Canberra Times, July 15

Two year ago, Andrei Istratescu made an unusual proposal to the Australian Chess Federation. 

The 23-year-old Romanian Grandmaster asked if he could represent Australia at the Chess Olympics without actually coming to live in Australia. 

Istratescu was sent a polite, if puzzled, reply, explaining that a passport or three years residence were required by the world body FIDE to play for a new country. 

However the reason for Istratescu's request became clear at the 2000 Olympiad in Istanbul. 

Istratescu, one of Romania's best players, was missing from the Romanian Olympic team and had sent a letter to FIDE exposing major corruption in the Romanian Chess Federation. 

Istratescu explained how the RCF had sabotaged a number of Romania's top players, including himself, but his main allegation involved Alexandru Crisan, a Romanian businessman with impeccable political connections. 

Crisan was an active, if none too strong, player in the 1980s but had stopped playing competitive chess in 1990. 

Suddenly, in 1997, Crisan appeared on the FIDE ranking list at 33rd in the world, equal with world class GMs such as Korchnoi and Timman. 

Crisan's ranking and Grandmaster title application was based on a series of amazing results submitted to FIDE by the RCF, including 13/14 in a tournament which was allegedly never played and massive scores in a series of private matches. 

None of the games from these matches and tournaments were ever published and Crisan did not compete in any public events such as the Romanian Championships. 

Istratescu claimed to have spoken to players who were supposed to have played and lost against Crisan during his dream run but who were scared to blow the whistle due to fear of sanctions by the RCF. 

Rumours of bogus Romanian tournaments have circulated in the chess world for a decade but FIDE had never questioned the titles 'earned' in these unplayed events. 

($US2,000 was apparently the going rate for the RCF to arrange a GM norm.) 

Sure enough, in 1997 FIDE gave Crisan the GM title but were sufficiently concerned by his rapid rise to fame to deduct 105 points from Crisan's ranking. 

However the RCF and Romanian Sports Ministry protested vigorously on Crisan's behalf, claiming interference in Romania's internal affairs, and FIDE eventually reinstated his ranking. 

FIDE did ask that Crisan compete in some international events to prove his rating valid and this month Crisan obliged, taking part in the Vidmar Memorial tournament in Portoroz, Slovenia. 

The result proved Istratescu correct, in spades. 

Crisan scored one draw and eight losses from his nine games, a performance which would place him outside the world's top 5,000. 

After Portoroz, Crisan's ranking will drop dramatically but he need not fret;, a few more 'tournaments' organised by the RCF should restore him to his exalted top 50 status. 

A LAST round draw between Henk Doel and Milan Grcic gave top seed, 14-year-old Peter Jovanovic, the breathing space necessary to capture clear first place in the Cold Comfort Cup. Leading final scores: 1.Jovanovic 6/7; 2.Doel, Grcic 5.5. 

The Charity Cup begins at 7.30pm on July 18 at the Canberra Chess Club, Griffin Centre, Civic.