Columns | April 04, 2011 5:46

Cheating: careful what you ask for

When you read an open letter like the one on cheating, signed by a number of participants of the European Championship in Aix les Bains, there are basically two ways to react. The first is to join in the public outrage and bemoan the terrible state that chess has gotten itself in. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done NOW! That's the easy path.

But as is often the case with open letters, they are drawn up hastily and the authors are usually driven by emotion rather than reason. The second option, therefore, is to question what's being said in the letter even if your gut feeling tells you otherwise. Well, the Aix les Bains open letter was certainly written quickly, and by just looking at the wording of the letter ('rumours', 'we demand', 'impossible'), one can easily detect strong underlying feelings. But what about rationale? What about rhyme and reason?

Open letter

The open letter that appeared in Aix les Bains

A few years ago, I argued that the subject of cheating in chess is hype and heavily overrated as a serious topic of concern. I still think it is. Let's face it: in all the millions of games that are played each year around the world, in how many games has cheating actually been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt? Five? Ten? This is not to say that we should ignore the issue altogether or refuse to take preventive measures, but it does seem to me the attention the subject is getting is a little over the top and is by now almost leading to mass hysteria. Moreover, cheating in chess is nothing new. It's probably as old as the game itself. The fact that it's played by more people than in the Middle Ages doesn't mean it happens more often, relatively speaking - though of course, some technological developments have made it somewhat easier to cheat.

The Turk

A reconstruction of The Turk, a fake chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century.

However, even cheating with the help of all kinds of technological assistance still seems to be pretty difficult, if we are to rely on the method that was used in the "French cheating" case:

(...) According to Jean-Claude Moingt the cheating system went as follows: Cyril Marzolo sent SMS text messages with phone numbers which functioned as code. The first two digits were always 06, the following two were the number the move, the 5th and 6th figures would refer to the starting square, the 7th and 8th to the ending square, and finally, two counts of no importance. For example: 06 01 52 54 37, 06 01 57 55 99, 06 02 71 63 84, 06 02 67 65 43 are the codes for the moves constituting the Latvian Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5). This is actually the international notation of correspondence chess. Arnaud Hauchard kept the two phones with him: his own and that of Sebastien Feller. He consulted and then returned to the bar at the venue. The way to indicate moves to Feller was as follows: the opponent of Vachier-Lagrave: A and 1, the opponent of Fressinet: B and 2, the opponent of Tkachiev: C and 3, the opponent of Feller: D and 4, Feller: E and 5, Tkachiev: F and 6, Fressinet: G and 7 and finally Vachier Lagrave: H and 8. For example if Arnaud Hauchard revolved around the table and stopped some time behind the opponent Tkachiev, and then behind that of Fressinet, he was signalling square c2.

See how easy that is? Piece of cake. No wonder everyone's a 2600-GM these days! Of course, the use of mobile phones should be prohibited during chess games. This indeed is one of the demands in the open letter. So here's the good news: it already is! However, apparently that's not enough: "in case of suspicion", demand the signatories of the open letter, "the arbiters reserve the rights to search any player’s pockets". Unfortunately, the authors couldn't be bothered defining what, exactly, "suspicious" behaviour looks like. I think it's safe to say they mean things like sneaking to the toilet after every move and/or producing very strong moves that could also be played by chess engines. Basically, these are the very same things the Topalov team accused Kramnik of during their infamous Elista 2006 World Championship match. Tiebreak in Elista Back then, Kramnik received massive support from other GM's in the form of, you guessed it, a good old open letter. Interestingly though, some of the signatories appear in both the old Elista and the new Aix les Bains letters. Have they changed their minds? But even if such "suspicious" behaviour could be objectively established (say, by always searching everybody who's present in the playing hall) do we really want arbiters (or indeed anyone at all) to "search" players and spectators? Isn't that - well, if not downright illegal, then intimidating at the very least? What if the suspect has no pockets? What if the suspect in question is a woman - without pockets - and only male arbiters are available? Have the angry grandmasters thought about these things? Okay, maybe we shouldn't be so harsh on them. Perhaps we can do without these unpleasant methods, as long as we can "unplug" digital boards or delay transmission over the internet by 15 minutes, which was already implemented in Aix les Bains (making ChessBase's plea for implementing it rather puzzling.) Note first of all that these proposals actually assume that the other preventive methods are not working: after all, if nobody is able to use electronic devices, then why does the internet transmission still have to be stopped or delayed? Note also that this proposal wouldn't be of much help for 99.99% of all the other chess games being played around the world, since these simply aren't played on digital boards. Don't the grandmasters care about cheating if it's done on non-digital boards? Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt rather than accuse them of an unhealthy focus on their own direct interests, this particular proposal seems to ignore the fact that live broadcasting of games is in fact one of the key assets of many tournaments in the first place. (You could even argue that without live broadcasting, it would not make so much sense for tournament organizers to invite all these strong players anyway.) Also, if live boards can be switched off at will, will that not lead to even more rumours and accusations - the exact opposite of what the authors are trying to achieve? DGT As for the "15 minute delay" solution, will this really help? An accomplice doesn't have to wait for the official live transmission, does he? He or she can simply text or e-mail the moves to anyone he likes (as indeed was supposedly done in the "French cheating" case), if not inside the playing hall then surely one step outside of it. All these suggestions seem utterly naive to me - people have always been able to cheat one way or another, and probably will always be able to. It seems simplistic and also a bit childish to ask for a perfect world. On a more philosophical note, I've often wondered why it's always this kind of "electronic" cheating that is emphasized and is somehow considered the most unfair of all. I can't help thinking this is just because other methods of "cheating" are more subtle and aren't so easy to fight. After all, no doubt electronic cheating can make one play better moves, but what about the good-old method of trying to make your opponent play inferior moves, e.g. by exerting psychological pressure on him? Isn't that equally unfair? The method has been tested at the highest level numerous times, often quite successfully.

