Chess players look for unfair advantage by cheating online (even at the highest levels)
A 72-page report from one of the game’s top platforms, Chess.com, accused Grandmaster Hans Niemann of “likely” cheating in more than 100 online games. The report also said that many of the tournaments he cheated in included cash prizes.
After Niemann questioned last month why he was banned from the Global Championship, a million-dollar prize event, the Chess.com Chief Chess Officer, Danny Rensch responded with a written explanation. He suggested that Niemann showcased suspicious moves. Rensch wrote, “There always remained serious concerns about how rampant your cheating was in prize events.
“He went on to imply that Niemann used a chess engine to identify the best moves. “We are prepared to present strong statistical evidence that confirms each of those cases above, as well as clear ‘toggling’ vs. ‘non-toggling’ evidence, where you perform much better while toggling to a different screen during your moves,” Rensch added.
Kenneth W. Regan, a computer science professor at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and an international chess master and top expert on chess cheating explains how Artificial Intelligence has transformed human play.
AI-powered chess “engines” are used legitimately by players for training and research before matches. They are also sometimes used by unscrupulous players during games as a kind of electronic cheat-sheet that helps them easily overpower their betters. For some high-level players, even getting the advice of a machine for a move or two at a critical moment is all they’d need to win. Cheaters have been caught sneaking off to the bathroom for just such unfair assistance.
Today, Regan says, “ordinary code running on our smartphones can destroy any human player on the planet, including Magnus Carlsen.”
World Chess Champion Carlsen, 31, the current top player, has rocked the game’s international community with allegations that the 19-year-old Niemann, who recently defeated him, “has cheated more — and more recently — than he has publicly admitted. Niemann, has acknowledged cheating in the past but protested allegations of more recent cheating. He did not respond to a request for comment regarding the latest allegations. Regan told Chess.com investigators that he believes Niemann cheated in matches in 2015, 2017 and 2020. But he also hasn’t seen evidence that Niemann has cheated since then, including when he defeated Carlsen. Carlsen accused Niemann of cheating during their game at the Sinquefield Cup in September, saying his rival was unfocused and that his “over the board progress has been unusual.” In a subsequent matchup with Niemann, Carlsen quit in protest after playing just one move.
But unless someone has been caught stowing an iPhone in a toilet tank, catching cheaters is a tricky problem for statisticians like Regan, who monitor dishonest play in the games of the world’s elite players. Unfortunately, it’s just as challenging for local tournament directors trying to supervise average players who may be logged on to the very same chess platforms.
Why learn chess? Simple: It’s a great mental workout that helps children perform well in the classroom. Chess is a logical game where kids have to plan ahead and adjust to new situations. But most of all, it’s fun!
Larry Ball (Coach Larry) teaches students of all ages at the Steinitz Chess Academy in Beaverton. For more information, email Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to Matt Pearce, David Moye, Lee Morgan and the L.A. Times.