Chess Match-fixing and Cheating

The “Just Checking” section which closes each issue of the best Chess magazine in the world, New In Chess, is a Q&A with people in the world of Chess. In the latest issue, 2019/6

Grandmaster Simen Agdestein

answers the questions posed.

The antepenultimate question is: “If you could change any one thing in the chess world, what would it be?”

Agdestein: “Stop agreed draws. That’s match-fixing and cheating and not OK.”

GM Igors Rausis Caught With The Toilet Seat Down


Having a check, mate? Chess grandmaster Igors Rausis sits on the toilet looking at his phone – in a picture which chess officials say is evidence he was cheating

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7240423/Chess-grandmaster-cheating-scandal-using-phone-look-strategies.html

Toilet Seat’s Coming Down

Chixdiggit!

I never cleaned my room never held a broom I was always screwing around
Never swept the floor organized my drawers since you came,
My life turned around now the toilet seat’s coming down and I’m happy nearly year around
I don’t have a frown now the toilet seat’s coming down

I never washed my face never cleaned my place never put a dish in the sink
I was never into clothes smelling like a rose now
I only care what you think now the toilet seat’s coming down
And I’m happy nearly year around I don’t have a frown now the toilet seat’s coming down

Now the toilet seat’s coming down and I’m happy nearly year around
I don’t give a damn now the toilet seat’s coming down

Chess Cheating: The Eternal Battle Between Good And Evil

A subject on which I have received much response from readers is cheating in Chess, and the number of emails received has increased over the years. Cheating at Chess is a subject that is not going away any time soon. Much has been written about the subject recently, including the following, but I want to mention an email received from a Chess dad. He mentioned talking with another father of a young Chess player about the subject of cheating in Chess and the man told him he needed to read the Armchair Warrior because the AW questions everything. Maybe I should have called the blog the ChessX-Files

Or maybe Mcully and Sculder…

The gentleman did get in touch, writing that his son, who was considered a promising player, had stopped playing Chess. When asked why he no longer wanted to play the game the son said, “Half the kids CHEAT, dad!”

The stunned father was taken aback. He wrote it took a few moments to gather himself. Then he questioned the number saying, “Surely it is not as bad as that?” The son replied his friend had also decided to quit the game because of the rampant cheating.

I have not been involved in playing Chess the past few years and have been away from tournament action. All I know is what I read on the Chess websites and what is sent to me via email, such as the following:

“This also goes past the actual cheating..I have beaten several GMs..so has (Name withheld)(even in his 70s)…of course the results are consider “upsets”…however If go to the US Masters and have a similar “upset win”..I am going to be accused of cheating..the organizers are going to strip search me looking for evidence..maybe call in DHS!…and if I was to have two “upset wins”… the GMS will pass around a letter asking that I should be removed from the US Masters…I would never get my reputation back…it’s kinda like be accused of a child abuse charge.. and notice that number of Masters that do not play anymore?… Chess at least in the US is doomed…and of course these are my personal comments and should not be connected to my name..you can use my concerns but please not my name or the state that I live in…”

This was received in the spring of this year. Reading it again caused me to think of the US Open this year in which only one IM participated…(This comes from memory; I did no research so I may have it confused with another large tournament) Make of it what you will…

How prevalent has cheating in Chess become?

Canadian Arbiter Caught Cheating

by kevinspraggettonchess · Published September 22, 2018 · Updated September 28, 2018

Claude Lessard is a popular and well respected arbiter, organizer and promoter in the Quebec City area chess community. Earlier in the month the Quebec Chess Federation (FQE) took the unprecedented step to ban him for 2 years following an investigation into multiple longtime allegations of cheating using a cellphone chess app during his games.

Questions of whether this cheating was just the tip of the iceberg amongst members of the popular chess club he ran and owned remain unanswered.

Cheating is destroying the game

I don’t play so much these days, but in the relatively few international tournaments that I have played in during the past 5 years here in Europe, I have witnessed a significant number of examples of cheating. Even amongst 2700-plus players, not just the lowly amateur.

