Game Blotter - A roundup of crimes, legal cases, and when "the law" gets involved with games


Berlin police say that a local restaurant owner has been using radioactive Iodine-125 to mark playing cards. Radioactive card fragments were detected during routine inspection of a garbage truck at a waste treatment plant, then traced back to their point of origin.

After detector dogs triggered on mail being sent to Manawatu Prison in New Zealand, guards opened the package to find Chess pieces stuffed with cannabis.

A court in Italy has suspended three Chess players, one Grandmaster and two International Masters, for offering to throw games at the Montebelluna Chess Festival for 200€ a game. One of the suspended players, who also helped organize the tournament, had even bragged on Facebook about how easy it would be to buy a game.

In Jiangsu province, China, a Mahjong player was stabbed by his opponent after being caught using rigged tiles to cheat. The Mahjong tiles were fitted with electronic chips that sent a signal to an accomplice, who then relayed the information via small earpieces worn by the player.

Allan Simmons, a prominent British Scrabble player—former U.K. national champion and author of Scrabble books—has been banned from the game for 3 years. An investigation by the World English Language Scrabble Players Association found multiple instances of cheating confirmed by witnesses. He is said to have been looking at tiles as he drew them and returning unwanted tiles back to the bag. [In tournament settings, players are supposed to show empty hands to their opponents before reaching in to the bag, and to draw new tiles while holding the bag above eye level.]

Another Scrabble cheat was caught in Thailand. Pichai Limprasert was banned until June 2018 by the country’s national association. Pichai, long a decent player, experienced rapid improvement in the first half of last year, rising suddenly to rank as Thailand’s number one player. But at the Brands Kings Cup in Bangkok (July 2016), he was spotted sneaking an extra tile from the bag. Allowed to finish that tournament, he was afterward suspended for 3 months and given a warning. Then in February of this year, he entered and won a university level tournament, despite not being registered anywhere as a student. Thus the new suspension.

Police in Las Vegas arrested a man from Georgia (the country) and have charged him with 18 counts of cheating by sliding dice (instead of rolling them). The same person was previously caught using rigged dice at a Backgammon tournament in Normandy, France in 2008.

Four players were disqualified during recent high-level Magic: The Gathering tournaments: one for drawing too many cards, one for lying to a judge, one for having too many energy counters on a card, and one for looking at cards in his deck when he shouldn’t have.

A potential world-record solving of the Rubik’s Cube was invalidated by the World Cube Association because the cube used was not approved.

In Denver, an argument over a Chess game turned violent when one of the players shot the other twice with a .22 caliber handgun.

In Pensacola, Florida, police arrested a man for allegedly using brass knuckles on someone to whom he had just lost a game of Dominoes.

Magic: The Gathering judges in the Philippines are boycotting a local game store because at a recent tournament, the shop’s owner declared a player’s game forfeit for showing up late. That ruling was consistent with the judges’ policy but not within the sponsor’s authority.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the game of Bridge should not be considered a sport. The question came up in a case brought by the English Bridge Union, which sought to have its tournament fees exempt from VAT. Notwithstanding agreement that Bridge is played competitively and “constitutes an activity beneficial to the mental and physical health of regular participants”, the court determined that the ordinary meaning of the term “sport” refers to an activity “characterised by a not negligible physical element.” Still, the court allowed that European member states have the discretion to exempt such non-sport activities from VAT under allowances for “cultural services”.


For Scrabble Day at Bel Air High School in Maryland, several students used letter tiles attached to their shirts to spell out racial slurs. The participating students have been disciplined and the incident has prompted further discussion (and argument) in the community about racism.

A popular cosplayer of Magic: The Gathering characters announced she was quitting everything Magic after suffering repeated harassment. Shortly thereafter, WOTC announced that it was investigating, would review its Code of Conduct, and will work with organizers to be more proactive in setting expectations for events.

A former employee of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is suing the organization alleging that she was fired for “gender non-conforming appearance and behavior.”

Dress codes for Chess tournaments became the hot topic after the World Chess Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia, where Canadian Grandmaster Anton Kovalyov withdrew mid-event because he felt bullied for wearing shorts. Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who was not only the chief organizer but also a member of the Appeals Committee, allegedly used a cultural slur in referring to Kovalyov’s mode of dress. The Chess Federation of Canada sought to have the World Chess Federation’s Ethics Commission address the incident but Kovalyov would not cooperate, so the Commission dropped the case.

Selecting Saudi Arabia as host for the World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) drew quick condemnation and threatened boycotts based on the kingdom’s human rights record. Following up on that initial announcement, though, FIDE clarified that women will not be required to wear a hijab or abaya, supposedly the first time for any sport competition in Saudi Arabia. The question remains whether players from Iran, Israel, and Qatar will be allowed to participate. A FIDE official told Reuters that the organization is undertaking huge efforts on behalf of Israeli players. Despite that, some of Israel’s top players have said they will not attend anyway.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Chess Association has established a women’s section, another first for sport in the country. The group is working to establish several women-only tournaments.

Dorsa Derakhshan, the teenage Chess player who was banned earlier this year by the Iranian Chess Federation for refusing to wear a hijab, will now be playing for the United States.


Nearly 2 years after being countersued by Hasbro and Reuben Klamer, Lorraine Markham is finally getting her first day in court to argue for rights to The Game of Life. She claims that her deceased husband invented the game. Hasbro and Klamer, however, insist that Bill Markham was only paid to mock up a prototype board. Though the lawsuits were filed in Rhode Island, this initial hearing will take place in California to accommodate several witnesses of advanced age.

