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U2000 Intrigue at HB

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I received a few messages about this at the time and then another follow-up a week ago. In the final round of the giant HB Challenge in Minneapolis, a player in the under-2000 section by the name of Alexandre Mirtchouk was suspected of receiving assistance. This fascinating scenario was painted by ace TD Carol Jarecki when I contacted her about the matter:

He was suspected of using his cell phone to call someone on the second floor who was looking at Fritz on his laptop. The man upstairs (from Russia) said he was there because his wife was on a business trip to Minneapolis. Mirtchouk was seen by the Chief Floor TD using his cellphone twice with about 5-10 minutes in between -- once in the men's room and once on his way there. He was warned both times -- meanwhile another TD had gone upstairs to see what was going on there. This happened in the final round. Suddenly Mirtchouk bolted and ran out the loading dock exit (he was playing in the back of the very large room). At the time he was 6 - 2.

Wow, hot pursuit! But officially nothing has happened, although a complaint has been filed. His results have been clipped from the crosstable at the HB event site, which seems odd if nothing has been officially decided. His last round opponent was given a bye, apparently good enough for a few thousand dollars.

As Jarecki points out, there is an interesting epilogue:

An interesting follow-up is the recently concluded World Open in Philadelphia. This was the first time, to my knowledge, that Mr. Mirtchouk attempted to play again. Bill was warned about the HB incident and the Ethics Committee filing and pulled him out of the tournament after he played the 5 games of the 3-day schedule (5-0). We spent over 3 hours on the issue and Bill finally decided that there was not enough clear evidence to prove he was cheating. Of course, the concern of litigation is always a strong defense and a serious organizer like Bill must be careful of his actions. So Mr. Mirtchouk went back into the tournament taking a loss for the missed round and finished undefeated 7 1/2 - 1/2, taking a draw in the final round to tie for first U2200. You can be assured that he was watched closely. He says he has been taking lessons from a GM and has improved a lot lately. He lives in NJ and has a history of playing US tournaments for at least 10 years including the USATE, a couple of World Opens, etc. and hasn't been over 2000. I'd like to know which GM is training him -- he'd get a lot more business.

HB Challenge organizer GM Maurice Ashley added, "I, in fact, was looking forward to busting someone so that it sends a clear message that we are deadly serious about removing any person who dares to stain our royal game."

The ACP has been good about pushing for more anti-electronics measures instead of idiotic drug testing. I don't know about metal detectors in the U2000, but this sort of thing, whether or not it happened this time, is a clear and present danger.


A peaceful day at Dortmund so we get some Mirtchouk comments? It sounds like he cheated in Minnesota--but it looks like the person watching him in Philadelphia saw him do nothing wrong in spite of close watching. The excerpt you provide on Philadelphia therefore implies that he actually did get better. Of course, luckily, on serious level, such crap does not occur. I mean, Dortmund GMs are pretty well observed, right?


Closed events with a few participants on a stage are unlikely to see shenanigans. But in big opens with thousands of people wandering all over the place, many with laptops, palmtops, cell phones, it's a serious concern.

I still remember when I first read about the incident in Minnesota. I'm not sure who came off worse, the cheater or the TDs after the comment "Round 8 saw a player in the Under 2000 section make yet another trip to the bathroom. This time the intrepid tournament staff was ready and an NTD followed him into the bathroom, catching him on his cell phone...". I realize cheating is a problem, but this can't be the kind of press the USCF wants. Anyways, this whole thing seems incredibly suspicious, especially since his result at the World Open seems so much better than his result at HB Global and he was supposed to be cheating at the HB Global, not world open. I would be really interested to see gamescores from all of the games he played at both events and make an effort to analyze the play to try to draw some conclusions, without this those two facts are just a paradox. How do you go 6-2 in the U2000 in Minnesota and 8-1 in the U2200 at the World Open. In the words of shaq "It's like the pythagorean theorem, it has no solution" mwahahahahahaha.

Correction: That wording on the headline was really confusing, I guess he actually finished 7.5-1.5 (with that loss being from the round they made him forfeit) and how he let them forfeit that game from him if he hadn't done anything wrong I don't get, but either way, that's still completely imbalanced from 6-2 in U2000 at HB.

Just a simple question... hasn't anyone tried to ban cellphones, PDA's, iPODs/MP3 players and the like from the tournament halls? Seems simple enough.



