FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
To my dear fans, colleagues, friends, and wider chess community,
As many of you will be aware, there have recently been allegations that my Lichess account received external assistance in their recent Titled Arena, and that my account sent abusive messages.
I apologise for my delay in making this statement. I have spent several days investigating my online activity and have had to prioritise meetings with FIDE and my federation on this matter, given my upcoming international obligations.
As a professional chess player, top German female player, and European rapid woman’s champion, I unfortunately do not have as much time as I would like to single-handedly manage my social media, content creation, correspondence, and running my brands and business interests, around my tournament preparation and general chess training. I have a team around me which assists me with my other commitments.
Unfortunately, and completely without my knowledge, a member of my team who already had access to my YouTube channel, had also gained access to my official Lichess account. That team member, thinking they were helping me, played on my account multiple times to keep it active and raise my online profile and brand.
I do not have the words to express my sorrow, regret and sympathy to the recipients of the messages my account sent. I cannot fathom the hurt and distress they must have gone through. I am still piecing together what, exactly, happened on the account and regaining control of my digital life – but I have already begun to reach out to those affected, and have a private, personal dialogue with them.
I have several witnesses who can attest to me travelling with them at the time of the most egregious allegation against my professional career, and that I was not playing chess or even personally logged in at the time of the offense.
In private, I have offered proof to the Deutscher Schachbund and FIDE. Currently, whilst considering my legal avenues and pending legal advice, I have not shared this proof more widely nor do I intend to. I hope my privacy can be respected during this time.
I take full responsibility for failing to secure my accounts adequately, and hope this serves as a lesson not just to myself, but to all my professional chess colleagues who are also overly trusting of their team members. My crime was naivety and being trusting of those I considered as loyal friends as well as my aides.
For failing to have good digital hygiene, I am paying the price – and will face some sanctions from the Deutscher Schachbund and from FIDE. I respect their decisions and will not contest or appeal it.
Lichess was correct to robustly take action against the account and limit the damage which already occurred against my name. I am grateful to their professionalism during this crisis and to the excellence of their processes which quickly assessed something was not correct with my official account.
I know I am not always the easiest chess player to support, but I sincerely hope that with the Olympiad and major domestic events upcoming, the wider chess community will find it in themselves to pull together and support myself and my colleagues during these upcoming events – and to take what has happened to me here as a warning to check their own cybersecurity practices.
At its core, chess is about finding equilibrium from instability, creating an ordered plan from a jumble of pieces on the board. I hope to take these lessons from over the board to my real life now – and find the peace with myself to continue delivering excellent performances for myself and for my country.
To borrow a phrase from another beautiful sport – Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel.
IM Elisabeth Pähtz