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Cheating Hearts Hats

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ChessBase has a long article by Praful Zaveri on the cheating allegations surrounding Diwakar Prasad "DP" Singh, who stunned everyone by topping the national championship and making the Indian Olympiad team last year. He then went on to a quieter fame by losing his first game and being benched for the rest of the event, which turned out to be a horrible one for the second-seeded Indian squad. The rumors I heard at the time, and later, were to the effect that he had been found out as a fraud when unable to receive assistance in Turin.

The article has more on the red-handed, or hatted, case of Umakant Sharma, who was caught with a bluetooth device in his hat and was subsequently banned for ten years. No such evidence exists for DP Singh, however, and without it all the game analysis in the world is only circumstantial and unsuitable proof for a ban or any other punishment. Obviously if his rating now drops back 200 points to his previous career average the required conclusion can be drawn, but it's still not proof. But it's good they hammered the guy who got caught in flagrante petasus. It's important to set a deterrent predecedent. Amateurs might not be deterred against going for one big payday, but strong players would likely never risk such a ban.


With all the attention and focus on cheating in chess, ten years is good but life would be better. When it comes to cheating, the rubber meets the road quickly with me. I have no compassion whatsoever for anyone who wants to buck the system for their own personal gain and at the cost of others. Of course, the evidence has to be foolproof to render such a verdict.

Now if we could apply the same principles to corporations, politicians, special interests, office politics etc., heck, human nature in general, wouldn't life be grand? But I digress...

I'm still interested in seeing if criminal penalties can be applied as well. Defrauding other competitors for a cash prize is not just unethical, under some codes it's illegal.

just curious .. what has been the penalty handed out to Rosenberg so far?


does anybody know what is this?


Why can't I see Mig's site and chessbase? And how can I include them and vote?

They've already caught one guy using a bluetooth device red-handed and still they don't have a clue about the MO? This looks like a case for the Hardy Boys..

"he had been found out as a fraud when unable to receive assistance in Turin."

Finally! We have a theory about Anand's performance in the Olympiad... always knew it couldn't have been just tiredness.

Even after a ban you can play on - under a different name (maybe a dead person).

If you want sme proof, see his loss against Ganguly in National A (The more recent one.). No human can play that rook endgame so absurdly.

Please pay attention from mve 57 onwards

Yes, I can't imagine why life wasn't appropriate. Although freitag seems to think that doesn't go far enough and some kind of physical branding is necessary. And hell, why not?

More to the immediate point though, WTF is 'in petasus delicto' supposed to mean? Parse and translate, as my prep school headmaster would have said.

maybe Mig wants to say "in flagranti"?

Apparently now everyone had "doubts". I'm surprised that the authorities took so long to catch them if there were so many rumours swirling.

Flagrante - ablative case.

Jeez, standards these days.

'Petasus', though. I mean, is that even a word?

A petasus (or petasos) is a kind of hat (the word is classical Latin for "hat", says my dictionary). Mercury/Hermes (or, if you want to be cultured, Asterix) is usually depicted wearing one with wings on and a bluetooth device within.

Right you are, camembert. I really must learn to operate Google.

I still have issues with the grammar, but at least I've now got the joke. Previously over my head, I fear.

isn't the ablativ "in petaso"?

@rdh An identity card would be enough. I've never been asked for it when taking part in a tournament. You can sign with the name Larry McDonald or Mustafa Nogly, they will not check it.

Branding directly on to the forehead would be better, though, surely?

Petaso would be the ablative, yes, but we don't want an ablative, since we already have one noun in the ablative (delicto). Maybe in petasi delicto (caught in the sin of the hat)?

"delicto" is a particip perfect passive I guess

It's just a noun, isn't it? Delictus = a sin, no?

At least I can see that in form it was once what here we just call a past participle, but as used in the phrase 'in flagrante delicto' it's a noun and flagrante is an adjective, I would have thought.

Same question as the one asked of Topalov and Danailov: what was the time limit used on the chess engines to get the match? Did it match the thinking time the players used? I am a little wary since such obvious info seems to be missing in the article.

I am telling you, if you want proof see his loss against Ganguly in National A (The more recent one in Valsad) in TWIC 634. No human can play that rook endgame so absurdly.

can you post the pgn of this game?

@Aswin: Evan Carlsen blundered an elementary Rook Ending.. :)

Aswin, you also played in the National A right? How good is he during postmortem of the games etc?

