Cheating Controversy Results In Most-Watched Chess Stream In History
Dadang Subur (left) playing Irene Sukandar. Image: #CloseTheDoor Corbuzier YouTube.

Cheating Controversy Results In Most-Watched Chess Stream In History

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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599 | Chess Event Coverage

A friendly chess match held on Monday in Indonesia, which was streamed on YouTube, attracted a record-shattering number of over a million concurrent viewers. The match was played between IM Irene Sukandar and Dadang Subur, an amateur player who had been accused of cheating in early March by IM Levy Rozman on Twitch.

The match between Sukandar and Subur (the latter being promoted with his online moniker of Dewa Kipas) peaked at 1.25 million concurrent spectators on YouTube, about 10 times that of the most-watched live-streamed chess events in history such as the classical world championship and Pogchamps.

The match was organized by Deddy Corbuzier, an Indonesian actor, television presenter, and YouTuber, who runs the popular #CloseTheDoor Corbuzier podcast on YouTube that has 13.8 million subscribers. The games were played in Corbuzier's studio in Jakarta.

The broadcast, which had commentary by GM Susanto Megaranto and WIM Chelsie Monica, lasted an hour and 21 minutes and has collected 8.7 million views so far. 

The match was, for now, the final act of a remarkable story that started three weeks ago.

On March 2, 2021, in one of his streams, Rozman (@GothamChess) played a 10-minute game on Chess.com against member @Dewa_Kipas. As Rozman noticed that the account had gained over 800 Elo points in just 11 days, he became suspicious. This suspicion was fueled by how his opponent regularly spent 10 seconds making moves, even when the choice was obvious. Such time usage often reveals that a player is using external assistance such as a chess engine. 

When he lost the game, in front of 12,000 viewers, Rozman checked the account and saw that in almost all of his wins, Kipas had an accuracy of over 90 percent. Rozman concluded that he was dealing with a cheater and reported the account to Chess.com. A few hours later the account was closed for violating the Fair Play policy.

Soon after, the son of @Dewa_Kipas, the 24-year-old Ali Akbar, started a protest. Wired reports that Akbar posted a message on Facebook, where he has 3,500 followers, saying that his father, Dadang Subur, is a strong player and that the account was unfairly blocked. Akbar also suggested that Rozman's fans had mass-reported his father's account.

The post went viral. Over the following weeks, Rozman started to receive unfriendly messages on his Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. The messages were mostly coming from Indonesia in support of Subur, and some of them even included death threats.

Rozman tried to explain that he has no real influence over Chess.com's process of banning accounts but as the aggressive messages continued coming in, he was temporarily forced to lock his social media accounts.

"To be honest, I don't blame them," said Rozman in Corbuzier's podcast on March 17. "When I look at everything that happened from the first post on Facebook until now, the reason I think a lot of people saw the story is because of the way the news showed it. They showed that first story, which was not fully accurate, and they just pushed it everywhere."

Sukandar appeared on the same podcast where she presented data on Subur's games that had been collected by the Indonesian Chess Federation to explain everything to Corbuzier's non-chess playing audience. It was then and there that Corbuzier suggested Subur should play her in a match. He issued the challenge to Subur to face Sukandar and when Subur accepted, she felt she couldn't say no anymore.

"Deddy kind of cornered me in a way that I couldn't say no," said Sukandar with a smile.

That Subur accepted to play the match was surprising. He had declined earlier challenges where he would have faced GM Susanto Megaranto or IM Anjas Novita. In the morning before the podcast, he had stated in a national newspaper that he had stopped playing and wouldn't accept any other challenges.

"The point is that no one is harmed, but what I emphasize in this case is that we must know the truth," Sukandar said in the podcast. "That is it. We must know the truth. I agree with peace, but the truth is what we must fight for."

Irene Sukandar chess
Irene Sukandar during a Zoom call with Chess.com.

So far, Subur has denied that he cheated. In the Wired story, he claims to have become a strong player by playing against the computer program Shredder. At the same time, both he and his son condemn the harassment toward Rozman.

Also quoted is Chess.com's COO Danny Rensch, who explains the site's Fair Play workflow and who says that the @Dewa_Kipas account was an "absolute, absolute certain case" of cheating.

When asked by Corbuzier whether Rozman is "100 percent sure" that Subur cheated against him, the Brooklyn-based streamer replied: "I have to agree with Chess.com. What can I say?"

Chess.com was unable to reach Akbar and Subur for comment as Akbar has closed all his social media accounts.

Monday's match between Sukandar and Subur involved serious money. The Indonesian technology and e-commerce company Tokopedia appeared to be the main sponsor, providing the equivalent of $10,500 that was then doubled by Indra Kesuma, an Indonesian businessman and YouTuber.

As it turned out, Subur could not repeat the high level of play as he had shown online. He lost 3-0 to Sukandar, making fairly basic mistakes.

Dadang Subur Dewa Kipas chess
Dadang Subur during his match with Sukandar. Image: #CloseTheDoor Corbuzier YouTube.

Chess.com estimated his performance in these three match games at an Elo of 1127. His online performance rating exceeded 3000 Elo, the highest performance Chess.com's Fair Play system calculates for human games. Despite the poor showing, he still made roughly $7,000 while Sukandar earned about $14,000.

The match had been suggested not only by many netizens but also by the Indonesian Chess Federation and the General Secretary of Ministry Youth and Sport. Fans hoped the match would determine once and for all whether Subur is a strong enough player to beat an international master. Below you can find the three games and decide for yourself.

Asked whether she believes Subur could have legitimately beaten Rozman in that online game on March 2, Sukandar replied: "I would highly doubt it unless there were special circumstances going on that we don't know about. For example, Levy was streaming and I'm a streamer myself lately, and I know how hard it is for myself to actually focus on the game while we are streaming and talking and interacting in the chat. But if they'd play a few games, my money would still be on Levy."

Rozman is now focusing on turning the whole episode into something positive. For instance, he plans to organize a charity stream with Indonesian players.

In a tweet, he expressed his joy about the high view numbers of the Sukandar-Subur match and that it has led to higher interest in chess in Indonesia. Similarly, Chess.com on Monday experienced about 40 times the normal number of registrations from Indonesia in only a few hours.

Sukandar, a streamer herself as well, also sees early signs of a rise in the popularity of chess in Indonesia. "You have no idea how booming it is right now here," she said. "I know it started out with negativity but hopefully, this positivity will last. It's still a bit early, but what I can see in the first few days or weeks is that we will have many sponsorships for chess events, which was very limited before."

According to Sukandar, sponsors are now seeing that chess can be entertaining: "They see that chess can actually attract so much attention. Yesterday was a historic day for viewers, for all those who care about it."

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