I play all my "serious" chess at Queen Alice these days. I used to play with the CCLA which was mostly post card or e-mail chess but discovered I liked server play better because there isn’t any record keeping and the games (usually) move at a faster pace. So recently when somebody posted they wanted to see some kind of moderator because there are some players who are using Fritz to help to analyze the games and commented. “you just don´t know with whom you are playing, a human player or machine... and that is not fair.” No, it’s not. My reply was: Back in the early 1990’s engines were playing at ~2000 which was about my level and when I realized at least half of my postal opponents were using engines, I resigned all the games and gave up chess.
In 2004 I returned to server play. Not much had changed except engines were much stronger and players using them were out of my league. Except for the few times I’ve met a player on the way to the top of the rating list engine users haven’t been a problem.
In this era engine use is a fact of life and there’s really nothing to be done about it. I say let people who want to use engines do so and let them, when they reach the top of the rating list, battle it out amongst themselves like the titled players do in their tournaments.
I know of one site that claims to have a foolproof way of detecting engine use and they are constantly on a witch hunt with every poor loser claiming he was defeated by an engine and even 1200’s have been banned. Putting out a dragnet for engine users will not eliminate them and only cause a lot of problems and controversy.
Another problem is that truly strong players won’t want to play because if they win a lot of games while suffering few losses, people start slinging accusations
I started playing CC in 1959 in “Class C” and, playing about 6-12 games at a time, had managed over the years to work my rating up to ~2000 by the early 1990’s. That’s over 30 years to gain 500 points; of course I was out of chess for about half those 30 years, but still…
At first engines weren’t all that good. I remember one low rated female opponent who, early in the opening, played what looked suspiciously like a computer move. I don’t remember what computer I had at the time but when it was given the same position, it played the same move. Sure enough, I was able to predict her every move for the rest of the game. I didn’t feel like I was cheating because the computer only played at about 1400 max. So computers weren’t a problem.
Then one day I had about 12 games going with the USCF which had just recently purchased Al Horowitz’ Chess Review. By this time engines were performing at about 2000-2100…same as me. One opponent whom I knew personally and who was never rated over 1500 in his life had a CC rating of ~2000 so when I got the assignment I was immediately suspicious but figured since I hadn’t seen him for a few years maybe he had improved. A mutual friend advised me that this particular opponent had confided to him that he used computers all the time. After about 20 or so moves, a few of which made no sense to me, I checked out our two games with Chessmaster 2100, and guess what?
I checked out my other games and discovered that at least half of my opponents were using Chessmaster. I was ticked because all of those years diligently playing guys like the one rated in the top 10 in US postal chess, an opponent who’d competed in a couple US Championships and assorted OTB Experts and Masters just to get to 2000...and now there I was playing Chessmaster and probably going to lose all those games. I resigned them all in disgust and my USCF CC rating went from over 2000 to 1798 where it remains today. That was it for CC for 10-12 years.
I returned to CC play 7 or 8 years ago and figured I’d lost some skill in the interim so started with the CCLA at 1800. I managed to finish in the top 10 in their open championship one year and got my rating to ~2100 then discovered when I started playing guys over 2200 on a regular basis that half of them were using engines. I really didn’t care by that time and just figured I’d enjoy the games against players who weren’t using and not worry about losing to the rest. Ratings no longer mattered; I was just playing for fun.
I’ve played on several servers and lost a few games to opponents rated over 2400 whom I know were using engines. Of course I’ve lost a few to players rated over 2400 whom I know weren’t using, too. For that matter there was the time my 1400 rated opponent played very well and I traded down into a R&P ending only to realize it was a theoretical draw...which he held. Looking at the game later I was convinced the guy didn't use an engine. He just played a really good game and I blew it because I didn't remember my endgame theory! I’m smart enough to know there are a lot of players out there better than me and even if they aren't sometimes a blind pig finds an acorn.
Anyway, I want to tell these people that unless you’re playing at the very top of these server sites, engine use isn’t a problem. Of course there will always to be an occasional loss to players who are moving up the rating ladder but, really, is it that important? When they get to a certain level they’ll start playing other players’ engines and a dozen rating points will be lost on an anonymous server. What’s the big deal?
Game Moderators? Don’t need ‘em.