I do think we’ve reached the stage where players should be banned from playing with petasos on. I’m sure there are other methods of cheating but let’s at least get rid of this one. And as a bonus we’ll have fewer competitors looking like idiots in baseball caps and/or tea cosies.

Funny how rook endings seem to trip these people up. I remember the great Mr Crisan having much the same problem, ie failing to demonstrate the Philidor draw with the rook on the third rank in R and 1 –v- R while scoring 0/9 on one of his few – if not only – appearances in an actual tournament. I can’t now recall who the GM was whose splendid play had allowed matters to reach such a pass.

I even remember the great Mr. Kramnik overlooking a mate in 1.

Indeed. Which demonstrates that anyone may make a mistake, as Carlsen did. There is, though, a difference between a single foolish mistake and a course of conduct which demonstrates a total lack of understanding. You won't find any GMs losing R and P v Rook with the king in front by getting gradually outplayed.

Either you know nothing about the game or you're so keen to bash Kramnik you ignore this elementary distinction for the sake of it. I wonder which.

It seems to me that if a player really played a game, then immediately after the game he should be able to discuss the game and give other moves with some analysis.

If the person played a game certainly he looked at alternative moves. If he looked at other moves then he will be able to discuss them.

If the player followed a computer program then he will have no clue about alternative moves. He will only "know" the move played.

I admit I usually dont like to go over my game immediately after it ends. I am usually tired and I feel like the result is the result. I want to go rest. But I can discuss the moves. I worked very hard on the game and could discuss almost all the moves.

For example in a position I can say. Well I am worried about the bishop there taking here. I worry about this pawn push but for this reply etc. all very easy when you worked so hard on the moves.

no petasos? no hair either?

in flagrante delicto means "in flaming sin/crime", but in petasus delicto means "the hat in the crime", which I doubt is what Mig wanted to say (since petasus is in the nominative case, it must be the subject of a verb). Maybe in petasi delicto, "in the crime of the hat", or even better (replacing the present participle flagrante with another adjective), in petasato delicto, "in the wearing-a-hat crime".

Nice try though Mig!

Hi, all! Here's what I need to know technically:

(*) Do/would cheaters cheat by setting the engine in (S) *single-line* mode and (uncritically!) taking "the computer's move", OR (M) in *multi-line* mode to see how the idea they prefer is faring relative to other options. And (F) do they step the engine *forward* into sublines before deciding? (S) gets the fastest depth quickest.

[] Internet (speed) chess cheating, just S.
[] Pocket-Fritz going in-out of bathroom cheating, I thought M+F.
[] Bluetooth cap, low-rated accomplice(s)---communication probably prevents all but S.
[] Team of high-rated players can do M+F.

He never stayed for Post Mortems. About that rook endgame, who would check the king into a good positon?

BTW, robust testing needs to calculate in M mode to reflect a basic "Freakonomics"-type statistical principle, one I've not seen well reflected in any article or interview question, Zaveri's included:

(*) If you match even for 30 moves when your options are severely limited (e.g. your opponent plays a forcing style), no-hay-de-que. But if you continue to match even for 10 moves amid a sea of nearly-equal alternatives, you are guilty, man!

Please let me know if someone can test the games with Hiarcs 10 "my way", or send me Hiarcs 10. Also, it will take me and my professorial help a long time to develop automatable methods because our approach is *general*---but precisely thus flexible enough to match against *ensembles* of engines to filter out a "guilty" one, and explore the "metaspace" of different engine parameter settings besides!

All of his games in the April National A 2006, seem to match with Junior 9.

I looked at the endgame in question and saw nothing wrong with Singh's play. There wasn't much he could do, as White seemed pretty close to losing throughout the whole endgame anyway.

Yermo is absolutely right. The rook endgame was totally lost for White since his K could never go to f4 due to Rc4+ and then (sometimes after Rc5+ or Rc3+) the R goes to the a file. So, please don't even compare this endgame to the book draw Carlsen butchered.

I am certain I could play a rook ending even more absurdly, check the king into a good position, etc....sorry, bad games (especially when it's the same one cited over and over again) do not prove anything.

AJ, how much time and what strength do you set Junior 9 for to get the DP Singh results?

