Italian chess player ‘cheats’ using Morse code and spy pendant
Italian chess player allegedly uses a spy pendant containing a hidden camera to cheat during Italian tournament
By Alice Philipson, Rome
5:32PM BST 07 Sep 2015
An Italian chess player has been expelled from one of Italy’s most important tournaments after he allegedly used Morse code and a spy pendant containing a hidden camera to communicate with an accomplice.
Arcangelo Ricciardi entered the International Chess Festival of Imperia ranked 51,366 in the world, but astonished rivals as he breezed through the early stages of the competition to reach the eighth and penultimate round.
Jean Coqueraut, who refereed the tournament in Liguria, northern Italy, said he began to suspect something was wrong early on in the competition.
“In chess, performances like that are impossible,” he told La Stampa newspaper. “I didn’t think he was a genius, I knew he had to be a cheat.
“I kept on looking at him. He was always sitting down, he never got up. It was very strange; we are taking about hours and hours of playing. But most suspicious of all, he always had his arms folded with his thumb under his armpit. He never took it out.”
Mr Coqueraut said he was also “batting his eyelids in the most unnatural way”.
“Then I understood it,” he said. “He was deciphering signals in Morse code.”
The referee attempted to expose Mr Ricciardi by asking him to empty his pockets, but nothing was found. When the Italian was asked to open his shirt, he refused.
Tournament organisers then asked the 37-year old to pass through a metal detector and a sophisticated pendant was found hanging around his neck underneath a shirt. The pendant contained a tiny video camera as well as a mass of wires attached to his body and a 4cm box under his armpit. Mr Ricciardi claimed they were good luck charms.
It is thought the camera was used to transmit the chess game in real time to an accomplice or sophisticated computer, which then suggested moves for Mr Ricciardi through a series of signals received in the box under his arm.
Mr Coqueraut said Mr Ricciardi constantly drank from a glass of water and wiped his face with a handkerchief to conceal the pendant around his neck. An investigation has been launched and the Italian Chess Federation is deciding whether to press charges for sports fraud.
Allegations of cheating are rare at the top level of chess but increasingly sophisticated technology is being used among those who break the rules.
In April, a disgraced Georgian Grandmaster Gaioz Nigalidze was expelled from the Dubai Open after being caught pretending to be desperate for the loo so he could use a mobile phone to cheat. The device was found to be logged into Nigalidze’s social networking account and had one of his games being analysed by a smartphone chess app.
The Imperia Chess Festival is the longest running open event in Italy and attracts some of the biggest names in the sport.