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The Boston Globe

Lifestyle

Chess Notes

Weekly chess column

The matter of cheating in chess tournaments is so embarrassing that we find it painful to write about. Chess is a marvelous recreation that offers intellectual subtlety and aesthetic delight, and now it is being challenged by players with ambition and little conscience. The problem arises through clandestine communication with computers or partners with computers. Human beings cannot match the swift calculation of computers, which can analyze millions of positions on a symbolic board.

Cheating is probably rare, but is serious in major tournaments and threatens the integrity of the game. Methods of cheating become more subtle as devious players seeking prizes or prestige can theoretically use implants in their bodies and receive instructions from a partner standing in sight or communicating by code. It seems possible that cheating can be thwarted but only at great expense, which may be a hardship for tournament sponsors. Kenneth Regan of the University of Buffalo has developed a program that correlates player records and computer moves and claims success in developing a methodology to determine whether a player is playing over his head by use of a computer. His work has been used to protect players who honestly are having a good tournament and to identify cheaters, but does not appear to be infallible.

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