By Executive Editor, IM Malcolm Pein
In his brilliant book from 1977, How to Cheat at Chess, Bill Hartston wrote something like: “If God did not want us to analyse on our pocket set in the toilet, he would not have given us paper on which to make notes.” 40 years ago cheating was a joke. In the electronic age it is anything but.
Something has to be done about it before we have an epidemic, some serious fisticuffs, more bad publicity or just a general darkening of the mood, to the extent that every time there is an upset, people start muttering that the victor must be cheating. Indeed at the recent European Individual Championships there was such an incident and the whisperings were entirely unjustifiable.
With some mobile phones now having software that is playing to about 2400, the temptation to sneak off and check some lines is proving too much for some and what particularly saddens me is that junior players have been caught. Recently at the Cork Open, Gabriel Mirza, whose daughter plays for the Irish junior team, became suspicious of his teenage opponent who had gone to the toilet “at least 20 times”. Now I wouldn’t recommend his course of action but this is what he was quoted as saying in the papers:
“After each move this guy was leaving the room. I went a few times around to where his pals were playing, but he was not there. I went to the toilet where there was just one locked. I entered in the next cubical, climbed on the toilet to watch over to the one which was occupied, and, surprise, he [was there] with an Android checking the moves with a chess engine.”
At this point he dragged his opponent out and there was a physical altercation. Obviously I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but Mr Mirza denies assault and the matter might end up in court. If I were the parents of the boy I would be trying to avoid any more publicity. The tournament organiser Gerry Graham expelled both players: Mirza for his reaction and the boy for cheating. He admitted it, although he didn’t need to as he was caught red-handed. I must say I have some sympathy for Mr Mirza. I honestly don’t know how I would react in his position, but if he did assault a minor then there is obviously no excuse for that.
In England recently a junior player cheated and was expelled from a tournament. There have been other incidents with adults. FIDE have been unable or unwilling to take a lead. Pathetic, but hardly surprising. Therefore I think it must fall to the ECF to come up with a set of disciplinary measures that can be implemented in England and, if the other chess unions want, in the rest of the UK.
Thanks to Professor Ken Regan and others, we can tell when a computer has been used or appears to have been used. This, combined with the rating of the player, enables an arbiter to judge with near certainty if there has been cheating. So I would like to propose the ECF Directors come up with some enforceable sanctions that can be implemented in these cases. I hope we can begin a debate, but my instinct would be something like:
- For junior players, a one year ban and for a second offence five years.
- For adult players, a five year ban and for a second offence a life ban.
CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by Richard Palliser. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organised the London Chess Classic.