Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Cheating Hearts

| Permalink | 33 comments

An interesting article at Wired about online cheating at poker sites using software robots. The programmer at the center of the piece has an amusing set of rationalizations about why this is okay, starting with "everyone is doing it" and ye olde "it's a service to point out the weakness of the services." Making a buck, in other words.

As the article points out, the online casino industry doesn't care so much because they make money on a percentage basis. They have to put a good face on how much they are doing about the problem, but it's really not a problem for them yet. When legions of undetectable bots make up the field, what will weak human players do? As long as there are enough new players coming in, most unaware of this issue, the industry will continue to boom anyway. That the bots aren't yet strong enough to really challenge strong players is another factor, one that won't last long.

Everybody complains about cheats using chess software online, but since money isn't an issue it's a minor annoyance for most. (Though you might be amazed by the passion this inspires among amateurs. It was by far the #1 complaint about online play at KasparovChess.) It's a more serious issue with professionals, where even GMs (among others) have been nailed for cheating in online tournaments. "Everybody is doing it" has been a popular response from those who confess after being caught. Lame, though true from looking at the games of most online tournaments.


Mig said :
"... That the bots aren't yet strong enough to really challenge strong players is another factor, one that won't last long ..."

Yes, if they did it in chess, they definitely can do it in poker.

Interesting...Artificial Intelligence is going to eventually spoil all activities where human intelligence is mixed with art : it's a matter of time perhaps, as the matter with chess maybe.

Bad news : I am afraid we cannot stop it.

I don't think cheating is the most annoying thing about online chess. Ironically, I think people ACCUSING the opponent of cheating as soon as there is the slightest suspicion is far worse. (I.e. "you took more than 5 seconds to make a standard theory move" or "you shouldn't have seen that tactics, you are not that good".)

The first thing that a stronger player than me (lets said 200elo pointers better) does when i beat him is accusing me of cheating.

Two additional problem bots have in poker that make it much harder to program an expert computer player than in chess:

1) It's a game of incomplete information. It's tough to program a bot to try and put the other players on a range of hands (at least, with any degree of complexity).

2) There are up to 9 other players playing at once, which creates a lot more variables than in chess. There are heads-up bots that already do play very well - the full games are a bit more tricky.

Of course, neither of these is a significant enough problem to win at the lowest limits of online poker, but they do create some barriers to making an expert poker bot. It'll happen eventually, but it might be a while.

With regard to acirc's comment, personally, nothing makes me happier than being accused of using a computer after I find a nice tactic!

There is a lot of paranoia out there. The great majority of players do not cheat, but the suspicions are rampant.

As with most ethics issues in sports, business, politics, you only need one or two cases to provoke general distrust. All politicians are crooks, all companies are like Enron, all cyclists are doped, etc. In most cases it's unlikely that the only people doing it were the ones who got caught (the "where there's smoke there's fire" argument).

In professional online chess events it says something that even the players assume everyone is cheating. This is partly sour grapes, but it's obviously rampant.

Let's me ask sth : Is there any way to judge whether one chess player has been aided by a computer : I mean analyzing the moves that he has played and finding out "inconsistences" ?
It sounds pretty tricky for a man but perhaps this analysis can be carried out by a ... computer 8-))
Is there any kind of thing ?

eg. totally agree with Joshua : though, I have an overall score of 0/10000000 against a comp ! 8-))

There are many methods for detecting cheats, often used in combination. The better the person is at it, the harder they are to catch, and if someone is competent there is no way to prove cheating 100%. This is why organizers of online events must make penalizing this at their discretion, so they can punish those they are 90% sure cheated; i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt.

The simplest way is catching people who are only using one computer. The online interface can detect the use of a computer engine, most can even tell you which engine and more. That's your 100% certainty. It can also pick up window focus, i.e. alt+tabbing between programs with each move.

Someone using two computers is obviously much harder to catch, especially if he is a strong player. A weaker player has to pretty much follow the computer's recommendations blindly, or setting it to show the two best and alternating. This leads to fairly trivial detection by heuristics analysis. Picking one of the computer's top few moves every time just isn't normal for human chess, especially at rapid time controls.

