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

The Chess Cheating Epidemic Is Destroying The Game

In a post, Canadian Arbiter Caught Cheating,by kevinspraggettonchess, published September 22, 2018, The Canadian Chess Grandmaster wrote:

“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.”

THE CHEATING EPIDEMIC

“On September 7th of this year I wrote a blog article dealing with this precise topic. In this article I argued, amongst other things, to indirectly remove arbiters from FIDE’s efforts to catch cheaters. This Quebec incident proves my point: a cheating arbiter will NEVER report a cheating player because he will be afraid of himself being caught in the resulting web of investigation.

Curiously, the above announcement by the FQE of the two year suspension of Claude Lessard was removed from the FQE’s official website one day after the decision first being announced. Is the FQE trying to bury the incident?

In my blog article mentioned above, I argued for a LIFETIME ban for any individual caught cheating. Zero tolerance. We have come to the point where we have spectators, arbiters, organizers and players cheating. Something must be done about this!”

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

I do not know where, exactly, the tipping point is for people to turn away from the game, but if Grandmaster Spraggett is correct the game is in imminent if not immediate danger of being consigned to the dustbin of history. Ask yourself this question, “If I were a parent would I want my child playing a game in which one out of every five players cheated?”

Ask yourself this question, “What percentage of cheating would be acceptable for me to participate in any game?”

There is, and has been, a small amount of cheating in most games. For example, Leo “The Lip” Durocher,

(https://sabr.org/research/1947-dodgers-suspension-leo-durocher) manager of the 1954 New York Giants, cheated by stealing signs of the opposing teams catcher so his batters would know what kind of pitches were coming, and Leo the Lip is in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. The National Football League New England Patriots cheated so often one can click on and read all about the New England Patriots Cheating History. (http://yourteamcheats.com/NE)

In the United States of America it has become fact that cheaters are winners. It has been written Dirty Tricky Dicky Nixxon

did not contest the lost 1960 election because a recount would have shown that he, too, had cheated.

We The People now have a nocuous imbecilic POTUS sitting in the oval office who not only cheated to win, but has continually cheated throughout his life.

Maybe the twenty percent GM Spraggett

quotes is too small a number…For decades FIDE, the governing body of world Chess, has been administered by cheaters and crooks who have turned a blind eye to cheating while having “zero tolerance” for a player turning up a few minutes late for the start of his or her game. I do not see things improving any time soon unless GM Nigel Short wins the soon to be election for FIDE President. One candidate, Georgios Makropoulos,

has been VP for decades and knows where the bodies, and money, is buried. He has one foot, and several toes, in the grave. Another candidate, Arkady Dvorkovich,

is yet another Putin puppet. If elected Putin’s puppet Dvorkovich will simply bring more of Putin’s poison to the world of Chess. Therefore, the only hope for change in FIDE is Grandmaster Nigel Short.

What chance does Nigel have against the rotten cheaters against whom he is running? Maybe a snowball’s chance in HELL…

There is a post on the forum at the website of the United States Chess Federation titled, Spraggett on Cheating where one finds this by the forum’s resident philosopher, Thomas Magar:

“Over the years, from the early 1970’s to now, the most frequent forms of “cheating” I have seen fit into the following categories:

1. Casual contact between players, coaches, spectators, and parents. It was common to go to big tournaments and see players conversing in aisles with compatriots. While some of it was innocuous, the frequency of the contacts was more than suspicious. It was clear that chess was a team game for some Russian speaking players, with information being passed at critical times. One could hear moves and variations being discussed during games. Other nationalities also talked to each other about games in progress. TDs who did not know the languages could not police the floors even if they tried. One player I know found his higher rated, titled foreign opponent in the book seller’s room reading a book on the opening they were playing. They guy was forfeited but was allowed to play subsequent rounds, earning a prize. Today it is common to see kids conversing animatedly with parents who are holding thin tablets with the position of their child’s games.

2. Various drugs have been used to stimulate players. Back in the ’70’s and even before that, some players experimented with different amphetamines to improve energy and focus. Many players hyped themselves up with extreme doses of caffeine through coffee and tea which may haver worked for some, but were not helpful physically. The use of drugs and caffeine supplements have effects like sleep deprivation, tremors, and frazzled nerves during critical moments. I see players guzzling “5 Hour Energy” at tournaments as well as popping pills. For short term gain, players are risking long term health damages. In the old days, players thought alcohol was a stimulant. Now it is used to come off the highs and numb the brain into sleep. Drugs and alcohol, not a good chess combination.