Wow, you and I have very different definitions of simple. You must love to play the poison pawn najdorf, it looks simple, doesn't it? So when you say "ban" you mean just tell people they're not allowed? Because they also tell everybody to turn their cell phones off and sure enough you always hear cell phones go off at tournaments. Quite often you'll see a doof rude enough to answer it at the board and not just hang up immediately, those are real class acts. As for metal detectors, those don't seem to be the most friendly way of dealing with things, and some people can't have their cell phones completely out of reach (some insist on keeping it on stun) as some doctors, parents, etc. might want to be reached in certain emergencies. But please, propose your "simple" way of banning devices some of which are not even banned.

"bolted and ran out the loading dock exit"

It doesn't take a detective to see that somebody was guilty. Who runs when they are 6-2 going into the last round?

As long as there are no true penalties, fines, or anything of any kind handed down, what is to stop people from trying?

Why not cheat? You get to play in the next tournament, and if you find a better way to hide your cheating ways, then you succeed.

We are in a new era, technology is a part of chess as it is so many other things in our world. It's time to think of something, whether it be banning, using wireless inhibitors, or something. I don't have the answer, but it is something that should be discussed.

Don't see why phone use can't be completely eliminated. People take entrance exams without phone priveleges. Use a phone, lose a point. Can't live without one, stay home. Probably put an end to those 'hey howz the tournament going' or 'when do you think you'll be home' calls.

Must say they were awfully serious about security in minneapolis. I just went to see how spectator friendly the tournament presentation was... and was very put off, at the time, by the 'no spectators allowed' in the playing area. I understand now the concern.

"Mirtchouk was seen by the Chief Floor TD using his cellphone twice with about 5-10 minutes in between -- once in the men's room and once on his way there. He was warned both times"

This is were the TD F*D UP. Should have forfeited the round. just that simple. below is their published policy. would have shown that they were realy serious AND fair. instead of Ashley's namby pamby talk (and i like the guy) and dragging the whole issue out in such an unsatisfactory manner.


No player may use or wear any type of electronic or digital device, phone, blackberry, PDA, computer, ear-piece, headset, communications device, microphone, speaker or the like while playing without the expressed permission of a TD (doctors on call included). The penalty for such use is forfeiture of the round, and an immediate investigation into the nature of the use will be done to determine if dismissal from the tournament is warranted."

Are we sure we want more money in chess? Seems to me, the bigger the pot, the more likely people are to sandbag or find cleaver ways to cheat. We've got to be careful of what we wish for.

I guess chess tournaments will be added to the list of places I bring my cell phone jammer.
1) Movie theatres
2) Restaurants
3) Chess tournaments

It's just a matter of time before we see Cochlear ear implants.
Phase one for cheaters:
Hearing aid that fits neatly within the ear that looks like legit medical devices. Instead of helping with hearing, it would be a RF or Cell receiver type device.
Phase two: embedding the device within the ear canal so that it would not be detectable unless by medical personel.

The cost of the phase two plan is cost prohibitive...but who knows..

I was at the World Open and played in the under-2200 section. Mirtchouk was on 5-0 when I heard he had been thrown out. Each of his opponents was given 1/2-point. After the lengthy meeting, he was reinstated with a 0-point bye. His opponents' half-points were then revoked and the pairings had to be changed.

I was about to play a player who wondered how he could have 4 points one round and then 3.5 in the next. Well... that's what happened and when Goichberg explained it, it didn't assuage any emotions.

Mirtchouk destroyed his 7th round opponent Scott Webster (who I played a couple of years ago) and then drew with Lawyer Times in the last. Perhaps that training paid off, or something else happened. Someone should have run his games through a database the way they do on the ICC.

I remember a few years ago in the World Open two Russian brothers were caught cheating when one would watch the others' game and they would separately met outside to discuss it in Russian. The opponent (who was about to get mated) followed the opponent outside where he heard them conversing about the game. As large scene evolved with screaming and shouting and the Russian guy slipped when trying to explain his case. They were disqualified.

You don't need to embed anything in your ear when you have a knit cap. No hats in the tournament hall! No long hair! Definitely no headphones (sorry, Shabba).

Couldnt the TD confiscate the cell phone and ask the participant to provide cell phone usage records? if a player is not guilty of using the cell phone, he/she shd have no problems getting the records from the service provider.

I am not saying this is easy, but it is at least a solution.

I personally witnessed Mirtchouk's son cheat at a local tournament in NJ and the suspicion was that his father was helping him as well, though nothing regarding that help was proven. It seems that the apple does not fall far from the tree.


