Checkmate for chess cheat, 14, at championships in Shropshire
An international chess tournament held in Shropshire was hit by scandal when a 14-year-old boy was booted out of the competition on the brink of winning the £600 first prize - for using an electronic device.
The teenager was taking part in the inaugural Four Nations Chess League international congress in Telford and racked up an astonishing – and ultimately judged literally incredible – eight straight wins in the first eight rounds of the nine-round competition.
The schoolboy from Surrey was in the lowest section, for players with an international Fide rating of 1825 or below.
The Fédération Internationale des Échecs (Fide) rankings system governs international chess competition.
But despite a personal rating of a very modest 1286, the competitor was not only beating much stronger opposition but blowing them out of the water.
His lead as the final round approached was already unassailable, but he was not given an opponent.
Chief arbiter Alex Holowczak said: “During a routine anti-cheating check a player was found to have used electronic means to assist them with their games. That player was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
"The details have been forwarded to the Fide Fair Play Commission.”
One Shropshire victim of the youngster, Church Stretton’s Graham Shepherd, said: “He slaughtered me.”
Graham said he had heard various rumours from other players to explain his opponent’s strong performance, but said: “To be honest, I was in such a mess I was concentrating on my game.
“My only thought was that he is too good for this section and should be in the open.”
On a more positive note, the Telford venue for the first-ever event, held at the Park Inn in the town centre, came through with flying colours, and the international competition attracted 10 Grandmasters – surely a record for any Shropshire chess competition – among a total of 109 entries across three sections.
Mr Holowczak said: "This is the first international nine-round tournament we have held, and the reason for holding it in the first place is that 4NCL is in its 25th season, so this is a celebration of the 25th season of the 4NCL.
"The reason we have chosen this venue is when we hold the 4NCL league matches it's one of the most popular ones we visit, with a good location, they like the hotel, and the playing area is very nice."
A number of Shropshire players took part, with Newport's Nat Paul winning the under-2200 performance prize in the Open, which included his first ever win against a titled player, Fide Master Richard Britton.
In the section for players with a rating under 2050, Adrian Zdanowski of Telford's Maddocks club shared joined second place. Declared winner in the eventful under-1825 section was Joe Hirst of Newcastle-under-Lyme.