Some of these methods used are quite sophisticated, and implicate outside help. All require the tournament arbiters to close their eyes and look the otherway. As I wrote several times here on this blog, a good rule of thumb is that at any given time in any tournament as many as 20% of the participants are cheating in one way or the other. Not just with apps.

Now that it is well established that parents, spectators, arbiters and even organizers are participating in this ‘epidemic’, that rule of thumb must be updated and increased.

Organized chess can not continue this way. Perhaps it is time for FIDE to stop listening to arbiters and organizers, or to start expelling some arbiters and organizers that players have already noticed can not be trusted.

http://www.spraggettonchess.com/canadian-arbiter-caught-cheating/

“If a player is determined to cheat, it will happen”

by Davide Nastasio

10/20/2018 – In the United States, there are many weekend tournaments, thanks to the efforts of many independent tournament organizers nationwide. Some of these tournaments provide significant prize money, over USD $12,000, and the chance to play against strong master level players. Georgia-based DAVIDE NASTASIO recently spoke to one such veteran organizer, Walter High,

and sent this brief interview along with annotated games from the North Carolina Open.

Walter High: I started playing because my two sons, David and Zachary, were becoming very good players and I got tired of sitting in the hallways of hotels and schools waiting for them to finish their games. I thought: “I can play this game! How hard could it be?” I found out the answer to that very, very quickly!

DN: What about cheating? The technology has made falling into temptation definitely easier, how are the USCF and US tournament organisers dealing with such a big problem?

WH: I sincerely doubt that there was ever a time when cheating did not exist in chess. Technology has just changed the methods used to cheat and also the methods used to prevent cheating. If a player is determined to cheat, it will happen. We cannot prevent it other than by making players face off naked in isolation from other players and all spectators! Technology is also used to help prevent cheating; metal detectors and wands are used to eliminate electronic devices from entering the playing venue. There is a point at large tournaments where anti-cheating measures can only go so far without making the tournament experience disagreeable for too many players. It is a trade-off we cannot escape. This problem will be as timeless as the eternal battle between good and evil.

https://en.chessbase.com/post/north-carolina-open-2018

Isle of Man Chess International, Round 2, 21 October 2018. Photo by John Saunders

Discussing How to Cheat in Chess

These two items appeared at the Chessbase website on the same day. Discuss.

Dubai: Fedoseev, Shabalov lead after seven rounds
4/13/2015 – The Dubai Open is in its final stages with just two rounds left, and the event is heating up. Vladimir Fedoseev and Alexander Shabalov are leading jointly with a score of 6.0/7, followed by a pack of seven on 5.5. In round six the tournament was marred when it was discovered that the two-time Georgian Champion Gaioz Nigalidze had been cheating with a smartphone hidden in the toilet. Discuss

50328

Using Deep Fritz 14 on a smartphone
4/13/2015 – Recently, Danny Gormally wrote an entertaining article ‘The Komodo files’ where the Grandmaster describes his experience of working with a chess engine. While it is certainly the Summa Cum Laude of chess engines, the weekend chess warriors may balk at carrying a laptop. In this article you will see how you can easily fulfill your needs with Deep Fritz on a smartphone. Discuss

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This was not at Chessbase:

GM Gaioz Nigalidze Caught Cheating!

The headline dated Sunday, 12.04.2015 says it all: Gaioz Nigalidze, Twice Georgian Champion, Caught Cheating.

The chiseler was caught red-handed at the Dubai Open.

In the article at chess-news.ru GM Tigran Petrosian says, “”I was suspicious about my opponent already after the tournament in Al Ain in December, where we both had been taking part. Nigalidze won that tournament; during our game he would go to the toilet very often, as well as this time. However, in Al Ain I had no evidence, I could only make guesses. Today, my suspicions have been confirmed…

In our today’s game, Nigalidze would promptly reply to my moves and then literally run to the toilet. Twice, I made my moves promptly as well, so that he couldn’t leave, and he made mistakes on those occasions. Then I decided to keep an eye on him. I noticed that he would always visit the same toilet partition, which was strange, since two other partitions weren’t occupied.

