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Player Hating

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Ponomariov's sudden collapse against Topalov today led to the usual conspiracy talk. I've mostly ignored all this piffle as blatant sour grapes and paranoia. All the "Topalov is using a computer" garbage that came up after San Luis (due to oblique chatter from Kasimdzhanov combined with Topalov's amazing first half) is just a way to tear down a good player on a great run of form. Today it was compounded because Ponomariov is affiliated with Silvio Danailov, the Bulgarian IM who manages Topalov's career and is one of the organizers of MTel. (I.e., Ponomariov threw the game, as if this would be necessary were Topalov receiving comp assistance. Don't mix and match your conspiracy theories!)

The myriad scenarios of computer cheating so engage the imagination they are practically irresistible. Signals from a conspirator? Transmitters hidden in the clothes, embedded under the skin? A light or sound in the hall when there is an opportunity? Why not the old yogurt trick? Psychology can work in even more creative ways. If the thought your opponent might have computer assistance is in the back of your head it's really going to screw up your game. Conversely, if you had access to occasional computer assistance, even just a signal once or twice a game, it would have a dramatic effect on your chess and your confidence.

I've heard that a great deal of time was spent on these things during the Kramnik-Topalov match discussions. Expect them to play under Alcatrazian security conditions. And expect fringers to rumormonger anyway. (Especially with the anti-logic "okay, prove he's NOT using a computer. Uh, why?)


It is amazing to me that some people cannot accept that Topalov is simply a human being who plays remarkable,often confounding chess. He plays nothing like the kind of chess a computer plays. And when he loses, it is all so obviously human. Meanwhile, it seems to me, he has revitalized the whole game. Just look at he way players are fighting today. I am not a Topalov fan, but a chess fan. The game is better for players lie him.

Mig, now YOU are feeding the trolls! Never thought I'd see the day. Oh well, I guess it sells papers.

I didn't become paranoid until I realized that everyone in chess was plotting against me!

I can't think of any other "sport" where paranoia is so prevalent. I know it's been like this for sometime. Morphy, Steintz, Rubinstein, Nimzovich and of course Fischer among others; but I'm speaking collectively. Could the catalyst have been the Soviet Union and the methods they used to maintain an hegemony that was so central to their "National Supremacy?" for half a century or so. I really don't know, but with all the "research" that is done in chess, you would think that someone would have done a thesis or something on this topic by now. Perhaps someone has, I sure am not aware of it. If some one knows of any articles or whatever, I'd really appreciate your sharing the source(s) with me. A super chess tournament or a local one at a college student union or cafeteria, this malady always seems to be lurking...increasingly so.

When so many of the trolls are Grandmasters, and I don't mean just here, I figured it's worth mentioning. You wouldn't believe how many GMs go on about this, and serious seem to believe Topalov is (on select occasions of course) getting assistance.

It seem obvious that Ruy Lopez and also Morphy were receiving outside help. Ruy Lopez probably worked with an Apple II in developing his opening. Morphy must have had an early version of the Pentium V and Fritz10. How else could he have found those profound moves.

Of course Topalov is using a computer. he knows all the computer best moves and then he plays something different. How else could he play these sacrifices unless he was sure the computers did not like the move.

Maybe Karpov's buddy Dr Zarkov is sitting in the crowd and has finally figured out how to get his powers to work.

Maybe Kamsky is really Dart Vadar in disguise.

I have to go look up some things in my dictionary on conspiracy theories. I know there has to be a conspiracy somewhere. I certainly can not be losing because I play bad moves.

The computer use hypothesis in Rd. 8 Topalov-Ponomariov seems to require a full-blown Fischerian game-scripting scenario...If Topalov was using a computer, how did he originally sac material and obtain a losing position? Did he only then switch on the machine? Ah, so that's it: the game was prearranged, and Ruslan threw it in exchange for a kickback from Veselin's prize money (it just wouldn't do for the Bulgarian to score badly at his home event). :)

"I can't think of any other "sport" where paranoia is so prevalent. I know it's been like this for sometime."

There's a causal link: the paranoid (e.g., Fischer) excel at prophylactic thinking.

In September, Topalov will be using Deep Fritz to help him beat Kramnik.
Two months later Deep Fritz will be using Topalov to help him beat Kramnik.

As long as the paranoids just talk, Topalov should take these accusations as a compliment.

Ridiculous! Topalov's winning fair and square!

Hey, just kidding. But aside Flyonthewall's bloviations and Mig's dismissing everything as "ridiculous" until the divine grandmasters say it, there is really no logical way to explain Topalov's rating fluctuations -- skyrocketing one day and going down faster than Jenna Jameson the next.

"Chess Auditor:skyrocketing one day and going down faster than Jenna Jameson the next."

Sounds more like Bobby Fischer.

