Reports | June 12, 2013 10:35

Moskalenko denounces Cuban "chess mafia"

We should start by saying that it's a coincidence that, a day after we published our review of Viktor Moskalenko's latest book, the Ukrainian grandmaster appears on this site again. This time Moskalenko seems to be involved in a good old controversy. Onno van Keulen reports from Barcelona about a remarkable affair that has heated up the Catalan chess scene.

Orelvis Perez Mitjans (Photo Societat Coral Colon) & Viktor Moskalenko (Photo FIDE)

Whenever you play one of them it's like playing a group of gangsters. They talk about the game among themselves, try to disturb the other players, they throw points for money, they're involved in incidents in every tournament.

You might think this is a resurrected Bobby Fischer ranting about the Russians or the Jewish world conspiracy, but, obviously it isn't. It is Spanish-Ukrainian grandmaster and chess author Viktor Moskalenko talking about Cuban players on the Catalan chess circuit.

I need to protect myself from them like I need to protect from animals,

says the longtime resident of Spain in a recently filed complaint with the Catalan Chess Federation (FCE). For those who read Spanish, the complaint is reproduced as an open letter on the popular website  

Moskalenko's anger was triggered when current Catalan champion GM Orelvis Perez Mitjans, who moved from Cuba to Spain a couple of years ago, repeatedly called him a clown after a recent team match and supposedly threw his notation form in his direction after resigning.

He was shouting at me, scaring children who were there to watch the games.

For the former trainer [and occasional second - CV] of Vassily Ivanchuk this was the drop that filled the bucket and he decided to denounce "the mafia practices" of Perez Mitjans and other Cubans.

Mister Perez Mitjans has a long record of using dirty tricks. In some of our rapid games he has used streetchess ploys to try to win at any cost: playing with two hands, throwing over pieces, capturing more than one enemy piece or pawn in time trouble, not letting the opponent press his clock etc.

Moskalenko doesn't fail to mention the score between them despite all this debauchery:

10.5-1.5 in my favor, half of them rapid games.

Moskalenko says to have come forward because he deems the situation untenable:

This Cuban stuff isn't an isolated incident but a threat to chess and its professionals.

Other culprits mentioned are IMs Arian Gonzalez Perez and Lazaro Lorenzo de la Riva, who beat Moskalenko in the quarterfinals of the last Catalan championship, won by Perez Mitjans, ahead of former Spanish all-star Miguel Illescas.

Every year there are more Cubans coming here because their thievery isn't punished and they feel as if they're in paradise,

Moskalenko continues.

Perez Mitjans has made a habit out of insulting and threatening players, manipulating tournament results and in general behaving like an animal. He uses an inversed racism trick, because it is frowned upon to insult a black person, but he insults others all the time.

With this the stage seemed set for some counterplay by the Cubans. Gonzalez Perez, who is accused by Moskalenko of having made a "suspicious" GM norm, being drunk at tournaments, vomiting in the tournament hall on one occasion and like Perez Mitjans, of throwing points, filed a complaint with the FCE as well, asking them to take disciplinary action against Moskalenko for breaking chess's code of ethics and Spanish law.

Moskalenko is a very conflictive person who over the years has had trouble with a great number of players over the board, usually after lost games or in bad positions. His behavior is getting worse over time. His letter is a reflection of this and of his oversized ego. This is a man I have seen making fun of his opponents when he's winning and of insulting them when he loses. He does this in all sorts of ways, verbally, slowly screwing pieces into the board when winning, there is too much to mention. The bottom line is that his accusations are untrue, offensive and unacceptable because they affect my and other players' chances to make a living.

Perez Mitjans so far has not reacted publicly. Comments on Moskalenko's j'accuse are just starting to heat up, most supporting Mitjans et alia, some supporting Moskalenko, if not in form, in substance.One comment is too hilarious not to include here. Spanish-Peruvian GM Miguel Muñoz Pantoja tells how he once witnessed Perez Mitjans tear up a fifty euro bill into small pieces during a row with another player after a prize ceremony, the two apparently not agreeing on what was agreed during the tournament. Needless to say, Mitjans and Muñoz Pantoja are rumored to have had their own set of run-ins. 