Korchnoi-Karpov in 1978

Korchnoi-Karpov in 1978

Famous instances of psychological pressure which, some would argue, border on cheating include the 1977 Spassky-Korchnoi Candidates Final match, where in game 10 Spassky didn't appear behind the board except to make a move (as if playing a simul!), and instead did all his thinking from his relaxation box. Korchnoi protested, but lost the 11th and 13th game as a result of his agitation. A year later, in the the World Championship match against Karpov, Korchnoi was again the victim of a subtle psychological game, when he was distracted by the stare of the mysterious "Dr. Zukhar" from the audience. And there are many more examples - in fact, some would argue that publishing an open letter which clearly hints at possible cheating by your opponent, right before the game, is also an excellent way of getting a head start. But apart from such "dubious" psychological pressure, chess is such an unfair game anyway! Even as a kid, I thought it was grossly unfair that some of my young opponents whom I initially beat without effort, suddenly had lots of chess books and some even had a private chess trainer - just because their parents could afford it! - and started beating me. Isn't that, in a way, a kind of "cheating" as well? Later, I realized many grandmasters have an absolutely phenomenal memory - a gift from nature for which they didn't have to do anything at all! - whereas my own memory is always failing me. Such things are, in my opinion, much more consequential than a player occasionally receiving one or two hints from a chess engine. Naturally, I don't expect anyone to fully agree with all this. It's certainly true that, as Hans Ree observes in this week's chess column in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, the threat of cheating is "not a phantom, but a real danger".

iPhones

The iPhone app Stockfish, which allows easy analysis and can be connected to an engine running on a remote computer, making it even stronger

But I can't help wondering whether the people who shout so loudly about cheating (or doping, for that matter) and demand all kinds of rules - in their own interest - have actually considered any of the above-mentioned objections at all. To me, it seems that these are legitimate questions which should be answered before introducing all kinds of new rules. Even if we all agree that cheating is bad, let's not get carried away by emotions and forget the bigger picture. Suppose we do decide that new, more extreme rules are necessary to limit the possibilities of cheating, who will prevent FIDE or other organizations from making caricatures of the rules we demanded in the first place, as they've done repeatedly in the past? Needless to say, some of these harsh measures, such as the "zero tolerance" rule, were again grounds for grandmasters to make a collective protest. But what have all these open letters achieved, in the end, except more confusion and more open letters? I, for one, am sceptical about introducing - let alone implementing - new, extreme rules that ask for even stricter control, more privileges for officials and an atmosphere where even going to the toilet once too often might make you a suspect. Before we know, all tournament participants will be subjected to lie detectors after each game! Let's be careful what we ask for. The cure may be worse than the disease.

Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll

Chess.com

Comments

Barack Obama's picture

Nice article!

Listening some people cheating at is like a crime, cheating at chess is not more important than chess itself, and after all chess is just a game.

