January 08, 2009 19:32

Is cheating always newsworthy?

HandheldAs various blogs have already reported, a 14-year-old chess player from Australia has been caught cheating while playing a game of chess. It immediately led to a debate among the ChessVibes editors: is it newsworthy?

At the current The Norths Chess Club Centenary Year Under 1600 Tournament, a side event to the Australian Open Championships in Sydney, yesterday a player was caught using what the arbiter called a "hand held machine" in the toilets. The game was declared lost and the boy was expelled from the tournament.

The 14-year old was using the program ChessMaster on a Playstation Portable, and that was probably the reason why the moves were not particularly strong:

It's the first example of a chess player getting caught while using an electronic device in Australia, and so it quickly became a big story in the relatively small Australian chess community. It was mentioned at The Closet Grandmaster (who posted the game notation given above), Lousy@Chess and chessexpress and is being discussed at Chess Chat Australia. However, we have to admit that here at the ChessVibes office we're not 100% sure what to do with it.

When in November 2007 a Dutch player was banned for two and a half years after after he got caught with a PDA during a game, in an official national league, it was not a question: we had to publish the story. But in a column by Arne, published two years ago, we've already expressed our doubts surrounding the subject of cheating in chess - the article's title was "Moral decay or exaggerated hype?"

Normally we would never write about some local under-1600 tournament and one could argue that the case can be compared to petty theft; a small violation that's simply... not interesting. Besides, shouldn't we protect the kid, who made a silly mistake - something we've all done at that age?

But wait, isn't using external electronical assistance enough reason to publish such a story? Isn't it against our complete set of beliefs, against the essence of the game, to give yourself the opportunity to find the strongest move in a position with (almost) absolute certainty?

But then again... don't we all cheat every once in a while? There's not a chess player who has never talked to his team mates during a game, giving a friend a quick advice like "it's always better to wait with that Qb6+ in such positions" or "don't worry, just bring your king to the center and you'll be fine". [Update: this part has led to quite a discussion below. I've explained it a bit.] Where to draw the line?

What makes an article newsworthy depends on timing, significance, proximity, prominence and human interest. In this case, the news is very fresh, but obviously that's not enough. We've already questioned its significance and prominence above, and for anybody except our Australian readers, proximity won't do here either!

So in the end the article you're currently reading at ChessVibes should be categorized as a human interest story - it "appeals to emotion". It "aims to evoke responses such as amusement or sadness."

Yet still we wonder... was the story newsworthy? What do you think?


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Ismar Irenick R. Estrella's picture

The nature of cheating that recently happened in Australia is common in that type of a tournament these times especially that portable electronic and/or IT devices for chess analysis are readily accessible to chess players. But that is just one form of cheating in competitive chess. The other one is game fixing. Both are ill-mannered ways of playing the royal game of chess. It must be admitted that in reality there are lots of chess players who do not want to play the game in the most honest way possible. Certainly, none of them had succeeded to progressively improve their games in competitions. In fact, they remained as mediocre players as they were.

joze's picture

I think players should be sitted at the table for the whole game, and not be allowed to wander around. If you play then play. And that includes the visits to the toilets. OK with classical time controls the players should be allowed to leave the table3 or 4 times to get to the toilets but for all games that last less than 30 minutes per player the players should be sitted all the time. You can go to the toilet before or after the game, without any problem.

xtra's picture

no. this website wouldnt be very good if you made posts with all smallish news that happened all over the world. it would just get swamped. and it is not that interesting nor sensational anyway. maybe you could do it if there is some special point with it, or if its a research article like "this and that many players got caught cheating here and there 2008". that would also avoid simply hanging some local teenager, which is nice, especially since this kind of news usually either dont become much news at all, or becomes copy-and-paste news allover the internet (and newspapers) because most news today are copied from other sources, and the places it shows up on increases almost exponentially. Chessvibes usually isnt a "news-echo", keep it that way! :-)

Richard DeCredico's picture

No, we all have not cheated once in a while. Some of us have integrity.

guitarspider's picture

I have to say I love the annotations :D

Michel's picture

Strange story, who checked the toilet-visitsof black? Was he already suspect?
Technically it´s "just" a violation of the rules. Usually this is only news when it concerns topplayers.
Be late at the Dresden-olympiad wasn´t big news, no topplayers were involved.
A wrong draw-offers isn´t big news.