If you want to accuse somebody of cheating, you need to say who you are. If you anonymously accuse anybody of cheating , your allegations won't have any credibility.

None of this seems to address the issue I'm curious about. There is no evidence that this guy cheated at the World Open, but I find it hard to believe a guy who scored 7.5-1.5 at the world open (with that 1 loss being from a forfeit) would have any need to cheat to score 6-2 in the U2000 at HB Global, either there were a TON of sandbaggers at HB Global (more than World Open?) or this guy has a twin that is much worse at chess, either way, this needs to be explained.


Speaking hypothetically, I don't see how the World Open result is relevant to what happened at the HB. Who knows, maybe the guy was on fire in Philly, maybe he got lucky, maybe his opponents had too many cheesesteaks and coudn't handle the murderers' row of G/45s. And maybe in Minneapolis, he drifted into an even or worse position, panicked, realized there was $1K to $2K on the line, and phoned for some assistance. Either way, he used a cell phone during the tournament, and even if the discussion on the phone was innocent, it was still pretty stupid considering how the TDs warned us about usage ad nauseum at the tournament.
Regardless, it looks pretty bad what he did at the HB Global, and I doubt Jarecki would give that account unless they had a strong case. Usually, I'm not a proponent of extreme measures, but the picture the TDs paint is pretty clear. I would want players like that banned from big-money events for life. Stuff like that destroys my faith in the system. Speaking as a mediocre to pathetic player who's stuck in the chess purgatory class system, if I knew that the tournament organizers knew about something like this and didn't ban him/her for future events, it makes me not want to spend the $1000 tournament costs and play another big event. I mean it's hard enough to get on a roll at these huge money swisses, now I have to worry about rule-breakers who get a second pass?

John (above) has the right observation though. If you're going to post hard-line rules about cellphone usage, then you have to follow through. All confusion that followed resulted from the TD's failure to do so.

After reading the rules, personally I avoided the HB not only because of the absurd expense, but also because I'm a nervous chessplayer and to play without causing suspicion I'd have to install a catheter.

Look at World Open as an alibi, he could say something like "I had a 2500 performance in an event where you don't think I cheated, yet you think I need to cheat to have a 2300 performance". It's circumstantial evidence, but so is the fact that he ran, there is no hard evidence going either way. His actions seems suspicious, but even motive, placement, and action are no guarantee that he did it, go watch the Shawshank Redemption if you don't believe me. :-)

Yes that's true. Andy DuFresne had a gun, had a motive as a jealous husband, and looked strangely disinterested in the courtroom as that idiot judge sentenced him to a billion years in the joint. That doesn't make him a guilty man, you are correct.
But here we have a case of someone getting caught breaking a clearly defined rule of no cell phone usage. And, there was a witness: a TD.
In my case, I kept my phone hooked up to the charger in my hotel room so the poor thing never saw the light of day during tournament game hours. Why? Because this rule was supposed to be seriously enforced.
Does this mean he cheated? Of course there's no hard evidence. But tournament directors aren't federal prosecutors, and they don't need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty of cheating. Strong circumstantial evidence should be good enough. It's not like this goes on anyone's criminal record anyway.
Anyway, I like your reference to Shawshank - great movie. Now I'm in a good mood!! :-)

I don't understand- if the guy was caught on a cellphone during the round, why wasn't he forfeited right then and there? wasn't that the rule? sounds pretty cut and dry to me.

You don't have to [i]prove[/i] someone was cheating to ban them from the premises.
In casinos if they suspect you of counting cards (totally legal BTW). They just ask you to leave. They charge with criminal trespass if you don't leave. You do not have a right to play blackjack (or chess)
Most chess tournaments are played on private property and run by private organizations.

Well, you might need to prove someone was cheating if you don't want to refund their entry fee or them to argue entitled prize money. A casino can kick you out for counting cards, they can't take away the money you've won. I agree that the cell phone rule sounds pretty cut and dry, but if they weren't enforcing it (and from what I've heard they weren't) then they can't use that as their only argument. Not finishing your last round game is good enough to disqualify a person from prizes, especially since 6-3 probably didn't get anything. But did he do anything wrong at the World Open? Should he not have fought for that extra game that was just declared a loss?

I've never been at a tournament where you could be disqualified for talking to other people period, although I did hear this rule was supposed to be in effect for the last US Championships. How many people have talk to a friend just to say hello, or even without any malicious intentions mentioned that they though they were winning, this is technically talking about the game, but it's probably not in the spirit of the rules. How about next time I see two people talking during a game I insist that they both be disqualified when neither of them had anything to do with my game. What if you say hello to a friend while there happens to be a critical position on the board, sound like a smoking gun?

