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

Death On The Chess Board

It filled me with sadness when first reading the report of the death at the board of fellow Senior Kurt Meier during his last round game at the 2014 Olympiad. Reports have been slow in coming even in this age of instant access. I was mortified this morning to read about the death of another player after the conclusion of the tournament. Reports are that he was found dead in his hotel room.

I have spent the morning reading all the reports that could be found. I have a personal interest in this not only because I am a Senior, but because I collapsed at the board during a chess tournament, with paramedics having to be called. This was at the 32nd Continental Open in Sturbridge, Massachusetts in 2002. Upon regaining consciousness I saw FM Miles Ardaman hovering over me. Knowing Miles to be a psychiatrist, I feared the worst. I refused to be transported to a hospital, but did see a doctor a few days later. After checking me out and talking with me about what may have possibly caused the collapse, he surmised I had become dehydrated. I traveled to the Continental directly from the US Open in New Jersey where after playing in the normal schedule, with games each evening. The first two games at the C.O. were also at night, but the third, and my last, was a morning round. I had coffee, but hardly any water because I feared spending too much time going to the restroom. It was a mistake I have not repeated. For quite some time I had been sitting with a full bladder trying to make time control. When I stood up quickly and took a few steps, my heart could not make the adjustment, which happens as one ages. I also learned of a heart murmur. Often I wonder why I am still alive…

Most Seniors have some kind of health problem, and I am not an exception, as there is a problem with my heart. My father lived many years with a machine in his body, a pacemaker. I have chosen to not be a member of the Borg, part man and machine. During the two decade run of the Atlanta Chess and What Other Game Center more than one player had to be taken away in an ambulance, none of whom were young.

With this in mind I have written extensively on my blogs, the BaconLOG and now the Armchair Warrior, concerning the dangers faced by Senior chess players. I have also spoken out about the problems faced by Senior players. Unfortunately, my words have fallen on dear ears.

I have written about several measures that could be instituted in order to lessen the chances of a death at the board during a Senior tournament. One of the major problems has been that organizers schedule a Senior chess tournament as if it were a tournament for younger players. Most weekend tournaments have five rounds with the first beginning Friday night. Since the last round is over sometime Sunday evening, that means five games of chess are played in about forty eight hours. That is a lot of chess for even younger players. It is simply too much for a Senior. Even when I was in my twenties a five round tournament would leave me what the Legendary Georgia Ironman calls a, “wiped out Waldo.” I began taking a half-point bye in the third round Saturday night in order to continue playing. I will no longer play a serious, long game at night.

For a Senior tournament I have suggested having no more than four rounds, with two each day. I have also suggested a break of at least two hours between the games. Bob Mahan, the man behind the Chess For Seniors Association (http://www.chessforseniors.org/index.php) had the audacity to tell me that would mean a delay in the time the organizers and TD’s would get home from an event, which shows the thinking by even some Seniors when it comes to the safety of the players.

There are many stories in the press concerning the deaths at the Olympiad, including one on Chessbase, where one finds this:
“There was momentary chaos in the hall when Meier collapsed, which was explained by Morgan Lillegård, head of communication for the Chess Olympics, in The Local: “People in the hall thought the defibrillator was a weapon. Panic spread because the thought there was an armed person. I can definitely confirm there was no weapons. This is a misunderstanding. It is in itself dramatic enough that someone had a heart attack.”

The Guardian comments that Meier is not the first player to die in the middle of a match: in 2000 Vladimir Bagirov, a Latvian grandmaster, had a fatal heart attack during a tournament in Finland, while in the same year another Latvian, Aivars Gipslis, suffered a stroke while playing in Berlin, from which he later died. To this we add that Johann Zukertort died from a cerebral hemorrhage suffered during a game in Simpson’s Divan, in a tournament which he was leading at the time. José Raúl Capablanca died of a stroke in March 1942 while watching a skittles game at the Manhattan Chess Club.

Other players who died during a chess tournament or game: Gideon Stahlberg (1908-1967), Vladimir Simagin 1919-1968), Cecil Purdy (1906-1979), Ed Edmundson (1920-1982). The following players died very shortly after a game or event: Frank Marshall (1877-1944), Efim Bogoljubov (1889-1952), Herman Steiner (1905-1955), Paul Keres (1916-1975), Alexei Suetin (1926-2001).”
http://en.chessbase.com/post/deaths-at-the-chess-olympiad

The most interesting is, “Why chess is really an extreme sport,” by Stephen Moss, online at theguardian.com. The tag line reads, “The deaths of two players at the Chess Olympiad in Norway shows that it’s time tournaments came with a health warning.” In the article he writes, ” Chess, though the non-player might not believe this, is in many ways an extreme sport.”

