Arkady Dvorkovich at a luxury hotel in Bogota | photo: Tarjei J. Svensen
Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann could face a FIDE investigation over the cheating scandal rocking chess - but only if they help out.
In a carefully-worded statement issued today, the federation's president Arkady Dvorkovich said "it is our duty to protect the integrity of the game and its image".
However, he added that FIDE's Fair Play Commission would need "adequate initial proof" to begin the task.
It follows allegations of cheating swirling around 19-year-old Niemann after two incidents involving Carlsen, Norway's reigning World Champion.
Carlsen shocked the chess world two weeks ago after losing to the fast-rising American in the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis. Before the next round, Carlsen sensationally withdrew from the event.
His decision, coupled with a cryptic post on Twitter, sent speculation into overdrive about whether it was because Niemann had cheated. Several top grandmasters accused the teenager of cheating, including fellow American Hikaru Nakamura.
Niemann, rated 200 Elo points below Carlsen, vehemently denied the allegation and called for evidence to be presented while the champ - uncharacteristically - fell silent on social media.
Then on Monday, Carlsen reignited the controversy when he threw his Round 6 game against the New Yorker in the Julius Baer Generation Cup.
In what could have been a clear-air-interview two days later, Carlsen did nothing to dampen down the allegations.
Carlsen's words were widely-interpreted as him doubling down on his position. Despite still declining to publicly accuse Niemann, the world number 1 suggested he would reveal more when the tournament ended.
A third meeting between Carlsen and Niemann was averted when the youngster was eliminated from the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event on Thursday.
Since then several top grandmasters have indicated they may support Carlsen, or at least have sympathy with his position.
In his post-match interview yesterday, Carlsen told chess24's Kaja Snare: "Some people have been saying... maybe more supportive things privately than they have publicly, which I very much understand and I certainly appreciate."
Dvorkovich's belated entry into the row included an implicit criticism of Carlsen suggesting "there were better ways to handle this situation".
However, there was no mention of any sanctions and the Russian ends saying the controversy could have "a long-term positive effect, if tackled properly".
Dvorkovich's full statement, posted on the FIDE website, said: "Last week, World Champion Magnus Carlsen resigned in a game played in an online competition against GM Hans Niemann before making his move two. The week before, he left an over-the-board tournament after losing the game to the same Mr Niemann.
"These were not FIDE events; however, as the world’s chess governing body, it is our duty to protect the integrity of the game and its image, and in view that the incident keeps escalating, we find it necessary to take a step forward.
"First of all, we strongly believe that the World Champion has a moral responsibility attached to his status, since he is viewed as a global ambassador of the game. His actions impact the reputation of his colleagues, sportive results, and eventually can be damaging to our game. We strongly believe that there were better ways to handle this situation.
"At the same time, we share his deep concerns about the damage that cheating brings to chess. FIDE has led the fight against cheating for many years, and we reiterate our zero-tolerance policy toward cheating in any form. Whether it is online or “over the board”, cheating remains cheating. We are strongly committed to this fight, and we have invested in forming a group of specialists to devise sophisticated preventive measures that already apply at top FIDE events.
"As we have already done before, FIDE calls for reinforcing the cooperation between major online platforms, private events and top players - most of whom have already expressed their will to join efforts with FIDE.
"FIDE is prepared to task its Fair Play commission with a thorough investigation of the incident, when the adequate initial proof is provided, and all parties involved disclose the information at their disposal. We are fully aware that, in some cases, uncertainty can harm players' performance. It also can be damaging to a player's reputation - that's why we insist on the anti-cheating protocols to be followed.
"It is our hope that this whole situation could have a long-term positive effect, if tackled properly. We propose to launch a dedicated Panel, that would include representatives of the leading chess platforms, Grandmasters, anti-cheating experts and FIDE officers, in order to fight this risk and prevent it becomes a real plague."