Here's your solution to the "cheating" problem. Automatic forfeit for any noise a person makes from the time his clock starts, even if he hasn't arrived at the tournament hall yet. I hope you're not sick, that cough could cost you a few grand in the last round.

I realize in this particular case the evidence looks bad, but I'm a fan of the american justice ideals and of the opinion that it is far worse to punish an innocent man than to free a guilty one. Please explain to me what he "got away with" at HB Foundation. Seems like half the people on this post would prefer it if everybody had to go through a full body cavity search before entering the tournament hall. Maybe the solution is to eliminate large class prizes altogether :-). It's a lot easier to tell 30-40 titled players some of whose livelyhoods depends on chess than some player with no respect for the game.

why is there confusion as to the guy's guilt??? didnt he run out the back door as he was confronted? why is bill goichberg not sure the guy cheated?
i think people who cheat should not be allowed to enter, or at least win a prize, in any other tournament. just my opinion.

I have warned about this for years, since I used to play in the 1980s, and even back then it was too easy to cheat just by consulting stronger players. Now it's just ridiculous.

I recommend fast time controls on the chess servers over the tournaments, because you'll get a better idea of your strength, and because it doesn't cost anything.

These tournaments are being corrupted by this, and unless they want to get really serious (like the top boards have to play in isolation), all they'll do is drive away more and more business.

I have to say I totally agree with John. I played in this tournament only because I knew they would have strict rules to prevent cheating. If I had known someone could be talking on a cell phone during a game and only get warnings I would *not* have come.

The rules were clear. You simply can't be found using a cell during your game or you forfeit the round. There was no nonsense about trying to find out who you were talking to or what you were talking about. (how coudl you really prove what was said??) I'm sure many participants *relied* on the promise that these rules would be enforced *before* they paid $300 to the organizer as an EF.

Here are his ratings over the last 13 years. This kind of progress isn't impossible - he takes a few years off, plays a lot on the internet, and then presto! Still, I'd like to see his TPR for those two tournaments...

2005-04 1988
2005-02 1987
2004-12 1908
2004-10 1877
2004-08 1877
2004-06 1843
2003-10 1860
2003-08 1804
1999-12 1757
1999-06 1757
1999-04 1757
1998-12 1644
1998-08 1644
1994-12 1600
1994-06 1600
1994-04 1600
1994-02 1603
1993-10 1660
1992-12 1577
1992-10 1577
1992-06 1577

His TPR after five rounds at the World Open was over 2500.

He may be legit, but it is unlikely that someone could 'play up' a section and then summarily destroy the competition. Of course, he didn't play any GMs... strong players, but no professionals. All they really need to do is look at his games and Fritz.

I doubt if this case will be resolved. They should make his rating floor 2200 now. The truth would certainly come out then.

I believe I can shed some interesting light about Mr. Mirtchouk...

He seems to be the player that walked into my NJ club in the fall of 1994...played two blitz tournaments, with combined TPR of about 2150...

My club had acquired some inexpensive Jantar clocks, and held a "Win A Clock" Quad in December 1994 with a $ 10 EF....one would think that the prize would be too modest for a true sandbagger, but...

Mirtchouk enters the event at the last possible moment...lists 1600 as his USCF rating (a hint that he "floored")...realistic estimates of his playing strength were 2000-2300...I consulted with an Expert and an A player who had played him in the blitz events...it was decided that he would be seeded for this event at a 2000 rating (this is in accordance with USCF rules that permit an organizer, for good case, to assign an estimated rating to any player)..which would have put him in the top section against Expert opposition...Mirtchouk withdrew hurriedly and bolted from the premises, never to be seen again...

A brief look at his early tournament history is a clue...in his first (money) event, he scored 4-1 vs 1920 avg opposition, earning a 2160 provisional rating..his second event, the USATE, he scored 1-5 against 1394 avg opposition (the win was against a youngster rated well under 1000; I suspect if he had dropped that game it would have attracted undue attention!)..

A rational observer would likely believe that he has cheated repeatedly...

I took a photo of the Lawyer Times - Mirtchouk game at the World Open. Is this the person? He's on the right.


It would really be a shame if he did cheat... he really shook up the under-2200 section. A lot of people were frustrated. If they had gotten gist of schachmeister's story then things may have been different.

