Igors Rausis, a Ukrainian-born ex-grandmaster who has competed for Latvia, Bangladesh, and the Czech Republic, has made history not only for becoming an elite player well into his 50s, but for receiving the harshest ban chess’s governing body has ever handed out. Not that it’s stopped him from continuing to play in other tournaments.
Last December, Rausis was stripped of his grandmaster title and banned from FIDE-rated events for six years after he was caught using a cell phone hidden in the bathroom during a tournament in France. Rausis first drew scrutiny from chess authorities six years ago, when his ELO rating began to rise steadily and consistently until he became the oldest player ranked in the world top 100 and almost cracked the 2700 Club. The chess world praised him for his rise, though the higher-ups at FIDE were openly skeptical about the legitimacy of his ranking. FIDE investigators revealed that Rausis had used a phone on at least four occasions and fixed the outcome of another.
When he received his ban, a penitent Rausis promised that he’d played his “last game of chess already.” He may still have been telling the truth on a technicality there, since he was spotted competing as “Isa Kasimi” in the Vsevoloda Dudzinska Memorial tournament in Latvia this past weekend. Rausis, who we’ll henceforth refer to as Kasimi, legally changed his name to his ex-wife’s surname because of the shame of the toilet incident. Kasimi was recognized by Latvian grandmaster and eventual tournament winner Arturs Neiksans, who told Chess24 he recognized Kasimi after someone warned him there was an unrated player who was crushing opponents.
Neiksans said Kasimi was trying to obscure his identity with a mask and a pair of crutches, though Kasimi spoke to Chess.com and denied it. He also claimed he’d already competed in two other tournaments under his new name. As FIDE chief Emil Sutovsky clarified in response to a question from grandmaster streamer Hikaru Nakamura, the Latvian tournament was not a FIDE event (although it used to be), so Kasimi’s participation was permitted by the terms of his ban. Even after Neiksans lodged his protest and made his case to top Latvian chess officials, Kasimi was still legally allowed to keep playing.
However, once Kasimi’s cover was blown, he didn’t play another game in the tournament. His third-round opponent refused to play him, and organizers eventually asked him to leave. “It felt like it tainted the memory of Vsevolods Dudzinskis, my former coach, to have a cheater in his first memorial tournament,” Neiksans told Chess.com. Kasimi did not fight the organizers’ decision (though he was disappointed), and he deserves a shred of credit for handling the disgrace without accusing anyone of doing “PIPI in your pampers.”