I informed the chief arbiter about my growing suspicions and asked him to keep an eye on Gaioz. After some time, the arbiter approached me and said that he had checked my opponent and found nothing. I asked him to check Nigalidze again, because I was already sure that something was wrong.

After my opponent left the very toilet partition yet another time, the arbiters entered it. What they found was the mobile phone with headphones; the device was hidden behind the pan and covered with toilet paper.

We both were sitting at the board, when the chief arbiter came up to Nigalidze and showed him the mobile phone, asking: “Is this yours?” Nigalidze blushed, got confused and couldn’t say anything.

The arbiter forfeited him in the game. I went outdoors, and Gaioz approached me. I thought he was going to apologize, but he only asked me what was going to happen to him as a result.”
(http://chess-news.ru/en/node/18610)

It used to be the only players caught cheating were not very good, but now that a Grandmaster has been caught using a gizmo to cheat it is obvious chess cannot withstand the rise of the programs. Every game this man has played is now suspect. Everyone who plays chess is a suspect. How long do you think chess will be played?

NIGALIDZE-022

Gaioz Nigalidze

The Chess Detective

The US Open begins in a few days, which means the chess politicos are packing their bags, getting prepared to travel to Orlando to do their “moving” & “shaking.” For that reason I have decided to post some thoughts, and pose some questions, for the “pooh-bahs” and I need to do it now because once they arrive there will be no time for them to read and thoughtfully consider anything because they will be busy “schmoozing.”
Like many others I read with interest the June “Chess Life” cover article by Howard Goldowsky, “How To Catch A Chess Cheater.” I clicked on the links provided and read everything on the blog IM Ken Regan shares with R. J. Lipton, a Professor of Computer Science at Georgia Tech. Since the article appeared I have invested a considerable amount of time reading, and cogitating, about the issue of cheating at chess by using a program. Most people will not do this, and most readers may not have the time to read all of this long post, so I will give my conclusions up front in the hope it will spur some, especially those people in power who must confront one of the major issues facing the Royal game, to read on and learn what brought me to my conclusions.
The article was published in order to allay the fears and suspicions of the chess playing public. I am reminded here of the infamous statement by Secretary of State Al Haig following the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan.
Al Haig asserted before reporters “I am in control here” as a result of Reagan’s hospitalization. The trouble was that he was not in control, according to the line of succession in the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAhNzUbGVAA).

The incorrect statement was made to reassure We The People, as was the “official” announcement that Ronald Raygun had removed his oxygen mask and quipped to his doctors, “I hope you are all Republicans.” This is now written as “history.” The thing is that “Rawhide,” the name given to RR by the SS, had suffered a “sucking chest wound,” and no one, not even the “Gipper,” is able to talk after suffering a such a wound. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attempted_assassination_of_Ronald_Reagan)

Like the handlers of the wounded POTUS, the Chess Life article is an attempt by the powers that be to tell chess players the Chess Detective is on hand, so, “Don’t worry Be happy.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU)

How can one be happy, and not worry when the Chess Detective, IM Ken Regan, says this, “An isolated move is almost un­catchable using my regular methods.”

The man with whom the Chess Dectective shares a blog, Richard J. Lipton writes, “How should we rate how well a player matches the chess engine as a method to detect cheating?
The short answer is very carefully.
Ken has spend (sic) years working on the right scoring method given these issues and others. I believe that his method of scoring is powerful, but is probably not the final answer to this vexing question.”

The only problem is that the Chess Detective has spent years using what is now obviously antiquated programs. Sorry Fritz, but your program was passed by those of Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish, the top three chess programs in reverse order, quite some time ago. How is it possible for even the Chess Detective to discern possible program generated moves while using an inferior program?

Mr. Lipton continues, “The problem is what strategy might a cheater use? A naïve strategy is to always select the top ranked move, i.e. the move with the largest value. This strategy would be easy for Ken to detect. A superior strategy might be to select moves based on their values: higher values are selected more frequently. This clearly would be more difficult for Ken to detect, since it is randomized.”
“Another twist is the cheater could use a cutoff method. If several moves are above a value, then these could be selected with equal probability.”
“I could go on, but the key is that Ken is not able to assume that the cheater is using a known strategy. This makes the detection of cheating much harder, more interesting, and a still open problem. It is essentially a kind of two player game. Not a game of chess, but a game of the cheater against the detector; some player against Ken’s program.”