I would call it news for a world-public.

thorex's picture

I like chessvibes because only the most important topics are covered. Even if this means providing only one or two news each day . But these news are always of very high quality, often with additional media, links and commentary.

So I don't think this incident fits into the chessivbes portfolio. There's simply nothing interesting to write about. Cheating? Nothing new. Australia? Couldn't be more far away except from a New Zealand tournament. 14 year old? Well, I did worse things at this age...

Manu's picture

IMO what makes an article newsworthy is what you are capable to find in it , sometimes is not the news itself but the conclusions or thoughts that the writer shares by writing it.
It is also important to publish what you believe is relevant or funny or interesting , without worrying to much about the importance of the news itself.

gab10033's picture

well, if you published it, you certainly think it's newsworthy, don't you ?

it's interesting anyway. cheating is fascinating in any kind of discipline or sport like any kind of scheme, everybody reads the article about Madoff as well as the 14 years old chessplayer, it's part of human nature...

I don't think it's so bad that this kid cheated :

it means he has a very competitive spirit, only victory counts. Because i'm sorry, even if you have to accept defeat (part of the game), you have to hate it too, and alway fight for the victory. He just learnt that when you cheat you lose !

no problem at this age, but when you see adults doing it, that is pathetic...

R.Mutt's picture

Kramnik becomes a father! ;-)

Anyway, it strikes me as very strange that the Black player went to the toilet only after he made a move...

Rob Brown's picture

So a 13 year old kid with a 1300 rating gets caught using a feeble electronic machine to help him get an inferior position. Let the punishment fit the crime. The lad is quietly booted out of the tournament and left to face the music when he arrives home and must explain to his parents and peers why he is no longer in the tournament. Not sufficient, deems the the self righteous Aussie chess press who, clearly having a way too much time on their hands, promptly erects a cathedral around the incident. For its zealous reporting of the matter, I move that the Closet Grandmaster be renamed the Watercloset Grandmaster.

Kyle's picture

Cheating is only newsworthy if professionals do it.

Please keep the focus of the site on high quality chess and high quality chess reporting.

Ismar Irenick R. Estrella's picture

The issue of cheating in chess may only become a newsworthy if chess professionals are involved. However, the point is that cheating in chess, regardless of the strength level of the player involved and regardless of the competition type or level, is totally abhorable and shall not become a habit to any chess player. Otherwise, that befits one to play the royal game of chess. Besides, is there any form of glory one can be so proud of if a chess player cheats? In the process he is even affronting the intelligence of his opponent. So in conclusion don't cheat!

Jan's picture

Agree with DeCredico. Although "everyone" says at least something about the author of this article... but we all have our faults ;-)
Although I must say that I get nervous sometimes when my opponent is chatting with stronger players of his team...

Scott's picture

Cheating only matters when professionals do it? No need to report it when it's a 14 year old in Australia? You people are strange. Cheating is wrong, no matter the rating or age. And it should be publicized; social disapprobation is a fitting punishment for cheating - along with being banned from tournament play for a period of time.

Stefan's picture

Come on, this is a kid! Being expelled from the tournament is enough punishment. He should be protected from any kind of media hype.

The Closet Grandmaster's picture

@ Rob Brown:

Over zealous? Are you sure you read my post properly? Read it again. You can count the words, too, if you like.

