Is cheating always newsworthy?

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
HandheldAs various blogs have already reported, a 14-year-old chess player from Australia has been caught cheating while playing a game of chess. It immediately led to a debate among the ChessVibes editors: is it newsworthy?

At the current The Norths Chess Club Centenary Year Under 1600 Tournament, a side event to the Australian Open Championships in Sydney, yesterday a player was caught using what the arbiter called a "hand held machine" in the toilets. The game was declared lost and the boy was expelled from the tournament.

The 14-year old was using the program ChessMaster on a Playstation Portable, and that was probably the reason why the moves were not particularly strong:

It's the first example of a chess player getting caught while using an electronic device in Australia, and so it quickly became a big story in the relatively small Australian chess community. It was mentioned at The Closet Grandmaster (who posted the game notation given above), Lousy@Chess and chessexpress and is being discussed at Chess Chat Australia. However, we have to admit that here at the ChessVibes office we're not 100% sure what to do with it.

When in November 2007 a Dutch player was banned for two and a half years after after he got caught with a PDA during a game, in an official national league, it was not a question: we had to publish the story. But in a column by Arne, published two years ago, we've already expressed our doubts surrounding the subject of cheating in chess - the article's title was "Moral decay or exaggerated hype?"

Normally we would never write about some local under-1600 tournament and one could argue that the case can be compared to petty theft; a small violation that's simply... not interesting. Besides, shouldn't we protect the kid, who made a silly mistake - something we've all done at that age?

But wait, isn't using external electronical assistance enough reason to publish such a story? Isn't it against our complete set of beliefs, against the essence of the game, to give yourself the opportunity to find the strongest move in a position with (almost) absolute certainty?

But then again... don't we all cheat every once in a while? There's not a chess player who has never talked to his team mates during a game, giving a friend a quick advice like "it's always better to wait with that Qb6+ in such positions" or "don't worry, just bring your king to the center and you'll be fine". [Update: this part has led to quite a discussion below. I've explained it a bit.] Where to draw the line?

What makes an article newsworthy depends on timing, significance, proximity, prominence and human interest. In this case, the news is very fresh, but obviously that's not enough. We've already questioned its significance and prominence above, and for anybody except our Australian readers, proximity won't do here either!

So in the end the article you're currently reading at ChessVibes should be categorized as a human interest story - it "appeals to emotion". It "aims to evoke responses such as amusement or sadness."

Yet still we wonder... was the story newsworthy? What do you think?
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