A stronger player can recognize a "computer move" that a human wouldn't consider. The trick is that if you're following computer moves, you often get led into a position where only a totally bizarre computer move gets you out. Meaning the computer saw it all along and gave its +3.13 or whatever and you followed along without seeing the whole line. Then you have the human win versus the computer win. E.g. one line leads to the win of a piece and obvious resignation, another leads to an incredibly convoluted mate in nine. Any strong human picks the first, comps pick the second. This sort of thing is tell-tale if it happens more than once.

There are other, more sophisticated methods involving things like the time used per move and detecting patterns over the course of several games. But the bottom line is that if a strong player just uses a second computer for advice at a few key moments, resisting the temptation that would lead to falling into a pattern, nothing could be proven within a reasonable doubt. Most people just aren't very good at it.

Poker and other games without 100% information and with heavy bluffing elements are a different challenge from chess, one that requires a more AI take. If a bot's betting patterns are detectable and exploitable, it will be ripped apart, unlike at chess. No matter how well you play the odds at poker, it's equally important how you play the other people at the table. So human weakness, playing the odds poorly or playing "irrationally" to bluff or fool your opponents for later hands, mean computers will never be as dominant as they are at something like chess that can be tackled directly.

But they will certainly keep getting better and better, and you don't need much more than playing the odds perfectly and some general tendency tracking to beat weak players.

Jonathan Schaeffer at U of Alberta, mentioned in the article, is better known for his champion checkers program, Chinook. He wrote a great book about it, One Jump Ahead. Cool guy. Met him when he was on the committee at the Kasparov-Junior match in NY. http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~jonathan/

Hey, thanks for all this interesting stuff.
Did you write it yourself or any comp helped you ? 8-)))

So the whole matter is to distinguish human way of thinking and the comp's way of thinking : the comp just chooses the perfect tree of moves.

Just a comment on George's initial statement about AI. No current chess program or poker program use or is related to what a layperson would consider "AI" in the slightest.

AI is just a pipe dream for the forseable future.

Mango, it may be a paradox but chess algorithms (min-max and the like) which are heavily being used in chess programs like eg. Fritz are technically considered as AI methods for solving difficult and complex problems.
Anyway, you are right in the sense that this look rather computational to "smart". I agree.
In my opinion, however, this is the way all future robots etc. will work : making very primitive steps in an incredible speed (reminds of a CPU but will be parallel and most efficient).
Any such "brain center" will be specialized (eg. eyes center, voice recognition center etc.) and will communicate with all the others interchanging info (as in the case in brain).
Sorry for technical stuff. 9-))

Fortunately most guys that cheat online are idiots, and get caught quick. :-)

I have been captured by the poker programs on TV, and I have been ordering some poker books :) Internet poker, here I come! This talt about computers playing poker on the net is some cold water for me. I guess the future of board games for money is where you meet your opponents face to face, and not on the net. Well, I spend to much time in front of the computer anyway :)

Am I the only person to notice that the poker computer has a "team mode" in which two or more bots at the same table can collude? No doubt the developer has constructed a moral defence of that too.

I would say that a computer could never play as well as the best humans (live anyway) because of the high level of emotional and psychological content but I'd feel horribly naive

DP wrote :
.. because of the high level of emotional and psychological content ..

Sorry, can you clarify this statement a bit ?

I think I have caught your essence but not quite sure..


You make an interesting observation about the risk of collusion. I wonder if it is really a big concern. First, if two players (or bots) work together on a 10 player table of Texas Holdem then each of the cheaters will only gain knowledge about two additional cards out of the deck of 52. This might result in small additional gains over time but the advantage would not be great (I think). A second consideration is that collusion would probably be very easy to detect because of patterns of player A always getting out when player B has a stronger hand and vice versa.

Of course as I typed that last sentence I realized that the colluding players could try to avoid detection by often betting against each other to avoid this pattern detection. But frequently betting against each other would hurt the success of the cheating because each time they lost they would lose more than they needed to (back to the first point: that knowing two additional cards is not that great an advantage.)

