. IM round robin event, really possesses no real significance to my chess aspirations, other than having to play yet another 9 rounds on top of 27 games already played in 1 month. But okay, the deal is a deal, can't pull out, so let's go.
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.
We did have a good long chat and agreed on most things. He agreed that he would have come to the same conclusion had he observed what I did, and he would have followed up the same way too.
We also agreed that if the arbiter had asked for his phone and examined it, then the suspicion would have been resolved there and then. The game should, of course, have been stopped immediately and the point awarded to the opponent.
I also spoke to the arbiter, Craig Hall, and he agrees. In the heat of the moment, in an unfamiliar situation, as he put it, he basically blundered his Queen.
Originally Posted by "Kanan Izzat
Thank you everyone for the support. I really appreciate it a lot, and it is truly nice to see that clear logic and personality trust still hugely prevails in our society, despite all the attempts from others who dislike me or want to paint me in worst colors imaginable. I would like to inform everyone as well that Alex Wohl came up to me today after the game, and pretty much expressed his regrets that the situation turned out the way it did. He tried to explain his position from his point of view, and was majorly upset and shocked by the lack of interest expressed from the organizers and associated people, despite him informing them repeatedly and seeking for some actions to be taken. Given he is being honest and genuine about all of this, I can understand his frustration with nobody doing anything about it. He told me he held off a day from blogging about this but couldn’t take it any longer due to lack of action taken by the tournament officials. While it’s both true and not so much (action was being taken but yes it wasn’t the quickest it should have been), I told him that it was very premature for him to make it so public without any further clarifications on the matter, and that he should have been more patient and waited for it to be sorted officially, as he had already notified a FIDE member about it, and that person got the ball rolling. Either way, he conceded it was a premature act on his behalf, but also asked me to understand his position and feelings. I try to see the best in people and am just going to give him the benefit of doubt in his intents entailing no maliciousness. He wished me all the best and said that he hopes I don’t have any hard feelings against him as he has none against me. I asked him to make another post that would clarify the issue to the public, which he promised he will. SO, It’s all over and it was just a silly mistake on my behalf for which I apologize again and I got forfeited as I should have been! Thanks everyone again for your support, very pleased to have received this from you all!
It is nice to clear the air with all involved and while we still have some different viewpoints. I do not regret writing the previous post. I delayed for a day out of respect for the process and the organisers and realised it would also have consequences for me. If you read the comments on chesschat you will see that "shoot the messenger" is very popular. I will just share one example.
"When I first read about this it made me sick, angry and embarrassed (to be part of the chess community), knowing that there are people out there ready to snitch on their fellow chess players for a minor infraction of the rules. This was reported to Kanan's opponent, the arbiters, to FIDE, even random players in the tournament, and if that wasn't enough, put up on a blog! What a disgusting way to treat someone and tarnish their reputation."
I don't know who wrote this and don't really care. There are many similar.
I edited my first draft significantly since it was written "on heat". If I had written nothing I might as well just give up writing altogether.
Izzat agreed that his behaviour was extremely stupid (his words) and that he would have had the same suspicion in my place. We all do very stupid things at times that to an observer would look different than they actually are. That is why there is a presumption of innocence.
Hopefully, we can get back to concentrating on chess. Both of us have failed to win a game so far.