Can chess checkmate the cheats?
Cameras, Morse code buzzers and smartphones in the toilets – how these cheating gambits could be damaging the integrity of a beautiful game
Tuesday 8 September 2015 19.05 BST
thletics is not the only sport whose integrity is being brought into question by accusations of cheating. Chess is also facing what may become a crisis unless the authorities take tough action. In athletics the problem is drug-taking, and at least that can usually be detected by stringent and frequent testing of athletes. In chess the problem is more insidious and harder to root out.
This stems from the fact that digital chess engines are now stronger than any human – a piece of free, downloadable software would beat world championMagnus Carlsen in a match. So players armed with an app can play way above their strength. There have been allegations of cheating at every level of the game, and they are now coming with worrying frequency.
The latest concerns the Italian amateur Arcangelo Ricciardi, who has been thrown out of a tournament in Italy for allegedly receiving moves transmitted to him in Morse code by an accomplice. Ricciardi has a Fide rating of 1868 but was leaving grandmasters and international masters trailing in his wake before the arbiter decided something was amiss.
A search revealed a small camera to transmit the moves of each game he played and a device for receiving the coded messages. The arbiter, Jean Coqueraut, said he doubted whether winning the event’s €1,000 (£726) first prize was the motive for the alleged cheating, and surmised that Ricciardi was road-testing the system for another player. Ricciardi denied accusations and said the pendant which contained the suspicious devices was a good-luck charm.
The incident comes just a few months after grandmaster and former Georgian champion Gaioz Nigalidze was disqualified from the Dubai Open. He was reportedly making frequent trips to the loo, where a smartphone was hidden behind a cistern and covered in toilet paper. Nigalidze denied he owned the device but officials found it was logged into a social networking site under his name.
The highest-level instance of cheating occurred at the chess olympiad of 2010 when French grandmaster Sébastien Feller was accused of colluding with another French player and the French team captain to receive computer-generated moves via text message. Feller was just 19 and already a world top 100 player when the alleged cheating occurred. He was banned from competing for three years by the governing body of chess – far too lenient a punishment, according to critics – and has recently resumed his career.
Full article here.
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– GM Susan Polgar