If you run the name Igors Rausis through a search engine, chances are the first image will be of the chess player, sitting fully clothed on a lavatory, consulting his mobile phone while still active in an international match. The infamous incident, that took place in Strasbourg in France last year, resulted in the Grandmaster being stripped of his title and banned from international chess for a record six years.
On Saturday however, the 59-year-old resurfaced in Valka, Latvia as one of the 37 contestants at a small-scale tournament. The only GM present at the event, Arturs Neikšāns, recognised Rausis despite a mask on the latter’s face. Only, it was Rausis playing under a different name – Isa Kasimi.
Rausis or Kasimi?
The cheating scandal last July made global headlines as the photo of Rausis in a toilet cubicle consulting his phone did the rounds online. For breaching the regulations, the international chess body FIDE banned Rausis from competing at international events in December. He, however, decided to show up at the Valka tournament as Isa Kasimi — he even has a passport bearing that name.
GM Neikšāns realised this after the unrated Kasimi comprehensively beat his first-round opponent.
“I looked from afar but couldn’t tell as he was avoiding everybody,” Neikšāns recited the incident to Chess24. “When the third round was about to start, I decided to investigate and came closer. And there he was, Rausis in person, hiding behind a mask and additionally (carrying) a crutch. I immediately established eye contact and asked directly: ‘What are you doing here?’”
Still, not illegal
While bizarre, Rausis or Kasimi’s, decision to compete in Valka was not illegal. He is not allowed to compete at any international events that can give him ELO (ranking) points. The tournament in Valka. however, was a memorial for former Latvian player Vsevolods Dudzinskis who passed away in January this year, and offered no more than the 1000 Euro prize money.
Speaking to Chess24, FIDE general director Emil Sutovsky said: “Fide does not own chess. We can’t decide that Rausis has no right to play the game, as long as the tournament has nothing to do with FIDE. However, I’d expect organisers and indeed players to manifest their attitude towards the participation of a convicted cheater in the tournaments.”
Meanwhile, British GM and FIDE vice-president Nigel Short was outraged.
“I fail to understand why any chess organiser would allow the disgraced… Igors Rausis to participate in their event,” he said to The Times.
It’s not illegal to change one’s name either, but why do it? Rausis/Kasimi explained to Chess.com.
“Because the name Rausis is completely shamed. First of all, I feel sorry for my entire family. Even my daughter was ashamed of this story. This toilet photo, you cannot imagine, it was published everywhere, in all media, especially here in Latvia.”
Man of many identities
Rausis was born in Alchevsk, in the former Soviet Union and present-day Ukraine. Before his chess career, he had been training as a neurologist and worked as an ambulance crew member in Sevastopol, Ukraine.
He became a GM in 1992 when he was representing Latvia. In 2000, he decided to represent Bangladesh and switched to the Czech Republic in 2008. As reported by the Dhaka Tribune last year, he was also the Bangladesh national coach till the incident in Strasbourg.
As a player, he was the oldest in the top 100 and had remarkably not fallen along with the trend of an elder player falling down the ranks. Instead, over the last few years, his ELO rating moved up from the 2500s to the 2700s, a category dubbed ‘Super Grandmaster.’
However, the sudden, rapid and unexpected rise raised many flags. FIDE’s fair play commission was subsequently alerted by a statistical model employed to catch computer cheats on the possibility of Rausis cheating. Secretary of the fair play commission Yuri Garrett confirmed to The Times that they had been “closely following a player (Rausis) for months.”
During the Strasbourg Open, which awarded the winner a prize of 1000 Euros, a photograph was taken of Rausis from above the cubicle, showing him consulting with a software program on his phone. The use of any and all technology, unless approved beforehand, are prohibited, especially mobile phones as there are numerous applications that can analyse and suggest moves.
The official rule
Article 12.3.B in the FIDE handbook states: “Without the permission of the arbiter a player is forbidden to have a mobile phone or other electronic means of communication in the playing venue, unless they are completely switched off. If any such device produces a sound, the player shall lose the game. The opponent shall win.”
The handbook defines the ‘playing venue’ as “playing area, restrooms, refreshment area, area set aside for smoking and other places as designated by the arbiter.”
Not the only one
Though Rausis may be the only known case of a player changing his identity to get into a tournament, he isn’t the only one who has been caught illegally using technology.
Former Georgian GM Gaioz Nigalidze was found using a phone in the toilet at the 2015 Dubai Open. In this incident, the phone was allegedly hidden in the lavatory where Nigalidze would constantly visit. This alarmed his opponent Armenian GM Tigran Petrosian, who then alerted the arbiter. A search of the lavatory confirmed a hidden phone which was logged into Nigalidze’s social media account. He was subsequently handed a three-year ban.
There was also a low ranked Italian player, Arcangelo Ricciardi who was caught for allegedly using Morse Code to win matches. At an event in Imperia in Northern Italy in 2015, Ricciardi, ranked 51,366 in the world beat players ranked in the top 3000, including a French GM and Slovakian International Master. He was believed to have concealed a camera in his pendant and had a box placed under his armpit which would receive the information.
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