“At the Olympiad, participants were playing a game a day over a fortnight – 11 rounds with just a couple of rest days on which to recuperate. For up to seven hours a day, they would be sitting at the board trying to kill – metaphorically speaking – their opponent, because this is the ultimate game of kill or be killed. In some positions, you can reach a point where both sides are simultaneously within a single move of checkmating the other. One false step and you will have lost. This imposes enormous pressure on players.”

Stephen is a player, as can be learned from this, ” I spend a day at work, rush home, bolt down a meal, then go to my chess club and play a three-hour game which often makes me feel ill, especially if I lose. After that, usually around 10.30pm, I go home, go to bed, and frequently fail to sleep as my moves and mistakes revolve around my head.”

The author concludes with this paragraph, “So next time someone suggests a nice, quiet game of chess, or paints it as an intellectual pursuit played by wimps, tell them they’ve got it all wrong: this is a fight to the finish played in the tensest of circumstances by two players who are physically and mentally living on the edge. We all need to get fitter to play this demanding game, and society should recognise it for what it is – a sport as challenging, dramatic and exciting as any other. Such recognition would be a tribute of sorts to the two players who sadly played their final games in Tromso.”
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/16/chess-extreme-sport

It is a shame this may be what it takes for those in power to take notice and institute changes, especially in the way Senior chess tournaments are implemented.

Grandmaster James Altucher

There has been an exponential increase in the number of chess Grandmasters since I entered the chess world in 1970. It has been written that former FIDE President Florencio Campomanes thought it would be good for chess if every country had a GM. I asked him about this at the US Open in Pasadena in 1983, when he took my room. Thad Rogers, who was on the USCF policy board at the time, promised the Legendary Georgia Ironman, and me, that he would furnish either one us with a room if we made it out to the left coast. Unfortunately, he did not say how long we would have the room. Campo came knocking on my door before I had a chance to unpack, leaving me to scramble for accommodation. His answer was, “What’s wrong with that?” I said it may tend to cheapen the title and he responded, “A Grandmaster will always be a Grandmaster!” Campo was a “smooth” politician.
According to Wiki “In 1957, there were 50 GMs.” In 1972, the year I traveled to San Antonio and met the new World Champion, Bobby Fischer, “there were 88 GMs.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandmaster_%28chess%29#Title_inflation)
“The January 2014 FIDE rating list includes 1444 Grandmasters, however this number is approximate as the FIDE list may include a few deceased players, and may also exclude players from the list for various reasons. Of these players, 1413 are male and 31 are female.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chess_grandmasters)
I have always had a great deal of respect for not only Grandmasters, but also International Masters. I do not care for anyone who tries to inflate his status in the world of chess by holding himself out to be something he is not, a titled player. It is reprehensible when a player alludes to himself as a Master when he is not. For example, an Expert player in the Atlanta area named Joe handed me his card at the House of Pain. His email address was, “ChessMasterJoe@whatever.”
“I did not know you had gotten your NM certificate, Joe,” I said. He replied sheepishly, “I haven’t, yet.” When I asked why he had chosen to call himself “ChessMaster Joe,” he said, “Because I aspire to become a NM.” Someone overhearing the conversation said, “Hell Joe, I ‘aspire’ to become a Grandmaster, but I don’t call myself one!” There was much laughter and “ChessMaster Joe” and his wife soon hit the door.
There is a man from India who gives chess lessons to children in the Atlanta area. He is known only as the “Indian Grandmaster.” Since he is nameless and does not play chess, it is difficult to know whether or not he even has a rating.
I saw this on the internet yesterday: “Ask Altucher Ep. 80 What Are the Benefits of Playing Chess?”
Below this one finds, “08/12/2014 with James Altucher.”
And then this:
“Episode Snapshot
Grandmaster James Altucher answers the daily question…”
Does he now…Maybe the “GM” should be asked why he calls himself a Grandmaster when a quick search at USCF shows the gentleman currently rated 2204, having last played in 1998. (http://www.uschess.org/component/option,com_wrapper/Itemid,181/)

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/)