Yermo is absolutely right. The rook endgame was totally lost for White since his K could never go to f4 due to Rc4+ and then (sometimes after Rc5+ or Rc3+) the R goes to the a file. So, please don't even compare this endgame to the book draw Carlsen butchered.

To Yury Kleyner- I am not sure about that, I only heard about it.

"If you want sme proof, see his loss against Ganguly in National A (The more recent one.). No human can play that rook endgame so absurdly.

... Please pay attention from mve 57 onwards

... About that rook endgame, who would check the king into a good positon?"

What is this supposed to mean? By then Black was very easily winning anyway. There is nothing stopping his king to advance whatever you do. Or just go to b3, then Rc4, Ra4.

Nothing in the rook endgame before that is "absurd" either. White conducts it in a rather natural, human fashion, even though it might well be filled with mistakes.

Is this the standard of the so-called "proofs" against him? Seriously?

BTW, to see some really masterly rook endgame handling by the above-mentioned honourable GM Crisan, see http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1172342&kpage=1

You really need a proof to make accusations. In one game last year I also had a short moment where I thought my opponent uses a computer. Thinking about it later I must admit he just played the moves that I would have played if I were him (without computer assistance of course he he). In fact, he just demolished me because I made a series of weak moves myself.

Some evidence of cheating exists. There is the inexplicable 300 point surge, similar to that of his roommate, who is a known cheater, the matching of moves with a chess engine (alleged, though and curiously, it's not the same one Umakant used), the sudden downturn in performance after the allegations once the scrutiny was on him and/or he was playing abroad. This is enough to be concerned and investigate the matter further. It does not prove that cheating occurred and that's why one needs to see how long it takes Deep Junior to think up such moves and whether the time log matches that of Singh.

It really is amazing how weak some of the evidence against Singh is. That he wants to live by himself in a hotel? That his roommate's brother would accompany him to the tournament? (especially since the roommate is not allowed--it would make sense he would bring an alternative) That the cheating roommate's brother would not want to acknowledge who he was? That's easy to explain: he did not want to make Singh look bad. Once his identity was revealed, everybody assumed the worst and that's the kind of suspicion a non-cheater would want to avoid.

But the 300 spike that matches that of his cheating roommate does make me think that Singh is guilty. Luckily, one does not get banned from chess yet based simply on my impressions.

with all this fussing around about a surge in rating, the cheaters will simply keep their rating under control and move up slower.

It seems to me we need to use games where the player wins to show he cheated not games where he lost.

If a person gets on a hot streak then it is more then expected that he will have a falling back of his rating for some points. That is the way one comes to equilibrium. Again his falling back is not proof of cheating.

The problem with mentality is looking at whatever happens and claiming that is proof that someone cheated. Rediculous.

Singh rating went from about 2200 to 2500 or 300 points in 5 long years of up and down progress. I am sure you will find Magnus Carlsen rose much farther and faster over these 5 years. I would hope that a chess player can go up 60 points per year with hard work. In fact there was a guy who wrote a book on how to go up 400 points. If my memory is correct.

It seems to me that if you have a large population of players then there will be some who will rise faster and farther than average.

I dont think there is any way to pin a players rating closer than 2200 to 2500 over a 5 year period. In fact he went up to 2350 early on and then came back before moving up to 2500 which is only 150 points over his previous peak almost 3 1/2 to 4 years previous.

I am sure all of us will doubt that he has been using the newest high tech gadgets for the past 4 years. I would think the high tech gadgets are newer than 4 years old.


which is all about chess game fixing. I think there is a much bigger problem with game fixing and selling GM titles etc then there is with use of drugs and chess computers.

It is good to see one chess federation is finally looking into game fixing.

Actually I was going for in flagrante petasus (or petasi, whatever) and messed it up when I copy-pasted. I wanted "with the hat flaming" but didn't notice I'd cut out the wrong word. Not that I knew about the nominative anyway, but I didn't get that far.

I wonder if this guy is going to go back to his day job at Dell.

To be Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing you just need a hat he he ;) lol

Perhaps he should ask Dell to sponsor his chess career! Joking aside nothing has been proved against him but his reputation is gone. If he is innocent he should sue. By the way has ChessBase tried to contact him in order to give him an opportunity to defend himself?

Filing a suit in a case like that would be tough even if you aren't guilt. Fist, you can't sue for a ruling in a sport event in most states. Also, the Chessbase article doesn't really offer opinion, but only states the known facts. Secondly, his reputation in the chess community might be gone, but really who else is going to care?