And I'm going farther: I dont agree with the delay, like a football game I'd like to see a game live as it's happening, in most GM tourneys it is virtually impossible to cheat and the Olympiads is a special case where spectators are also players and captains are all over the place, you can just ban phones and forbid captains to hang around the players or to go to the bar!

Adolfo's picture

For god’s sake, you and your comments!. You are the one of the “23 first places of Russians and former URSS countries” right?
“…Listening some people cheating at is like a crime…” It sure is.
“… cheating at chess is not more important than chess itself...” Who the hell said that?
“…and after all chess is just a game….” Wow, really? Even a sport as some call it.
“…And I’m going farther: I don’t agree with the delay, like a football game I’d like to see a game live as it’s happening…” Are these really comparable? Do you follow the chess live transmissions with no live commentary in the tip of the chair and stand up and yell out in the air when they blunder?

Barack Obama's picture

Adolf, so many questions!!

The fact there is so little "westerners" in the top 23 is a very interesting point, it says that western chess schools still suck compare to the eastern ones, I'm sorry you didn't think about this.

Cheating at chess is NOT a crime, just open a code and study some basic law.

CHess is not a sport, it is not in the Olympics for that reason.

Any game or sport you follow online everybody want to follow it live, people who ever recorded a football game know what I mean, do you feel the same thrill when you come home and review your favorite player's game played earlier in the day? of course not.

Asdracles's picture

I read a lot and barely post, but this is just the most ridiculous post I have ever read here. According to your definition Golf, any Motor Racing, Baseball, Cricket, Rugby ... are not sports. Fantastic!!

Luckily, The International Olympic Commitee has a full list of recognised sports (Chess is inside the list). Of course, not all them can make into the Olympic Games, due to logistic reasons, and a few are selected

Barack Obama's picture

I didnt say this was the only reason it wasnt a sport, it is just a consequence of the fact it is not sport.
But people who claim it is a sport never obviously practiced one..

Barone's picture

When you say someone is "a good sport" you mean he recognize the value of a fair play, of any kind: a "sport" is a fair competition with exact rules, and phisical activity has nothing to do with this.
One can argue about defining a sport something like Poker, for example, or other games based on chence, but not at all on Chess.
If you don't understand this, you never PLAYED any sport.

john's picture

Cheating is for guys with small ....brains.

help's picture

I wouldn't be so polite. ;)

gasperov's picture

the only way to stop cheating is to allow players to write down the candidate moves at the board ( hiiden from oppont but avaiable to the arbiter) the working out that follows
so that a player will be able to show his supporting anaysis
this will make the game more sporting and give it back to the humans

Barack Obama's picture

dude, where did you buy your weed?

saturnz's picture

lol

achat Poupée gonflable's picture

good post

S2's picture

If a big article is made up of fallacies it is hard to find another way to reply. I found helps post readable enough.

Ben's picture

I have proposed this rule VARIANT on the USCF member forums. Basically if an organizer wants to implement it (usually to do so would be financially stupid, but sometimes it would be appropriate), he can prohibit active player spectators in addition to the non-playing ones he already can prohibit.

Add Variation 20M7. Total Spectator Ban.
The tournament director may ban the spectating of games by all persons, including other players whose games have not finished (notwithstanding a player's reasonable expectations to watch nearby games as per Rule 20M2). This rule does not apply to boards immediately adjacent to the spectator's own unfinished game. This variation should be announced at the beginning of the event and posted in the tournament hall. A player violating this rule may incur a warning, time penalty, or forfeiture of his or her game, or other suitable penalty at the director's discretion.
TD TIP: This variation was conceived to prevent some of the more elaborate forms of cheating. This variation does not negate, but rather supplements, other rules regarding spectators. The TD may want to announce and post various reasonable exceptions, such as allowing spectating one hour after the round has started, for the top couple of boards where cheating is more likely to be noticed, or for certain rounds, etc. This variation is likely most appropriate for hybrid team events or huge events with a large prize fund.
(See also [list applicable rules here].)

Pedro Pinto's picture

a brave article in these times!
great!

S2's picture

Very illogical article, in my opinion.

Taking cheating not serious because most cases haven't been proved makes no sense. I'd rather think it calls for ways to make obtaining proof , and discovery of cheating more easy.

The authors call for defining suspicious behavior in advance doesn't make much sense to me either. First Moll states that such behavior is not defined in the letter, only to fill in the meaning himself. Quite presumptuous, and I doubt he really describes what was meant in the open letter. And then, the unfair comparison with Kramnik-who went to his restroom (not toilet) quite often, which is quite common in wch matches and generally not considered as suspicious.
Apart from this all, not explicitely describing all forms of suspicious behavior-and I am sure the GM's want debate on that- gives arbiters the option to counter cheating methods that are not thought of in advance.

