Computers in chess... Good or Evil? (Part 4)

  • GM Gserper
  • | Mar 4, 2013

There is no doubt that providing that you know how to use a chess engine and well aware of its shortcomings (like for example the Capablanca's position that we discussed in the previous part of this article), then you have an amazing learning tool in your hands.  If the role of a computer in the modern chess was just to help people to master our beloved game, then I would be happy to announce that it is really the best thing since sliced bread!  Unfortunately, now it is time to look at the dark side.

You probably already know what I am  going to talk about.  Yes, the notorious problem of computer cheaters is bigger these days than ever, especially since FIDE is not doing much about it (they prefer to humiliate top chess players with useless doping tests, even though there is no one single example of a chess player successfully used any kind of doping).

As the time passes, the cheaters get more sophisticated.  The first chess players who used a chess engine during the game tried everything they could in order to get caught. One of the first and most famous examples happened in 1999. A 55 years old German chess player Clemens Allwermann rated just 1900 had a tournament of his life, or it looked so. In the final round he was paired against a strong Russian GM Sergey Kalinichev. Now look what happened there:

The move 31. Qa7!! is not the first that comes to mind when White has simple options like 31. Rxb7 or 31. Rxf6 gxf6 32. Qxf6 simplifying the position into a practically winning endgame. This move  alone would be enough to suspect some foul play.  As a matter of fact, when this move was shown to Vishy Anand, he started laughing and said that there is no doubt it was a computer's move.  But I wouldn't accuse Mr. Allwermann based on just this one move. I even did a little experiment and showed the position to some of my students.  One of them (rated around USCF 1800) looked at the position for 30 seconds or so and his first suggestion was 31. Qa7! Granted my student thought I was giving him a tactical exercise and therefore he was specifically looking for tactics, and yet I wouldn't accuse a chess player of cheating just based on one move.  Even the next spectacular move of Clemens Allwermann wouldn't be enough for me to say for sure that he was cheating:

This tactical shot is beautiful, but pretty simple since in all the variations you need to calculate just one or two moves forward. But what happened after the game was over is amazing. Black resigned in the following position:

If Mr. Allwermann kept it quiet, then it would be not that easy to prove that he was cheating.  Instead, while shaking his opponent's hand, he noticed that the resignation was very timely since it is a checkmate in eight! And this is something no human would be able to do without a computer! Also no decent chess player would even try to calculate if there is a checkmate.  It would be more then enough to see that White has an insane amount of extra material that all but assures his win.  So, essentially, Clemens Allwermann turned himself in!  Now fast forward to the tournament that was played just 3 months ago. I find many similarities there.  A Bulgarian chess player Borislav Ivanov rated just 2277 beats one GM after another and shows a performance 2697!

Now let's look at one of his games against a very respected Grandmaster Bojan Kurajica:

To me this move is pretty similar to 31. Qa7!! from the previous game.  Black is about to launch an attack on the King's Side and White calmly moves his Rook away from his King.  Does the guy have nerves of steel?  Let's see the next remarkable moment:

To me this combination is almost a carbon copy of 38. Nxg4!! from the previous game.  The same merciless effectiveness, beauty and simplicity.
And here comes the finish:
Here Borislav Ivanov announces a checkmate in two... Just kidding! Even though, here it is easy for most of the humans to see that a checkmate in two is pretty much unavoidable, Mr. Ivanov didn't do any stupid things, so we cannot really say for sure if he was cheating.  But if Borislav Ivanov keeps the high level of play he demonstrated in this particular game and in the whole tournament, then it is time for him to challenge Magnus Carlsen for a match.  I don't think Magnus will have a chance!
to be continued...


  • 11 months ago


    For those asking how to cheat in a tournament:

    I'm not a great chess player and never even played live in a tournament. But i can think of a way to cheat given that:

    1) Player is checked by tournament officials and nothing is found on him

    2) There is live streaming of the match (over the internet or in a big room with lots of people)


    It's as "simple" as having a vibration device (no phun intended lol) somewhere in his body connected to a wireless receiver. The best place i can think for that is in his shoes. Then his mate would be watching the live stream, dealing with the AI engine and vibrating the device in a way the live player could understand what move should he do next (like morse code or something).

  • 2 years ago


    i don't think Qa7 is that hard to figure out

  • 3 years ago


    It is funny, that we now know, that Ivanov is an Engine. When I saw it I had to say - how can he do that? He is so tactical gifted, that he make moves, that are so tactical strong and so strange for us normal human beeings.

    But he is a maschine:

  • 3 years ago



  • 3 years ago


    I actually think 31. Qa7!! wasn't that hard to come up with, it makes perfect sense.

  • 3 years ago


    This is the only article in the series of "Computers in chess" that has shown a very recent game (2012 in this case) only to prove that the game was incredibly good for the person cheating by using the computer.

    All other games shown in the articles where the point was to prove that the humans are "more intelligent" than computers have been games before 2010 (I believe the most recent was the Nakamura game in 2008)

    I'm pretty sure those limitations you talk about and all that "horizon" fuzz is way less prominent or even inexistent in 2013 where not only the hardware but the software has improved a lot.

    I don't see how evaluating a topic like this is relevant in the present if there's no games played in the present to back it up. We need a Nakamura vs. Houdini ASAP.

