September 21, 2021

An investigation into IM Elisabeth Paehtz’s statement

On Saturday, 8 August, Germany’s top-rated woman chess player entered Lichess’s Blitz Titled Arena. Elisabeth Paehtz is no stranger to blitz time controls in chess, where each player only has a handful of minutes to play an entire game, being crowned joint-European Woman’s Champion in Blitz Chess in 2018.

With a fairy tale start, Paehtz quickly climbed into the top 10 of the prize money event. Paehtz played some beautiful chess — such as in her double deconstruction of GM Vladimir Fedoseev, a blitz chess player in the world top 20. Just half an hour into the three hour tournament, Lichess pulled the plug on her account — and the fairy tale seemed to be over.

Paehtz appeared to be streaming the entire event live to her YouTube channel, but with no camera or audio content could only type a brief message to her supporters before going offline: “doing 2 minutes break, need to breath”. The stream was almost immediately removed from her YouTube channel.

The next day, the video was re-uploaded with some edits, allegedly showing her innocence. Again, there was no camera or audio content from Paehtz, with Paehtz solely communicating by text accompanying the video of Paehtz’s screen-share from the day before. After some back and forth in the comments section on YouTube querying whether something like ChessVisionBot was used, the video was again quickly taken down.

Speculation was rife over the next few days with no comment from Lichess, Paehtz, the German Chess Federation (Deutscher Schachbund or DSB) or from the International Chess Federation (FIDE). In the meantime, further allegations surfaced — that Paehtz had after a game written “why do all Arabs here use engines” to a child with the Lichess username @ArabianChessFriends.

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