Irish celebrity twins Jedward have settled with Limerick businessman Patrick Joseph Noonan a court case in which the latter claimed he was owed 625,000 € for failed merchandising deals, including one for a Jedward board game.

Upper Deck and Leaf are suing each other, in California and Texas courts respectively. Upper Deck claims that by producing sports cards with pieces of player jerseys, Leaf is violating the publicity rights of the players with whom Upper Deck has exclusive contracts. [What basis that gives Upper Deck to sue is unclear.] Leaf, in its suit filed a day later, claims that Upper Deck is engaging in illegal monopolistic behavior with regard to NHL hockey cards. Leaf alleges that Upper Deck pressured retailers not to carry competing Leaf products and insisted that distributors not tell retailers why they (the distributors) didn’t carry Leaf cards (thus implying they were inferior).

Politics & Religion

Some Transformers fans figured out that symbols engraved on a recently-released action figure translate in the Cybertronian alphabet as “MAGA”. Alerted to this fact, Hasbro investigated and found that the divisive political statement was added by a vendor without authorization.

Voting for the Ward 5 Council seat in the city of Cripple Creek, Colorado resulted in a tie count. So, as required by law, the election was decided by lots, in this case, the high draw from a standard deck of playing cards. Melissa Trenary won with a 10 of diamonds. Her opponent pulled a 7 of clubs.

The treasurer of the Singapore Chess Federation, whose political conflicts have appeared in this column before, is suing 39 fellow members, claiming defamation in a letter they circulated seeking his ouster.

The Executive Board of FIDE, in a non-binding vote, has asked Kirsan Ilyumzhinov not to run for President again in 2018. After Ilyumzhinov was subject to sanctions by the U.S. government during his current term, the board earlier took away from him all authority of the position. Nevertheless, several national federations have already received from Russian embassies letters nominating Ilyumzhinov for a new term.

FIDE took more definitive action on the Bulgarian Chess Federation, temporarily kicking it out of the group for financial irregularities. While the national entity is excluded, individual players from Bulgaria will be able to play in international tournaments under the FIDE flag, as long as they’re able to pay their own way.

In order to put on a charitable Cribbage tournament in Maine, organizers had to get state law changed. Before passage of the new law this past summer, Cribbage was considered a game of chance and would have required expensive licensing from each of the 12 participating municipalities.

Some Irish Chess players are picketing the Limerick Chess League for blackballing another player, Gabriel Mirza. They also accuse the league of discrimination. Mirza is originally from Romania. The protesters allege that mistreatment of Mirza ties back to an incident in 2013, when he accosted a teenager in the restroom at a tournament for cheating with a smartphone.

A Muslim preacher in Malaysia said in a video distributed on YouTube that it is forbidden to play Checkers, Chess, Snakes and Ladders, Saidina (a Monopoly knock-off), or video games because they lead to gambling.


A man in Denton, Texas reported a break-in. Stolen from his home were a laptop and $8,000 of Magic: The Gathering cards.

A 23 year old man was arrested for attempting to shoplift just over $100 (retail) of Magic: The Gathering cards from a Target in College Station, Texas.

When a stolen truck was recovered by its owner in the Columbus, Ohio area, they discovered inside hundreds of Magic: The Gathering cards belonging to the thief.

Open less than a year, Alchemy, a board game cafe in Derby, England, closed permanently after being vandalized.

Board in the City, a game cafe in Southampton was broken in to overnight. Games were stolen and a table damaged.

A real-estate agent mistook a Magic: The Gathering Facebook group, the New England Real Estate Coalition (focused on land decks), for one focused on non-game properties. Mockery ensued.


In the Northern Mariana Islands, a man with a machete and supposedly drunk attacked a group of men playing Mahjong.

A man who tried to break up a fight over a dice game in Washington Square Park in New York City was stabbed in the leg by one of those arguing.

The owner of Snap Keep Games in McHenry, Illinois was indicted for paying a 15 year old customer to perform a sex act.

In Henan Province, China, a 2 year old girl drowned when she was left outside a Mahjong parlor by her grandmother. Alone, she got to playing in a three-wheeled vehicle belonging to another Mahjong patron. With the key left inside, the girl accidentally engaged the vehicle, sending it in to a nearby pond.

Shelby County (Tennessee) officials are investigating the claims of a rap artist who says that his online video of gambling on a dice game was recorded in a local high school.

Police in Singapore raided an eighth floor apartment where illegal gambling on cards and Mahjong was taking place. They arrested 15 people.

When police in Cambodia raided a village dice game, the seven people they arrested included a military official.

Prosecutors in Taipei arrested four police officers for taking bribes from illegal Mahjong parlors.

Four men in Oakland, California were injured in a drive-by shooting that targeted their street dice game. Police know of no motive to explain the incident.

Police chasing a man from an illegal dice game in Baltimore found 11 guns in his car and one on his person.

Police in Longview, Texas arrested a man for allegedly robbing a woman of $600 at gunpoint to make up for losses he had experienced shortly before at an area dice game.

A 17 year old is under arrest in Indianapolis for shooting and killing a man who walked away from their dice game before loosing all his money. One piece of evidence against the teenager is the data from a GPS anklet he was wearing because of another case.

Police in Decatur, Illinois found a man on the street beaten and shot, and evidence nearby of a hastily abandoned dice game.

A staff member at a Nebraska youth rehabilitation center was assaulted with a sock filled with dominoes.

Police interrupted a Jonesboro, Arkansas Dominoes game to conduct a parole search. They found on the subject of their search several bags of marijuana.