17-year-old European Chess Champion gets 2-year ban for cheating

Patrycja Waszczuk, the reigning Polish U18 Girls Champion
and 2019 European U16 Girls Champion, has been disqualified for two years
after allegedly being caught using a mobile phone in a toilet during Round 4 of
the Ustroń Chess Festival on August 16th this year. Patrycja played the adult
Polish Women’s Chess Championship a week earlier, with Klaudia Kulon and Monika
Soćko saying they were reduced to tears after playing the youngest opponent in
the field. Her father claims a smear campaign and has appealed, describing the
evidence as circumstantial.

The Polish Chess Federation has disqualified 17-year-old
Patrycja Waszczuk from playing chess for two years after finding her guilty of
using “outside help or electronic doping” during Round
4 of the Ustroń Chess Festival FIDE Open
on August 16th this year. Her draw
in that game was converted into a loss and she was expelled from the

Resolution 1/10/2020 of the Commission for Awards and
Discipline, dated 6 October 2020, was recently
on the Polish Chess Federation website, with all names blacked
out (including, at one point, that of Magnus Carlsen!). 

The main findings are
listed as follows (the emphasis is
our own, for clarity):

  1. Miss Patrycja W
    lied to the arbiters: IA
    (International Arbiter – the highest international arbiter class) … in the
    presence of IA … and the Head of the Silesian Chess Federation Mr … about possessing electronic devices.
  2. She used a
    telephone in the toilet
    , which was confirmed
    by the report of an eye witness
    Ms …
  3. She admitted she had
    another telephone
    , admitting that twice, which was confirmed by witnesses:
    IA … and IA …
  4. She refused to
    show her bag
    , which was confirmed by the testimony of witnesses: IA … … and
    the Head of the Silesian Chess Federation, Mr …
  5. She tried to leave
    the playing hall
    , which was confirmed by the testimony of witnesses: IA … …
  6. She tried to hide
    the telephone in the playing hall
    , which was confirmed by a statement from
    witness Ms …
  7. She used a telephone
    during other events
    , which was confirmed by the testimony of a witness –
    coach of the women’s national team, GM …
  8. An analysis of
    moves made by the accused shows the use of a computer program
    , which was
    confirmed by testimony from the Coach of the Women’s National Team …

The report notes that the Polish Chess Federation applies a
strict zero tolerance approach to the possession of a mobile phone at its main
events such as the Polish Chess Championships, which would bring an automatic
two-year ban. Zero tolerance wasn’t in place at the Ustroń Chess Festival – which featured almost
600 players and had Anatoly Karpov as a guest of honour – but the Commission
says the possession of a phone and the suspicion of its being used is
sufficient for a guilty verdict, even in the absence of other evidence. 

They state there was no doubt of guilt and that Patrycja was clearly fully-aware of what she was doing, and say they applied a two-year
ban rather than a longer sentence (the case of Igors
Rausis being stripped of his GM title and receiving a 6-year ban
is mentioned) due to the young age of the player.

Earlier suspicions

The Commission’s resolution also notes that experts found a
correspondence between Patrycja’s moves and computer chess engine analysis of the
2019 European U16 Girls Championship in Bratislava (replay
the games
), where she took clear first with 7.5/9…

…and the Polish
U18 Girls Championship
in Szklarska Poręba in March 2020, a 39-player open
tournament where she scored a near perfect 7.5/8. The one player she drew
against, Michalina Rudzińska, took
to Facebook on 17th August
, a day after Patrycja had allegedly been caught

She described the suspicions of other players and the feeling of helplessness:

Such a situation should be shocking, but it isn’t for any of
us, because for around 1.5 years the question hasn’t been if she’s cheating,
but when it would be revealed. I played that player myself this year in the
Polish U18 Girls Championship, and after every move she left the playing hall to go to the toilet, but in time trouble, in an objectively easily won
position, she was unable to convert and the game ended in a draw, her only draw
in that tournament, since she won the Championship with an incredible 7.5/8
result, easily beating all the players in the oldest age group.

