The Cheating Chess Tournament
©2002 by NM Dan Heisman
“That was the third person we caught recently who had a handheld computer with Pocket Fritz!”
Chester Nimfield was distraught. As a member of the Hookley Valley Chess Club’s Organizing Committee, he felt some responsibility toward running fair and honest tournaments.
So did Arthur Bimcrane. Arthur had been on the Committee longer than Chester, but was nowhere near the C player status that Chester wore so proudly. “What can we do?”
Chester racked his brain. It had been easier in the old days, when the cheaters just talked in Latin, or hid extra pawns up their sleeves. “Maybe nothing.”
“Nothing!? But that will ruin chess! You just propose to let them keep cheating?” Arthur always turned a bit red when his hackles got raised.
But Chester was nonplussed. “Sure, that is one possibility…”
“But then nothing is fair!”
“Well, if EVERYONE were allowed to cheat, the playing field would be level and we would not have to monitor one player for having the advantage over another.”
Arthur didn’t know whether to turn purple or return to normal color. “But that is crazy…”
Chester started to warm to his own crazy idea. “There are Insanity Opens, and they draw lots of people. Think what a great crowd we would have if we had a Cheater’s Open. We could offer a nice first prize and the best cheaters from all over the world might come. We could even charge the spectators!”
Arthur was dumbfounded. Chester’s idea was so crazy it was starting to even make sense. And since they were two-thirds of the Organizing Committee, they could create such a tournament even if the third member, Borchunky Oberhatzinsky, disagreed.
But when approached at the following meeting, Borchunky surprisingly thought the idea was dandy. He did have one concern: “We can’t allow cheating of all types – it would get out of hand. There has to be some ground rules. For example, you can’t cheat by changing your chess game to another competition like checkers or football.”
Chester had to admit he had not thought of that, but it did seem reasonable to draw some lines. “And you could not physically, emotionally, or mentally harm your opponent, at least in a way that would get the Organizing Committee sued.”
Arthur thought those were good ideas, and added, “So changing the normal chess rules must be out, too. You have to move a bishop like a bishop and cannot castle through check.”
They all agreed.
And so the announcement was made throughout the chess world, and even at rec.games.chess.politics:
HOOKLEY VALLEY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP OF CHEATER’S CHESS
DATE: SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2002
REGISTRATION: 8-9:30 AM
4 ROUND SWISS; G/30 TD/5
ROUNDS 10, 12, 1:15, 2:30, 3:45
MUST BE 18 OR OLDER
ENTRY FEE: $200; FIRST PRIZE $5,000 GUARANTEED
CHEATING RULES: …….
The great day dawned. As usual, HOOKLEY hired local TD Cran Barry to run the tournament for them. Cran was a little wary about allowing cheating, but he admitted that not having to send his wife into the ladies room to look for misuse of Pocket Fritz did have its advantages. In fact, his wife at that very moment was at the mall looking for bargains, and bargains can’t be bad.
Some of the best cheaters had entered, looking to win the attractive first prize. Among them were:
GM Swarthy Meshingham – he had developed the fine art of the zwischenzug j’adoube and had been banned from normal tournaments below the Arctic Circle.
GM Karl Menthough – normally a straight shooter, but like most GM’s not able to overlook $5,000 first prize tournaments that offered free food to GM’s.
FM Bob Cat – Bob had gotten his FM title about the time Pocket Fritz had been reduced to $50.
Sylvester Stalactite – Known for his sharp and crooked play. Stalactite had been banned from Hookley events ever since the tournament in ’98 when he got caught with his scoresheet in the cookie jar.
Vazzell Manuth – Vazzell barely knew how to play chess, but was working his way through the local community college with an assortment of cheats and scams (his major was Finance), so he thought that the rules would allow him to compete more evenly than normal.
Sylvia Straingler – Sylvia had begun her career by showing Ms. Barry many of the bargains at the mall, and now was ready for bigger game.
All in all there were about 30 participants who had paid $200 each to have some fun.
In the first round, it became apparent that the itty-bitty cheaters were not much of a match for the experienced and clever ones. For example, Harry Potstone lost on time against Bertie Bynyip when Harry thought he had made 40 moves, but Bertie had written 40/30 on Harry’s scoresheet when it was actually G/30.
