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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Dire Prediction

      On June 2, 2015 we found two titled members to have cheated in our monthly Titled Tuesday tournament. This blog serves as Chess.com's official statement on the matter, and sheds light on our general stance on cheating in online chess….Read more

      IM Daniel Rensch posted an article in which he explained Chessdotcom's stance on a situation where two (OTB) titled players were banned for cheating in an online cash prize tournament. Rensch explained, “The systems we use to detect cheating are based on deep heuristics and statistical evaluation.” Rensch also stated that there are borderline-suspicious players who remain under constant scrutiny by the chessdotcom staff.
      Also, recently there was a brouhaha about cheating accusations at the European Women's Championship when a surprising result by one of the players resulted in organizers granting a request from the players to delay the transmission of live games. It seems a Romanian WGM scored 5 out of 5 but when the 6th round games on the top two boards were delayed due to technical difficulties, she lost. The result was the participants thought more was involved than coincidence although there was no proof based on the games themselves.
Things have gotten more sophisticated; you don't have to fake bowel problems and make frequent toilet visits any more...with the help of an accomplice you can use mini-microphones, rig up Smart Phones, and work out a code. As a result, phones are banned and the ban is enforced with body scanners.
      There has long been cheating in correspondence chess by using engines and rather than try and combat it, the ICCF abandoned rules against engine use. Some sites make engine use illegal, but do nothing to prevent it while other sites make vigorous efforts to ferret out engine users.
      For a long time casinos were plagued with cheaters. Casino games are designed so that the house always makes more money than the players, so cheating was justified by its practitioners by claiming they were just evening the odds.
      In 1972, an engineer invented a portable computing device on his own that enabled him to beat the blackjack tables in Nevada. With various contraptions strapped to his chest and feet, he did pretty good for about 15 years. In 1984, an eccentric Ohioan found a simpler way to make the most of new technology. On the new CBS TV game show Press Your Luck, he noticed that the crucial prize board, instead of being truly random, just recycled the same five patterns of flashing squares. Using a video recorder, he got each pattern on tape and studied them intensively. When he at last appeared on the show, he won $110,237 in cash and prizes, the largest sum ever won on a game show in one day. CBS could not discover any rule that he had broken, despite a lot of trying, and paid in full.
      Doping in cycling and other sports, e-cheating in schools and universities are a problem. Michael Dunn, a senior lecturer at the University of Derby, observed, “Students are very good at getting round anti-cheating technology. An arms race is underway.” He went on to say, “The likelihood of someone cheating will be governed at least in part by the availability of the means to do it, and the probability of being caught multiplied by the consequences if caught. In other words, I might still cheat if the likelihood of being caught is high but the consequences low. Even if the likelihood of being caught is low, I still might not cheat if the consequences are negative enough. So the most effective strategy, given that cheating is relatively easy, is to maintain high consequences.”
      The point is that cheating will always happen in any game when it is possible. Online and correspondence chess is teeming with engine use. Chess used to be a hard game to cheat at before the advent engines. When I returned to correspondence chess in 2001 after a 12 year hiatus it was with the firm belief that I could, with some effort, raise my 2000-plus rating to 2200 and gain the coveted Correspondence Master title. It turned out not to be possible. I discovered that most players in that range were using engines which were something about which I new nothing at the time. In those early days engines had quirks that could be exploited if you knew how and so beating them was not impossible, but that didn't last long. These days being a top level CC player means owning a $5000 computer dedicated to chess, having a super-refined opening book and letting the engine run for days at a time. So, unless you play at the lower levels of correspondence chess, you won't have a lot of fun because nowadays it's impossible to outwit an engine. I'm not into problems and endgame compositions, but my guess is that engines have invaded that area as well.
      It Can't Happen Here is a 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis that was published during the rise of fascism in Europe that describes the rise of a United States Senator who is elected to the presidency after promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and traditional values. Don't they all do that?!  Anyway, after his election, he takes complete control of the government and imposes a plutocratic/totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force, in the manner of Adolf Hitler and the SS. Don't they all try it?! As distasteful as the thought is, the reality is that it could happen here for real.
      As we are beginning to witness, OTB chess cheating is, little by little, getting more sophisticated. Yes, it could happen here, too. It's only a matter of time.

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