10 years in chess seems close to equivalent to a lifetime ban to me. It's certainly a large part of an effective career and depending on when the ban is, often you'll cover the most productive years in those 10.

I haven't a clue about either Indian or German law regarding libel, or whether they even apply to Chessbase's report of events in India. When I was in journalism school the Internet wasn't even a gleam in anyone's eye yet; and jurisdictional questions are paramount in most any potential legal case, all the more so when someone is defamed online.

Contrary to Brian's last comment, the article most definitely does "really offer opinion." Near the bottom it says many players were polled (by Chessbase's own stringer who filed the story) and most thought he was cheating.

Well, even though that is brave reporting, it is also precisely what can get a publisher in libel trouble: the comments of these players, especially when solicited by a reporter (as opposed to a tournament arbiter or disciplinary committee), have no legal protection. A plaintiff could argue they were disgruntled rivals and the reporter was giving them an undeserved, unofficial platform, without making a serious effort to get both sides of the story.

Mind you, I'm not criticizing the journalistic quality or standards of this story. But my gut feeling is if the guy wanted to sue in the US (not that he could; in fact pinning down just where he COULD sue is probably the decisive question in terms of whether it would be worth his while), he might well have a decent case.

There's been no official action against him; the "ruling in a sport event" that Brian speaks of actually went against the other guy, Sharma. And the article went far beyond reporting official complaints, to saying that most people around him think he cheated, and noting many ancillary but not necessarily relevant facts (the other cheater's brother was his roommate, etc.) and placing them in a suspicious light, etc.

Finally, the statement, "Secondly, his reputation in the chess community might be gone, but really who else is going to care?", actually runs counter to the first three sentences of Brian's comment. Of course, his reputation in the chess community would be the basis for his claim. If he is a professional or even a semi-professional chess player, the loss of his reputation within that community would be considered at least as damaging (by a court in a US libel case, at least), as if his reputation had been damaged within some other community.

Again, I'm not claiming any of this matters, unless chose to sue in the US (but my understanding is some other countries, including the UK, favor libel plaintiffs more than in the US).

Well, maybe it DOES matter: Sooner or later, I must admit, we probably WILL see someone accused of cheating in chess actually file a libel suit somewhere.

I just hope I won't be that first defendant. I have said, and/or written, things about cheating suspects that probably go beyond what Chessbase just published about DP Singh.

Musical chairs, anyone? Or, shall we make that Russian roulette?

I think Internet articles are published where they’re read and you can sue for libel anywhere they’re read. There was a famous test case where some indignant US magazine found itself dragged into a British court (more plaintiff-friendly, as you say) on the basis its on-line edition was read by a few people here.

In principle at least; of course specific states may have statutory provisions about it.

I would have thought some pretty compelling circumstantial evidence against this gentleman was the fact (assuming it is a fact) that he had the chance to go on training camps with famous GMs and didn’t want to analyse training positions with them. That’s a pretty weird opportunity to pass up IMHO.

On the main point, by the way, I don’t think in flagrante petaso would make much sense. ‘In delicto’ is a specific expression, I suspect medieval rather than classical, similar to the English ‘taken in adultery’. I don’t think being caught ‘in a blazing hat’ works. If you’re going to say someone was caught with his hat on fire I suppose it would be ‘cum flagrante petaso’.

Gawd, every time there is a discussion of a controversy, some Americans comes running with libel this and lawsuit that. Give it a friggin rest. It's equally boring every time.

As for this particular case, the circumstantial evidence is fairly strong, but clearly not strong enough to impose any sort of sanction.

I guess the article said that he refused to analyse test positions and only played training games. I guess playing training games in a private training area should reveal his cheating immidiately. If he wasn't cought, then he was receiving assistance during those games too. If so, he could get the same assistance during analysis too. What's the difference?
A thorough analysis of mr. Singhs games, made by high-qualification players (at least his level) and computer chess specialists would be the only way to make things clear.

You’re kidding, right? Of course there’s a difference. In a training game of course you can receive illicit assistance in the usual way. It’s far more difficult to hold your own in an analysis session if you’re not personally up to it but are receiving assistance. You suggest moves; people ask why, etc, and you have to come up with a reason. The point of analysis sessions, or one of them, is to articulate your thoughts with a view to understanding your thinking better and learning where it can be improved. Computers aren’t much good at the traditional training question ‘who’s better and why’ at the best of times, let alone through earpieces. And it all goes much quicker; there’s no time for sending and receiving messages.

