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Chinese chess champion forfeits victory over ‘bad behavior’ after tournament but denies cheating

By Veronica Lin and Jessie Yeung, CNN

(CNN) — A champion of the board game Xiangqi, also known as Chinese chess, has had to forfeit his title because of “bad behavior” after winning a tournament, but has denied allegations online and in Chinese state media that he used a sex toy to cheat.

Yan Chenglong, a 48-year-old amateur from China’s central Henan province, was victorious at the finals of the Chess King tournament in the island province of Hainan on December 17, winning 100,000 yuan (about $13,988), according to state-run tabloid Global Times.

He had to forfeit the prize money, along with his victory, following an investigation by the Chinese Xiangqi Association (CXA) into “bad behavior” at his hotel after the tournament, the group said in a statement Monday.

The association said Yan had defecated in the bathtub of his hotel and vandalized furniture in his room after a few drinks. It said Yan had “violated public order and good morals,” and he would be suspended from all Xiangqi tournaments for a year.

In the aftermath of the tournament, allegations swirled on China’s tightly controlled social media that Yan may have cheated using a vibrating sex toy to communicate with others, an accusation that multiple Chinese state media outlets then covered.

But Yan has forcefully denied those allegations.

In an interview with state-run magazine China Newsweek, Yan said he lodged a protest against the association’s decision to penalize him for the hotel incident. He also vowed to take legal action against what he called “slanderous comments” made by online bloggers.

In its statement announcing that Yan had been stripped of his win, the CXA said it was “unable to conclude from the information at hand” whether Yan had used a sex toy to cheat “as speculated by the media.”

In his interview with China Newsweek, Yan did say that he had felt “unwell” after the tournament and that he tried to clean up the bathtub, but left in a hurry to catch a flight.

“I apologize to the entire society for my bad behavior,” he said in the phone interview. CNN was not able to reach Yan for comment.

According to the Global Times, Yan previously won the men’s championship in an open tournament at China’s 2021 National Games, and has been playing for several decades.

Competitors all over the country from “grassroot backgrounds” gathered in Hainan earlier this month to take part in the tournament, according to the CXA’s official WeChat account. Xiangqi is hugely popular across the country and among Chinese diaspora.

It’s not the first time accusations of cheating with sex toys have been leveled in the high-stakes world of competitive board games.

The news of Yan’s suspension broke just days after the conclusion of an investigation into another cheating scandal, involving five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen and US grandmaster Hans Niemann.

Carlsen accused his opponent Niemann of cheating after Niemann won the 2022 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis.

Although Carlsen did not provide details about what he alleged Niemann did during their over-the-board match, social media was rife with accusations of Niemann using vibrating sex toys to receive signals to instruct him as to which moves to make.

Niemann “categorically” denied these allegations. The sport’s world governing body finally concluded on December 15 that while Niemann didn’t cheat against Carlsen in their over-the-board match, he did cheat in up to 55 online games.

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