I agree with you Chessplayer, this is most irksome for a guy that has spent a lot of his resources just to learn how to play great chess...
Unfortunately, many especially weak players are GM in using chess s/w and are judging easily about extremely complicated (nice) positions. Many times the result is just ridiculous.
However, in tactical positions, compe may help you decide the player that made the most mistakes ! 8-))


I'm not a serious poker player, but am assured by those who are that collusion at the table is taken VERY seriously ( and is punished in draconian fashion ). That is generally only using subtle hints rather than a precise exchange of information, so we can assume that two comps in collusion would be considered to have a huge advantage.

By the way, a friend who is a genuine professional poker player, i.e. that's how he fills in his tax returns, assures me that he considers internet poker such an obvious candidate for cheating that he would never contemplate playing.

The basket lives!!! That is my battle cry on uchess.com -- home of amazing cheaters. The moderator - chesswizardry -is an admitted cheater using 4 processors but he now denies this. It is a good site but nearly the whole first page cheats. Can't beat em, join em I say, sooo.

My question: If you set your chess software to move randomly and not use opening book will it still be detected??

I am a USCF master.I stay away from UChess for many reasons.My official USCF rating is 2258.
The site for one things does not always recognize the rules of chess including 3 move repetition draw .But putting that aside,it seems to me that there is one player who has several names on that site and must either be the owner of the site or a controller of some kind.If you get beyond,say 2000 rating in many cases,he begins to "harass" you and automatically claim you are cheating,especially if you beat him,like i have managed to do.Then he says,"i'm going to delete you"...and sure enough,1 minute later,you are deleted!Now,in part this is due to the fact,that he is the top rated player on that site and does not want anyone to get near him to topple his "throne".I used another computer one time and played about 40 games to reach 2000 again,(under a different name)...and sure enough,he challenged me again as soon as I reached 2000 rating or so,and this time i did not play him.1 minute later i was deleted.I am not a cheat.My friends that have tried UChess are also not cheats.But this player goes by several names on that site,goes out and plays many opponents and is the judge,jury and executioner without any real evidence of cheating!
If i knew of a way to get that site off the internet,even through legal means,I would do so.It is very insulting to be called a cheat simply because I or my chess friends begin to get above 2000 and threaten this guys balsa wood throne!

U Have to check out chessclub.com and its free videos (esprcially by that drunk moron Cristiansen) and the weekly game of the week by benjamin. those idiots critisize moves by players they would get crushed by if they were blindfolded and Benjamin and the drunk (And coughing Cristiansen) could see the boeard. tHey are soo pathetic it is a joke to listen to them, get a free membership and the biggest laugh of your lives at chessclub.com

U Have to check out chessclub.com and its free videos (esprcially by that drunk moron Cristiansen) and the weekly game of the week by benjamin. those idiots critisize moves by players they would get crushed by if they were blindfolded and Benjamin and the drunk (And coughing Cristiansen) could see the boeard. tHey are soo pathetic it is a joke to listen to them, get a free membership and the biggest laugh of your lives at chessclub.com