@ Peter:

This is an interesting post. Is it newsworthy? Yes, is my answer. As always context is important. It's an incident in an Australian championship event, albeit in the minor division. It might not be particularly relevant to the exalted pages of ChessVibes, but it is to us local bloggers. The incident took place in our tournament, a national no less. Yet, and despite your apparent dilemma, here you are mentioning the whole thing with extensive links to all the critical sources!


Declan's picture

I think is a good idea to have at least brief articles on cheating, like a sort of World-cheat-O-meter, to see how widespread is this trend.

Years ago there wasn't any problem of this kind, but now we know how easy is to cheat, and I mean not in the net, were is very difficult to know with certainty if someone is cheating, but in tournaments, from amateur to professional. I think many of us have thought about the possibility of top players using high tech to guide his already strong game during competition, with enough budget and practique it could be very feasible and effective and above all monetary-rewarding.

Anon's picture

Just goes to confirm my long-held belief that kids of that age should not be playing chess. The little brat should be thrashed to within an inch of his life, and then stuffed back up the chimney, where he belongs.

Turm's picture

Is cheating always newsworthy? Humm!?

Curious?, ChessVibes should query us over what is "newsworthy" after running the Britney Spears piece.

FYI - The only "newsworthy" B.S. story is her obituary.

test's picture

Because it was "just a kid" it is excusable? Why do we punish kids when they do something wrong?

And anyway, 14 is not that young. In America you can drive a car at 16... If he's gonna cheat at 14, he's gonna cheat at 16, 18 etc.

Every cheater should be exposed, not only to teach the cheater a lesson, but also to give a message to all that this sort of behaviour is _not acceptable_.

And as others already said, NO "we don't all cheat every once in a while"!
I for one have not ever cheated or even discussed the game, even in the most basic terms (except maybe to say "I'm lost", or "I think I'm winning").

Cheating ruins the game for everyone and if it's not stopped it will be the death of chess.

Bert de Bruut's picture

Anon, you apparently attaches little value to decency himself, or life itself for that matter and opportunities to correct earlier mistakes. Unless of course we should take your exaggerated comment for a miserably failed attempt at irony?

test's picture

> Declan: "...to see how widespread is this trend."

On PlayChess they seem to catch one every five minutes. Not an encouraging trend if you ask me. :/

Michael X Tractor's picture

Sorry Bert, but as a London cab driver, I agree with Anon. Bleedin' disgrace, if you ask me. I blame the parents - should've given the little sod a few good 'idings when he was younger, taught him right from wrong, it never did me no 'arm. You know what I'd do wiv' 'im? String 'im up, that's what - that's the only language these people understand.

I 'ad that Wackford Squeers in the back o' the cab once....

Shaun Press's picture

At this stage such incidents are still a novelty, and as such are probably still newsworthy (no matter where they occur). What would be worse is if they were no longer newsworthy, simply because they were so common place.

Ismar Irenick R. Estrella's picture

The fact remains that CHEATING, in whatever form or manner and in whatever setting or activity or place, is PLAIN AND SIMPLE BAD PER SE!

Aljechins Cat's picture

I don´t see any excuse within the fact that the cheater was just 14. If you want to be treated like a chess player and your ideas and moves to be taken seriously, you should treat your opponent with the necessary respect.
I really wondered what kind of during-the-game-conversation the author is referring to. I walk and talk a lot while my league games, but if I would get at least harsh words from my teammates if I were discussing their or my games.This refers to sports ethic.

Cornelius Rubsamen's picture

The only thing newsworthy here is that people at chessvibes think that "we all cheat every once in a while." I have been in situations where I was approached by friends while my game was in progress, and usually the first thing I tell them is to refrain from talking about the games in progress.

tanc's picture

Hello all,

There's no denial that the Oz chess community is very small.

IMO The story is basically a human interest story and should remain as nothing more than a note in the annals of the Australian Open.

I concur with Shaun Press in that the incident should be noted and nipped in the bud before the threat becomes more widespread like it has happened for drugs in sports. And raising awareness over this incident instead of sweeping it under the carpet or dismissing it outright is IMHO the right thing to do.

