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Cheating/Sandbagging at Nationals

Here is a valuable lesson for everyone. Always play your best.

Elizabeth Spiegel's blog

intermittent thoughts on my life and work as the chess coach at IS 318, a public middle school in Brooklyn


Cheating at the National Junior High

Last weekend, at the National Junior High School Chess

Championship, Henderson Middle School from El Paso Texas "won" the under 750 and Under 1000 sections

with teams of obviously sandbagged players. This

was brought to the attention of Chief TD David Hater

by many coaches, but he felt it was not his

responsibility to act.

Let's examine the evidence.

The Under 1000 team members are

Ra***ez, Saul (7.0, 899)

Ra***ez, Juan (6.5, 867)

Pal***no, Carlos (6.0, 760)

Ar**jo, Carlos (4.5, 884)

Why are their ratings under 900, you are thinking?

Because that allowed them to play in and win the

Texas Under 900 championship.

To get their ratings under 900 for these events,

they claim to have played a two round match in

Las Cruces, NM, where they lost 26-0, most of

which were 400+ point upsets.

This was rated as a tournament, rather than a match;

perhaps accidentally or perhaps because there's an

anti-sandbagging rule that says you can only lose 50

points in a match.

My assistant principal, John Galvin, reported this at

7 pm Saturday. At the 2:30 meeting the next day, there

was some disagreement about whether these results

were spectacularly unlikely or actually impossible

A parent from my team who is also a mathematician

was kind enough to run some numbers for me (results

have been reviewed by a few of his colleagues and

detailed discussion is in the comments. )

His analysis showed the odds of losing 26-0 with the

rating differentials is 1 in 3x 10^21


Without considering ratings, it's 1 in 263,000,000.

When asked, the Henderson coach attributed his team's

poor performance to "being kids" and coming from

underprivileged homes.

The Under 750 team is

R**z, Alessandra (7.0, 734)

Arga***na, Aime (6.0, 585)

Ag***re, Devante (5.0, 632)

Ji***ez, Jose Luis (5.0, 654)

Valadez, Angelica (5.0, 683)

On Jan 19, 2019, they held another tournmanent /

match in New Mexico in which the Texas players

again did very very poorly. This time their under

750 team goes under. Notice how the MSA report lists

the players' states in the left hand corner so you can

easily see how badly Texas fared.

The TD supervising these tournaments, Will Barela,

is also the President of the New Mexico Chess Association.

Looking through his directing history reveals some,

lets' say ... "purposeful" events. Between Dec 28 and

Jan 5 of 2017/2018, he rated a series of 15 multi

section tournaments, in which a master who was

dropping dangerously close to 2200, beat kids rated

100-1000 in hundreds of games, thereby obtaining

his life master title.

Congratulations to Life Master Benjamin Corarreti,


I have never seen more obvious evident of sandbagging.

There is no attempt to hide the thrown games, not a

single draw.

USCF officials could have moved their sections and saved

the integrity and reputation of their tournament; they

were told at the beginning of round 5. Instead, they

insist it needs to be handled by the Ethics Committee.

Handing it off to the Ethics Committee has enormous

costs. The entire credibility of the tournament

experience is ruined for everyone. A confidential

committee decision six months later does nothing

to fix this. The cheated teams will never get to walk

across the stage; they'll never get the newspaper

articles, or the homecoming celebration, or the

exhilaration of that night.

I know there will be cases where the evidence is not

clear and the TDs can't, in good conscience, act. But

this is not that situation. This is the clearest, most

unambiguous case of cheating POSSIBLE.

If you aren't going to act on this, you can't claim to

be enforcing the rules.

It's unfortunate it wasn't handled well at the time,

and more unfortunate (see next post) that the

USCF is doubling down on their new stated policy of

not interfering in cheating in progress.

The USCF ought now to announce the cheating

publicly and congratulate Metcalf and Thomas

Edison on their wins in the U750 and U1000

sections, and Scotty Gordon and Sameris Desvignes

on the individual triumphs.

In future, under sections should use peak rating.

Posted by Elizabeth Vicary at 10:51 AM

US Chess Statement on Cheating Allegations

By US Chess|April 13, 2018|News

Recent social media posts reference cheating allegations involving a team that participated in the 2018 National Junior High Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, from April 6-8. The US Chess Federation makes the following clear:

  1. No cheating happened, nor is alleged to have happened, at the 2018 National Junior High Championship; the alleged incident took place prior to our event.

  2. US Chess was notified late during the fifth round of the seven-round event that a team was possibly ineligible to be in the section in which they were competing due to illegal ratings manipulations at a prior event. Because the presented evidence was circumstantial, the Chief Tournament Director on the scene made the decision to allow the team to continue to play. This decision was presented to US Chess for review prior to its communication. The US Chess Director of Events, as the organizer of record, concurred with the Chief Tournament Director’s ruling.

  3. US Chess has a well-established procedure to handle accusations of cheating or other unethical behaviors. The US Chess Federation has not received a written complaint to initiate our procedures for factual inquiry and ruling on any allegation of cheating pertaining to this event. US Chess is committed to fair play and the integrity of the game of chess. We are concerned that accusations of cheating be handled properly and with sensitivity with respect to the age of these minor players.


Carol B. Meyer

US Chess Executive Director

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