My other hobby is cycling. Of course when somebody is suddenly winning there, he is accused of using drugs. When he stops winning though, the doping talk stops. He is not training enough, he is fat, etc, etc. No such luck in chess obviously. Chess fans are way too advanced. Topalov loses a game spectacularly only to ... confirm the fraud. Of course, you see, he lost the transmitter. Sad.

Mig -- thanks for posting that! It was the real deal in the truth spoken as only you can. I've been so fortunate to have known and had as friends many titled players. Having also met six WCC to boot! (Euwe, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky & Fischer). What I do know if there was even a hint of truth to the "Topalov comp rumor" then the elite of the chess world would be up in arms about it. As they are not; neither am I... Thanks Mig! :-) - Mal (Berkeley, CA/USA)

I think that the electronic dopping is(or will be) a great issue in competitive chess. So forget these insubstantial rumours about Topalov which damage the profile of a worthy champion and let us get a more general approach.
In elite tournaments anti-dopping methods can be employed, simply because there are available plenty of resources. But what about amateur tournaments, opens and local championships. If it is the case that anyone can have, in a relatively low cost , fritz in his mobile phone ...then competitive chess at low levels will fall apart.
Untill now, from my experience at least, such a problem does not exist. Maybe because technology is not advanced enough ,or cheap enough, or because informal social institutions do exist in chess communities in a such a way that e-dopping is convicted and prevented. But conditions can change and solutions should be found beforehand.

Will Kramnik and Topalov play nude? In the case any future WCC match has to be played in such conditions, maybe it'll be much easier to find some sponsorship (and even easier for the female title I guess).

More seriously ... in a close future, we will all be "centaurs". Not only in the chess field, but in any field as well.

Just imagine that today, a team of scientists created a system with sensors that allows to dictate texts just thinking about what you want to write. Of course, the system is slow, and will be used first for medical purposes.

But it won't take long before such a system will become fast, reliable, available for anybody, linked with Internet and just part of our life. We will be connected entities, able to send instantly mails, to call "by phone" anybody on earth, to access any data... and I don't believe that this whole thing will take more than 15 or 20 years.

Any job will be transformed : we won't think any more about learning. We'll focus on the quality of our ideas. On creativity. We will all have at our disposal our universal human culture. As an human, where's the point in learning meaningless data? As a judge, why do you need to spend 15 years learning all the laws if you can access them in a few seconds? As a chess player, if you have access to all played games, where's the point in learning theory lines?

I think that all the chess data should be available today when playing a chess game : what should make the difference between humans should not be the working ability or the size of the memory, but just the creativity, the calculation abilities, and strategy skills. THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT MAKE A CHESS GAME ENJOYABLE FOR THE BEGINNERS. Theory, chess knowledge is what perverts chess, makes it much more boring, less spontaneous and less linked with intelligence.

By the way, Napoleon was a pityfull chess player. He probably hadn't the required knowledge. But you will hardly find a guy like him in the history of Mankind (maybe Alexander the Great?). He was a pure genious in strategy. Leading 250.000 men on the battlefield, THIS is pure strategy. Chess, as we play it today, has, because of it's historic evolution, reduced the part of strategy to almost nothing.

This strategy notion is nevertheless central : when 1600 rated players start to form teams with puters, you see that they can play better than 2600 GMs. That's because you don't need to have the good strategic ideas to win a chess game. You have to outplay your opponent tactically, psychologically, you have come with a fresh novelty...

Even Topalov proved that yesterday : bad strategic ideas can lead to bright victories. Tal proved it a lot of times. Well ... it's quite likely that Tal + Rybka wouldn't produce good results in centaur tournaments.

Soon chess will need new ideas to survive. This shows how much Fischer was a genious. His clock, his proposals to reduce the importance of the opening theory, everything was produced BEFORE the computers. Even if this guy is nuts, everything he has produced for chess and on the chessboard was gold.

Mig, but who exactly talked about the conspiracy in this case? Yesterday Ruslan was extremely disappointed after the game, as he spoiled a completely winning position. Instead of -1 he is on -3 now, he lost all his games with Black so far. So please provide the names of those who talks. It is useful to know who those idiots are. If they are just some anonymous from ICC, Playchess, etc, then their opinion(s) do not deserve to be mentioned here in such case, as I think...
Best regards,
Mikhail (from Sofia)

Sally was walking with Johnny the other day and, as usual, EVERYBODY is calling her a slut again. I've ignored all this piffle, this garbage, this chatter. It's just a way to tear down a popular girl who has lots of friends.

Today the girls were saying they think she's been spending "intimate moments" with George. And I'm sure that since Bill is taking her to the big dance the rumormongers will soon be saying she's canoodling with Bill.