Daimm Shabazz, a nice photo, but as I mentioned earlier Mirtchouk's appearances at our club were in 1994, before the digital camera era, and we did not routinely take photos at our events.

Given this human's finite visual memory, and the fact that one's appearance can have major changes in a decade, positive ID from your photo is impossible.

A further look at Mirtchouk's USCF rating record seems to show classic sandbagging patterns..which makes the current allegations even more serious...

If the allegations are correct, then a reasonable penalty would be a 3-5 year suspension from USCF, and a lifetime "floor" of 2500, disqualifying him from rating-restricted events or class prizes..

The idea of giving him a floor does not sound unreasonable, however your suggest of a foor 300 points higher than the highest floor available might be a little extreme. Nakamura's floor is only 2200, same with Kamsky, 2200 for winning over $1000 U2200 seems about right with the rule book.


There is no floor for winning over $1,000 in U2200. The floors stop at 2000, unless there is some extreme case. As I was told at Foxwoods in 2003, when I tied for 3rd behind the two winners in the U2200, that rating is one you have to get on your own. Only extreme cases are met with a 2200 floor, for example if somebody goes from 2300 to 2100 just before World Open and wins the section, in which case it is clear that you do not want this master trying this point drop thing again. Another player I know has a CCA 2200 rating, so that he can't play the sections again, but this is only AFTER he won several U2200 tournaments. There are numerous multiple U2200 winners on the circuit, because, as I said, there is no automatic floor for this section. Also, I think that it is worth noting that a master is just not guaranteed to win an U2200 section; experts beat masters all the time, and I know of one master who played this year (legitimately lost a handful of points at US Amateur Team event) and finished with 6/9, same score as other experts.



You make an interesting point I would like to comment on. I recently won a nice prize in the U2000 section at the National Open, I had recently been over 2000 for the first, but had mixed results and legitimately ended up U2000 by mere coincidence of a tournament that got rated before the list was unofficially published, but did not make the list. Anyways, I played U2000 because of this trying to make the best of my opportunity, but I believe this represents a fairly big problem. Even players who do not intentionally drop rating, but play in a section below their peak rating represents the fact that I believe there is too much incentive for players who are not masters to try to win money.

My example. A smart guy I knew came out of a multi-year retirement from chess to play in HB Global and won his section. He took home a bigger prize in a mid-class section than most players (even those who become weak masters) do in their entire chess careers. How is this an incentive to play in more chess tournaments? I mention this only because of this tournament that has been advertized that will be taking place in Las Vegas in September of 2006, the prize fund is FLAT!!!!! Which means the winner of the open section will recieve just as much money as the winner of the U1200 section (currently advertized at $4500). This is rediculous. Why should an amateur who takes up chess as a hobby make as much money as a professional who might depend on chess to support his livelyhood? And if such a division is logical why is there such a huge rating difference (which is level-wise much bigger than that same difference for low ratings due to the reduced k factor) between the 2200 section and the open section won by 2600's?


I think that there is quite a bit to be said for the difficulty of winning one of these tournaments. I recall how hard it was for me to try to win U1600 at World Open in 2001, and I ended up not even winning it, going 7.5/9 to the winner's 8/9. Nevertheless, my recollection from that section suggests that there may be some misconception about whether or not players try to advance. I peaked at 2100 (currently 2080), the kid who won the section also peaked at a little over 2100, and there were several other youngsters who have hit that level or higher: Marc Arnold (2200+), Aleks Pelekhaty (2200+), Parker Zhao (2100+), Alex Lenderman (2400+ and two IM norms)... Yes, I realize that the commonality here is that these were all young players (I am the oldest of the 2000+ group from that section at 25 now), but I would say that these players DID see benefit in improving. Now, there are people who aim to lower ratings in order to play in sections, but they don't win nearly as often as people would imagine. Usually, it is some up-and-coming kid or college student whose rating hasn't caught up to his ability challenging for first in these sections.

Regarding prize funds, I think that sectional prize funds MUST be large in order to gain the desired turnout. Entry fees are high, and hotel and travel costs are also expensive, so weak prize funds would draw only the most devoted chess fans to Philly in July if the World Open did not offer big money in each section. I, too, recognize that it is a tragedy that someone should earn $10,000 in one weekend for beating a group of 1500s while IMs are hoping to get back what they invested, but if the tournaments are going to be structured so that people play only their own sections, then the prize funds are necessary or a low turnout will be the result. Maybe if there are more tournaments along the lines of the US Open, in which everyone competes against everyone else and can win an overall prize but also is eligible for some rating-designated class prize ($1800 for U1800, $2000 for U2000, $2200 for U2200), it might be more fair to the higher-rated players, but I do not see the big tournaments like Foxwoods or World Open going away. They serve a purpose, both for the bank accounts of the organizers and for the hopes of the competitors, and they are a primary reason for people who do not have the talent to make master to continue playing. (It is not always about desire.)

