Monday, April 29, 2019

Cheating in Chess

Posted by GilaChess
Article 11.1 of the FIDE law of chess states: ""The players shall take no action that will bring the game of chess into disrepute."

When cheating does occur, it really brings down the whole game into disrepute because cheating is so easy and not that easy to detect. Not to mention a person's hard work in training and acquiring skills  is made a joke by the cheater.

What are the measures to prevent cheating in chess?

Sure, the common ones are control over toilet privileges. Arbiter being more vigilant on player's behaviour. Metal detectors! In the previous Chess Olympiads, measures were so stringent that you can't even wear a watch or even bring your own pen into the playing hall!! In the recent Batumi 2018 Olympiad, players and captains are required to walk through X-ray frames.

Take the ongoing Selangor Open 2019. None of the measures above are implemented except for no mobile phone or watches allowed (toilet logs was practiced in a few local tourneys). Not to blame the organisers as this is not the Olympiads and to follow the same measures is definitely extreme, not to mention cost and time prohibitive.

As a tech person, I admit I have cheated a few times online just to test the anti cheating features. Have never got my account blocked or banned but I did get caught by one player. He knew I was cheating because my moves matched his engine moves and he angrily told me so! I won because my engine was better than his I guess. 

In another incident, I have beaten my over 2000 FIDE Elo rated friend and later told him. He admitted he didn't even suspect an engine was used. The system didn't flag my game even though it was engine moves because I didn't choose the best engine move. Instead I randomly chose the top 4 moves recommended and usually that was good enough to win games. Unethical for sure but understand that this is only done because I was curious and I don't condone cheating and don't do it today.

This is online. Can cheating be done over the board?

Using Tech to Cheat

Bone Conduction Audio Sunglasses


Of course. It's easy with tech. In our top local tourneys like the Malaysian Open, Penang Open, Johor Open or even the Selangor Open - it is not difficult. For example it can be common accessories like a spectacle. It can be a hidden jaw bone conducting headset without any ear piece visible. It just looks like some funky sunglasses. Someone can relay engines moves to me within bluetooth range. 

Of course this is just an example and there are many other tech devices that are virtually invisible to any arbiter. That's why the metal detector is so important at the Olympiads.

Cheating without tech

You can also go the non-tech way. Someone in the crowd - the way the hands are folded, touching ears, hidden sign language etc.

My proposal is to catch and prevent cheating using tech too.

For example, the choosing top 4 or 5 moves instead of the best engine moves today can be spotted easily by the online chess system and flagged.

But how? In the Selangor Open for example, only 2-4 boards are connected live. The solution is for maybe top 20 boards to be recorded live but the cost DGT boards may be prohibitive. I suggest something like the ChessVision project that uses webcams and AI tech to record the games. The cost? 10% of a DGT board system.

The other possibility is using vision recognition by AI system. Sounds science fiction and far from being a reality but it is already here. One system uses AI and webcams to determine if a person is going to shoplift or not! 


For a chess tournament, the system will instead record suspicious activity by logging when a person goes to the toilet, how frequent, at what time etc. If moves are recorded, the time stamp is invaluable to determine the type of moves made.

Also, more games online is good as even viewers can get suspicious when moves made are the top engine moves made. But alas, online game viewing numbers (the boards and viewers) is too low at the moment.

Cheating in chess is as old as the game. Anti-cheating measures are coming into play but implementation is sadly lacking especially in tournaments not in the league of the Olympiads.

DGT boards or Chess Vision systems may be impractical where cost is a concern. There is a solution. Record video of the game - not just the moves but when the players are gone for toilet breaks etc using cheap webcams like this:-
Video footage can be reviewed later and games rebuilt and matched with engine calculations. They may not be immediate fixes but at least may act as deterrent.

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