You wouldn't BELIEVE how many girls go on about this and SERIOUSLY believe Sally is a total slut.

Mig, thanks a million for that yoghurt link!! Great article!

think Koster has finally lost his onion.

Just remember, conspiracy theorists don't need facts, they just need theory, which for them rarely relies on facts, just what they think could be fact.

Of course all this is just a theory...:)

Once you liberate yourself from the straitjacketing burden of proof, it's easy to formulate an infinite number of conspiracy theories.

Yes geeker, though theories do not require proof

If Topalov is smart what he'll do whenever the conspiracy talk dies down is wear a "I LOVE FRITZ" t-shirt to a tournament and start throwing more computer chess talk into his speech. In other words, use the paranoia for your own ends. I'm reminded of the baseball pitcher Gaylord Perry who for a large portion of his career was assumed to be throwing an illegal pitch (a spitball: a pitch where a substance is applied to part of the ball to change its aerodynamics when thrown). Perry was smart enough to somewhat embrace this image of a cheater because he knew that psychologically just the suspicion of cheating in the minds of his opponents gave him an advantage.


You are correct, Joe Lewis, that theories do not require proof. They do, however, require support in order to be considered viable. Wild assertions with nothing to substantiate the claim and no way of falsifying the theory render it meaningless drivel.



Topolov looks to be on another 11th hour roll and the problems that Anand has with Kamsky, Gata has with Toppy and the beat goes on. The other two games were drawn. If Gata wants any part of first, he should definately play for a win against Svidler, although not always easy with the black pieces.


I notice you mentioned the potential of computer cheating in the amateur context.

You should be aware that an organized effort was made in the past year to call attention to the danger you mentioned in your comment. An open letter bearing the names of two US titled players and four active amateurs was sent to the USCF Executive Director, and was publicized in a number of places including a posting here on Dirt. The letter called upon organizers of mass public tournaments and the USCF leadership to join forces to develop rules and security measures intended to forestall cheating via cell phone, pocket Fritz, and the like.

The full text can be seen at: www.seniorchess.zoomshare.com.

As for the frequency of this behavior, it has been quite rare at amateur events (in the US at least). Still, there have been a handful of notable incidents over the years, including one at last year's HB Global followed by a possible one at the World Open -- both involving the same player, who ended up winning $5,800 in the World Open after being caught cheating in the HB and booted out. (There's a thread about that here on Dirt.)

The "frequency" issue seems to be one of the biggest hurdles I run into when trying to raise awareness of the cheating danger (in the amateur context) and the need for reforms. If it isn't rampant, organizers say, then how can I justify spending money or inconveniencing the mass of honest players in order to combat it?

My answer is that this is one of those cases where purely prophyllactic thinking seems to be justified. Advancing technology (ever-smaller wireless communication devices, and increased use of DGT boards and other technologies to broadcast games in progress so they can be viewed by others outside of the playing hall) makes cheating ever more feasible, at the same time that escalating class prizes make it ever more rewarding economically.

I have a file that lists details of 7 or 8 incidents where amateurs received either computer or human assistance during games and got caught. Those incidents were spread out over 10 years or so, in several different countries. Of course, these are only the ones where they got caught; the successful ones, by definition, did not get caught.

The striking thing about the incidents in that file is that, in every case, the cheater MADE LITTLE OR NO ATTEMPT TO CONCEAL HIS ACTIONS. Reading through them, you get the distinct impression they were TRYING to be caught.

So, I have to wonder what would happen if someone made a professional-level effort to use cell phones and accomplices to get moves at an amateur event with, say, a $25,000 first prize (or: if a team of such people entered one member in each of 5 simultaneous events that each had a $25,000 first prize), and did all they could to avoid detection.

Are those financial rewards large enough to entice someone to go for it? Knowing they would face no penalty even if they got caught? (No one has ever been prosecuted for fraud in a chess tournament.)

My wife and I had pretty much the following conversation the other day:

She: "Well, I've been looking over the American Idol message boards, and as usual, you wouldn't believe the level of negativity and vitriol. Every contestant has a group of people who absolutely hates them and they say the most horrible things about them, it doesn't matter what. The ones who hate Elliott say he's ugly. The ones who hate Kat say she's fat and they also say she trades on her looks and probably poses for Playboy in her spare time, but explain how those two things go together! The ones who hated Chris Daughtry can't let it go now, they go on about how he was supposedly disrespectful to the judges and so on. It's really awful. Why is this?"