3. Electronic devices have become ubiquitous. When the program Tech was developed in the early ’70’s, it was not very good, but it was a precursor of what was possible using computers and good programming. By the mid-’80’s, the Hitech and Deep Thought programs were 2450-2550 strength. They required sophisticated hardware and were unwieldy to use except by their handlers. Today, one can buy powerful programs and download apps that fit into devices that are in the palm of your hand. This has opened the chance to cheat to everyone. Every tournament I attend, there are players or parents sitting on the floor analyzing positions using Fritz, Komodo, Stockfish, or other programs, either alone or in multiple configurations tied into databases. The power of these devices is enticing, even if it is used to win a mere trophy.

4. Sandbagging. Once a player rises to a certain level, he may discover that improving the chess rating is noble and ethical, it is not vey economic. Lowering the rating, throwing games in tournaments you are not doing well in, may lead to large prizes in class section of future tournaments. Maintaining a rating below a rating threshold is fairly easy to do. With the new rating changes that have increased volatility, it is possible to lose many more points in the tournaments a player decides to crash his rating in. He must be careful to toss as many as he can before and after a big event. That is not so hard as there are plenty of Game 30s to give away points in. Running out of time or hanging a piece is easy in a fast timecontrol tournament and no one notices what he is doing, unless he loses several games o players who are considerable lower rated. Having a couple of mediocre tournaments that are cheap to play in works just fine. He can work on new openings and then make a blunder. The acting crushed takes some dramatic skill, but suffering for one’s art is expected.

Is all of this killing the game? There seem to be a lot more players around even if one cannot trust them. If your goal is to attract attendance and make money, you may not want to notice what is going on. On the other hand, if you are a purist who thinks the game is an art, a noble conquest, and an elevation of man’s culture, you are not happy about the sleazy way the tournament game has degenerated into a gambler’s paradise. In any event, move over as the means to stop the cheating are few. You can punish the ones you catch, but you will have a harder time changing the new chess culture. As they say, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” It is all about the Benjamins.”

I have never played Chess because of “the Benjamins.” I played for the love of the game. I played Backgammon professionally for “the Benjamins.” If I play tournament Chess again it will, most probably, be in a Senior tournament, where the risk of encountering cheating would be minuscule, if at all. I may possibly play in a week night tournament with a time limit of fifteen minutes. Who would cheat in in such a tournament?

GM Spraggett has called for “Zero tolerance,” and “…a LIFETIME ban for any individual caught cheating.”
Although this seems rather harsh to someone brought up in a Southern Baptist environment with the prevalent idea of giving people a second chance, I must concur with GM Spraggett. The Major League Baseball rule against wagering on MLB games did not deter Pete Rose


https://nypost.com/2018/04/24/pete-rose-still-betting-and-losing-big-estranged-wife-claims/

even with the possibility of a lifetime ban, so it will not eliminate all cheating, but surely it could possibly cut the twenty percent figure considerably.


Cheating At Solitaire

Mike Ness
Album: Cheating at Solitaire

You can lie to yourself, you can lie to the world
You can lie to the one you call your girl
You can humble yourself to the hearts that you stole
Wondering who’s gonna love you when you grow old?

With a fist full of courage and a heart full of rage
I realized I’d locked myself in a cage
I’ll be the one standing there with the watery eyes
I’ll be the fool in the mirror asking you why…asking why

When I got to the end of my dirty rainbow
And I found that there was no pot of gold
Well, I learned that I was empty and not quite as strong
For I had robbed my heart and cheated my soul

Look for the one with the watery eyes
I’ll be the fool in the mirror asking you why
Cursing lovers in a warm tender embrace
Scoffing at the world and the whole human race

Chorus:
You can run, you can hide
You can feed your foolish pride
You can use and abuse
In the end you’ll always lose…at the game

Chorus:
You can run, you can hide
You can feed your foolish pride
With the hearts that you stole
And an empty pot of gold
And the lover’s warm embrace
And the whole damned human race
You can use and abuse
In the end you’ll always lose…at the game

“For I cheated myself at solitaire”

https://genius.com/Mike-ness-cheating-at-solitaire-lyrics