The former world chess champion Ruslan Ponomariov has become the first player to be disqualified at a major event for allowing his mobile telephone to ring during a game.
The 20-year-old Ukrainian’s telephone sounded during a match between Ukraine and Sweden at the European Team Championships held in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv on Saturday.
The Grandmaster’s disqualification came after he had celebrated his birthday and was presented with gifts by tournament organisers at the start of his game.
The identity of the caller was not disclosed but there was speculation it could have been a friend wishing him many happy returns.
The beneficiary of Ponomariov’s gaffe was Evgeny Agrest, the Swedish Grandmaster, who appeared to be well on the way to victory before his plans were disturbed by the call.
Toncho Demirev, from the host nation, immediately disqualified Ponomariov quoting article 13.4 of the Laws of Chess.
Mobile telephones are banned in chess tournaments because players could receive advice during the game or even use them to access computer databases of chess moves online.
Ponomariov protested, refused to sign the scoresheets on which both players are required to record the moves and result of the game, and slunk off. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.
This is the latest setback for the former Fide world champion who was stripped of his title by the game’s governing body last month after he prolonged contract negotiations for months over a title defence against world No. 1 Garri Kasparov that was scheduled to take place at Yalta.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Fide president and leader of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, became frustrated with the demands of the player’s advisers and after two deadlines had been ignored, he cancelled the match.
Ponomariov, slightly built and softly spoken, dresses in old-style Soviet suits and because of this has been dubbed ‘Little Karpov’ after the former Soviet world champion.