Were we 100% sure that it was pure cheating? Of course not.
But the way continual suspicion, irritation and a lack of reaction from
the people who should have got involved affected our mental state is
indescribable. I’m not talking even of crying, breakdowns and a feeling of
helplessness after a round, emotions that impacted the further course of the
tournament. It was never about the result. It was about the fact that each of
us knew that something was wrong. And yes, the suspicions were strong, yes,
they were reported. And in reply we heard that we’re jealous, that we can’t
enjoy the success of a colleague and why are we wishing misfortune on her? That
as Polish girls we’re a unit and we play on the same team, we should root for
her, support her, clap when she stands on the podium and proudly listen
to the national anthem. How many people lost medals, the chance of fair and
deserved career development, the fulfilment of dreams? We felt cheated, almost
unable to do anything about it, since, to put it bluntly, there was simply
hardly anyone who wanted to catch her.

The climax, however, came when Patrycja Waszczuk qualified
as the youngest participant to play in the prestigious Polish Women’s Championship, held August 4-12 in Ostrów Wielkopolski. 

can replay any of the games from that event by clicking on a result in the
crosstable below, or hover over a name to see all of a player’s games.

Patrycja announced her arrival on the national stage with a
stunning first round win over 4-time Polish Women’s Champion Jolanta Zawadzka. In
terms of arousing suspicion, the mysterious computer-approved king move 26…Kf8! in the following position was dynamite.

That wouldn’t be the only brilliancy. After 41.Rxc8 Black is doing well after
simply 41…Bxc8, but 41…Ng4!!, the
choice of Stockfish, was a beautiful touch.

Black won in 51 moves.

Kulia Kulon, who was on 5.5/6 when she lost a stunning game
to Patrycja in Round 7, talked first about Jolanta’s game, to
the major Polish news site Onet.pl

During that game she managed to go to the toilet more than a
dozen times over the course of three hours. That was really a lot. And in
itself it was suspicious. In the game against me, she went every two-three
moves at key moments, and when she returned she made a move almost immediately.
Without thinking. It was clear she was getting help in some way, although we
still don’t know how. At the Polish Championship she didn’t have a phone, and
that really made it tougher for us to catch her, although we were all 99.9%
sure that something was wrong.

I was in the form of my life. I wanted to fulfil my dream
and fight for the title of Polish Women’s Champion. I feel cheated. There was
crying and despair. The first thing I did after the loss to Patrycja was to
phone my mum and cry, because I was sure that it wasn’t a clean sporting
contest. More than three months have gone by since the Polish Championship and
not a day has gone by when I haven’t talked to someone about it. I can’t get it
out of my mind.

Klaudia went on to tie for first place before losing out in
a playoff to a heavily-pregnant Karina Cyfka, who beat Patrycja in 82 moves in
Round 2. It wasn’t only players who lost to Waszczuk who were upset, however,
with 8-time Polish Women’s Champion Monika Soćko drawing a
hugely complicated ending in Round 6
. She told Onet:

What happened really hurts. During the tournament we knew
what we were up against. I was so desperate that I wanted to go to the toilet
after her and check if she wasn’t using electronic doping. Two other players
did that, however, and caught her using a telephone. At the Polish
Championship, after my game against Patrycja, we were both checked. And
something squeaked around the level of the belt of her trousers. She was
checked by two teenage girls, who probably weren’t ready for such a situation
and didn’t know what they should do. Still a long time after the Polish
Championship I was shocked by the situation, as the girl isn’t backing down and
still claims that she’s innocent. I’m 42 years old and rarely cry, but after
the game against Patrycja, which I drew, my nerves were gone. For a week after
that event I couldn’t sleep. All because I felt that she was making moves that
wouldn’t have occurred to her. But I couldn’t prove anything. That was a terrible
experience. The situation is unprecedented and sad.