Onno van Keulen is a Dutch chess player living in Barcelona. He is a former editor for the Associated Press and currently works as an editor for another press agency.

Editors's picture
Author: Editors


anti  johnny foreigner's picture
choufleur's picture

anti johnny foreigner 's comment will very likely be censored ... fortunately !

Creemer's picture

I side with the Cuban!
Chess is war. Deal with it. (And so Moskalenko does, good for him.)

Anonymous's picture

chess is war ? so i should come with a M16 to the board ??? what an insane comment you just made

Victor's picture

For some people like me, who knows closely Cuban culture, I have to agree Moskalenko statement.

Ernesto's picture

What do you mean by Cuban culture? Could you elaborate more on this?

abelard's picture

Arbiters need to step up and enforce professional standards with ejections and forfeitures.

Fan of abelard's picture

Finally after many years a comment worth a stack of gold. It is all THE ARBITERS' FAULT.

ShockeR's picture

I would love to hear more about this situation ! ;)

seems like a fun thing to read !!!

Bert de Bruut's picture

Onno! I am glad you seem fine!

Arne M's picture

Yes, me too, good to hear from you Onno.

idratherplay960's picture

chess bullies?! hahahaha

Niima's picture

I do not find this affair funny at all. Chess is difficult enough without such antics. It is extremely unpleasant to have opponents misbehave at the board. It takes away the joy of play and robs the game of its beauty.

In such cases, what is needed first is accurate information about what is happening. But once that is done, action must be taken to stop abuse.

Good moves and professional behaviuor is what we need at chess at every level, like that displayed by its best practitioners.

ShockeR's picture

A little bit of some funny drama never hurt anybody..

Chillax, the chess is fine and it will continue to be even better after we finally get rid of Ilumzhynov !

Niima's picture


Really?! And what is your rating? I have never heard a serious chess player express attraction for such "funny drama" over the board.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous's picture

why did you guys delete my comment? What I said about the Cubans is TRUE! Never said all of them were like that but it is indeed part of their culture and it derives from the rampant, corrupt communism that rules over the island.

S3's picture

If true, I wonder if Cuban street tricks also include trying to take back moves...

Luís Silva's picture

Hello! I have had the opportunity to be with Arian Perez Gonzalez in some tournaments. One time he went with me to a tournament in Spain ( I am from Portugal) and he is very correct and a very nice person to be with. I've had the opportunity to analyse some games with him and he really understands chess and in spite of that he really loves the game! He has no parents and when he calls to his grandmother in Cuba he almost cries. What is being said about him by Moskalenko seems to be false.

Justa Levy's picture
Septimus's picture

This sounds like trumped up nonsense. Why didn't other players complain?

Cajunmaster's picture

ah! longing for the days when chess was a game practiced by the elite, the wealthy...

Ernesto's picture

A game practiced by elite and wealthy? And what makes you think that wealthy makes a guy more polite? And elite? What kind of elite you refer to? I hope, four your sake, is the elite of the mind!

V. Topalov's picture
Ros's picture

I think this article should not be posted on this website. If there is any incident deal whit it at the time and let the arbiter decide what to do with players who cheat in any way. I think no player need to write this about any other player, and certainly not about all players from one nation, this is not a good thing for chess...

Anonymous's picture

Because Moskalenko is a well known grandmaster and author, this is a news item. When you say all the Dutch are criminals (by the way, Moskalenko doesn't come near this), it's not a news item; when your prime minister says so, it is.
He is not anonymous, his comments are between brackets and the other side has been heard too. No clear approval or disapproval has been added; we can make out for ourselves whether Moskalenko has a point or not.
Seems quite reasonable journalism to me.

Frits Fritschy's picture

I'm not anonymous either; the automatic settings seem to have changed.

Thomas Oliver's picture

One can wonder whether the whole story is newsworthy enough to be dragged to a "higher" i.e. international level - Chessvibes decided that this is the case, and indeed the article is balanced. So I generally agree with Frits Fritschy's comment, but not necessarily on "we can make out for ourselves whether Moskalenko has a point or not." It's word against word, bias against bias. I can't judge at all who's right and who's wrong and don't give the benefit of doubt to Moskalenko "just" because he is higher-rated and more well known.

