Computers in chess... Cheaters paradise.

Computers in chess... Cheaters paradise.

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In the last week's article I touched the subject of cheaters who use computer engines during their games. To my great surprise, judging by reader's messages, many of you are not aware of this problem.  I was asked how can cheaters possibly use the computer's help during a tournament play, so today I would like to provide more information on this subject.

There are two ways of consulting a chess engine while playing your game. The most primitive (or should I say stupid?) is to have it installed on your mobile device, so you can go somewhere (most probably a washroom) and check your position there. This method is easily detectable and therefore utterly stupid. One of the most recent cases happened in the German Championship 2011. 23-year-old FM Christoph Natsidis had an excellent tournament and played GM Sebastian Siebrecht in the last round. Natsidis kept disappearing from the board for long periods of time even when it was his move. Naturally his opponent was concerned and complained to an arbiter who found a smart phone in Natsidis' pocket. The phone had a chess program installed and it showed the position from the game he was playing! Natsidis confessed and was promptly disqualified. The most bizzarre detail is that even in the case of losing this game Natsidis would have made his IM norm! Did I mention that cheaters who use this method are not the smartest people in the World?  By the way, GM Sebastian Siebrecht is some sort of cheater's magnet. A year later he was playing Falko Bindrich in the German Bundesliga and his opponent was displaying the same suspicious behaviour. Siebrecht appealed to an arbiter who asked Falko Bindrich to provide his smart phone for an inspection. Bindrich refused and his game was forfeited based on the Bundesliga's rule that prohibits use of smart phones during the game. 

The second method of cheating is more sophisticated and requires an accomplice who would run a chess engine and tell you the moves.  The only problem is how to transmit the information from the player to his accomplice. The low tech method of doing this was shown by a group of French chess players during Chess Olympiad 2010 in Khanty-Mansiysk. GMs Sebastien Feller, Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo developed a devilish system of cheating in front of the whole Chess World. If only they used this level of creativity in their chess games! According to the President of the French Chess Federation Jean-Claude Moingt the system worked like this:

IM Mazorlo was in France the whole time and his job was to analyze the position with a computer. Then he would send an SMS to the French team captain GM Arnaud Hauchard who would transmit the moves to GM Sebastien Feller using a special code. Hauchard would move between the chess tables in a certain order and since each board was assigned a rank and a file, Feller knew what move he was supposed to play. Eventually all members of the group were 'rewarded' for their creativity. IM Cyril Marzolo was suspended for five years, GM Sebastien Feller was sentenced to three years followed by two years of community service with the French Chess Federation and GM Arnaud Hauchard got a lifetime ban as captain and coach within the French Chess Federation.

But the real fun begins when you observe people using the high tech methods of moves transmission. 25 year old Umakant Sharma was caught in 2006 when a hidden blue-tooth device was found stitched into his cap. He was banned for 10 years by All India Chess Association. 

 Steve Rosenberg was playing in the World Open 2006 and was doing quite well. In fact he was leading before the final round and a win would have earned him around $18,000. Too bad that he was caught using wireless transmitter and receiver called a "Phonito". He was disqualified from the event.  But it is Eugene Varshavsky who made the World Open 2006 famous. Just look at the following position and try to guess Black's move.

Throughout the whole game Varshavsky completely outplayed his opponent (who was rated 600 USCF points higher!) both tactically and positionally. Look at whole game:

After the game was over Varshavsky decided to pull a "Clemens Allwermann" and said "Yeah, Grandmaster, the doubled pawns ruined your position".  (Is it me or the help from chess engines make cheaters talkative?)  This ridiculous phrase was the final straw and Smirin complained to an arbiter about a massive hat Varshavsky was wearing throughout the whole game. If you've ever been to Philadelphia on the 4th of July, when the World Open traditionally takes place, you can attest that the weather there doesn't really require a hat. When Varshavsky was asked to remove his hat he asked to go to a bathroom first.  There he disappeared for about 45 minutes and when he was back nothing was found on him.  Nevertheless, the last two rounds of the tournament he was asked to play with no hat.  Amazingly, his playing strength dropped significantly and the last  two rounds his lucky opponents played basically a 1500 player. Judge for yourself:

I anticipate your response: since nothing was found on Eugen Varshavsky he is innocent until proven guilty.  The fact that most of his moves matched those played by Shredder 9 is pure coincidence. He wasn't even expelled from the tournament by a tournament director.  And after accusations like this anyone would play below his usual strength.  Fair enough!  Maybe he was not cheating.  Maybe he was so offended by the witch hunt that he decided to retire from chess and pursue his other passion - sudoku.  But wait, here is the report from the National Sudoku Tournament:  " Eugen Varshavsky, originally a walk-up contestant, left with the $3000 third place prize... It was only later that Varshavsky’s performance made some of the judges go hmmm… it seems that his performance ability suffered in the final round of the contest when he had to remove his headphones, which contestants were allowed to use to block out distractions."  

After the accusations there he retired from Sudoku as well.  Was he cheating in chess and sudoku? We'll never know the answer to this question and so the mystery will stay forever!

to be continued...

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