Vazzell had won by calling his opponent’s wife and telling her that there were bargains at the mall. His opponent could not afford to continue.
Sylvia won as well when her opponent found that his queen was glued during a time scramble.
Several games ended with both players losing as each was forfeited for illegal cheating. One player tried to make a legal knight move, but moved it like a “K” instead of an “L”.
At the end of the first round 10 players were 1-0.
The second round saw more of the same or, in some cases, more that was not visible. For example, Vazzell had made clever use of magnets and his female opponent was not very attractive. Another key game ended in a draw when both players paid each other to lose and neither was successful.
That left 4 players 2-0 with two rounds to play. If both games were decisive and the game between the winners also not drawn in the final round, someone would be 4-0. The Final Four were GM Meshingham, Vazzell, Sylvia, and old Indigo Cashmere, who had established the mall in 1962. The pairing was Meshingham – Straingler and Cashmere-Manuth.
At this point Cat protested, as his use of Pocket Fritz was proving rather useless. At first Barry did not know how to handle the case of sub-legal cheating, but finally decided that Cat’s protest should be dismissed with felicity. Borchunky, who was holding the prize fund, had suggested that Cat be disqualified again, but since Cat was Chester’s instructor, Arthur decided that such action would teach him a lesson. Cran, as usual, was relieved that the Committee was so supportive.
Meanwhile Meshingham had put a strangehold on Sylvia, and they had to be separated. Sylvia’s position was not at all bad, but she had run out of glue and Meshingham was holding her clock and her copy of USCF’s Insufficient Losing Chances rule for ransom.
Cashmere had moved Vazzell’s clock ahead 30 minutes and claimed a win on time. Vazzell had countered with a letter from FIDE stating that Cashmere had not paid his dues and was thus in the country illegally. The issue was finally settled when Cashmere produced a legal Brain Games membership and thus Vazzell had lost on time.
Not long afterward Sylvia resigned when the GM checkmated her with a little-known en passant maneuver that was proven to be clever only via retrograde analysis.
So it was to be Cashmere against Meshingham for all the dough. But if they played half-baked and drew, either Menthough and Stalactite, both smart cookies with 2.5-0.5, could share the bread if one could hand the other a bagel on second board. Donut ask how that might be possible.
And second board did end first, as Stalactite hung his queen for $333. Normally this would lose the game, but Menthough had been double-crossed, and had hung his king for two-thirds of any future dot.com stock options. Cran wanted to forfeit both, but thought better of it when his wife called from the mall to tell him about the cheap shot she had purchased for their shotputter son.
Cashmere was outclassed and he knew it, so he paid some of the other players to use their cheats, too. Meshingham received several phone calls from brokers, the Homeland Security Czar, and Barbara Streisand. He countered by accelerating his side of the clock to such a speed that his side would run more slowly. Without a chance to win on time, Cashmere was desperate, as bribes exceeding the first place money could not easily be paid, and the help he was receiving from GM Gilroy was useless outside of Gilroy’s pet line in the Botvinnik Semi-Slav, and this had been a Wasiolek Gambit.
Finally Cashmere pulled a smoothy. The soft ice cream had been melting in his pocket and now found its way into Meshingham’s hair. This was clearly skirting close to the rule on no physical damage, but Meshingham was a red-head, so it was OK. In desperation, the GM tried one final trap and was amazed when Cashmere overlooked the old scoresheet-switcheroo and found himself with an unstoppable “Resigns” written in what looked like his own handwriting. Hopefully the mall had had a good day.
All that was left was for Cran to announce the winner and hand out the check.
“I have a winner and I am going to hand out the check” he said.
Imagine the look on Meshingham’s face when Cran announced that first place had gone to Brandon Christopher, who had seemingly finished 0-4! But Christopher had gone right to the source and cheated by placing a virus in the tournament software that both destroyed Cran’s file of Day Lilly web sites and placed him first. This hacking was clearly within the rules, so Christopher coughed and found himself $5,000 richer.
Meshingham protested, but Arthur overruled the protest, on the grounds that surrounded the Hookley building and were used to make coffee every meeting.