One thing should be obvious, however: it may just be coincidence that the other players involved are all from Cuba. And it's rather unrelated to Cuban "corrupt communism" - after all, the other players chose to leave Cuba for whichever reasons, maybe political ones.

Ros's picture

If you read terms and conditions for this website then I think it is very strange this writing is allowed, it is full of allegations against a person and a group, which is only based on the experience of one person...

Remco G's picture

Good point, the article would probably be deleted if it were a comment. No evidence, just slander.

Anonymous's picture

I do not want to think that all nor most Cuban players are so (i prefer to read the "accusation" as on a group af players that turn out to be cubans), but this "story" began with an incident with witnesses, and GM Moskalenko has some deserved credibility. So the question deserves to be investigated. Some time ago chess was a game of "gentlemen" (and "madams") but chess environment is getting dirty and dirtier. I do not know what the truth is, but for sure, chess federations must be more vigilant and less "dolce far niente" (and yes, I am afraid that the last option is the usual for the Catalan Federation).

Onno's picture

Hi there Bert & Arne. Yeah, I´m fine thanks, if you´re ever ´in the hood´, drop me line. Take care, Onno.

Jinxo's picture

Moskalenko had another affair recently when he did not take well some critics about his book.
He bashed those site in a spanish interview, maybe thinking it will not get known by most of people around the world who read in english language.
He is not a person whose thoughts are objective, and his behaviour is not the best. I think he is just a bad sportsman. These allegations come after he could not win the Catalonian championship, and maybe is polluted for some personal differences with a Cuban player.

Think first,Yap later.'s picture

The article unfortunately reads,imho,a little like titlation,with mention of 'rumours'.

Usually journalists would be sure to emphasize that the allegations are just that- a set of yet to be proven 'allegations',especially since the allegations are based on the statement of one player.

Whether the person making the allegations is a respected chess author,has no bearing on what might have transpired on or off the board.Think.

No offence meant but,really,those people wittering on about 'the age of gentlemen' or 'cuban mafia' would do better to get to know their chess history,try Edward Winter's work,to get a picture of the panorama of behaviour from exemplary sportmanship to downright criminal behaviour that has been exhibited over the years by 'respected chess players' on and off the board to other 'respected chess players' of all nationalities.Not to speak of officials,national federations and so on.As usual it's about individuals,rather than blanketing an entire nation of players on a set of allegations.I suppose those of you making silly comments about cuban nationals and culture, think GM Leiner Dominguez Perez,recent winner of the FIDE GP Thessaloniki is also a 'cuban gangster' as well? Bravo,for the hocum you've written.

Funny I don't recall Vassily Ivanchuck ever having a problem playing regularly,year after year, in cuba?

Out of interest,did his sometimes second and trainer GM Moskalenko ever accompany him to cuba?

Were there ever any reported incidents there,or complaints about the behaviour of cuban players,say,during the Capablanca Memorial?

If that sounds condescending,I don't mean it to be,maybe it would be an idea for 'reasonable' chess players not to jump to conclusions based on a set of allegations written in inflammatory language about said 'animals' and 'gangsters'?

Eventually the accused will have their say,as will other offended parties on either side of the debate,if indeed they exist or can be bothered to come forward,maybe the we'll get a better picture of what has transpired for events to result in such a letter.

Frits Fritschy's picture

I will just react to your first three paragraphs, with the rest I more or less agree.
By the way, it took me some time to find out what you meant with tit(i)lation, looking for a translation on google just got me to sex sites.
I think the article is pretty clear about the fact that Moskalenko's outburst is at least weird: "You might think this is a resurrected Bobby Fischer ranting about the Russians or the Jewish world conspiracy".
As I tried to explain, if a politician says something stupid, it's a news item. The same counts for a well known grandmaster. Moskalenko being a grandmaster doesn't make it more true what he says, but it should be noted that he says it because he is. Respectability has nothing to do with that.
My opinion? Moskalenko wrote a terrific book on the Winawer - he should stick to that.

