Has Cheating Affected Chess?

I posted a link to my last post on cheating on the USCF forum. In response Ron Suarez left a long comment culminating with, “So cheating can be a potential issue. However I think it quite extreme to say it is currently the most important issue facing the chess world.”
He was answered in the following post by William H. Stokes who wrote, “Is it really so extreme to claim that cheating is currently the most important issue facing the chess world. If class players exit the game in droves because they are convinced a program will win the event rather than the ubiquitous ringer (who at least used his own brain) , I just can’t see the sunny personalities of the great players making up for this shortfall in revenue.”
I do not know why my friend the Discman stopped playing chess because I never asked him, but there are clues. Like so many adults he was at the House of Pain playing in the Wednesday night event like every Wednesday night and then he missed a week, and we missed him. After missing for a few weeks we stopped missing him. Chris, like so many other adults, took his game to poker, and did well enough to cash in the World Series of Poker. This century the game of poker found great popularity. Something similar happened with the game of backgammon in the late 1970’s, early 80’s. The craze fizzled, and the same thing has happened with poker. There was no generally agreed reason for the sudden loss of interest in backgammon, but poker is a different story. Cheating, especially in online poker, has killed the game. The Discman told me that at the height of the poker craze there were many poker games in his neck of the woods each and every night. Now there are only a few games the way it was before the craze. Only a few years ago books on poker crowded out chess books in the games section, but now there are as few poker books as chess, because neither are selling. Most bars hosted a poker night, especially Texas Hold’em, but that is no longer the situation. Do a search on “Feds Poker Crackdown” and you will see page after page of articles on the demise of poker. To say the popularity of poker has waned would be a tremendous understatement.
If you are even a sporadic reader, you know the Discman, NM Chris Chambers, and I communicate regularly, and have for many years. Here are some comments the Discman has sent recently.
This was during a discussion of how few adult members are left in the USCF.
May 12, 2014
“There are between 90,000 and 100,000 ALTA adult dues-paying members – the Atlanta Tennis organization. Most of these people are also dues-paying members of USTA, the United States Tennis Association. They run many major events across the country, including the U.S. Open in Flushing, NY. I don’t know how many USTA members there are but I’m guessing over 1M.”
Chris was the first to inform me many years ago about the coming of a chess program strong enough to beat the World Champion coming to the hand-held gizmo.
May 12, 2014
“We saw this coming back in the ’90’s. The tremendous dedication and devotion required to become a top GM is not worth it, as there is not a tournament circuit to make a living playing in.
Without a viable reason to become a world-class GM there is no reason to pursue the game. It’s like cutting off the head of the snake; only the wiggling extremeties (scholastic chess) remain, serving no real purpose.
I have heard it argued that the scholastic chess machine could produce a champion by virtue of numbers. This argument is flawed, as chess champions are prodigies and should/would be playing against adults by the age of 10.
Saying ‘I see no reason chess cannot be as popular as tennis or golf’ is delusional. The reason is obvious – virtually nobody plays OTB chess competitively. In my neighborhood there are 575 dues-paying ALTA (Atlanta Lawn & Tennis Association) members, and 37 teams last year. Granted, there are 2,700 homes in my neighborhood, but still there are probably more ALTA members than there are dues-paying adult GCA members in the entire state of GA.
Sadly, I have to say “I told ya so…”
chambiz
May 13, 2014
“It’s hopelessly easy to cheat at a chess tournament, and with GM-strength chess engines available for less than $100 and $1,000+ class prizes it’s a safe bet that more than half of the top class prizes go to cheaters at a major open tourney.”
And here is one from last year:
Sep 30, 2013
“It’s still too easy to cheat – even in FIDE rated events. All you would need is a device that could send a pulse, for example a device in your shoe. An outside agent could then send moves to you through sequenced pulses via this device. A spectator could very easily signal in moves to a player simply by standing there – both arms hanging loosely at your side means “knight.” Left hand clenched means “bishop” etc.
Until you send every player through a screening device and allow nobody else access to the room I’m not going to be convinced that cheating isn’t possible. Nobody wants to play in an environment like that.”

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