Also, broadcast delay is just another safety measure- quite wise to use several methods at once- but the author above handles it as if it were a measurement proposed alone in order to draw false conclusions.

I find a lot of the rhetorics just as childish as the author thinks the "naive" GMs.
"Do the GM's not care about cheating on non- DGT boards?" Of course they do. It's a silly question and fails to take into account the other proposed rules.
It's just that the use of DGT boards gives additional options to cheat and so extra rules are needed. Besides, most top GM events are played on DGT boards.

I just can't understand why one thinks it unhealthy, naive, and selfish if GM's want to make cheating more difficult just because it is in their own interest (is it??).

The notion that people will always find ways to cheat may be true, but it is childish logic to argue against anti cheating measures because of that. The point is to make cheating more difficult.
One wouldn't propose abolishing anti crime measures because some people will always find a way, not?

cip's picture

I believe we (my guess is you too) do not have anti crime measures really. Not in the sense you think of anti cheating measures.
There are all these mechanisms that try to ensure that crime is punished, but we do not stop interactions between humans just to make sure they cannot commit crimes against each other. Enforcing rules that make cheating impossible can be much worse than actual cheating - this is a big point of the article and it is not "childish". As for rules that permit investigation of suspicious behavior, those are already enacted.
Sometimes the soundest arguments and best intentions lead to bad reasoning - there are some famous historical examples, many of them ending up as quite damaging political systems.

help's picture

I agree with this on principle, but the article by Arne does not at all properly support this and has a lot of false or misleading reasonings. I am in favor of reasonable anti cheating measures that do not go to extremes.

No cell phones at the board limits our "freedom", but the alternative is rampant cheating. Make your choice.

Coco Loco's picture

"Apart from this all, not explicitely describing all forms of suspicious behavior-and I am sure the GM’s want debate on that- gives arbiters the option to counter cheating methods that are not thought of in advance."

S2, can you think of any reasons why that might not be the best idea?
By the way, implementing this kind of policy has been tried at various levels (e.g., the "emergency law" in Egypt), and it always seems to backfire. There must be too many criminals out there who fear being exposed as such...

S2's picture

Say someone has a cold or minor illness during play, and as a consequence visits the bathroom more often. The arbiter can hear him coughing, can see that he wears a scarf and is sick, and now he can decide the bathroom visits don't call for additional inspection.

Say a player with 1600 elo beats 5 GM's in a row, but no "suspicious behavior" is visible. The arbiter can insist on a closer inspection anyway.

Not pinpointing every detail in rules ensures the reasonability of things, if the arbiters are doing their job properly that is.

Anyway, the main problem on this was that Moll states how the open letter doesn't specify suspicious behavior only to follow up with an attack on the alledged interpretation. That doesn't make sense at all.

"Unfortunately, the authors couldn’t be bothered defining what, exactly, “suspicious” behaviour looks like. I think it’s safe to say they mean things like sneaking to the toilet after every move and/or producing very strong moves that could also be played by chess engines. Basically, these are the very same things the Topalov team accused Kramnik of during their infamous Elista 2006 World Championship match."

(of course the comparison with Elista is ridiculous as well but that's another point)

The article is riddled with such "tricks" and I am not even complaining about the ever returning "philosophical" considerations that are not just that.

I really don't think its worth debating this article, so I have some regrets about posting a reaction in the first place. Some will like it, some dont.

mihajovics's picture

I was itching to reply to the article... but you (and help) nailed it in your comments, no need to elaborate any further.
I agree completely: an article without rhyme or reason.

William Stewart's picture

I get the point of the main article, yes there is a bit of sensationalism going on with respect to cheating the chess world. But is this really being blown out of proportion? There are a very good amount of respected GMs that have worked very hard to be where they are. If people are not adequately prevented and punished for cheating, they are undermining everything legitimate in the professional chess world. @S2 - great reply to the original post. I hope we see stricter security measures and much stricter punishments if a player is caught or proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Chris's picture

What is a difference between a toilette and a restroom which had an entry to the private toilette ? I think the comparison is adequate.