There were just three days after the Polish Chess
Championship before the Ustroń Chess Festival began, with Patrycja finally

“There’s a smear campaign against my daughter”

According to Patrycja’s father Mariusz, however, his
daughter is innocent. He told Onet:

There’s been a smear campaign against my daughter. Terrible hate
has been poured out on her. We’re suffering terribly. People see us as
cheaters, but that’s not true. There’s no evidence. This case is a conspiracy
by two of Patrycja’s direct rivals.

Mariusz makes multiple complaints about the procedure
followed, including arguing that since they’ve appealed the verdict the message under his daughter’s name on the Polish Chess Federation website should be

He complains that COVID-19 concerns were used by the
Commission to avoid giving him access to all the documents and that there were
biased members on the commission – he says the chairman had publicly commented,
“it’s good that this disease [pathology] has come to an end,” before the case had fully
been heard.

He’s hired a lawyer and chess player, Paweł Dziubiński, who successfully
another Polish player, Krzysztof Ejsmont, in 2007. Krzysztof was
accused of computer assistance on the basis of the strength of his moves. Back
then the Commission ruled:

The arbiters did not have indisputable evidence, and
analysis of the program Rybka can at most serve as circumstantial evidence in
the matter.

Mariusz makes it clear they plan to use the same argument,
though in this case there are eye-witness statements and apparent confessions
as well as computer analysis. He gave his version of events in Ustroń:

In Round 4 an arbiter came up to my daughter and informed
her that he’d received a report from one of the players that Patricja had used
a telephone in the toilet. Of course the question was posed of whether she had
it on her. She took her telephone out of her bag and showed that it was
turned off, and then she gave it up. That was in accordance with the rules of
the event, where we read: “A player has the right to have a mobile phone or
other electronic communication device in the playing hall if it’s completely
switched off and kept in a special packet, bag or rucksack”.

The arbiter asked my daughter if she had any other
electronic device. She said she didn’t, after which she was allowed to keep
playing. After the end of the game Patricja was told that she had to undergo a
search of herself and her bag with a metal detector. She agreed, but since
she’s a minor she asked that it could take place in the presence of her
guardian, and at this tournament that was her grandmother. Here we have another
example of stretching the facts. Patricja wanted to phone her grandmother, but
since this was taking place in the playing hall she asked about the possibility
of making a call to her guardian outside, which was described in the Resolution
as an attempt to leave the playing hall. She was also asked about whether she
had a telephone or other electronic device. She then remembered that she also
had a power bank. The arbiters then raised their voices and began to say that
she hadn’t mentioned that previously. My daughter then suggested not waiting
for her grandmother and to carry out the check without the presence of a
guardian. Then the chief arbiter backed out of that. He told Patricja that he
didn’t see the need for that any longer since she’d confessed and that was
sufficient for them. The draw in that game was changed to a loss, and then she
was excluded from the event and he announced that he would report the matter to
the Commission for Awards and Discipline. Therefore no-one was interested in
the possession of another device and what kind of device it was. Also no-one
saw the alleged second telephone. My daughter was wrongfully accused. Moreover,
when she went to the toilet she didn’t take her bag, in which the telephone and
power bank could be found. Without any checking she was made into a bandit and
a cheat.

Grandmaster Radosław Jedynak, the President of the Polish
Chess Federation, commented, referring back to the Polish Women’s Championship.

This kind of cheating is very hard to detect. It’s hard to
confirm, after all, that someone did something in the toilet if you don’t
enter. However, if someone goes to the bathroom over a dozen times over the
course of one game, and then beats one of the best female players, and then
wins against other strong rivals, it gives food for thought.

What’s abundantly clear from the case is the huge impact
cheating, and the suspicion of cheating, has on chess players and events, with
chess players of all ages having been affected in this case. We’ll keep you
updated on any developments.

See also:

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