Beware the Dark Side of Chess!
The ban hammer has spoken once again!

Beware the Dark Side of Chess!


Cheating in chess has been around for a long time. Blatant cheating with cell phones and engines has been around ever since the digital period. A famous case was by Georgian GM Gaioz Nigalidze, who was caught using a engine, hidden in the bathroom, to help him with his game in the Dubai Open 2015. He was caught red handed and stripped of his GM title, and also earned a 3 year ban from competitive FIDE rated chess.

GM Nigalidze was caught using his smartphone during his game against GM Tigran Petrosian. He was stripped of his GM title and earned a 3 year playing ban.

And this brings me to my next latest episode of cheating: GM Nigalidze's opponent, Tigran Petrosian from Armenia, was also convicted of the same crime during the match between the Armenia Eagles and Saint Louis Arch Bishops in late 2020. After closer examination, it was clear that Petrosian was using an engine to help him in his game against Super GM Fabiano Caruana:

Tigran L. Petrosian was suspected and caught cheating during the match against the Saint Louis Arch Bishops. The Armenia Eagles were later disqualified, and Petrosian banned on for lifetime.

The Armenia Eagles were later disqualified for violating the fair play policy, and the Saint Louis Arch Bishops were re-crowned as champions. Tigran Petrosian was banned forever on He famously tweeted to GM Welsey So, when he was accused of cheating:

“You are a biggest loser I ever seen in my life! You was doing PiPi in your pampers when I was beating players much more stronger (sic) than you!… you are like a girl crying after I beat you!”

So, why do players cheat in chess?

Here is a deep explanation by Szandor Zoellner, an admin on an online chess platform, USCF National Master and USCF Life Master.

What first drew our attention to the possibility was when certain players would win an extraordinary percentage of their games. Since we had a number of people we knew to be masters on the server, it drew attention when certain identities were beating everyone, including them, against virtually no draws and losses. Then upon observation, we saw the (very few) losses were on time, from winning positions. So we looked closer, and discovered such clues as that the super player would use, say exactly 8–10 seconds for every single move. Every opening move, every obvious recapture, every endgame, every difficult combination, every game. Always 8–10 (in this example) seconds. Of course, no human plays like this. When I presented this to management, they didn’t understand this (they were obviously not chess people). They gave me a sampling of 50 game scores, showing the time usage, but identities withheld. In the sample of 50, I identified 8 that were likely computer cheat games. They ended up all being by the same (suspicious) player. Management was convinced. This was a thing occurring on all the servers. In time they developed ways to detect this, and penalties for those caught. These days it is more sophisticated by orders of magnitude. In the old days, when the players who were obviously cheating were confronted with it, most denied it. One had the silly excuse that he has never played in tournament, but that he had been taught everything he knew by a “super grandmaster” who lived in his neighborhood. Some, admitted it. Some admitted to doing it all the time. Some only once in a while. Some admitted doing it only when they were in a tough situation in a game that really wanted to win. The main explanations were: A few were very weak players who wanted to be perceived as good, and treated as such, in an online community where no one would ever know who they really were. It made them feel good to be good at something in some world. A couple players said they were doing it to improve at chess, to learn about how to beat certain level players. A couple were fairly strong players who just wanted that extra “edge” against certain opponents or in certain online events. In all the cases, they were surprised to have been caught. They didn’t realize how obvious it was to the discerning eye.

Cheating is a human nature. We cheat to produce good results; to impress someone else; to satisfy needs. Cheating is a shortcut to success. But success is not measured in money or fame, or in chess context, elo rating. Success is measured by how you feel about your own goals and accomplishments and the time and effort you put into them. As someone once said, "Don't take shortcuts. They only take longer." And these profound words apply well to chess. What is the point of cheating? It will only bring greater sorrow and embarrassment when you are caught. Cheating also brings many side effects, like guilt, cowardliness and anxiety. It is better to be a low rated player knowing in your heart that this is your true level and this is where you stand in the chess world, rather than untruthfully being a higher rated player and knowing that you don't belong there. What's worse, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the world into lockdown, which caused an influx in online chess. Sadly, the numbers of cheaters also skyrocketed. In August last year, put out stats to show how many accounts were closed, as cheating went up post the online chess boom. Before the start of the pandemic the site for online play was banning around 6,000 players every month. In June 2020, the figure almost reached 17,000. Not only regular members cheating but titled members were using the same illegal means. The website showed accounts of 400 titled players which were closed, including 50 Grandmasters.

High-profile Cheating incidents

  • In the 2010 FIDE Olympiad Tournament at Khanty-Mansiysk, three French players were caught in a scheme to use a computer program to decide moves. Their plan involved one player, Cyril Marzolo, following the tournament at home and using the computer program to decide the best moves. He would send the moves by SMS to the team coach, Arnaud Hauchard, who would then stand or sit at various tables as a signal to the player, Sébastien Feller, to make a certain move. Sébastien Feller was given a two-year and nine months suspension, Cyril Marzolo was given a one-year and six-month suspension, and Arnaud Hauchard was given a three-year suspension by the FIDE Ethics Commission. Unlike other cases, each player involved was a legitimate Grandmaster or International Master. None of the other players on the team knew of this or were involved.
  • The scandals of Borislav Ivanov were a cause celebre in the chess world in 2012 and 2013, with cheating first being alleged at the Zadar Open, and then in Kyustendil. He was banned for four months by the Bulgarian Chess Federation, though this ban was overturned due to procedural defects, and was not based upon the cheating allegations, but rather Ivanov's rude behavior toward his accusers. After various interludes, he was banned permanently by the Bulgarian Chess Federation. The incidents were significant as they were one of the first times that statistical methods were used to analyze move-matching with computer programs, even though in the end such evidence was never used in a formal legal procedure.
  • At the 2014 Iasi Open, Wesley Vermeulen was caught cheating by consulting a mobile phone in the toilet, admitted his offense, and was eventually banned for one year by both the Dutch chess federation and FIDE.
  • In April 2015, Georgian grandmaster Gaioz Nigalidze was banned from the Dubai Open Chess Tournament after officials discovered him consulting a smartphone with chess software in the washroom during a game. He was later stripped of his grandmaster title and banned from competition for three years, though he was allowed to keep his International Master title.
  • In February 2016, Sergey Aslanov was expelled from the Moscow Open, for a smartphone in the toilet, hidden under a loose tile behind a drainpipe. He declared himself to be guilty of error but not a crime, and was only suspended for one year.
  • In July 2019, Igors Rausis was caught cheating in the Strasbourg Open, using a mobile phone in the bathroom. He admitted to having cheated, and announced his retirement from chess.
  • [Taken from Wikipedia]

I hope after viewing this blog you will think secondly about cheating in an online game. Thanks for reading, and I hoped some of those rogue cheaters out there will change their ways! Please make sure everyone on this site has fun and play fairly! 

Stay safe y'all.