There you have it, the man with whom the Chess Detective shares a blog has no faith in the methods used by the Chess Detective. What follows is the post that has consumed much of my time for the last month or so.

The Chess Detective

An interview between Scott Simon of NPR and IM Ken Regan begans, “Ken Regan is a kind of chess detective. He’s a computer scientist and an international chess master, who played with the likes of Bobby Fischer as a kid. Which gives him particular skills to help recognize cheating in chess, which, he says, is becoming more common. Ken Regan has created a new algorithm to help detect test cheating. He’s profiled this month in “U.S. Chess” magazine and joins us now from Buffalo. Thanks for much for being with us.” (http://www.npr.org/2014/06/21/324222845/how-to-catch-a-chess-cheater)

“SIMON: So how does somebody cheat in chess?
REGAN: The most common way is having the game on your smart phone or handheld device and going into the bathroom surreptitiously to check it.
SIMON: So people are consulting their smart phones, because there are algorithms that will tell them what the propitious next move is?
REGAN: Yes. There are chess engines that are very strong – stronger than any human player, apparently even running on the reduced hardware of smart phone.
SIMON: Well, what are the odds of somebody being falsely accused?
REGAN: I deal with accusations, whispers, public statements, grouses that people make. And, usually, my model shows, no, this play really was within expectation. The other side is, yes, it’s a great danger that the statistics might falsely accuse someone. As a failsafe, I have taken data – many millions of pages of data from the entire history of chess, including all the performances by Bobby Fischer and Gary Kasparov. So I have an idea of the distribution of what happens by nature.”

An article about a name from the past, “Seven things you should know about Alan Trefler” By Michael B. Farrell (http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/07/05/seven-things-you-should-know-about-alan-trefler-founder-pegasystems/ZQULf5r9uUFkZZytsQB3WP/story.html), brought back memories of the man, now a billionaire, who, as an expert, was co-champion of the 1975 World Open. What would happen today if an expert did the same?

The cover story of the June 2014 Chess Life, “How To Catch A Chess Cheater: Ken Regan Finds Moves Out of Mind,” by Howard Goldowsky, was deemed so important one finds this preface, “The following is our June 2014 Chess Life cover story. Normally this would be behind our pay wall, but we feel this article about combating cheating in chess carries international importance.
This subject has profound implications for the tournament scene so we are making it available to all who are interested in fighting the good fight.”

~Daniel Lucas, Chess Life editor (http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12677/422/).

From the article, “According to Regan, since 2006 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of world­wide cheating cases. Today the incident rate approaches roughly one case per month, in which usually half involve teenagers. The current anti-cheating regulations of the world chess federation (FIDE) are too outdated to include guidance about disciplining illegal computer assistance, so Regan himself monitors most major events in real-time, including open events, and when a tournament director becomes suspicious for one reason or another and wants to take action, Regan is the first man to get a call.”
Dr. Regan, a deeply religious man, says, “Social networking theory is interesting,” he says. “Cheating is about how often coincidence arises in the chess world.”
“Regan clicks a few times on his mouse and then turns his monitor so I can view his test results from the German Bundesliga. His face turns to disgust. “Again, there’s no physical evidence, no behavioral evidence,” he says. “I’m just seeing the numbers. I’ll tell you, people are doing it.”
Goldowsky writes, “Statistical evidence is immune to con­ceal­ment. No matter how clever a cheater is in communicating with collaborators, no mat­ter how small the wireless communications device, the actual moves produced by a cheater cannot be hidden.”

This is where Alan Trefler enters the conversation. Goldowsky goes on to write, “Nevertheless, non-cheating outliers happen from time to time, the inevitable false positives.”