Anonymous's picture

The Capablanca Memorial is a very high profile tournament. There's no way on Earth these guys would be allowed to pull such dirty tricks while playing there. Also, as there's a lot of international attention on that specific tournament, it is not convenient for the Cuban government to deal with those issues.
In this case, it seems to me that these aren't high profile tournaments, and that's why these guys think they can get away with this crap... come one, coming drunk to a tournament just to puke in front of everyone? That's disgusting and indefensible no matter how you try and put it. Nice try though.

Anonymous's picture

Nice attention grabbing headline. I'm anticipating the next story on Asian "tongs."

Think first,Yap later.'s picture

@Frtits Fritschy,

Hi,that was a typo.Another one was 'hocum',which is 'hokum' apparently.

No,no 'to titillate' has for more varied uses than overtly adult references in english literary use.My google takes me to dictionary references of the word,most of these only provide very narrow definitions of it's possible uses.

More informative definitions of it's scope as a word are found in example sentences from the actual english language in use in literature of various forms,on the right of the following page for example:

Some words and phrases are better understood by looking at lots of example sentences in the context of the language and their collocations,rather than pat dictionary definitions.The last post in this discussion kind of sums it up:

Basically,a superficial mental stimulation (maybe with an intent to invite further information,discussion ,or whatever)....can also be said to titillate.It has no directly negative connotation.

I have no issues with it being reported as a story.My comment was that the article in opening and closing read more like a tabloid headline and story,whether intentionally or not,which did not help due to the seriousness and inflammatory nature of the allegations made in the letter by the GM.

Anyway,thought it better to be elaborate,since you took the time to comment on the post.That's all really.

As for the 'Nice Try' person.If your post is directed at my post,I have no idea what you are referring to by that statement.What exactly was being 'tried' beyond asking people to,maybe, think first beyond making definitive insulting statements about a situation that seemed rather unclear? Naturally,nobody is under obligation to think before they comment on any news article.It seems to be the norm these days for people to lambast and condemn in comments under news articles,when the articles themselves remain neutral and form no certain conclusions.If you are not referring to my post,please excuse my question.

Also,I don't recall being high profile in any sport serving as reason enough for people not to behave badly.It certainly hasn't stopped some people in many sports day to day.Also apparently there is a popular Open section at the tournament.

Anyway,I don't know just discussing views.Have a nice weekend all.

Anonymous's picture

On your post you say:

"Funny I don't recall Vassily Ivanchuck ever having a problem playing regularly,year after year, in cuba?

Out of interest,did his sometimes second and trainer GM Moskalenko ever accompany him to cuba?

Were there ever any reported incidents there,or complaints about the behaviour of cuban players,say,during the Capablanca Memorial?

If that sounds condescending,I don't mean it to be,maybe it would be an idea for 'reasonable' chess players not to jump to conclusions based on a set of allegations written in inflammatory language about said 'animals' and 'gangsters'?".

In other words, you are trying to discredit Moskalenko by pointing that if these things don't happen in the Capablanca Memorial, it is unlikely to happen in other places, which is a rather naive assumption, given the amount of attention that that tournament gets.

On the other hand, smallish-not-as-important tournaments are always better places to pull that crap on other people. Why? Because it doesn't get as much attention and if it does, people will indicate, as you have done, that it is not a big deal, but it is, especially when you have witnesses and a patter of erratic, unprofessional behavior right in your face, and you choose to ignore it.

That's why I am telling you: nice try! If those players tried anything like that and shamed the party at Cuba, they would be playing chess for a few years at El Morro or any of the other prisons they have in the island.

The thing here is: chess is supposed to be a serious sport where intelligence prevails. Those tricks or behaviors shouldn't ever be allowed in chess under any circumstance.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Reading the report, I was thinking in line with you, until I came to the quote "Every year there are more Cubans coming here because their thievery isn't punished and they feel as if they're in paradise". So there seems to be a tsunami (quoting my infamous compatriot Geert Wilders) of Cuban chess players invading Barcelona purposely denying hardworking citizens like Moskalenko a place under the sun - whatever happens, blame the Cubans. I can also write something bad about those Eastern Hordes that never wash, sleep in their overcoats, the gypsies of chess since 1989 (well, the Yugoslavians were earlier) - but I actually always liked them a bit. And of course a respected former Eastern European player like Moskalenko is not in that league.
I don't want to be too harsh on Mr. Moskalenko. When you read his books, you can only conclude that he is a person completely dedicated to chess, in a very emotional way. Emotions got the better of him, this time. Losing once to a (supposed) prick after beating him 10 times shouldn't get you ranting - at most in the pub, but not in an open letter.