In addition to this, stronger players have the option of making money off of the game in ways unavailable to weaker players, such as through giving lessons, writing books, etc. Let me tell you, there is a LOT more money in coaching than there is in playing!



I gues as categories of winners go, I would be in the college student one (although I only started playing once I came to school). I'm not saying that the prize funds for the lower sections shouldn't be large, but I don't think they need to be proportionally as big. I think it would be quite reasonable for the open section first prize fund to be 40% of the total prize fund, this probably means not paying 10 prizes deep in the class sections, but I think this is appropriate. I really think it's those big top 3 prizes that draw people, not the $300 on a $200 entry fee for finishing 10th (especially since people who get those prizes often get less because of ties). I actually like the style of the US Open payouts:
Top places: $6000-3000-2000-1000-600-400-300-200.
Top Master: (2200-2399) $2000-1000-600-400.
Top Expert: $2000-1000-600-400.
Top Class A: $2000-1000-600-400.
Top Class B: $2000-1000-600-400.
Top Class C: $2000-1000-600-400.
Top Class D: $1500-700-500-300.
Top Class E: $1200-600-400-200.
Top Unrated: $600-300-200.

Although I think that it should scale up a little even from class C to Master(2200-2399), since this is an additional encouragement to be playing in higher sections. I really don't think the top C player should get just as much as a good master even if there is money available to the masters in other ways because they normally have to play the tournament INSTEAD of giving lessons, we should give them incentives to play. The other change I would make is to take off all those 4th place prizes and add some more money to the top section. As it stands right now amateurs will be bringing home at least 66.25% of the prize fund. I'd say as a whole there's a lot more money offerred to people who don't play chess and that the idea should be to have big enough prize funds that strong players can reasonably choose chess as a career.


As I said before, such a prize structure just would not draw the numbers who appear in Philly every year. People didn't go to Minnesota in May because they wanted to check out the scenery, but rather to compete for the major prizes available. Organizers would suffer big hits in terms of turnout if they decided to make US Open formats the order of the day across the board, and you can rest assured that they will not, as a collective, make such a move as this.

I also must take issue with your idea of people who "don't play chess" making money. Just because one is not a GM does not mean that one does not spend a lot of time studying chess. I know quite a few players below expert level who read a lot of books, go over their games with Fritz, and pay for lessons in hopes of getting better. You make it sound as though reaching the higher levels is simply a matter of wanting to do it, and this is certainly not the case. I would not, therefore, agree with your argument that lower prize funds convince people to try to get better; it is more likely to convince people who are able to make only minimal progress that they have no business playing in these tournaments. I wholeheartedly agree that if a player finishes clear second in Open, he or she should not make less than someone who wins clear first in U1800, but I think that making prize funds top-heavy will serve more to diminish participation than to convince participants that they "want" to get better. Most participants already want to get better, I would contend.




Just to clarify my previous point, what I am saying is that it is likely that more top-heavy prize funds will make it more plausible for strong players to pursue a career in chess. It is more likely that prize funds of similar distribution to the World Open will encourage participation by larger numbers of people. You will not have both, unless chess tournaments go the way of the Ashley event and offer some $50,000 first prize in the open section. If the overall prize fund increases in such a dramatic manner, then it may be possible to accomplish both, but unless this happens, you will just have people avoiding the big tournaments if the prize funds are smaller. A ticket from California to Philadelphia costs the same amount whether one is headed there to play for $10,000 or $10, and hotel rates remain the same, so the payoff would not be worth the financial risk.



I vividly remember the puny class prizes of the late 60's, early 70's when I was a junior player. Tournament attendance figures in those days were tiny by todays standards obviously. Amateur players competed almost exclusively in their own region. The masses don't want to go back to that. On the other hand, a large enough percentage of amateur players like myself seem to enjoy being able to observe titled players at work at large open tournaments to justify some extra $$$ from entry fee's being diverted in their direction. I suspect there's a large percentage of lower class competitors who view their chances of winning a 4 figure prize as being a long shot..but as reasonable a gamble as blowing it at a poker or blackjack table. That seems to be enough to bring them back year after year. Hey, we amateurs are important in the sense that we're the ones who buy the books and shell out $$$ for lessons to help support the top players. As a class "A" competitor (I played in the same National open section Jegutman won..congrats man) I'm more leery of skilled foreign ringers with relatively unestablished USCF ratings screwing me out of a prize than I am of cell phone chicanery. I might feel differently if I had attended the tournaments discussed above of course.