Adolfo's picture

To me this has been an excellent analysis. The objections, like “but fortunately your last line summarizes your position” (cip), or “Is there some reason you cannot write a reply in the form of a coherent and legible sequence of paragraphs” (monoceros4) “quantity doesn’t make up for quality” (Barack Obama) don’t say a word about the replier’s content, they just hit around some frivolous and empty stuff like the writing style, which was a bit odd, but definitely coherent and logical, last line summarizing his position, which by no means it does as he dealt with a wide variety of topics, and if any worth mentioning Obama´s hollow point.
However I do disagree with one important point of “Help”:
(Arne´s quote) "Unfortunately, the authors couldn’t be bothered defining what, exactly, “suspicious” behaviour looks like. (Help´s quote) Because it could quite literally be anything. Use your common sense.

Here to me Arne is right. It is an absolutely wrong methodology for creating either a law or a game rule to leave vague spots and even worse to set them as the principle. Particularly when they constitute exceptions of basic civil rights. Here it would be exactly so. One extreme example could be giving the police the right to break into people’s houses without a judge’s warrant in search of some proof under the owner’s supposed “suspicious behaviour” of any kind.

I am not sure about the general anti-cheating valid current rules, but I do agree with
A) Zero spectators rule. Remember that Topalov-Danailov issue? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqa9Ht3L71U) . The case did not look serious but what if it could have been? How to prevent possible secret signalling from happening? And above all, what is the strong reason to allow either team captains, public, and anybody else apart from the players and the arbiter to have eye contact with the players during the games?
B) Metal detectors: This is a general rule, every player has to pass trough them, unlike individual possible searches. The players should be previously warned to get rid of earrings or whatever other stuff that rings the metal detector.
C) Frequency inhibitors: Supposing some player could somehow bypass the metal detector and have some electronic device OTB, this would be ideal to secure there are no kinds of possible wireless transmissions. Note that in a few chess cheating cases some players were caught with very small devices hidden into their clothes or even in their own bodies.

This is only a sample list, and as far as the miserable cheaters could use the technology to aid themselves, the best available technological anti-cheating measures should always be implemented within the frame of the individual civic rights.

Best regards,

Adolfo.

Barack Obama's picture

"don’t say a word about the replier’s content"

haha dude I have a life, this post wasn't good and I don't need to waste my all afternoon to reply to each point...

goloum's picture

"
but what about the good-old method of trying to make your opponent play inferior moves, e.g. by exerting psychological pressure on him?
"

Do you mean Vallejo is cheating by publishing this tendentious open letter just before playing the accusated opponent ?
Yes, I agree with you.

help's picture

I also thought it was a bit suspicious that Vallejo comes with this letter on the day before he has to play Feller.

cip's picture

I posted the same thought on the day of the open letter here on ChessVibes. It got mostly thumbs down. It´s funny to see that now that the situation is a little more clear, there are no more thumbs down.

cip's picture

Ok, thumbs down are back - there is some consistency here.

But come on, it is ridiculous to make such an open letter public late in the evening before your game with the guy accused of cheating. The intent is obvious from the hastily drafted notes - did Vallejo really believe this letter will help the overall fight against cheating!? Did he have hopes of changing tournament rules starting from round 7/11? He obviously convinced some other GMs to sign, playing on a general sensitivity towards cheating.
Suspicious? At least a little... I would even say pathetic!

Didn't we roast a bigger fish for doing something like that a while ago? Wait, is this guy the second of... tzt, tzt! (This last line is ridiculous, but with a purpose. See, cheating has never done chess any good and accusing someone of cheating without proof has only made it worse. Saying that cheating is a big problem in chess, but without proof and without viable solutions is just as damaging.)

help's picture

I obviously agree with you. It could have been a good point made in the article by Arne. But he never made that point. (Maybe he didn't know about it.)

christos (greece)'s picture

I am not sure the victim's point of view is taken into consideration properly.

When I discover my opponent is using computer assistance in a blitz game on an internet server, I am annoyed and I don't want to play against them any longer. It is only an unimportant blitz game, which only costs me unimportant rating points, but I still want to play against a human.

When the victim is a professional chess player, they lose real games, real tournament prizes and real rating points (when they get invitations to tournaments, appearance fees, etc. their ratings are considered). In other words, their job is threatened. When this happens people tend to try to resist it.

help's picture

>>the subject of cheating in chess is hype and heavily overrated as a serious topic of concern

It will only become a subject of no concern if there are anti-cheating measures in place. Computers have gotten too strong, even a chess program on a cell phone could be of help, which was not the case years ago when they were not strong enough.