Curious anti-American observation of yours, zakki. Or were you counting Kramnik as an American?

I was making a joke on the well-known expression, not trying to write a correct Latin phrase that would not be recognized. I figured a few people might know or look up "petasus" and get a laugh.


DP Singh's roughly 250 point surge did not happen in 5 years of up and down progress as you put it. It's a pretty steady spike that takes place over one year, July 2005 to July 2006.

Magnus Carlsen's rating over the same period went 147 points. This is also from a 15-year old who may be expected to sharply gain ratings points and not from a 30-year old who suddenly goes up after years in mediocrity and is then unable to explain his terrific moves.

Singh's earlier rise is only 130 points in a year and is at a much lower level. His recent performances are at an almost 2600 level (his rating is not as high since older results also factor in it) which is fantastic for somebody who has been meandering in the upper 2200s for the previous four years. When you combine that with the matching spike by his roommate who was caught cheating, that is ground for some very heavy suspicion.

what exactly would be the point of seeking out strong players and cheating against them in private training games?

Analysis of his games in the last 5 years will not prove anything I think. He can always argue that he has been studying hard as of lately and I dont see anything wrong with that argument. Unless he is caught in the very act of cheating everything else is just speculation.

I would feel more comfortable if radio signals were jammed in the tournament room. Does Radio Shack sell a device that would do this? Why wouldn't every tournament director have one?

Signal jamming is illegal under US federal regulations -- anywhere in the country. That's why TDs don't do it over here, and why no one is even thinking about trying it here. It is legal in various other parts of the world, though, so perhaps it's worth considering for India and/or Europe (where legal).

Jamming radio signals in the tournament room would be a bad idea. In the United States it would be breaking FCC regulations. Maybe there is some country out there that lets any person jam any radio signal they want. Sealand maybe?

Jon Jacobs:

I have heard that Rosenberg is filing againt CCA, Mike Atkins and the USCF.

Technology is once again outpacing the law and it's just a matter of time before we start seeing exceptions to the FCC's no-jamming policy.

Cops raiding a drug operation would love to jam lookouts' phones or immobilize terrorist bombs rigged to cell phone signals. Then there's concert halls and, most important of all, chess tournaments.

I dont know if Rosenberg is filing or not. But it only makes sense to me for World Open to get signed release papers from all players regarding cheating.

I hope Goichberg starts to cover his legal exposure with a signed agreement with players on what the rules are going to be for the tournament with regard to cheating.

MD: this was the Olympiad training camp at which members of the Olympiad team like DP Singh are expected to attend. The point of attending would be not to get kicked off the team, and the point of cheating in training games would be not to get exposed for the palooka you are.

Brian, thanks for that chatter about Rosenberg. I recall reading something to that effect before -- months ago, I think, not long after the World Open, someone said Rosenberg had retained attorneys and planned to file suit.

In that case it's important to know how the reported Ethics Committee complaint against him turned out. I just checked his MSA record and there is no notation there of any kind of suspension. Then again, I'm not certain just how the Ethics Committee ever communicates its findings (if at all), even when someone is found guilty.

Bill Goichberg told me he thought a penalty (such as a suspension from all rated play) levied by the Ethics Committee would have to be noted on the player's MSA record -- otherwise how could all TDs throught the US possibly know they weren't supposed to accept him as an entrant in any rated tournament? But even Goichberg wasn't certain of this. For instance, he also told me he thought Mirtchouk -- the cheater in the 2005 HB Global who soon afterward tied for 1st in that year's World Open U-2200 section -- had been found guilty by the Ethics Committee and received a 1-year suspension. But when I then checked Mirtchouk's MSA, I saw no such notation either.

I'm going to ask my own Ethics Committee sources. If Rosenberg indeed sues the USCF, it could only be either over an Ethics Committee decision or penalty (assuming there was one); or perhaps for libel, over Chess Life's coverage of the World Open (although I don't think Chess Life ever named him).

Since the USCF has nothing to do with the World Open, he couldn't sue them over anything directly involving treatment there; only for subsequent USCF proceedings or publications.