This event happened within our shores and was thus more relevant and newsworthy in our local context. To have it take place in the Australian Open event is indeed cause for some concern here in Australia (Note: the only thing separating the U1600 event and the Australian Open was a cordon barrier strategically placed between the 2 playing areas. Both events are running concurrently within the same playing hall).


F3MDR's picture

Yes, it is newsworthy.

Keep up the good work at ChessVibes.

Arne Moll's picture

@Richard, Jan, Cornelius: good to hear that saints do exist after all. We desperately need all pure souls in such a sinful world!

Simmillion's picture

I think there's no news value what so ever in this article. That's probably why I really did like reading it.

To those people in favour of 'naming and shaming' a 14 year old, I would like to say: Get a f...ing live!

(and I agree with Rubsamen en Cat that nobody should 'talk chess' during an official game, not even my fellow team members)

ChessGirl's picture

Oh God it´s just hilarious that he tried to cheat with ChessMaster. I mean I own that game and it actually helps me practice, but I could top the world´s chess worst rankings, and even I know that ChessMaster is no good for that purpose.
Anyway, I agree with Rob Brown that the direct humiliation of forfeit and having to tell his parents, etc. should have been enough for the kid to learn his lesson... I just remembered a thing or two that I did at 14 and am not very proud of, just to imagine them published on the internet gives me the creeps! :)

Arjon's picture


I will not try to claim to be a pure soul and certainly no saint, but I have never 'cheated' as in the article either. I found it rather annoying even when a friend from a neighbouring club (Caissa) told me during a league game in passing by that he thought that I was worse before, but I would certainly have a winning attack with the position I was in now! Luckily, I kept my own evaluation (since it was a misguided opinion).

I hate it when my opponent has a conversation with someone, obviously about a game. I dislike it when people give me advice, since that negates why I am there: to play chess.

So, there may be more of these saints in the world closer to you than you might think.

Arne Moll's picture

@Arjon, I don't like conversations during the game either, but, in my experience, it's more or less 'condoned' and almost never is there any protest against it, even when the 'cheating' is rather obvious (as it often is). Of course not everybody does it, but it's not unusual either. My point is not that everybody cheats, but that everybody does know that to some extend, 'cheating' is nothing special in chess.Whether you like it or not, to claim otherwise is to pretend the chess world is full of saints indeed.

Ark's picture

not everyone who goes to the toilet is a cheater, except maybe for Kramnik

Polly's picture

I found the story both interesting and sad at the same time. Unfortunately cheating happens more then one would suspect. I've directed many tournaments for kids on both the local and national levels in the US. I've seen everything from false claims or denials of a touch move violation, changing the position when a player was absent, pushing the time forward (harder to do with a digital clock) to results being reported incorrectly. Some of the children doing these things have been quite young.

When one sees this type of stuff happening to have to wonder what is going on in the child's mind to cause him to try to win in thise fashion. Is it pressure from overbearing parents? Is a self esteem issue? Is this going on in other areas of the child's life such as school? I've seen kids put undue pressure on themselves because they don't want to look bad in front of their parents or peers. I've seen kids report their result correctly (loss) yet tell their parents, or coach that they won. The lie isn't discovered until the parent or coach complains that their kid's results are incorrect.

I suspect this kid's motive may not have been this evil desire to win the section. It seems like the dumb idea of a teenager to try to pull a fast one. Using a weak program on a on Playstation doesn't seem like the brainchild of a hardcore cheater.

I do think it's appropriate that some punishment be given beyond simply expelling him from the tournament. I don't think it needs be overly harsh such as a two year suspension. A few months would probably get the message across along with the embarressment of being caught in the first place.

Is it newsworthy? I don't think it's as earth shattering as some of the other cheating incidents that have come up in recent years, but I found it made for interesting reading. This probably would not have gone beyond the shores of Australia if it wasn't for blogging. I highly doubt that this came across the AP wires. I find the stories that chess bloggers share go from quite interesting to rather mundane. However I always like reading about things that happen in other countries, and smaller events.