Frits Fritschy's picture

@ 'yap'
Thank you for elaborating on the subject. I looked up 'titlate' on google, having a hunch of what you meant but not being sure - and with the said outcome. I found 'titilate' in a 1927 English-Dutch dictionary, the nearest one at hand. I like the word. Even my beloved one can't tickle me under my feet without being kicked, but titilation... maybe I could stand that.
I suspected the word might have a negative connotation, which was essential to understand what you wrote.
By the way, your first name isn't Nigel? I remember once lambasting a Nigel, keen on less known English words.
For the rest, headlines should titilate - sometimes even tickle. Quotation marks provide the necessary distance.'s picture

I visited multiple websites however the audio feature for audio songs present at this site is actually

Appa's picture
SirSchratz's picture

well, surely Mr Moskalenko is angry and maybe uses some expressions one would replace at second thought .... but I must say, this is as much a problem of cheating cuban players as it is of some certain spanish mentality that willingly lets this happen during tournaments .....

the behaviour described fits a country that finds fun in killing animals, in the case of the so called "piano playing" even in a most cruel way that is celebrated in the spanish country regions by whole villages watching things happening to dogs that simply can't be described here ....

killing bulls in games is compared to the spanish folk-sport "piano playing" a perfectly human activity ....

anyone only half familiar with the testosterone driven spanish culture could only give mr moskalenko the advice to maybe look for different tournament areas where there are decent standards and there are enough so throughout europe ....

Anonymous's picture

Oh, to such an intellectual and no xenophob commen may be should be on interest that in the region of the torunaments bull "feast" is forbidden, and that recent studies conclude that without the turists's money the "corridas" simply would have died for lack of money. Obviously, politicians who get money from this "business" prefer to protect this "fiesta", as foreigners prefer to live on topics.
Such offtopics comments is what incompetent chess regulators prefer, in order to do nothing and the problems go on whereas dogs bark to the moon.

Anonymous's picture

After reading the comment man must conclude that the situation of chess has no hope.
Though the article is based on a poorly reliable web, it's the copy of an official complain. It is a complain on cheating and bad behaviour (that with witnesses). I don't know what is the guilty side in this case, but it is obvious that such a method of cheating exists.
So the concern of chess players should be how federations, organizators and arbiters should deal with that problem... not such ridiculous and silly comments on sides, on cultures, on peoples (because cubans, because comunist, because spaniards....) or if it should be deleted....

Nibaldo Calvo Buides's picture

I do not understand why the GM Viktor Moskalenko made these insults to "most Cuban chess players" just after the great victory of the Cuban GM Orelvis Perez, who won the State Championship of Cataluña, Spain 2013. In that tournament the GM Viktor Moskalenko played and lost against the Cuban International Master Lazaro Lorenzo de la Riva. Many coincidences. Very very very bad for Moskalenko.....

Anonymous's picture

Cuba is significant for the fact that black players first time in history are achieving good results,examples Ortiz defeated Polgar in Tromso and many others are coming for sure,USA has only one GM black ,so chess becoming more world wide accepted without estigmas,

Anonymous's picture

Dont forget the live comments by Kasparov in chessbase while streamming tromso 2013 kramnik-vachier..he analized and recognized that Vachier-Lagrave was very very lucky in his game vs the cuban Ortiz,

Anonymous's picture

Mention the kasparov commments in chessbase while streaming tromso2013 kramnik-vachier,he said that vachier was very lucky vs Ortiz,so the french was in a terrible lose position already in that game,is the first mention by kasparov of a black origin player like Ortiz,in a game widely considered "whitey"


Latest articles