In many niche sports in the US, professionals receive far more in endorsements and sponsorship than they do in cash prizes.

For example, it's not at all uncommon for an LPGA player with $4,000 in winnings for the year to still have $50,000 in sponsorship.

In US cycling, a top prize of $2,500 for a race is typical, top racers often end up with about $5,000 a year in prize money, but can again attract sponsorship of $30,000 or more.

If large class prizes generate enough money to allow for top section prizes that are large enough to make an interesting story, that's good.

To make it possible for strong players to pursue a career in chess, we need to rethink where their money will come from, and build organizations that can successfully build the triangle of sponsors-pros-fans that other niche sports use.


Hey! I just checked the USCF site, and they floored U2200 winners from World Open at 2200! They told me that they did not do this at Foxwoods in 2003, and I feel very cheated by it now. I'm torn between trying to play in and win one of these sections now to get the floor and considering it all BS and deciding against playing altogether. This is so unfair that they are now doing this, but told me that they didn't!



Hrrrm. Strange how they've listed floors from a CCA event, but my floor for national open, a USCF event, is still not listed.

Peace Maliq...

They've been flooring for awhile. I know Sam Barsky was floored after winning an under-2200 prize and then could barely score a point in the Open sections.

At the HB Global, I played Barsky (we drew) and asked him how he got back down in the under-2200. I actually knew the reason because I had followed his results for a couple of years. He said he pleaded a convincing case and they shifted him back down. He said (paraphrasing), "Every tournament I'd play a few rounds and withdraw. It was ridiculous."


They floor in specific cases, Daaim, so that one person cannot continue to win the section over and over again. However, the policy is that U2200 is NOT floored automatically. Goichberg just explained to me that somebody in the rating office probably was a bit overzealous and floored everybody from all of the sections. He said that he did NOT submit the winners of the U2200 for floors, and that he expects the floors to be lowered. I know there are gonna be some people who are pissed at me, but I was just asking how come I couldn't get the floor for Foxwoods 2003 but yet these players got the floor, and he clarified that it was an error.



Hey Guys I came across this website.

First off, Mirtchouk clearly cheated. In Minnesota, why would you run from a TD and go outside if you had nothing to hide? That's cuz if you're robbing a bank, you don't stop and chit-chat with cops. Any honest person, would just explain that his wife just called and the baby is sick or something like that. Instead he just ran.
At World Open, I competed in the U2200 section, and I agree that it was ridiculous for players to first get a half point and then have it taken away the next round. That means the tournament truly was NOT Swiss System. The way I see it, if you're confident enough to give all his opponents a half point "you played a cheater" gift its best you not let the cheater back in the tournament. At the very lest there is much less confusion. No formal announcement was made when he was allowed back in the tournament either. We're not just participants, but paying customers (most of us happy & returning customers) and an update would have been appreciated.

The fact that he was given a Zero point bye for round 7 even though he fought and won to be reinstated still boggles my mind. If he's truly innocent, why not get atleast a half point bye?

He was watched in the later rounds of the tournament, however he did get up from the table a couple of times in the brief last round (I think the game was not longer than 15 moves). No one followed him when he got up from the table and went outside the tourney room for a moment. He looked like he had a PDA in his jacket pocket. PDA's have the capability to run Pocket Fritz on them. Within 15 seconds you can have a 2550 engine giving you your next move. I'm not saying thats how he cheated, its just possible.
It also appeared to me like he had an ear-piece on. He could have been receiving moves via transmitting in that ear-piece. Then how could the transmitttee see the board? It's possible he had a simple camera on his person (even on his glasses). This equipment would MAYBE cost $2,000 (though I am guessing) and the payoff of atleast $5,000 more than covers its expense with virtually no risk.

Again this is just a guess, but his play in round 9 (specifically the opening) was very Fritz like. I believe you can find the game on the chessdrum website. Also I was playing next to him in round 7, and the play seemed somewhat Fritz like.
I don't mean to boldly accuse, but I am just theorizing and asking everyone to just open their eyes to the possibilities that are open for a hardcore cheater. His rating history screams Sandbagger, and there is strong evidence that he cheated in Minnesota. Such players should never be allowed to play for big money again.