Me: "You know, I hate to break it to you, but chess is no better. You listen to the kibitzes on ICC and it's just exactly the same stuff. As soon as Topalov loses a game or two people who hate him say he's second rate, he's not Kasparov, he's not as good as Anand, he's washed up. Then he wins some games and they say he's a computer cheater. This is the world champion for heaven's sake! The people who hate Nakamura are always going on about him being supposedly fat and calling him 'Snackamura' and so on, and making jokes about him eating Big Macs and stuff, and the same for Peter Svidler, and ten times that whenever Judith Polgar shows up. The people who hate Nakamura pour scorn on him for playing risky openings, and the people who hate Kramnik and Leko pour scorn on them for playing solidly and getting draws. These are some of the best players in the world mind you!"

She: "Really? That's surprising."

Me: "Why? You think chess fans have more brains or common sense or maturity than American Idol fans? That's a mistake! Actually come to think of it you probably have the same thing with fans in any sport or competition."

She: "What is it then? What is this need to just hate somebody?"

Me: "Partly I guess people are just mobilizing all their emotions as if it were war, you know, and so the other guy is the 'enemy' and you can't admit that he has any virtue, he has to be evil in every possible way, even the ones that are contradictory - he's ugly and vicious and cowardly and stupid and cunning and has bad teeth and everything. Probably a lot of it too is just envy and spite: 'I'll never sing or throw a ball or play chess as well as X, but I can throw dirt on him.'"


Fischer clock and Fischer random chess are not ideas of Fischer. Both ideas were brough by David Bronstein far before Fischer, and if Bronstein's idea of random chess was somewhat different (and is better) from Fischer's one (read Timman in Schachbulletin #135, 1979), then clock was exactly the same.


I don't own a television set. But if you and your wife starred in a reality TV show I'd buy one.


Can't argue with that line of thought. I guess we could say welcome to the (if on television)wide world of human nature, and it ain't gonna change soon! BTW, Kat is my kind of fat.

Yes indeed Maliq, but I don't think chess players understand epistemology like you and I :)


I'm sorry for my mistake.


Yes, I guess you're at least somewhat right. It's quite unbelievable to see people throw so much mud on such fantastic players like Kramnik or Anand.

When a player DESERVES some criticism, like Kasparov, for destroying FIDE unity, you can criticize him. But how can you criticize Anand? This guy is gentle, polite, clever. I can't even remember of him doing something wrong, saying something bad, or having a single bad action. He's just doing his job (not too bad in my opinion), and despite all this, you still can read a lot of bad comments on him...

I think its a pity that you mentiuon this issue in relation to a specific player. By making the claim with respect to a well known player you muddle the issue. The issue about what if anythign should be done about computer cheating is seperate and should be addressed seperate from supporting or "hating" any given player.

Here were Kasim's concerns.

"How necessary is the anti-computer control?
This problem is much more serious and important. After the tournament in San Luis I discussed it with FIDE representatives. They said that FIDE would be prepared to work with players on this issue. I believe that during the game a player must not see anyone in the audience. What happened in Sent Luis was just not serious! Five metres away from the players there were people with working computers...

But there was a metal detector at the entrance to the playing hall.
Which would go off only if you tried to bring in a machine gun! There was no problem bringing in a pocket Fritz or something like that. Besides, the players could freely meet with lots of people in the playing area, including their seconds. Each player had his own room for relaxation. As I learnt there, it was not only players that used those rooms."

I have no clue whether he is correct or not. Do you know whether this was done or not at San Luis? I really don't know.

I do think Kasim is correct that the players should not be able to see anyone in the audience. Whether we use one way glass or have a wall witth he audience seeign a screen, either option is a simple way to address this concern. Otherwise it is just ridiculously easy to cheat.

Is the arguement agaisnt takign these measures that that they are too burdensome or is it this belief that all people who are good at chess must have too much integrity to cheat?

The idea of saying that there is somethign about learnign the game of chess that makes people more honest than everyone else is absurd. I think several Chess *officials* are far from trustworthy. I do not have any specific claims that *players* are untrustworthy but I know very little of the players personal integrity.

You may think I am paranoid thats fine. However unless I understand why simple measures aren't taken to prevent cheating I am not so inclined to trust or care about the results of tournaments or matches.

I pointed out why it became a hot topic, and that's why. Apart from that, several of his earlier comments in San Luis were clearly directed at Topalov. He later turned these into more general comments on the venue and precautions.

Most of the comments I've read are about Topalov, not potential cheating in general. This is hating. Of course it's a legitimate concern, but it's not muddling the issue; it's a separate issue. Saying "there are many chances to cheat, Topalov had an unbelievable result" in the same sentence has unavoidable implications.

I agree. If Kasim wasn't accusing Topalov he came as close as you possibly can.

I do wish the topic of cheating in general would be addressed. It seems that if Kasim is right it would be very easy to cheat. There are large amounts of money on the line. I think the game suffers unless this is taken seriously.

Does anyone know Topalov's reaction to Kasim's statements? It would be fun to see the next time they meet over the board :-)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 19, 2006 9:02 PM.

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