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Cheating that Isn't?

Cheating that Isn't?

Jun 18, 2010, 12:38 AM 2

Cheating that Isn’t

By Dr. Jim Fox (JollyPlayer)


I would prefer even to fail with honor than to win by cheating” - Sophocles


Reuters: Who knew you could cheat at chess?
An Indian chess player has been banned for ten years for cheating after he was caught using his mobile phone's wireless device to win games, chess officials said on Wednesday. The player, Umakant Sharma, had logged rating points at a rapid pace in the last 18 months and also qualified for the national championship, arousing the suspicion of officials and bemusing rivals. Sharma was finally caught at a recent tournament when officials discovered that he had stitched a Bluetooth device in a cloth cap which he always pulled over his ears. He communicated to his accomplices outside the hall, who then used a computer to relay moves to him, Indian chess federation secretary D.V. Sundar said on Wednesday. "We have banned him for 10 years," he told Reuters. "We wanted to send a clear message to such people." Chess officials were also probing whether another player had similar advantages through such illegal means, he added.


There are, as most people know, several levels of memberships on Chess.com.  I myself have a Diamond Membership and feel it is worth the money just for the videos alone!  But certain memberships bring certain privileges that affect games too.  This bothers me a bit.


The first complaint I have is about the Game Explorer.  It will tell you, through a great deal of the opening (percentage wise), which is the best move.  e4 and d4 and statistically equal just FYI as the opening move.


The Game Explorer, if you are lazy, or don’t want to work to improve and internet chess is all you will ever play, is a formidable weapon.  A friend of mine (and like IM Danny Rensch and others have said, "the name is withheld as they are in the Witness Protection Program") said I should use it to improve my moves.  His rating doubled once he started doing that (from 800 to 1600).  Wow, impressive.  It is not cheating technically.


But I asked him what he learned about openings and could he name them, and the ultimate question, could he play and over-the-board (OTB) game or tournament without the aid of the Game Explorer at the 1600 level?  His answer was “no” but he never intends to play OTB chess.


Another big advantage is the Analysis Board.  You can make moves, or a series of moves and the Analysis Board with help you calculate visually in your head. You can use it to see if a set of moves leads to a better position or even checkmate.  No calculating in your head, you get visual help.


On the psychological side, the Conditional Move option is devastating.  You can put in a series of moves, especially if they are forced moves and your opponent has to keep playing and playing until they get out of the jam or lose.  It can destroy your confidence that someone can guess what your move will be and stay ahead of you.


And lastly, playing games where you can make a move and then have to verify it (rather than “touch move”).  You can take back a bad move before you verify.  Again, the minute you put your hand on a piece in OTB chess, you must move that piece, right or wrong.  This makes you think carefully before you move and a clock is running adding pressure.


All of these “features” are not technically cheating.  But they all will make you a worse player if you plan on playing OTB.  My rating is low.  I play touch move, and rarely use any of those tools.  I have been known to use the Conditional Move option with players who move slowly.  It speeds up the game a bit.


Chess, the perfect game.  A thinking person’s game.  But on Chess.com you can get a lot of help.  Then if you join the USCF and play in a tourney, you get killed.

Of course, Live Chess is more like real OTB chess if you play a long game.  Blitz and Bullet games are filled with traps and tricks.  But even there, you could open another window in your browser and use the Game Explorer.


Now there are some FANTASTIC features on Chess.com that will make you a better all around player.  The videos are well done.  Chess Mentor Courses, Tactics Trainer, Chess Articles, Blogs, and puzzles all can make you better.


If you play touch move, and do not use the aforementioned “cheating” tools, you will learn.  You will also lose more.  My rating against the computer program Shredder is higher than my Chess.com rating -- by several hundred points.   My only thought is that Shredder is closer to OTB play than Chess.com turn-based play.


One last point.  The higher your membership, the more vacation time you can have.  Games come to a crawl.  It can be frustrating.  Why start a tourney or a bunch of new games if you are going on a trip for several weeks or a month?


One person wanted to join a tourney I was running.  But he was going on vacation.  It was a no vacation tourney.   With laptops, smartphones and even public computers, could you not find a way to make a few moves a day?   The updated iPhone app works very well if you ask me.


My rating may stay low.  Some, of course, is due to my playing skills still needing some help.   But some of it is because no one knows what Oz is doing behind the screen.  It is not technically cheating -- but it would never make you a better OTB player.


Dr. Jim Fox


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