I hate to bad mouth a chess site,but again....UChess got to be the worse i've ever encountered!Yes,I have been on other sites that are somewhat retarded,like "pogo" and other sites that are very slow in loading and less features.But UChess takes the cake!Disconnects are common for one thing.Middle of a game,my opponents time keeps running and there is no indication whatsoever,that there is a disconnect,whether it be me or my opponent.So,lets say the game is 10 minutes.5 minutes into the game i'm waiting for my opponent to move and it appears he isn't moving.I begin to feel he is just taking his time or stalling or whatever....but it is a disconnect!So I wait till HIS clock runs down to zero and then nothing happens!The game just sits there in front of me.No credit for me for his clock running out and/or no loss of game for me because of a disconnect.So the only way out of the game is to leave it.When you
"attempt"to leave the game,a sign comes up that says...leaving the game will forfeit and affect your rating!But there is nothing else one can do!So points are lost.I have been up a queen and a rook at one time and lost due to some kind of disconnect.This happens often,not only with me but many other players!No,its not my internet server or my new quad computer...I have the best money can buy.Its that chess site.I actually think with the owner/controller playing under several names on that site(which is cheating to begin with...multiple accounts)I think he actually might be breaking into a game and forcing a disconnect!
I know for sure that once he does his "catch 22"on you,which is:Play me and lose or don't accept my challenge and be disconnected,then you are history!The site controller actually has a "system"of chiseling down a players rating if it gets too high!You MUST keep playing him and losing or you are history!!!!!!!!
Trust me,I am NOT imagining this.I played on UCHess for years and finally figured out what is going on there!Its actually a one man show!Believe it!Now,you would never know this if say,your rating is below 1900.But begin to get into the upper 1900's to around 2100 and look out....the harassment begins!
No,I do not play on UChess anymore,but I thought as a courtesy,I would warn any strong players about that site!
Anyone else here had similar problems or circumstances on Uchess??

That is pretty funny. So a disconnect basically forces your opponent to forfeit the game! I think that may be exploitable! Someone get those guys a programmer..

Yes,Uchess is the worse!And any site that does not recognize perpetual check or 3 move repetition,is automatically lousy!It costs me 49.00 a year on Instantchess,(which is a blitz site originating out of Moscow,Russia)...but its worth it.Alot of strong players on that site with alot of features.Hell,even GameKnot blitz site is better and alittle faster,even though it does not give you a blitz rating.
My friend contacted me recently after playing about 100 games on Uchess.He also told me he had 13 disconnects and a ton of rating points lost,even though he was winning the game in pieces and time!After reaching around 1900+rating...again the top rated player on that site contacted him,said he will now be disconnected with no explaination,and sure enough...he was disconnected!What an insult!!!!
I wish I could get a 1000 players somehow to get money together,hire an internet lawyer of some kind or a serious investigator that had the legal means to remove that site off the internet!

Joe, are you sure you aren't a closet publicist for Uchess? Your repeated harangues have made me curious enough that I'm on the verge of registering with Uchess just to check it out. And if I'm thinking that way, anywhere between 10 and 50 other Dirt readers probably are, too.

Didn't you ever hear the ancient line, "There is no such thing as bad publicity"? (aka, "I don't care what you write about me, as long as you spell my name right.")

Now, is that U - c - h - e - s - s?

Hey Joe, I have to agree with wiseup. You seem way to obsessed with this uchess site to be for real. I also think you are promoting the site and doing a good job at that! Makes me want to check it out myself. I will report back with my thoughts on it.

Ok, I had the pleasure of playing several games on uchess today. I must say I found the website to be very nice. First thing I noticed right away was the interface was lighting fast for the blitz game I was playing, almost instant after I moved. One of the mods stopped by my table to welcome me. Another great thing about it is the easy registration & 100% FREE. Uchess rocks and I highly recommend it.

uchess is great for the simple user interface
And there are a good mix of players. some very strong ones.

I don't think there are many cheats. Certainly not
1200 - 1500 section. 'chesswizard' was a retard and is gone now. (chess cheating sounds like a weird sort of data entry to me.... i can't believe people are that sad)

But yes i do have a problem with disconnects, and it always seems to go against me. The site drops sometimes, i estimate 1/ 20 games.

I still like it beacuse it simple and seems to draw in strong players, perhaps from redhotpawn that linked to it.

I totally agree with you.I myself have a fide rating which i am not going to reveal.It happened that i had a high rating on uchess.com and i was deleted without any plausible explanation.We all know who you are refering to and that's chesswizardry.It seems that guy has a real problem and i'm pretty sure he uses a program though i have never played him.Its time for someone to do something because he is not worthy of being the moderator of a chess site.

I visited this page first time to get info on people search and found it Very Good Job of acknowledgment and a marvelous source of info......... Thanks Admin! http://www.reverse-phone-look-up.net

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 28, 2005 2:57 AM.

    FIDE Gives Le Smackdown was the previous entry in this blog.

    Phoenix Risen is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.