>>Let’s face it: in all the millions of games that are played each year around the world, in how many games has cheating actually been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt? Five? Ten?

Even if there was only one cheater at the Olympiad (a small percentage), this is unacceptable. And I doubt if there was only one cheater. All crime that is being caught is only the tip of the iceberg.

>>the attention the subject is getting is a little over the top and is by now almost leading to mass hysteria.

If anything the above comment is over the top.
Where's the mass hysteria? This is mass hysteria: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbJIQ1X0fV8 ;)

>>Moreover, cheating in chess is nothing new.
Because of The Turk? And even if it's not new, so? In any case: it has only recently become really problematic with the increase in strength of computers. In Kasparov's prime for example computers were still too weak.

>>However, even cheating with the help of all kinds of technological assistance still seems to be pretty difficult

If you cheat on every single move it's cumbersome, yes.
But why do people keep assuming you need to cheat on every single move? One single hint during the game could be enough.

>>Unfortunately, the authors couldn’t be bothered defining what, exactly, “suspicious” behaviour looks like.

Because it could quite literally be anything. Use your common sense.

>>Back then, Kramnik received massive support from other GM’s in the form of, you guessed it, a good old open letter. Interestingly though, some of the signatories appear in both the old Elista and the new Aix les Bains letters. Have they changed their minds?

Please. Different cases, different circumstances. Do we need to rehash that Topalov - Kramnik scandal again and point out how ridiculous the accusations were given the circumstances (and the fact that there were severe anti-cheating measures in place)?

>>Note also that this proposal wouldn’t be of much help for 99.99% of all the other chess games being played around the world, since these simply aren’t played on digital boards. Don’t the grandmasters care about cheating if it’s done on non-digital boards?

The open letter you are referring to dealt with a tournament played on electronic boards.

>>is particular proposal seems to ignore the fact that live broadcasting of games is in fact one of the key assets of many tournaments in the first place

A relay delay will have no impact on live viewing whatsoever.

>>Also, if live boards can be switched of at will, will that not lead to even more rumours and accusations – the exact opposite of what the authors are trying to achieve?

First of all: switching off the board is not necessary with a relay delay as the author of the open letter acknowledged.
Second: they are trying to stop cheating, the rumors will hopefully go away if there is less possibility of cheating. I say hopefully because I want to meet the person who knows how to stop rumors.

>>As for the “15 minute delay” solution, will this really help?

It's easy and costs nothing and it does help to a certain degree. (An accomplice outside the playing hall get's the moves 15 minutes after they are played so that the cheater would have to waste at least 15 minutes of his time before he get's a move from his accomplice. It's not "the solution", but it's something, and it's easy and costs nothing.

Personally I would prefer a longer delay.

>>All these suggestions seem utterly naive to me – people have always been able to cheat one way or another, and probably will always be able to. It seems simplistic and also a bit childish to ask for a perfect world.

Again; please. What do YOU want? Let's all just stick our heads in the sand and pretend cheating does never happen. THAT would be better??? Nobody is asking for a perfect world and there are no perfect solutions, but that does not mean we should not try to stop it.

>>what about the good-old method of trying to make your opponent play inferior moves, e.g. by exerting psychological pressure on him? Isn’t that equally unfair?

There are certain levels of behavior that are acceptable and some levels that become unsportsmanlike behavior. Again: use your common sense. (You couldn't - even if you wanted to - write down all the possible ways a competitor might misbehave. They have catch-all statements like: do not disturb you opponent and the like.)

>>Later, I realized many grandmasters have an absolutely phenomenal memory – a gift from nature for which they didn’t have to do anything at all! – whereas my own memory is always failing me.

Your opponent is not cheating because he is smarter than you. Sorry, objection overruled. (And let's get real please.)

>>Such things are, in my opinion, much more consequential than a player occasionally receiving one or two hints from a chess engine.

Huh? I almost fell of my chair reading that. You can't be serious. Or maybe you are a lawyer hired by the defense on that latest scandal by any chance?
"But Your Honor: he has a better memory then me, it's not fair, I have to cheat!"

>>let’s not get carried away by emotions and forget the bigger picture.

What bigger picture? Cheating cannot be allowed or the whole sport goes down the drain.

>>who will prevent FIDE or other organizations from making caricatures of the rules we demanded in the first place

1) If you are going to worry about "what if's" you will never get anything done. What if you get run over by a bus on the way to the tournament? Better stop playing chess then eh?
2) Don't get me started on FIDE. ;) Let's hope they do not make a mockery of it, that is all we can do: hope - unfortunately.