SDX's picture

OT: With a subject like this I expect a inappropiate G**gle ad. And lo!

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test's picture

I don't understand your point of view. Not eveverybody "is a saint", as you put it, so we should just let it be?

(Btw: I don't consider myself "a saint", but I DON'T CHEAT.)

christos (greece)'s picture

I think there are many chessplayers who have never cheated.

Ian B Gibson's picture

I cheated in a game against my computer once - as is often the case, I had just blundered on move 3. Luckily, I found a way (don't ask me how) to 'take back' my previous move, which I did and then I made a different move and went on to win the game convincingly!

Well, the exhilaration soon wore off, and then I couldn't live with the guilt. Especially not with my computer right there on the desk - I just couldn't look it in the eye. So in the end I reluctantly decided that we had to go our separate ways. I told my computer I was going outside for a long walk, and I expected it to be gone by the time I returned.

I hope it's forgiven me now, wherever it is..

F3MDR's picture

I have been a victim of cheating at least 150 (!) times in my life. Only twice were the cheats given an appropriate punishment.

And yet I still haven't cheated once.

But according to this logic there's only a 1/75 chance of getting caught if you cheat 'perfectly'.

F3MDR's picture

Edit: The 1/75 chance applies for cheating in 1 game. So after two games the chance is 1/37.5, then after a third 18.75, etc. So a cheat has to 'select' his opponents very carefully.

F3MDR's picture

Hahaha classic joke Ian Gibson!

Good joke also SDX!

I know an 800 USCF rated player who defeated ChessMaster 10000 at its hardest level, 90+30 ROFL

Michael Quest's picture

No, the story itself is not particularly newsworthy. It does however serve to expose the low standard of honesty and integrity expressed by its author. In answer to the question - 'haven't we all cheated?', NO we apparently have NOT all cheated! Rather than taking a firm stand against it, you are in effect condoning it with your thoughtless comments. As an author/editor, you need to think about the impact your words may have on others, especially younger ones who are more impressionable.

integrity's picture

"There’s not a chess player who has never talked to his team mates during a game, giving a friend a quick advice like “it’s always better to wait with that Qb6+ in such positions” or “don’t worry, just bring your king to the center and you’ll be fine”."

What?! I, and many others, have played in years of competitions and never once did anything of the sort. I wonder about the integrity of the author...

Peter Doggers's picture

Let me make one thing clear: cheating is never OK. The team match examples I gave are not acceptable either, but mainly served to make clear how difficult it sometimes is to avoid it. The line "just bring your king to the center" actually comes from a recent Dutch club cup match, where one of my team members, in an ending, overheard one of our opponents saying exactly this.

During such a match, it's very normal to ask your team member: "So, what do you think, are you doing OK?" and small talk about a game has already started. At what point are you crossing the line exactly? So again: it should be condemded, I agree on that too. But still, it happens more often than we'd like it to happen, I think.

Frank Dampf's picture

"But then again… don’t we all cheat every once in a while? There’s not a chess player who has never talked to his team mates during a game, giving a friend a quick advice like “it’s always better to wait with that Qb6+ in such positions” or “don’t worry, just bring your king to the center and you’ll be fine”. Where to draw the line?"

My opinion is:
talking to team mates like this is pure cheating!
I myself would be very pissed with someone throwing his opinion in like this. I would resign and complain about the talker explicitly just to show what a bad sportsman he was.

So in my opinion there is a very clear line. I am wondering about the authors attitude.

Steven's picture

Ya of corse you can "cheat" by having advice from a team mate. But to have a player who uses a computer that can think of every move in the book is just wrong! It's hands down cheating......Not like it helped him.

Rudolph's picture

Pity Santa Claus is already gone back to the North Pole. With all these people on here who have behaved so good, he will be really busy next year.


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