“Outliers happen…” How would you like to tie for first as an expert today and have your integrity questioned in addition to having to strip naked and “bend over and spread ’em?”
The article moves on to a detailed analysis of how the “Chess Detective” determines whether or not cheating has occurred.

“Faced with a complex calculation, a player could sneak their smartphone into the bathroom for one move and cheat for only a single critical position. Former World Champion Viswanathan Anand said that one bit per game, one yes-no answer about whether a sacrifice is sound, could be worth 150 rating points.
“I think this is a reliable estimate,” says Regan. “An isolated move is almost un­catchable using my regular methods.”
But selective-move cheaters would be doing it on critical moves, and Regan has untested tricks for these cases. “If you’re given even just a few moves, where each time there are, say, four equal choices, then the probabilities of matching these moves become statistically significant. Another way is for an arbiter to give me a game and tell me how many suspect moves, and then I’ll try to tell him which moves, like a police lineup. We have to know which moves to look at, however, and, importantly—this is the vital part— there has to be a criterion for identifying these moves independent of the fact they match.”

What is the “criterion”? It is not mentioned.

Dr. Regan is co-author,with Richard J. Lipton, of the blog, “Godel’s Lost Letter and P=NP.” I went to the blog and found this recent post by “rjlipton” (http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/the-problem-of-catching-chess-cheaters/).

R.J. writes, “The easy (sic) of cheating is a major issue for organized chess. The number of cases in professional tournament play is, according to Ken, roughly one per month—one case happen at a tournament in Romania just last month. Ken knows this because he routinely runs his detection methods, more on those shortly, on most major tournaments.”
“How should we rate how well a player matches the chess engine as a method to detect cheating?
The short answer is very carefully.
Ken has spend (sic) years working on the right scoring method given these issues and others. I believe that his method of scoring is powerful, but is probably not the final answer to this vexing question.”
“The problem is what strategy might a cheater use? A naïve strategy is to always select the top ranked move, i.e. the move with the largest value. This strategy would be easy for Ken to detect. A superior strategy might be to select moves based on their values: higher values are selected more frequently. This clearly would be more difficult for Ken to detect, since it is randomized.”
“Another twist is the cheater could use a cutoff method. If several moves are above a value, then these could be selected with equal probability.”
“I could go on, but the key is that Ken is not able to assume that the cheater is using a known strategy. This makes the detection of cheating much harder, more interesting, and a still open problem. It is essentially a kind of two player game. Not a game of chess, but a game of the cheater against the detector; some player against Ken’s program.”

This article provides links to several other posts concerning the subject of cheating at chess and I read each and every one. Here are a few excerpts:

“Chess is a game of complete information. There are no cards to hide that might be palmed, switched, or played illegally, no dice that could be loaded. So how is it possible to cheat at chess? Alas the complete information can be conveyed to a computer, and thanks to the exponential increase in computer power and smarter chess-playing algorithms, consumer hardware can play better than any human. Hence cheating in chess in possible, and unfortunately this year it has seemed to become common.” (http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/littlewoods-law)

“The fear of players being fingered this way is remarked by Dylan McClain in today’s New York Times column:
“If every out-of-the-ordinary performance is questioned, bad feelings could permanently mar the way professional players approach chess.”

The threat can be stronger than its execution.

A question was posed to Dr. Regan:
“I think there is a bigger picture here. Why even play a strategy game that a computer, without any information or connectivity advantage, will win.”
IM Regan answered:
“Because it’s still fun, has a great history, and has more public participation all over the world than any time previously. Computers are still a step behind the best humans at the Japanese form of chess (Shogi), and human supremacy at Go is apparently not threatened in the near future. My best effort at a more computer-resistant “evolution” of Western chess is here.”
From: “The Crown Game Affair” by KWRegan January 13, 2013 (http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/the-crown-game-affair/)

