The game of the brilliant minds is also, unfortunately, liable to violations and different schemes with the aim to win the game. Chess players might get an advantage by using unfair methods to deceit the opponent. The most common forms of cheating are when players collude with other players or the audience or when they use chess engines to manipulate the game. Others include rating manipulation where the players lower their rating to participate in tournaments for which they would be normally overqualified. There is still one old classic trick that some players use, and it is related to the famous touch-move rule when players simply overlook that rule. Still, not all would agree that this is cheating, given that for some, such actions are completely acceptable.
The other thing is that the chess rules may not explicitly state what is prohibited, but immoral and unethical activities are covered by general statements which emphasize the importance of “good behavior.” Also, the rules sometimes seem too loose as the example of sneaking back a chess piece that was already captured proves. Namely, when a player is caught in doing this, the only sanction he gets is a time bonus for the opponent. One might think, disqualification or elimination would be more appropriate.
Cheating Now and Cheating Then- The Culture of Chess
A lot of things have changed under the influence of technology, including chess. Back in the days, in the 18th and 19th century when chess was only played on a real chessboard, cheating looked different than now when we have sophisticated software to help us out. Moreover, it was quite the opposite. One of the biggest chess schemes in that period was the so-called Turk. The Turk was supposedly a machine against which chess players used to play. But, the truth is that the machine was operated by an above-average chess player who hid in the back and won most of the games. Even Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin had to take several hits from the chess machine-man. It is strange that cheating in chess today is quite the opposite- letting software/machines play instead of us.
Today, smartphones enable so many things, and among others, cheating in chess is part of it. One of the classic tricks is to leave the smartphone with the running software somewhere close the toilette or in it during a tournament. Chess tournaments take up to several hours and visiting the toilette is totally acceptable, even though, it would be strange in other sports contests. Such tricks are hard to prove anyways, and if players do not go too often to the toilette, no one can pin them anything on.
There are some preventive measures, but sometimes they are weak. For example, if during a tournament, a less skilled player starts to take down the best players, he might be subject to inspection, but still, this remains an extreme case, and many more subtle cases remain in the dark with no further questioning.
Today’s Standpoints of the Chess Community
The thing is that the chess community rejects to take action based only on statistics and material evidence, and they only act when a player is caught in the act. Still, one or the other time, players get what they deserve. In France, for example, players are suspended if they are accused of cheating which also resulted in disqualifying a French cheating team during the 2010 Olympiad, when they teamed up giving each other signals. They used their right to leave the board and communicated their moves to their partner who already waited with a prepared software.
Many cheaters have come up with more sophisticated methods to avoid going to the bathroom or leaving the board, and thanks to today’s technology, it is possible to cheat unnoticed. Another example of a sophisticated fraud during a tournament is the former Italian mayor who used a hidden camera that was attached to his glasses. The small camera was programmed to make photos of the opponent’s moves, and then send it to a computer system which would dictate the following move to the mayor. Still, this was discovered, and the player was disqualified.
This example might have driven it over the edge, while there are plenty of less extreme methods to cheat in tournaments. The only thing a player needs is an ally or accomplice with a smartphone and software. Especially bigger tournaments are public allowing an audience, and very often, they are broadcasted via the Internet enabling the player’s accomplice to watch the whole game. The only catch here is to find a way of channeling the information between the two. The most common methods are using an ear piece, secret signs, like a cough, touching an eyebrow subtly, etc.
Fact is, only major chess events do double and triple checks, but minor tournaments do not have the needed assets to do so and many cheaters get away with different tricks.
The Touch-Move Rule
The touch-move rule implies that once a player whose turn it is, touches one chess piece, he/she has to go with it and is allowed only to move the already touched piece. This also includes players not only touching, but actually moving the piece who cannot undo the move, as well as if he/she already captured one of the opponent’s pieces, they cannot take the move back. But chess is not a football game where a referee follows every move, and the touch-move rule can be easily violated, with the only witnesses being the two players.
Even if disrespect of this rule is considered cheating according to the highest standards of the chess community, it has been, so to say, tolerated several times in the past. For example, in a game between Kasparov and Polgar, the former held onto a piece for a second, but let go of it instantly. The game was recorded, and the camera caught the moment, but when Polgar complained, she was told that it is too late. According to another chess rule, players have to complain during the game, and not one day later as it was the case with Polgar.
We can see that cheating in chess has taken on creative forms since the 18th century and that methods have become more sophisticated through time, and yet it seems that the rules should also be brushed up to match the varieties in cheating.