I posted a notification of my blog post, Yet Another Chess Cheating Scandal, (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2019/08/11/yet-another-chess-cheating-scandal/) at the All Things Chess section of the USCF forum on Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:17 am. When checking out the forum this morning I learned posts were still being made as of last Friday, August 23. Something in one of the posts caught my eye:
“Players who frequently go to the bathroom are always suspect.”
This is contained in a post by the resident philosopher of USCF forum, Thomas Magar, known as “tmagchesspgh” on the forum. I, along with many other Chess players “…are always suspect.” As a Senior I must head to the head inordinately more often than a younger player. Upon reflection I must admit to having to go to the men’s room during a Chess tournament far more often than normal even when younger. Copious amounts of coffee no doubt contributed to making the frequent trek. There is a recollection of finding myself on the same schedule as a famous International Master at the Governor’s Cup in South Dakota in 2002. IMJD later mentioned the fact, as he, too, had noticed the synchronicity. At another tournament I was on schedule with a GM with whom I was on speaking terms. After the tournament I mentioned not having played like a GM. “Yes,” he agreed, “But you pee like a GM!”
The full post from Mr. Magar:
by tmagchesspgh on Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:08 pm #337358
Facial expressions, hand and arm movements, coughing, and breathing patterns can convey information in a very subtle way if only to alert the player that the position on the board is critical requiring more time. Before I asked him to leave the playing hall at one tournament, I watched one chess dad be almost a semaphore of hand movements and arched eyebrows. That is low tech and may or may not be confusing for a child. When scanning a crowd of players it is useful for a TD to see who is looking with some frequency at an adult or other player during a game. Players who frequently go to the bathroom are always suspect. If a player locks eyes with me across a room, I always wonder what he/she is doing that he needs to see if the TD is watching his behavior.
The worst incident I have heard of was an adult sitting out in the hallway with his daughter’s position on his tablet. How that position got there was a mystery unto itself. When the girl went to the loo, her father was alleged to have told her to “play what you have just seen” while they were huddling over the device. Other parents turned them in. This was just for a trophy and a few rating points in an under-section. Some people cheat because they can, not just for money, trophies, or rating points. There is an amoral approach to competition which irks other players who play honestly. If caught, the offenders shrug it off as a cost of doing business, much like what we see in the real world. The cynical baseball adage, “If you aren’t cheating you are not trying,” is offensive to real players of every sport and game who bust their brains and bodies trying to prepare for competition.
by gwschenk on Thu Aug 15, 2019 1:09 pm #337210
Seriously, though. Why would someone pay the big entry fees to a CCA tournament, for instance, knowing that they’ll be playing a computer for prize money in their class? How rampant is cheating? Do we know? I heard of a FM banned from a small local club for using a phone to cheat. If 2300s will cheat for a $50 prize, what else goes on?
During a game I find myself needing to go to the bathroom, but because the game is in a crucial spot, if I leave will my opponent think I’m cheating? Will the TDs have to start issuing Depends to all players and just make leaving the hall forbidden?
by MikeMurray on Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:51 pm #337336
I agree with GM Spraggett that only a small percentage of cheats are caught. All the cases we’ve discussed in this forum have involved players drawing suspicion by improving way too fast, or by taking excessive restroom breaks or other odd behavior. There is no reason to assume that more patient, more careful players are not slipping under the detection wire. “But cheaters are never patient” say the doubters. And we know this how?
by tmagchesspgh on Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:53 pm #337407
As a coach, I cannot watch my players’ games. Inevitably, they look up or turn around if I am behind them to see from my expression what I think of their positions. I have told them when they do this, it raises the specter of my cheating to help them, so I stay a far distance away or not even enter the playing room at all. I have seen coaches use all manner of gestures, both subtle and overt, to prompt their players. To eliminate that, it is wise for scholastic organizers to keep all adults except TDs out of the room and shoo players who are finished with their games out of the playing area. In big money events, TDs have to be alert to all manner of unusual behavior, technology, and tricks. It is just as exhausting as playing. Even if there is only one instance of cheating in an event, it poisons the general chess atmosphere for everyone else who now suspect that even more cheating has been missed.
Just to give an example or two of how easy it is to cheat, all I have to do is quietly hum “Kill da Wabbit” as I pass by to indicate that there is a sacrifice in the position. I do this as a prompt/hint when we are analyzing a position on a board in the dining room of their homes when they are stumped. Humming a few bars from “Night on the Mountain” or “Finding Nemo”
can impart signals of what to do as well. It does not take much to create mnemonic devices to jog memory or alert the player to danger. Dots by moves or notes of encouragement at the top of a scoresheet are passe. Earbuds with music that reflect studied opening lines is much better as a memory aid. Eyeblinks are useful for giving specific information. Messages can come in many forms. As a former school teacher, I have found the ingenuity of children to cheat on tests to be almost limitless. They are really offended when caught out because their methods were so intricate and foolproof that they cannot believe that the teacher was capable of paying attention.