Latvian-Czech chess grandmaster Igors Rausis is reportedly under investigation after he was caught checking his phone while on the toilet in the middle of a tournament he was participating in. Rausis signed a declaration stating that the phone that investigators eventually found in a toilet stall was in fact his, and was suspended from the tournament, according to a Facebook post from FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky. The evidence found is apparently being sent to an ethics committee and the French police will be involved with what happens next as the tournament where Rausis was caught took place in Strasbourg.
Rausis told Chess.com:
I simply lost my mind yesterday. I confirmed the fact of using my phone during the game by written [statement]. What could I say more? Yes, I was tired after the morning game and all the Facebook activity of accusers also have a known impact. At least what I committed yesterday is a good lesson, not for me—I played my last game of chess already.
It’s not clear whether he’s specifically looking at a chess app, but it’s likely that the grandmaster will face a harsh penalty nonetheless given the attitude that FIDE has towards phones during tournaments. Even being caught in possession of one during competition can lead to disqualification.
This suspension does add a wrinkle to Rausis’s unprecedented career, and opens the floodgates for even more reasonable doubt to spill in. The Latvian-Czech grandmaster advanced to become a “super” grandmaster in the span of six years, which is a really quick turnaround for such a feat. The challenge of raising one’s FIDE rating from 2500 (regular grandmaster) to 2700 (“super” grandmaster) in that timespan requires near-perfect play against every opponent. Even more incredible is the fact that he reached this level in his 50s, which immediately caused some to question the sudden jump in success, particularly when he broke into the Top 100 and was the oldest player on that list.
“It’s amazing Rausis wasn’t stopped earlier. Seems naive that people think someone can improve that much in their fifties,” said grandmaster and ex-England player Danny Gormally.
Had Rausis not been caught today, there appears to be evidence that he might have been stopped sooner rather than later, as FIDE’s Fair Play Commission Secretary Yuri Garrett outlines in his own Facebook post that the commission had been closely following Rausis for a while.
Though he doesn’t mention Rausis by name, it’s obvious that that is who he is referring to in the post.
Strangely enough, this isn’t even the first time cheating of this nature has happened—though the career implications were certainly not the same. In 2015, a Georgian grandmaster was banned for three years and stripped of his grandmaster status when he too was caught cheating with a phone app on the toilet during a tournament.