  • 3 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    Funny to hear mention of fritz errors. I was once involved in a game that was stopped while my famous oppoenent and their supporters argued their flag did not fall because they were using a digital clock so goichberg's ground rule about falling flags did not apply to them. Upon eventual resumption they played the exact same moves as fritz, (the supporters were selling pcket fritz at the hotel). There was a much easier human win and I found the error in Fritz' line to reach a position that took weeks of online analysis to find a win in rook vs bishop and pawn. Had goichberg not taken time off my clock for insisting on his ground rulles, I am very sure it would have been drawn. It was my last goichberg event after being his best customer for about a decade. Goichberg eventually sent me an apology, said he had no idea why he did what he did and offered a free entry fee but it was not the 1st time he showed partiality to foreign titled players againt me and my students, so I turned him down.

  • 3 years ago


    @NM BMcC333,

    you can suspect anyone winning in an online chess tournament to be cheating. you placed third and had beaten most of the cheaters too?! that is awesome, and quite funny too, btw.

  • 3 years ago


    Ranger_Squad, I remember something else, I think it was about Allwermann, that there was a mistake in the fritz opening book, and he also made the same mistake.

  • 3 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    I believe you people who mentioned quitting chess have hit the nail on the head. I played in one of the 1st icc for money and USCF events on-line. In the 1st ICC event there were 3 experts who mowed through a field of extremely strong GMs and IM. I was the only one left to face these experts in the last round. I managed to beat the tail ender only because he apparently switched off his machine while a rook up and fell for a tactic while taking all my pieces. I won a few bucks and got 3rd place. The 1st 2 places were taken by experts. In my 1st USCF online event, I and another senior master were both beaten by 16-1700 players early in the event. After his mathematically (nearly) impossible event, I was beaten by the 1st under 1300 player in my life. I started chess late and my provisional was 1508, and never lost to anyone below 1400. The game was very suspicous, so I complained to Goichberg himself, the uscf president at the time. He told me that I just had a bad game. I researched the kid, he was a high school (@) sophmore from california who played on the football team. He gained 300 points in that event placing him in the 1600s. But he never played again!! If this was a real leap of strength he would have been all over the local events. Many high schoolers quit after graduation, but he was a long way from graduating. One more anecdote. There is a ICC 3000 player who was involved in a famous NY cheating scandal to give a relatively weak player the IM title. Although this person plays very well in the US Chess league and online, he has never surfaced in face to face events. The weak "IM" also quit playing chess in tournaments. Chess is a royal game with dignity and centuries of history. There seems to be something that prevents most people from facing a chess crowd knowing they are exposed as cheats. Of course I also know many blatant cheaters who think throwing the last round game is just as good as winning the event.

  • 3 years ago


    @socialista..i understand that but you cant accuse anyone just by statistics and analysis. you need a physical proof.

     Hire a lazy person for difficult job.he will always give you the easiest way to do that.

  • 3 years ago


    Ranger_squad, I understand that you would said: "maybe in one game it was very similar to the engine, but it doesn´t prove anything", well, it was not only one game, was a whole tournament for Allwermann, and the same for Ivanov.

    And after that, they quitted chess.

  • 3 years ago


    Either it should be proved at OTB.when I checked Allwermann game with my engine,GM and Allwermann both played Computer moves.but not all, even Allwermann deviated a bit from engine moves.but difference was that GM played one knight move which was a tactical blunder and lost the game as simple as that.

  • 3 years ago


    finding the gadget is a much better proof. in an OTB game, i don't think it's right to disqualify a player because his moves are almost similar with houdini or because he beat a higher rated player.

  • 3 years ago


    It's wrong to accuse someone of cheating to be honest. Where is the trust in the modern world? People say its cheating when someone lower rated beats a higher rated opponent.

    As said in the Qa7!! example, sometimes a 1800 rated player may see those tactic. While the examples in the article say the "cheaters" give themselves away, most of the other "cheaters" don't.

    Finally, when I was rated about 1000, I played in a tournament and kept beating 1300+ rated players. Does that mean I am cheating? I hope not.

  • 3 years ago


     But cheating in a tournament has always been possible except maybe for a world championship. i.e. over a hundred years ago I could have had Paul Morphy or someone signaling moves to me. Even in a world championship, you can have guys helping you analyze the game in the crowd with handsignals etc.

    So I guess computers make a cheater stronger. But computers make everything stronger, from analysis, to opening ideas, etc. So why not cheating too?

  • 3 years ago


    Funny how some people can feel good about themselves having not been playing the game they won.

    Power trip much? Those guys need a good psychoanalyst. 

  • 3 years ago


    BTW for those of you saying: "what's the point of cheating, chess is fun" remember that there were money prizes.

    And how was possible that they were cheating?

    As some of posters already pointed out, there are wearable devices.

    Just ask Ed Thorp and his shoes for roullete.

  • 3 years ago


    It's easy to see that they are cheating, since they don't make any blunders and everything mimmicks the computer.

    We are not talking about computer preparation, we are talking about middlegames and endgames.

    Ivanov and Allwermann both stop playing after winning those tournaments.

    That's totally suspicious.

    There's a big report on chessbase about cheating in chess, you can check that.

  • 3 years ago


    I looked and couldn't find anymore games played by Clemens Allwermann after his amazing performance. When does Borislav Ivanov play again? What's funny is Ivanov reportedly said he beat Houdini and Rybka 10-0 each which no chess player has ever done.

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