On The Road With IM Ron Burnett

Jazz Classics, hosted by H. Johnson on WABE-FM (http://wabe.org/) in Atlanta, is broadcast every Saturday night from nine pm until two am Sunday morning. H. has hosted the show for the past two decades and listening to it is like earning a Ph.D in the classics of jazz. I rarely get to listen to the whole show, but I did last night. The reason was my friend, IM Ron Burnett was doing battle with GM Maghami at the US Open and it was broadcast live, with me hanging on every move. I became frantic when, after 42…Ke8, the next move for White was also given as Ke8, which was not possible. Fortunately the mistake was eventually corrected.
In his self-published book, replete with wonderful stories from a life filled with chess, LM Brian McCarthy writes of one group of players known as the Road Warriors. Ron Burnett was Brian’s first student, and he is one of the last of the Warriors still on the Road. Brian writes, “We have lost track of the number of times we have played but we are sure it is greater than 46 and probably over 50.”
I have been on the road with Ron; just ask him about the “crazy trucker” next time you see him. After losing to Ron once he said something I have not forgotten. “I did not know you were so strong,” he said. On one likes to lose even when one knows objectively that one is outmatched, but saying what he did helped take the sting out of defeat. It pleased me that I had made Ron work to earn victory.
I watched every move of the 96 move marathon, inputting each move into a program in order to have a copy, without having the infinite analysis running. I will have to look at it later because the final round of the tournament is this afternoon in lieu of the same time as the previous rounds of the traditional schedule. I struggled with Ron to hold the draw to the point I was exhausted when the game ended! It can sometimes be tough in the armchair. The game is still up on the US Open website, but I do not know how long it will be there and I have not found a way to obtain previous games. This is the URL for the live games page: http://www.alchess.com/chess/13/usopen/?page=LIVE
I will provide the game the old fashioned way, because that is the way we did it “back in my day,” with the help of a modern, new-fangled gizmo:
Maghami – Burnett,Ron [D90]
2013 US Open, 04.08.2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 g6 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Bf4 Bg7 7.e3 0–0 8.h3 Nc6 9.Bd3 Nd7 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bh4 g5 12.Bg3 e5 13.dxe5 Ndxe5 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.0–0 d4 16.exd4 Qxd4 17.Be4 Qxd1 18.Raxd1 Be6 19.b3 Nc6 20.Nb5 Rfd8 21.Bxc6 bxc6 22.Nc7 Rac8 23.Rxd8+ Rxd8 24.Nxe6 fxe6 25.Rc1 Rd2 26.Rxc6 Rxa2 27.Rxe6 Kf7 28.Re4 Ra3 29.Rb4 Bc3 30.Rb7+ Kg6 31.Kh2 Bd4 32.Rd7 Bc3 33.Rd6+ Kh7 34.f4 Rxb3 35.Rd7+ Kg6 36.Rxa7 Bd4 37.Ra6+ Kf5 38.Ra5+ Kg6 39.f5+ Kf6 40.Bc7 Rc3 41.Bd8+ Kf7 42.g4 Ke8 43.Ra8 Kd7 44.Kg2 Be5 45.f6 Bd6 46.Ba5 Rc8 47.Ra7+ Ke6 48.Ra6 Kd5 49.Kf3 Bf8 50.Bd2 Re8 51.Be3 Rd8 52.Bc1 Rc8 53.Bd2 Re8 54.Ra5+ Ke6 55.Bc3 Rc8 56.Bd4 Rb8 57.Ke4 Rb4 58.Re5+ Kf7 59.Rd5 Ke6 60.Ra5 Kf7 61.Ke5 Rb1 62.Ra7+ Kg6 63.Ke6 Re1+ 64.Be5 Rb1 65.Ra6 Rb7 66.Rc6 Ra7 67.Bd4 Ra4 68.Be5 Ra7 69.Rb6 Ra3 70.Rb8 Ra6+ 71.Kd5 Ra5+ 72.Kd4 Ra4+ 73.Kd3 Ra3+ 74.Bc3 Kf7 75.Rb6 Kg6 76.Kc4 Ra4+ 77.Kd5 Ra3 78.Rc6 Ra8 79.Be5 Kf7 80.Rc7+ Kg6 81.Bd4 Ra5+ 82.Ke4 Ra4 83.Rc6 Kf7 84.Rc7+ Kg6 85.Rc8 Kf7 86.Rc2 Kg6 87.Ke5 Ra5+ 88.Ke6 Ra6+ 89.Kd5 Ra5+ 90.Ke4 Ra4 91.Rc7 Rb4 92.Kd5 Ra4 93.Rc6 Kf7 94.Ke4 Kg6 95.Ke5 Ra5+ 96.Ke4 ½–½
I wondered why Ron did not take the Bishop with his Knight on move 16 in lieu of taking the pawn with the Queen. Then he would have had the two Bishop’s and the better pawn structure. Hope I can remember to ask next time we are on the road.