From the Archives….
Kasparov in 2011:
Cheating, Faster time controls & Elitism
It was the spring of 2011. Kasparov had just finished a rapid visit to the playing hall of the European Individual Championships at Aix Les Bains in France when he was caught by an eager journalist from the FFE. (You can see the entire interview HERE and what I wrote about it HERE.)
At the time everyone was talking about the cheating scandal that had taken place on the French National Team at the 2010 Olympiad in Khanty-Manskysk (September 19 to October 4). The mood at the Aix les Bains tournament was that some serious steps had to be taken to prevent this kind of cheating from getting out of control.
Therefore, Kasparov’s comments are to be understood in this context. He felt that cheating was essentially impossible to prevent and that the logical way for FIDE and chess organizers to proceed was to just accept it as a fact of modern life and to reduce the time controls for the chess masses and gradually phase out classic chess.
Except, of course, for the very elite players at the top whom Kasparov felt would never need to resort to cheating!
It is curious that another elitist, the current FIDE prez Arkady Dvorkovich, has recently expressed an almost identical elitist opinion.
Nine years later…2020
One of the criticisms about FIDE’s response to the computer-aided cheating that was taking place in 2011 (and which has subsequently grown out of control today) was its apparent reluctance in doing anything about this threat (FIDE was only concerned about doping) and when it finally set up the Anti-Cheating Commission in 2013 to combat it, it did so in such a way that could never really be effective.
Today known as the Fair Play Commission, this really only targets lone wolves in Open tournaments (who use a hidden chess app during play) and does not address or even acknowedge the cheating at the very top (where +2700 players can have a hand-picked team of helpers who pass on signals to the player). More about this in another blog.
Getting back to Kasparov’s predictions, up to the advent of the coronavirus, classic chess was alive and well and had shown no signs of being phased out.
So it appears that Kasparov’s predictions have not entirely panned out. FIDE has been reluctantly forced by pressure from the players (Kasparov’s ‘masses’) to fight against the cheaters and to punish them when caught. However, the degree of elitism has grown inside of FIDE.
Preventing cheating at the Sofia 2010 World Championship
Let me state for the record that it is my opinion great players like Topalov or Kramnik are not cheaters. I have the highest respect for their sportsmanship.
However, ELITE chess – especially at the World Championships – is extremely political and much more of a team effort than most understand. It is entirely possible that members of their respective teams might have engaged in cheating to help their player.
To combat the possibility that Topalov might be signalled information during play at the 2010 World Championship in Sofia, Anand’s team requested that a one-way screen be installed between the players and the audience (image above). This screen allowed the spectators to watch the action, but did not allow the players to see the audience.
These screens are relatively inexpensive and commercially available almost anywhere. The one in use in Sofia was 11 meters by 11 meters and cost 2,500 euros. LINK
How much cheating takes place in ELITE chess? Well, this subject is TABU as far as FIDE is concerned. Shamefully so. While there have been numerous accusations of cheating at the World Championship level, they remain just that: accusations. As there have been no independent investigations (FIDE does its own investigation) all we have are scandals.
Last weekend, on my FACEBOOK page, I had some interesting conversations with grandmasters Krasenkov and Aagaard with regards to elite cheating and the recent comments of FIDE prez Dvorkovich.
What I wrote pretty much sums up the status of elite cheating at present time:
“It is important to note that accusations of cheating at the very top are infact quite common. But FIDE and influential national federations like Russia and Bulgaria (amongst others) apply political pressure, change the narrative and soon the ‘cheating’ is spinned into a harmless ‘scandal’ for newspaper consumption… and no consequences to the player involved!
Do you need examples: San Luis 2005; the Topalov-Kramnik match of 2006; the Kasparov-Polgar video from Linares 1994; etc, etc. There are rumours of even more ‘scandals’ going back to 1948. In the 1960s Fischer accused the Russians. What did FIDE do? Nothing.
Even today, the Fair Play Commission only looks for the ‘lone wolf’...catching the cheater in the +2700 range is virtually impossible as this kind of cheating is a team effort, with logistic support , spotters and its own internal security. Remember the cheating French Team at the 2010 Olympiad? It went thru the entire event cheating without being caught. It was uncovered only by chance back home in France when someone in the French Federation blew the whistle. Today the +2700 cheater does not make the same mistakes!”
Nigel’s calls for investigation ignored
Nigel Short, with regards to earlier cheating accusations at the 2005 World Championship tournament in San Luis, actually went so far as to call in 2007 for an independent investigation into the cheating allegations, but nothing ever came of it. Naturally. LINK
The subject of the cheating accusations in the 2006 World Championship match in Elista,Russia (between Topalov and Kramnik where the latter was accused of cheating) will be the subject of another blog article.
I will instead leave the reader with the observation that if the FIDE leadership does not look for cheating amongst the elite players, then of course, it is not surprising that FIDE will not find any.