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.

At present, FIDE, the International Chess Federation, does not establish a code for prevention procedures to be used by tournament directors. It is difficult to isolate a playing area from outside communication. However, many measures can be taken when a player is suspect, including metal detectors, inspection, and personal searches. There are legal impediments, as innocent persons have to be protected. There are also legal problems of privacy with cellphones.


Reports of cheating have increased. German and French players have been identified as culprits. The latest incident occurred in Croatia at the Zadar Open tournament where a player romped well above his rating but lost a game when directors stopped broadcasting on the Internet. A limited strip search proved nothing.

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The player in the Croatian tournament was interviewed by a Russian news source and denied any violation. At the same time, he averred that he had, in preparation, defeated Rybka and Houdini chess playing programs by a 10-0 score each, all of which has left mouths agape.

The game needs rules, contracts, and statutes for its protection, as well as firm punishment. Live broadcast of games, which are popular with spectators, can be delayed long enough to make cheating impracticable. Directors simply must take on the expense to stop this problem.

Brevity: O Yaksin vs. E. Gokcek (2008) 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0–0 0–0 8.Be3 Nc6 9.Nb3 Bd7 10.f4 Qc7 11.g4 a6 12.g5 Ne8 13.Nd5 Qd8 14.Bb6 Qc8 15.Nd4 e6 16.Nxc6 Kh8 17.Nde7 Qxc6 18.Nxc6 bxc6 19.Bd4 d5 20.h4; 1-0

Winners: Metrowest Holiday Cheer: 1st-2d, Igor Foygel and Mika Brittain; Boylston Swiss: 1st-2d, Eric Godin and Philip Nutzman, 3.5-.5, 3d-4th, Luke Lung and Alan Trogan, 3-1.


Coming events: Metrowest CC Groundhog Swiss, Feb. 5, 12, 19, 26, Natick Community Center, Natick, inforequest@MetroWestChess
.org; Winter Team School Challenge, Feb. 3, Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, 181 Boston Post Road West, Marlboro,