IM Igors Rausis, who was banned from FIDE rated tournaments and stripped of his grandmaster title after he was caught cheating, showed up at a small rapid tournament in Latvia on Saturday. He was playing under his new name but withdrew from the tournament after a protest from a Latvian grandmaster.
The two-day chess event took place this weekend in the town of Valka, a two-hour drive northeast of Riga. It was a memorial for the Latvian chess personality Vsevolods Dudzinskis who passed away in January.
The event was a fairly small affair with just 37 participants and a total prize find of around 1,000 euros. On Saturday, there was a rapid tournament with a first prize of 140 euros followed by a blitz tournament on Sunday with a first prize of 100 euros. The tournament on Saturday lasted eight rounds and had a time control of 12 minutes with a five-second increment.
It was only before the start of the third round that GM Arturs Neiksans, the heavy favorite as the only grandmaster in the field, noticed that Igors Rausis was also playing. Or rather, Isa Kasimi, the new name that Rausis is now using. (Chess.com has seen his new passport, bearing the new name.)
Although face masks were not mandatory, some players wore them and Kasimi had started wearing one starting from the second round (the photo above is from the first round). Neiksans said he got the impression Kasimi was trying to hide his identity.
Speaking to Chess.com, Kasimi denied this: “I am a well-known figure in Latvian chess. Everyone could have recognized me already during the first round. Besides, I had already played two earlier tournaments, one Fischer Random and one ‘dice chess,’ under my new name.”
As Kasimi is banned from FIDE rated events, Neiksans protested. He was under the impression that the results of the tournament would be sent to FIDE—but that turned out to not be the case.
“Before I went to Valka I double-checked with the Latvian Chess Federation if the tournament is rated,” Kasimi told Chess.com. “I was said it is not registered and therefore never will be rated.”
When Neiksans questioned him about the legitimacy of Kasimi’s participation, the organizer decided to call one of the main arbiters in Latvia, who stated that it was indeed legal for Kasimi to play. Neiksans continued protesting until Kasimi decided to withdraw from the tournament.
Neiksans then wrote a Facebook post in which he asked the opinion of the International Chess Federation. GM Hikaru Nakamura reposted the post on Twitter, and soon after FIDE’s Director General Emil Sutovsky responded.
— Hikaru Nakamura (@GMHikaru) October 10, 2020
To everyone making a fuss of Rausis playing under different ID: This was NOT a FIDE-rated event. So, technically we can not forbid him play in some private, non-rated event. However, I’d expect the organizers of such tournaments to treat it according to the spirit of a decision.
— Emilchess (@EmilSutovsky) October 10, 2020
Sutovsky confirmed that Kasimi was allowed to play the tournament since his ban only relates to FIDE rated tournaments. The FIDE official seemed to suggest that local organizers should ban the player from their non-FIDE tournaments as well: “I’d expect the organizers of such tournaments to treat it according to the spirit of [the] decision.”
Neiksans told Chess.com that the tournament was intended to be FIDE rated but that the organizer was too late to register his tournament with FIDE. “Rausis found a loophole to play again,” said the Latvian grandmaster.
While he acknowledges that, legally, Kasimi could play, Neiksans finds it morally wrong: “It felt like it tainted the memory of Vsevolods Dudzinskis, my former coach, to have a cheater in his first memorial tournament.”
Kasimi told Chess.com that he changed his name earlier this year because of the unflattering photo that was published in numerous publications and on social media. In the picture he can be seen sitting on a toilet, looking at his phone. It was taken during a game at a tournament in Strasbourg in July 2019.
Apart from the name Rausis being forever linked to the photo, Kasimi said he also changed his name because he feels ashamed for his family. He is now using the surname of his ex-wife, with whom he is on good terms.
In December 2019, the now 59-year-old Latvian-Czech player was stripped of his GM title and received a six-year ban from the FIDE ethics commission. Aside from the incident in Strasbourg, he confessed to two earlier cases where he used his phone during games, and one case of pre-arranging the result of a game.
The commission noted that Rausis was still allowed to play correspondence or online chess and can still work as a private coach so long as he’s not involved in official FIDE events. His rating was not changed and he kept his international master, FIDE trainer, and national arbiter titles.