“I have, however, been even busier with a welter of actual cases, reporting on four to the full committee on Thursday. One concerned accusations made in public last week by Uzbek grandmaster Anton Filippov about the second-place finisher in a World Cup regional qualifier he won in Kyrgyzstan last month. My results do not support his allegations. Our committee is equally concerned about due-diligence requirements for complaints and curbing careless allegations, such as two against Austrian players in May’s European Individual Championship. A second connects to our deliberations on the highly sensitive matter of searching players, as was done also to Borislav Ivanov during the Zadar Open tournament last December. A third is a private case where I find similar odds as with Ivanov, but the fourth raises the fixing of an entire tournament, and I report it here.
Add to this a teen caught consulting an Android chess app in a toilet cubicle in April and a 12-year-old caught reading his phone in June, plus some cases I’ve heard only second-hand, and it is all scary and sad.
The Don Cup 2010 International was held three years ago in Azov, Russia, as a 12-player round-robin. The average Elo rating of 2395 made it a “Category 6″ event with 7 points from 11 games needed for the IM norm, 8.5 for the GM norm. It was prominent enough to have its 66 games published in the weekly TWIC roundup, and they are also downloadable from FIDE’s own website. Half the field scored 7 or higher, while two tailenders lost all their games except for drawing each other and one other draw, while another beat only them and had another draw, losing eight games.
My informant suspected various kinds of “sandbagging”: throwing games in the current event, or having an artifically-inflated Elo rating from previous fixed events, so as to bring up the category. He noted some of the tailenders now have ratings 300 points below what they were then.
In this case I did not have to wait long for more-than-probability. Another member of our committee noticed by searching his million-game database that:
Six of the sixty-six games are move-by-move identical with games played in the 2008 World Computer Chess Championship.
For example, three games given as won by one player are identical with Rybka’s 28-move win over the program Jonny and two losses in 50 and 44 moves by the program Falcon to Sjeng and HIARCS, except one move is missing from the last. One of his victims has three lost games, while another player has two wins and another two losses. Indeed the six games are curiously close to an all-play-all cluster.”
From: “Thirteen Sigma” by KWRegan, July 27, 2013 (http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/thirteen-sigma/)

Why People Cheat

An article, “Cheating’s Surprising Thrill”, by Jan Hoffman, appeared on the NY Times website Oct. 7, 2013. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/07/in-bad-news-cheating-feels-good/?ref=health?src=dayp&_r=0
The first sentence is a question, “When was the last time you cheated?” I thought of the philosophy of the TV Dr. House, which is, “Everyone lies.”
The next question is, “And how did you feel afterward?” This is followed by the answer, “But new research shows that as long as you didn’t think your cheating hurt anyone, you may have felt great.”
Like everything else these days, the reason for cheating has been studied. “…some behavioral ethics researchers were startled by a study published recently in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by researchers at the University of Washington, the London Business School, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. The title: “The Cheater’s High: The Unexpected Affective Benefits of Unethical Behavior.”
“One reason for pervasive garden-variety cheating is “that we have so many ways to cheat anonymously, especially via the Web,” Professor Wiltermuth said. The exhilaration, he added, may come from “people congratulating themselves on their cleverness.”
“The fact that people feel happier after cheating is disturbing, because there is emotional reinforcement of the behavior, meaning they could be more likely to do it again,” said Nicole E. Ruedy, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Washington’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking.
“…the researchers found that those who cheated experienced thrill, self-satisfaction, a sense of superiority. The effect persisted even when subjects cheated indirectly.”

Ole Petter Pedersen left this comment to my previous post: “Well, hard to blame white for Black’s losing moves, as in this game… I think people only look at a player’s rating and goes, hey, he must have cheated. However, computers do affect the way we play, and the term ‘human move’ has always sounded stupid to me. Good move or bad move, that is the question, to paraphrase Mr. Hendricks.”
This was my answer: I looked at the game and did not want to use it as an example, realizing someone may consider the game, as you have done, in lieu of looking at the big picture, which is that it has now become impossible to know for certain whether or not a player has availed himself of a 3000+ rated program. A decade ago there was speculation Topalov and his manager, Danilov, were using signals. Some still believe they accused Kramnik of cheating to throw suspicion off themselves. The Discman was incredulous when learning FIDE still allowed gizmo’s into the playing hall of their tournaments, as well he should be. In chess, the threat is stronger than the execution, is it not?