‘No’ to digital anti-cheating methodologies …
GM Gleizerov speaks out
How to best catch a cheat? For more than a decade two different anti-cheating methodologies have been proposed: digital algorithms vs detection hardware.
With the exponential growth of cheating in recent years (the 2020 pandemic has merely underscored the size of the problem) it is becoming clear, to most top players atleast, that the digital approach has numerous insurmountable obstacles in its path, and as such will ultimately prove to be an ineffective tool in controlling online cheating.
Yesterday, on the popular Russian chess site ChessPro, the respected GM Evgeny Gleizerov wrote an opinion piece discussing the dilemma that FIDE faces today. His conclusion: serious chess can only take place face to face.
Crossing the Rubicon
(Translated from original Russian)
The global crisis associated with the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken in this regard has dealt a severe blow to chess, as well as to other sports. The ban on mass events, the closure of the borders, the global economic recession generated by the lockdowns – this dragon has three heads.
Holding chess competitions in such conditions is extremely difficult. This summer — compared to spring – has brought some positive changes: the restrictions are gradually weakening, some tournaments are beginning to be held – but the situation is still very far from normal.
Against this improving situation, voices demanding the transfer of chess competitions to online are louder and louder. It has gotten to the point where some famous names in the chess world are calling for the second round of the Candidates Tournament to be held online!
However, online tournaments should be a normal fixture, just as long as they are not official competitons. These are elite quick-play tournaments named after Rex Sinqefield and Magnus Carlsen, with a huge prize fund ( by chess standards ), while massive and more popular tournaments like Titled Tuesday have to do with very modest prizes.
Nevertheless, these latter tournaments are constantly plagued with cheating scandals. In the elite tournaments, this, fortunately, does not happen, which is quite understandable. The reputation of elite players is worth seven figures in dollars and even a shadow of suspicion is unacceptable to them.
Already at a slightly lower level, this does not work, it remains to rely only on conscience and decency. It is clear that in this case the triumph of the dishonest players is inevitable.
Cheating has become a modern day plague , but reality is that this plague has existed in chess long before 2020. Previous FIDE leaderships had long ignored this problem, and this compounds the problem even more.
After the arrival of a new team, which included a large number of professional chess players who understand the degree of the threat, serious progress began for the better. For a while it seemed that the chess world was on the right track and that after another year or two the fraudsters would be pushed against the wall, and the problem would become marginal.
Alas, the coronavirus crisis has turned the situation 180 degrees.
We should be clear about the fundamental difference between online and live chess in terms of anti-cheating work. When playing live, there is a powerful tool in physical control. Metal detectors, signal detectors – all this is quite inexpensive (and the costs are one-time), and makes cheating extremely difficult.
Add to this the right of personal search for judges (legal problems, I believe, can be resolved through the signing of consent by the players as a condition for participation in the tournament), add harsh punishments (long-term disqualifications, zeroing of ratings and titles) for a single proven case of cheating – and the problem is solved for 99% of the cheating cases.
However, physical control is not possible online. Therefore, really sufficient proof of guilt is impossible.
An attempt to solve this problem through some kind of “algorithms” that identify the use of computer help will not be successful. Only the most primitive cheaters who stupidly substitute the engine for themselves will be caught, identified and weeded out.
At the same time, for a professional player – as has been repeatedly pointed out –a single hint per game, made at a critical moment, is enough to get a decisive advantage – not necessarily in a separate game, but in a tournament.
I will quote from the well-known interviews of the Jobava brothers in a very clear manner:
BAADUR: Right now, Beglar and I will be in the top three in every tournament, if we want. I will play the first 20-30 moves myself. I’ll go, say, 1.b3 – the devil will break his head there. Then at one point I will say: yeah, it’s time to take a peek, he will tell me one move and an assessment – that’s it, then I’ll finish it myself. Very simple.
BEGLAR: Yes, we have such an idea. There, these online platforms say that they have some kind of artificial intelligence (algorithm), that they claim can determine cheating. Here we sit together with Baadur and twenty games for three minutes. And let them tell you how many games we used the computer.
BAADUR: And at what point.
BEGLAR: Of course, their claims are all unfounded. They say that artificial intelligence will even be able to track the style of a chess player – like, here he usually does not attack, but began to attack, which means it’s strange. These are the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm! Nobody can seriously believe this nonsense!
All these observations are quite obvious to any specialist. Thus, the fight against cheating with the help of “algorithms” will lead to numerous disqualifications of amateur cheaters (in this case, there will inevitably also be “false positives”), but will ultimately only serve as a smoke screen for the true professional cheaters.
As a result, professional cheating will become necessary to achieve high sporting results. Chess will become a hustler’s game.
In the face of this terrible scenario, in my opinion FIDE should do the following:
1. Officially declare that since effective online anti-cheating control is impossible, FIDE does not recognize nor plan to recognize in the near future any online competitions as part of official FIDE competitions.
Of course, private individuals are free to play online as much as they like. But what sense is there, for example, to hold weightlifting competitions and award prizes without any doping control? Such competitions should never receive any kind of official status, and the “records” set on them should never be acknowleged.
2. Tighten the requirements at over the board events. For example, physical control of players at official competitions , metal detectors and signal detectors should become their mandatory, and strongly recommend that the organizers of all other competitions that count for rating necessarily comply with these above requirements.
3. Increase the penalties for cases of proven cheating. For example, refusal from personal search, refusal to present the phone for inspection, detection of a position from the current game on the phone with the player should become grounds not only for the exclusion from the tournament itself, but for many years of disqualification.
The same is true when a micro-earpiece or any other device specially designed for cheating is found (but necessarily for a phone – simple forgetfulness is possible here).
These measures will make cheating too expensive and too dangerous to make any sense to any potential cheater.
However, it is equally important to protect innocent victims of being falsely caught by these anti-cheating measures. Algorithms for detecting computer help are very useful, but they should not be used as the only criteria to punish. In cases of doubt, these names should be put on a list and in their future tournaments be the subject of close monitoring. After all, was not Rausis caught in this manner?
Lastly, there is increasing pressure to formalize online tournaments, create online titles and online ratings. This pressure comes both from naive people who do not understand the essence of the problem, and, I suppose, from those who do not care of the long term implications of increased cheating.
FIDE has a huge responsibility here. The current leadership may go down in history as the saviors of chess, or perhaps as the destroyers of our great game. One way or the other, we will soon see…