Borislav Ivanov – The False Prince Of Bulgaria
Cheating is probably one of the biggest world chess problems. That means unfair play by participants. In most cases, it’s computer-assisted cues. However, today we’ll talk about the story of another cheater who became famous in the early 2010s. His name is Borislav Ivanov.
Technologies are developing very fast: now everyone has access to the Internet from anywhere. Plus chess programs like Deep Fritz, Rybka, and Houdini are emerging and getting smarter. There are more cases of ordinary people playing with the power of a soulless machine. They don’t make a single mistake and beat bewildered opponents with tactical strikes. Stunning accuracy and beauty incarnate! Well, you know what they say: the forbidden fruit is the sweetest.
Recent Examples of Cheating in Chess
Unfortunately, anti-cheating practices that are actively introduced and used in tournaments do not solve the problem. The situation is not moving from the dead point. Recently the chess world got extremely agitated because of the story of the young American talent Hans Niemann. He beat the world champion Magnus Carlsen in St. Louis, playing for black pieces.
And what’s more, the Norwegian defiantly withdrew from the tournament after this game for the first time in his long career! And then the largest online chess platform Chess.com published a detailed report. It confirmed the cases of unfair play by Niemann in online matches. So, the rough diamond turned out to be not as talented as everyone expected.
Borislav Ivanov’s Case: Details
By 2012, the 25-year-old Bulgarian maestro did not stand out regarding his chess prowess. His FIDE rating was about 2220. Borislav’s breakthrough began with a victory at the traditional chess festival in Belogradchik. It annually gathers amateurs with rating up to 2300.
Your humble narrator participated in these competitions the next year after the triumph of our today’s main character. It was the first and only time I heard the organizer’s request at the opening not to use computer cues during the game. This has always been one of the few things that are not even up for discussion since honesty in chess is something that goes without saying. Imagine my surprise to hear such pleas from the festival director. However, he had to because of the painful experience with Borislav Ivanov.
So, after the victory at the amateur tournament, our man dared to challenge grandmasters at the Zadar Open 2012 tournament in Croatia. The Bulgarian showed a stunning result: he scored 6 out of 9, and took fourth place by beating four grandmasters! An unexpectedly strong master candidate!
The famous Ukrainian grandmaster Andrey Sumets participated in this tournament and played against Ivanov. Interestingly, the one-hour delay in the game broadcasting did not affect the level of Borislav’s performance. His game was perfect, and the fact that the grandmaster managed to make a draw was a real miracle.
The only thing that would catch the eye was Borislav’s complete disinterest in what was going on at the board. It seemed as if he didn’t care about the result.
Collective Plead to Reveal The Cheater
Borislav was to play against grandmaster Borki Predojevic in the eighth round. But just before that happened, the judges received a collective letter with a request to check if Ivanov had electronic devices.
The organizers forced the Bulgarian to take off his jacket, replaced his pen, and canceled the game broadcast. All these measures led to a quick defeat of Borislav by the Bosnian grandmaster. Interestingly, it was on that day that Ivanov got interested in other games. He walked around the room, which had not happened before.
The next day, however, the same anti-cheating measures gave no results. Our candidate for master confidently outplayed a strong Croatian maestro Ivan Saric. He got fourth place in the final table, with a ranking performance of 2697! And this is a player who had never been the brightest crayon in the box. All this could not leave anyone indifferent.
Could it be that he did everything fairly after all? But you have to agree that an adult player with a rating of 2220 showing computer accuracy of 95% in every game is an anomaly.
Then, in 2013, Borislav Ivanov defeated the famous grandmaster Kirill Georgiev at a tournament in Kyustendil. He took first place in the competition with a score of 7.5 out of 9.
After a while, a group of Bulgarian chess players sent a petition to the national chess federation. They stated that they would not participate in tournaments with Ivanov. Officials decided to disqualify Borislav for four months.
But then the strongest Bulgarian chess player in history, Veselin Topalov, intervened in the story. He said that the player’s right to take part in the competition could not be restricted without proof of cheating. And doing so only because he is strong can be interpreted as discrimination.
It would seem like a long-awaited return for Borislav, with the Elusive Joe back in the game. But his joy did not last long.
Socks With A Secret
In October 2013 a major tournament was held in Blagoevgrad, the hometown of our Bulgarian maestro. Borislav Ivanov, a native and a brilliant player, could not miss this event.
However, his luck vanished pretty quickly: the American grandmaster Maxim Dlugy asked the judges to check the shoes of the Bulgarian in one of the rounds. He refused to comply point-blank, saying that his socks had an awfully bad smell. This led to his technical defeat.
His last tournament happened in December 2013, in Spain. He had a perfect score of 4.5 out of 5 by the middle of the competition, but he was disqualified. But not because the judges found something in his shoes. Ivanov was not stupid and changed the mechanism for getting cues. But some players noted a slight bulge on the back. So, it was decided to conduct another search before the next round. The man got very nervous, refused to obey, and withdrew from the tournament. And all that was accompanied by resentment-filled complaints about no one believing in his honesty.
Goodbye And Hello Again
The end of the story is not as exciting as expected. A few days later, the Bulgarian Chess Federation, which had once had great hopes about a new chess star, disqualified Borislav Ivanov forever.
The cheater has never been spotted in the world of 64 black-and-white squares again. But in 2017 interesting news emerged: Bulgarian law enforcement authorities detained Ivanov because he was selling fake driving licenses and diplomas.
A lie always finds its way to the surface, does it not? A beautiful tale – a magical rise of a strong player – was just a mere lie, the result of human cunning. It had nothing to do with the professional qualities of Borislav Ivanov as a player.