Of course, there is more than one type of cheating in chess. Allegations of game fixing, for instance, are recently gripping the Philippine chess community. The NCFP is investigating.

Most shockingly perhaps is that GM Mark Paragua's name is being mentioned as one of those guilty of this terrible chess crime.



With all due respect to Mr. Jacobs and your worst-case scenarios of professional teams of chess computer consultant-communications man-chesspiece mover, feared to be uncatchable, I think your focus is in the wrong place. It isn't the .001% case I'm worried about, it is the possibility of widespread routine cheating by run-of-the-mill type players, that would ruin chess for me.

Want to see a sport totally destroyed by cheating? Go to the Track and Field News website, and read the "Drug Board." Almost every track fan, and these are big fans, believes that at least 10% and maybe 50% of the stars cheat, and don't get caught. It causes the fans terrible angst, no one trusts the world records, they discuss constantly who's clean and who's not, rumor and inuendo fly, and it is a huge mess.

I tell you, if I believed 10% of my opponents cheated at chess tournaments, I'd quit in a second! If I ever get so I think 5% of my opponents, or even 1% were cheats, I'd quit! I'm only an average player, so it would only take a little bit of cheating to beat me. So again, it is not the highly unlikely prospect that a crack crime team would target the Virginia State Championship or something, with team members and cameras and bluetooth devices shoved in orifaces, whatever. I think we need to focus on the MOST likely cases, not the most feared, or hardest to detect.

So develop a profile of the MOST likely cheats (young, teen - 25 y/o males, in what rating groups? with what level of experience, etc. - I don't know the answers to these questions, we need some expert to predict the profile.) It is these most likely cheats that are the ones I want deterred, prevented, removed or banned, and that we need to be spending our time on.

Thanks for listening, and Mr. Jacobs I have enjoyed your comments on this topic, despite my naming you in this critique, etc...


tjallen, thanks for your comments.

You pose an interesting point. I often state that cheating isn't rampant, but is actually rare.

However, I must admit I make that statement on no evidence; it simply "feels" to me (and to most other people I know) that the vast majority of players around us are honest at all times.

I and most others find it far easier to believe that the winner (or near-winner) of a section cheated, than someone who went 4 / 8 or even 5 / 8. And we find it far easier to believe that someone would cheat (and win) in a tournament that offered say, a $5,000 first prize, than in some weekend club tournament where the top prize was maybe two or three times the token entry fee. This is simple economics.

My point is that, while there will always be some people who will set out to put one over on others regardless of material incentives and regardless of the type of activity (whether chess, track, bodybuilding, cycling, or whatever) ... it is reasonable to assume that such people, who cheat only "for its own sake" (i.e. with no hope of any reward beyond the perverse satisfaction that comes from deceiving those they compete with), probably form only an insignificantly small proportion of the entrants in any given event.

So, although I accept that such people ("natural-born" cheaters, if you will) exist, I wouldn't concern myself with them when formulating an anti-cheating program.

Mr Jacobs,
Thanks for your reply. I am not talking about some mythical "natural-born cheaters." I am talking about ordinary, fallible, human beings!

I, at this time, also believe cheating is rare in chess. But if we don't make an effort to keep it that way, it won't stay that way.

Look, I had these same kinds of naive beliefs in other areas of my life, and in all three I was shown to be badly wrong. First, I had believed most of track and field was real, the records were real, the performances were real. Now I know much of that was a false, naive, wishful thinking on my part. A second example is in academics, I had believed from my own student experience that students didn't cheat. Then I taught college-level philosophy, and even there, a bull-sh**ter's paradise, I saw numerous cases of academic cheating - I'd say at least 10-20% of the students cheated some, and maybe 5% regularly cheated. And then there is marriage, somehow I thought when I was young that no one cheated on their wives, nor broke those most solemn vows. Now I've seen the studies that put cheating in marriage by men at over 50%. So again, I was naive and ill-informed about the character of my fellow humans.

I hope I do not find out that a significant number of chessplayers cheat. I don't currently believe they do. But I sure have been wrong about similar cases before. So I caution you, don't be blinded by your worries about theoretical perfect cheating, when you might overlook a more routine and widespread, blander and insidious form right under your nose.


-a quick addendum to my post above.
I was struck by GM Naidisch (sp?) comment when he was caught cheating in an online chess tournament - he said everyone else was cheating, too. Was it true? No one else was caught by the anti-cheating computer, but Mr. N obviously thought widespread cheating was going on.