Also, Maliq Soter mentions World Open U1600 2001 with some participants. Alex Lenderman didn't play U1600 at World Open, he instead got clear 2nd at Foxwoods U1600 2001 and then scored 2nd-3rd-4th in u1800 World Open 2001.

I was "the kid" he was referring to that won the event with a clear 8.0/9.0 and I don't think I have "peaked" at 2100 (right now 2113). The cost of playing over the board, with mixed goals of playing in big tourneys or going to make master, and the deflationary rating system make it less than easy for me to get my rating up. I say that the rating system is deflationary because when they instated the new rating system, they made it harder for Experts and Masters to lose points. This in turn made it just as hard for Experts and Masters to Gain Points. Ok just wanted to clear that up.

Chess really is the royal game, and cheaters tarnish it. Hopefully something will be done in the near future. I will be more than supportive to any anti-cheating efforts put forth. Go Chess.



Yeah, Travis, you are correct about Lenderman. I was going off of memory, but he actually played U1600 at Foxwoods. (I remembered it being a big tournament, but that was so long ago.) Also, peaked is probably the wrong word. I didn't mean to imply that we got to 2100 and have no chance ever to make 2200, because that is far from true. I am in grad school now, so I will take a while, but I intend to get to 2200 when I finish my degree, if not before. BTW, I thought you knew both of my names, but maybe not. I used to coach Greg Fernandez, and I helped you win that World Open! I'm sure you've got it now.



Yes Maliq, I know your other name is Ervin Matthew. Yes!! You beating Gary Point in round 9 locked you guys at 7.5, and allowed me to slide into first with 8. An awesome end to the tournament. It's cool, I was pretty sure what you meant but just wanted to make sure. I don't think you've peaked at 2100 either :-).

Yes Greg Fernandez is a great guy, he goes to St. John's Univ. now (my college) and is a good friend of mine.

Honestly it sounds to me like most of you play chess for the money! Chess at the lower levels is not about the money and I hope that amateur chess players would be willing to just play for lower stakes and lower costs. Because in the end even the best amateurs only wind up even, as the house, accomodations and food all suck out quite a significant portion of the prize fund.

Yes it should be noted that a master rated 2250 does not have such an amazing chance of winning the under 2200 section. Just taking a rough estimate of his chances. We assume that he plays all players around 2100 opposition. His chances of scoring >=8 are around 10%, I guess. His chance of making a prize is quite a bit better >=7 The pot odds might justify entry at this rating, but it is not a slam dunk move, because hitting 7 might land you 1000 bucks which will make you about =$500 tab to pay with no reward.

what I meant was =500 tab and no reward.

Hello, I played in HB global. I do not recall any great measures to catch cheats. Noone watches where you go when you leave the playing hall. Noone was in the bathroom looking for cheats. Everyone was talking as soon as they exited the playing hall, and some even in the playing hall. Just got back from Foxwoods 07. The guy next to me arrived 35 minutes late for round 6. His opponent wasnt there yet either. He didnt realize there were some closing announcements and nobodies games started until 10:25 a.m. (scheduled time 10 a.m). Anyway the guy started his opponents clock with 30 minutes already ticked off (he cheated his opponent out of 30 minutes), made his first move and started the clock. After 30 minutes, he called for a TD and claimed a victory by forfeit. The TD asked him if both clocks were started at 1 hour, and pointed out that it was suspicious because games started at 10:25 and the guy had claimed a forfeit for no show with one hour ticked off the clock - but it was only 11 a.m.! He told the TD that he started the timer at 1 hour for both players and the TD acquiesced to giving the full point. I would have gladly reported the guy, but he finished with less than 4 points in the tourney, and the only thing he succeeded in doing, was possibly cheating himself out of an opportunity to get 7 games for his entrance fee. Anyway, there were people using cell phones in the playing hall, and people wearing headphones as well. The rules actually allowed headphones if you were not near the leader board. I think it might be too much to ask the organizers to be the leaders in anti-cheating. Let's get a representative from the uscf to be in charge of this issue. And one last thing, I would like to see some penalties against the guys that go around making cheating accusations with no evidence. There are a lot of paranoid guys out there that cant fathom that they could lose to someone with a lower rating. They need to be taught that they cant make willy nilly accusations. They are almost as big a problem, I think.

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