A rising chess star was caught allegedly cheating in a bathroom during a tournament in France this week — apparently confirming months of speculation about his meteoric rise to “super” grandmaster, the game’s governing body said.
Latvian-Czech player Igors Rausis, 58, was suspended after an embarrassing photo emerged showing him sitting on a toilet, looking at a mobile phone, during a break from the competition this week in Strasbourg, the Telegraph reported.
“Igor Rausis caught red-handed at a tournament in Strasbourg,” World Chess Federation director Emil Sutovsky wrote on Facebook on Friday, adding that the player was “long suspected” of cheating.
Phones are banned at tournaments, because chess software can be used to help players gain an advantage; some tournaments require players to pass through metal detectors.
“It is impossible to completely eradicate cheating, but the risk of being caught has increased significantly, and the penalties will become much more substantial,” Sutovsky wrote.
It’s unclear if the photo was the result of a sting operation, or purely chance. He stood to win about $1130 if he won the Strasbourg Open.
The mobile phone was later found in the bathroom — and Rausis signed a declaration admitting it was his, the Telegraph reported.
“I simply lost my mind yesterday,” Rausis said when confronted with the photo, according to the outlet. “I confirmed the fact of using my phone during the game. What could I say more?”
Rausis has stunned the chess world as he racked up winnings at an age when most players decline — he was the oldest player in the top 100, climbing as high as 40.
In just six years, his World Chess Federation rating climbed from 2500 to 2700, and he was the oldest player in the Top 100. As of Saturday, he was ranked 53rd.
“It’s amazing Rausis wasn’t stopped earlier. Seems naive that people think someone can improve that much in their fifties,” grandmaster Danny Gormally told Deadspin.
Without using Rausis’ name, Yuri Garrett, an official with the World Chess Federation’s Fair Play Commission said officials have been “closely following a player for months” after a statistical model alerted them to a player’s unusual success.
“Trust me, the guy didn’t stand a chance from the moment I knew about the incident,” Garrett wrote on Facebook.
Anyone thinking of cheating better watch out for the “good guys” protecting the game’s integrity, he continued.
“Play [on] our team and help us defend the royal game,” he wrote.
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