How not to deal with suspicion of cheating


“Chess has seen many cheating incidents in recent years, and as a result it's almost impossible for a player to score much better than his rating without being suspected of cheating.” I wrote this in my report on the “cheating controversy” in Chakvi, where Mihaela Sandu was playing the tournament of her life, then suspected of cheating after which started losing game after game.

The organizers received two letters: one signed by 15 players asking Sandu's games not to be included in the live transmission of the games, and a second signed by 32 players asking to transmit the games with a 15-minute delay. The organisers granted the second request.

As I also wrote on Facebook, I think both the players and the organizers made mistakes here. Besides the ethical issue of accusing without proof (for which these players should be warned or even slightly punished), there's the technical aspect: you just cannot go to an organizer for something related to cheating. The ONLY person to go to is the arbiter, DURING a game. You don't ask the organizer "I want 3 minutes extra because my opponent's claim is wrong," you ask the arbiter. Cheating is a matter of breaking the rules, and ONLY the arbiter deals with the rules. 

As far as the organizers are concerned: they have expressed a clear signal that they suspected her of cheating too, by granting the 15-minute delay of transmission AND by stating that GMs checked her games.

This way, they made it very hard for her to finish her tournament, while the only task of the organizer is to create the best playing conditions possible.

A 15-minute delay from round 1 would have been possible (though it's generally a bad idea, as Evgeny Surov explained in his column), but you cannot do this at the request of players who suspect someone of cheating without any evidence. It's insane.

So, it's good that Mr Giorgadze (the main organizer) asked the 15 players to withdraw their signatures from the letter that specifically mentioned the player, but it's highly hypocritical to grant the delay and check the games with an engine — and mention that in the same letter.

This morning I read a post from GM Michal Krasenkow on Facebook, where he compared the incident with airport security:  

My comment was that there are two problems with these arguments. First, this suggests that everything is OK with “the rules” at the airport whereas in reality they are ridiculous, and an overrreaction to 9/11. Secondly, in Chakvi the players didn't “follow the rules” at all since the only person to go to in case of suspicion of cheating is the arbiter.

The latter goes for all 32 in my opinion, not just the 15. I don't see a big difference between the two letters, since in both cases it is pretty clear that the players are suspecting someone, but dealing with the “problem” the wrong way.

As I argued about, the organizers don't deserve a beauty prize either for how they dealt with it. Patricia Llaneza Vega phrased it well under Krasenkow's post on Facebook:

“Are people searched at the airport because other passengers request it? Cheating has to be stopped, of course, and suspicious cases need to be handled with care. However, there are protocols. In Chavki, a group of players didn't go through the proper channels and didn't show any evidence to support their claim, and still their request was granted. This sets a dangerous precedent.”