Online Chess & Computer Cheats
Time to pull the plug?
I can not but feel a bit sorry for those who helped pioneer online competitive chess. Millions of dollars were invested to build hi-tech platforms. The Internet Chess Club (ICC), Chess.Com, Chess24, LiChess and PlayChess are just a few that come to mind and are still with us today.
Unfortunately, the growing phenomenon of online cheating is calling into question the soundness of the current business model of these platforms.
Online competitive chess is helpless to stop the exponential growth of cheap chess apps that allow absolute beginners to perform like seasoned superstars…
Worse still, Chess.Com and the other chess platforms are in complete denial of their impotence to control cheating or to prevent things from getting even worse.
The Chess.Com platform, arguably the biggest platform in online chess today, has always had a controversial history with respect to its anti-cheating policy. Today – probably out of desperation – they have borrowed from the esport-universe an aggressive and very controversial concept known as auto-banning.
On June 2nd the developers of the extraordinarily successful Valorant intend to release its latest version along with its invasive auto-banning system.
There are many critics who argue that they have gone too far this time in their effort to stop cheaters. The anti-cheating system requires the user to VOLUNTARILY download a driver that will turn virtual control of your computer over to the gaming company the moment you boot your computer, and even before you log on to the game!
One such criticism:
“It’s violating your computer in pretty much every way possible, is what arkem was too diplomatic to say. It’s scanning every inch of your memory to the fullest extent that it can and its rummaging through your entire filesystem looking at everything. It’s sending loads of data back, and it’s doing all this in a deliberately obfuscated and nontransparent way. If there’s a way for it to invade your pc’s ‘privacy’ from a technical perspective, it’s doing so while the game is running.”
Anyway, returning to the online universe, there is a fundamental difference between cheating in the esport universe and cheating in the online chess universe.
In the esport universe (described above) the cheating has only a limited value to the cheater since it will only help the cheater to get small advantages – such as aim-bots that automatically target for you and and other types of software programs that allow you to see thru walls, etc. In the end, however, the player himself has to play the game.
In the chess universe, HOWEVER, the cheater can use a readily available app that will play the ENTIRE game for the cheater (if he/she wishes)! And not just play for you, but to play at very strong grandmaster level.
Furthermore, the cheater’s chess app does not need to be connected to the cheater’s main computer while playing, which means that auto-banning software will not be effective because it will find nothing on the main frame.
What this means in the big picture is that there is no commercial future for online competitive chess.
Sponsors and spectators will not want to be part of an artificial sport, where human skill is rendered irrelevant, where regulations can not be enforced and where even young children can be the worse offenders…and get away with it.