>>Needless to say, some of these harsh measures, such as the “zero tolerance” rule, were again grounds for grandmasters to make a collective protest.

1) That rule is not about cheating.
2) I personally don't agree with that rule at all.
3) Yes we know FIDE is worthless, but what does that have to do with cheating?

>>I, for one, am sceptical about introducing – let alone implementing – new, extreme rules that ask for even stricter control

What new extreme rules are we talking about exactly. You are rather vague about that.

>>more privileges for officials

It all depends on what "privileges" we are talking about. I would not condone a full body pat down, but surely that is not being asked. A good metal detector goes a long way.

>>and an atmosphere where even going to the toilet once too often might make you a suspect.

With correct measures in place: you can go to the toilet as much as you want. It is exactly the lack of correct measures that creates the atmosphere of suspicion.

>>Before we know, all tournament participants will be subjected to lie detectors after each game!

Now you are making a caricature of the situation.

>>Let’s be careful what we ask for.

Agreed

>>The cure may be worse than the disease.

Doing noting is for sure even worse than that.

cip's picture

You posted so much, but fortunately your last line summarizes your position

`>>The cure may be worse than the disease.

Doing noting is for sure even worse than that.`

This is plain wrong. Doing nothing is exactly what you should do when you don´t understand the problem. The problem of cheating is a complex problem that you cannot solve overnight (not even if you are a team of GM's). It is better to think before you act (pretend it is chess).

S2's picture

He posted "much" but not more than the original letter and help's post actually made sense! ;)

cip's picture

I only meant to make clear that it is better to think and find solutions.
This article has one main point: that the cure may be worse than the disease. You can attack it sentence by sentence, but don't undermine the main point. (the author is not a journalistic genius, I grant help that - he covered his arguments in a pile of bs)

The cure may be worse than the disease. And not only the cure. The fact is, complaining publicly about something that is perceived as an urgent problem in chess, may be worse than the disease. Exagerating the proportions of a problem, in this case cheating, is worse than the problem. We can think back to all historical examples of exagerations. (in chess, outside chess)
It is good to find solutions without inflaming the problem with hasty open letters.

help's picture

We should think about which counter measures to implement: yes.

Then we should implement them.

monoceros4's picture

Is there some reason you cannot write a reply in the form of a coherent and legible sequence of paragraphs rather than a broken-up assortment of one-line responses? The writing style practically commands the reader to stop and read no further.

Bee dance's picture

I totally agree with help (and christos) , and I personally think it's a good idea to reply on precise sentences and ideas, rather than on generalities.

I like the fact than Arne Moll is trying to give a different view on the cheating issue but I don't agree at all with him. Except on the fact that the Vallejo letter didn't had much sense at that time of the tournament. So I agree with cip, even GM shouldn't try to resolve the problem of cheating in a night because THIS looks suspicious :)

Anyway, this article was meant to open a debate, so I guess everyone is allowed to agree or not, no offense.

SXL's picture

Excellent run-through. Don't mind the ADD comments of the others responding to your detailed refutation of Moll's silly article. Good work.

Barack Obama's picture

Long painful laborious effort to post this but unfortunately quantity doesn’t make up for quality...

Arne Moll's picture

@help

There are lots of things to comment on in your long post (most importantly, your apparent lack of a sense of humour!), but let me just point out that what you call a "caricature" (lie detectors) is actually a serious suggestion made by GM Sergey Dolmatov (see the hyperlink, it's in Russian but Google Translate is surely helpful.).
I can't think of a better way to prove my remark about 'mass hysteria'...

help's picture

To be honest I did not click on that link because I assumed it had nothing to do with chess.

The suggestion of using a lie detector is obviously totally absurd. (And amazingly not even an April fools prank, the interview dates April third.)

But as has been said already: it's just one person suggesting this. If they were asking for this in an open letter signed by many you might have had a point. (One person is not "mass hysteria".)

help's picture

On lie detectors:

Somebody send this link to Sergei Dolmatov: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=lie+detector

The very first result in Google.com goes to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lie_detection
And already in the very first paragraph I quote:

"Critics claim that "lie detection" by use of polygraphy has no scientific validity because it is not a scientific procedure."

