State of Chess.com: Anti-Abuse Report for 2018

State of Chess.com: Anti-Abuse Report for 2018

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monitor
Feb 15, 2019, 3:47 PM |
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All things considered, 2018 was a fantastic year for Chess.com! Our Alexa ranking shot up over 350 places, caused by an extra 1.8M registrations compared to 2017. We held more prize events than ever before, and just a few days ago the Live Chess team recorded 50k users online for the first time!
This is all terrible, terrible news. More spammers, more cheaters, more sandbaggers, frauds, bots, trolls, impersonators, rating manipulators and people who put that invading squiggly text into their comments so that it overlaps into other people's chat... I wake up with cold sweats. Good news is a catastrophe in our world, so we bent our boss's arm for more resources and got to work using it. Here's what we've been up to.

Over half a million accounts banned for abuse (~1700/day).

Anti-abuse on any website has two facets; prevention and reaction. Our first aim should be to prevent abuse before it ever happens. For this reason we have prevention mechanisms littered all over the site on anything that can be misused, including CAPTCHAs on registration, spam filtering algorithms on all messages and notes, fingerprint canvassing, detection of fraud credit cards, and, yes, even bot cheat detection on your puzzle rushes! The second line of defense is to react before any member ever sees it! The vast majority (>95% of accounts we close) are never seen by a human being and are either closed automatically or by their thousands at the press of a button.

Over 150k accounts banned for cheating (~417/day).

We're closing accounts for cheating at twice the rate per day and in quarter of the turnaround time than we were in 2017! This means cheaters have a shorter lifespan and we're catching more of them than we ever have done. We're constantly trying to improve our turnaround rates and have alerts that ping us of emergency periods! Although we don't yet have capacity to crunch every game played on Chess.com, we still managed to analyze over 150M games, ~23% of total games played in 2018, an overwhelming majority of which (>99%) were blissfully clean of any foul-play. While cheating is naturally a big concern, it's good to see that it's largely overshadowed by the huge number of chess players enjoying themselves!

On average, we handled a titled player case each week that resulted in a closure (53 total).

The whole fairplay team is involved in any titled player ban and any one member of the team has the right to veto the decision to close - there are 6 staff members on the team and we must all be in agreement that the case is strong enough to action. This level of scrutiny is upkept to ensure that we're not falsely accusing an innocent professional player. We have hard calls to make all the time, but this almost never prevents us from actioning a case in which the stats are clear.

Our technology and systems upgraded in multiple ways!

The anti-abuse team were allocated a whopping 8x more server power for our analyses and we managed to develop a (private) way to increase the efficiency of our analysis on any one server by 10x.

On top of this we also:

  • Oversaw every single prize event in real-time. This includes the Pro Chess League, Arena Kings, Titled Tuesdays, the Crazyhouse Championship, the SCC 2018.
  • Implemented rating refunds across the whole site. If you are cheated against, you won't lose rating!
  • Null out the scores of accounts that are closed for cheating in daily chess, if you lose to a cheater and we ban them, you'll get the win!
  • Set up the ability to report a member for abuse/fairplay from their profile, we track and react to all reports.
  • The popularity of Puzzle Rush created a demand for puzzle rush cheat detection, so we've set up systems to defend against bots.
  • Handled 600 appeals. If you feel you've been wrongly closed for cheating you can write to Support to request an appeal. We aim to get back to you within 24hrs.
  • Set up priority lanes for analyses, we can structure in which order games get analyzed in our queue.
  • The fairplay team also help confirm the titles and lifetime diamond memberships of professionals, nearly 1000 titles added overall.

Feel free to message me or ReesesHangingPieces if you have suspicions about a player, we will always try to get to your request in a timely fashion.

We look forward to improving, and I hope we can be a factor in ensuring that you encounter even fewer problem members in your time on Chess.com in 2019.
Thanks for reading,
Gerard Le-Marechal.


The Fairplay team

  • Gerard Le-Marechal, Head of Fairplay
  • Roland Walker, Director of Research
  • Rich Holdren, cheat detective and data analyst
  • Robert Hess, grandmaster and analyst on high profile cases
  • Marcos Sánchez, senior developer with current focus on counter-abuse measures
  • Vladimir Popov, web developer with focus on admin tools
  • Daniel Rensch, professional goof and CCO of Chess.com