Now I know the comparison of online chess to physical-presence chess is imperfect. The annonymity and not having to look the opponent in the eye can be conducive to cheating. On the other hand, we are talking about roughly the same universe of humans. So let me ask you, what % do you think cheat in online chess? And second, if they'll do it there, why not in physical presence?


I've read that cell phones are blocked in museums and churches. I assume that must be legal.

Naiditsch. I think that was the first ACP tournament. I played in that tournament, and, no, I didn't cheat. I have a stack of blunderful games to prove it!

In response to several points made above:

1. Blocking cell phones in museums and churches: I doubt it. Don't believe everything you read. I admit I haven't independently checked what Goichberg said at the public meeting (about blocking signals being illegal anywhere in the US). But the lawyer on the panel didn't contradict him, and Goichberg was in essence speaking about his own business, so he had no reason to lie, or not do his homework before making that statement. It should be very simple to check the FCC regs, if anyone here isn't satisfied.

On the other hand, someone at the meeting did say that some US movie-theaters DO use signal-jamming equipment -- but that they do it illegally, and more or less surreptitiously. It would be much harder for a chess organizer to do it "under the radar screen" (pun intended), since he'd probably have to announce it in his tournament publicity. I wouldn't want to publish announcements that said I planned to do something illegal; would you?

2. As I've often said, I don't give a f*** what happens in online chess. That said, of course I've heard from just about everywhere that a significant amount of cheating happens online (in casual games, at least; I'm not talking about major online events like the one with Naiditsch). Given the logistics -- an online comp-cheater need not hold his hands over his ears, wear a funny hat or go to the bathroom -- I can easily believe it's true.

However, more important than logistics -- which go toward the TECHNICAL ABILITY of players to cheat -- is economics, which directly addresses the LIKELIHOOD, based on incentives, that people actually WILL cheat.

Online chess is, in general, free of charge. Not only the entry itself, but the accommodations: you needn't travel out of town, stay in a hotel, etc. You don't even have to invest in 2 one-hour subway rides or half-hour car trips, as when going to a chess club. And the individual games themselves usually last a maximum of 6 minutes each or 2 minutes each -- as opposed to a maximum 1 hour each for face-to-face tournament games (in New York; or 4-5 hours per game in most other cities).

So the cost -- in both dollars and time expended -- is FAR lower for online than for face-to-face, tournament chess.

In view of all this, it is easy to imagine lots of people cheating in online chess "just for the fun of it", while very hard to imagine even those same people cheating in serious OTB chess, when they'd have to invest hundreds of dollars and an entire day or weekend at a time, to reap nothing but that perverse internal pleasure that comes from tricking and secretly taking advantage of people they hardly even know.

Yes, tjallen, only a very unusual personality type would find the benefits of cheating in OTB tournament chess (if there isn't significant prize money involved), to outweigh the costs -- not just "ordinary, fallible human beings."

So you see that my conclusion about the rarity of OTB tournament cheating (absent prize dollars at stake) wasn't based on naivete, but on thought, sound reasoning, and common-sense knowledge.

It's all a matter of incentives. Even in OTB chess, all park-hustlers cheat (again here I'm referring to New York, with which I'm most familiar), as often and in as many ways as they can get away with. That only proves my point: hustlers have no costs (if they lose, they never pay, and usually have the muscle or weapons on hand to back their deadbeat stance); and unlike OTB cheaters under the special scenario you worry about, hustlers are always playing for stakes -- which often make up their livelihood.

3. The comparison with cheating in marriage is so silly, there's no point in my even saying anything else about it. As for college students and track & field competition, I presume they cheat because they can gain something concrete. Passing college exams is important to graduate, no? And isn't a college degree worth money?

The track example might be convincing, if you were talking about amateur runners cheating in amateur events that offer no material rewards (and no gateway to future rewards, such as product endorsement contracts) -- analogous to weekend or club chess tournaments with minimal cash prizes.

Is that what you were talking about? Or, did you mean you learned that many people cheat in pro or semi-pro track & field events, that get TV or newapaper coverage?

If the latter, aren't there concrete rewards at stake that are worth cheating to win? (If so, then again, you were agreeing with me to begin with: your argument indicates there is no reason to think many people cheat in chess events for which that is NOT the case.)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 8, 2007 3:48 PM.

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