From the conclusion of the article:

"In the peer-reviewed academic article "Charlatanry in forensic speech science", the authors reviewed 50 years of lie detector research and came to the conclusion that there is no scientific evidence supporting that lie detectors actually work
...
The cumulative research evidence suggests that machines do detect deception better than chance, but with significant error rates and that strategies used to "beat" polygraph examinations, so-called countermeasures, may be effective. Despite unreliability, results are admissible in court in some countries such as the United States."

Personally I would rewrite that last sentence as: "Because of it's unreliability; results are not admissible in court in most countries, the United States being a notable exception."

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygraph :

"Polygraphy has little credibility among scientists. Despite claims of 90-95% validity by polygraph advocates, and 95-100% by businesses providing polygraph services, critics maintain that rather than a "test", the method amounts to an inherently unstandardizable interrogation technique whose accuracy cannot be established. A 1997 survey of 421 psychologists estimated the test's average accuracy at about 61%, a little better than chance."

And all that's just about the accuracy (or inaccuracy to be more to the point) of lie detectors. There is also the fact that it is a big procedure requiring a lot of equipment, specialists to administer the test and that it takes a lot of time.

Conclusion: totally absurd suggestion. Sorry but I can't mince words about that.

ChessGirl's picture

very nice article, Arne :)

christos (greece)'s picture

"... Naturally, I don’t expect anyone to fully agree with all this ..."
I agree with this sentence. The article seems to contradict itself at some points. This way, perhaps mutliple points of view are presented, but no conclusion.

The continuation is: "It’s certainly true that, as Hans Ree observes in this week’s chess column in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, the threat of cheating is “not a phantom, but a real danger”."

I could add that there is a universe of difference between the various methods of "cheating" described:
1) secretly organizing a way to get assistance from a computer program OR
2) using psychological pressure (psychology is part of chess in my opinion and one must train oneself to be strong in this area also) OR
3) being able to afford books and training (really?)

cip's picture

Even if there aren't strong conclusions in this article, there is one point emphasized throughout:

One should understand cheating, before moving towards proposing solutions.

Understand the implications of cheating, the scale of the problem, the motivation for cheating and the victims, find proportional punishment for various forms of cheating and finally, find the method of prevention that does not inhibit players from comfortably playing chess, nor spectators from enjoying the thrill of following a live game. Before thinking about these points, it would be best to be careful about saying that cheating should be stopped, that it is an urgent problem and that it must be addressed immediately.

drag queen's picture

We pay money to play...we play for money...why not involve the REAL police?

arkan's picture

There are 2 rather simple solutions to this problem:

1. Like some hospitals, install a mobile phone jammer in the playing area. No need for metaldetectors or full-body searches. This wont interfere with move relaying via internet by the organisers;

2. Like Casino: "In Vegas, everybody's gotta watch everybody else. Since the players are looking to beat the casino, the dealers are watching the players. The box men are watching the dealers. The floor men are watching the box men. The pit bosses are watching the floor men. The shift bosses are watching the pit bosses. The casino manager is watching the shift bosses. I'm watching the casino manager. And the eye-in-the-sky is watching us all. "

Most tournaments are already being recorded ''live'' and broadcasted via webcams - players should be made aware that captured feeds will be available to the organisers for an extended period even after the tournament has ended.

The stakes are high obviously; these methods are the least intrusive i could think of and would certainly make cheating at this level a lot harder.

Cajunmaster's picture

There was a time when players were naturally honor bound not to analyze their own adjourned games during the dinner break...
It is all too understandable that a professional grandmaster such as Mr Shipov would attempt to minimize the problem but to confuse "training" or "native skills" with "cheating" is going a bit far !
As for the effects of cheating, just look at what the new technologies have done to correspondence chess: it has made it irrelevant as a competitive endeavor.

oony's picture

Open events are notorious ground for cheaters, like throwing games to consorts to get top prizes, so compu-aid is nothing of a novelty. Team events (Bundes leagues) are also easier to cheat with teammate helps or otherwise. Much harder is invited events where the organizers are reputed.

Given that the players could overhear the commentator giving computer lines in Bilbao a few years ago, the organizers need to be the ones who crack down. FIDE is nothing more than a clearinghouse, though they *could* help by not giving official events to locales and organizers who are not sufficiently cheat proof (San Luis, Elista?), I expect they don't care other than the bottom line. Serious events need real monitoring, and this is fully possible if you take it seriously, but at large open/team events the overhead ratio divided by actual detection could be too low, particularly as FIDE cares more about participation numbers and the ensuing graft money than anything else.

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