Anti-cheating at the Baku Olympiad

by Frederic Friedel
5/15/2016 – The 42nd Chess Olympiad will be held in Crystal Hall in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan (seating capacity: 25,000). After examining the location FIDE representatives were ecstatic: "I think Azerbaijan will organize the best Olympiad in the history of chess," said acting FIDE president Georgios Makropoulos. In an interview vice president Israel Gelfer described the anti-cheating measures that will be in place.

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42nd Chess Olympiad Baku 2016

The 42nd Chess Olympiad 2016 will be held from September 1st (arrival)
to September 14 (departure) in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

During the first European Games, held in Baku, the President of the Republic, Ilham Aliyev, announced: "In the next couple of years Azerbaijan will be hosting other major and prestigious sporting events. In 2016, Baku will host the World Chess Olympiad as well as the 'Formula 1' event. In 2017, Azerbaijan will be the host to the Islamic Solidarity Games. In 2020, Baku will host group stage and quarter-final matches of the UEFA European Cup. So Azerbaijan has already demonstrated its role in the development of sports to the world."

The Azeri President signed an order on simplifying the visa procedures for foreigners and stateless persons arriving in the country in connection with the Chess Olympiad. They will be able to get visas in the country’s international airports, if they have an official invitation of the Operating Committee of the games and a document confirming their accreditation. Visas will be issued from 20 August, 2016 to 20 September of 2016. Due to the tension between the two countries the delegation of Armenia declared that participation of their country – triple Olympiad winners – would not be possible. However the Minister of Sports of Azerbaijan guaranteed that the Armenian players will receive visas at the airport.

The venue of the 42nd Chess Olympiad is Baku's Crystal Hall, an indoor arena
built in 2012 and located on the coast of Baku. The hall can hold 25,000 spectators.

FIDE vice-president (and currently acting president) Georgios Makropoulos with FIDE Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Borg (right) examining the venue, Crystal Hall, of the Olympiad, where more than 300 teams will compete at the same time. Makropoulos opinion: "I think Azerbaijan will organize the best Olympiad in the history of chess".

Baku Crystal Hall (Baki Kristal Zali) at night

The budget for the Olympiad is 13.3 million Euros. Some 6.8 million Euros are set aside for the first-class accommodation for the players and delegates. Another one million Euros go to the FIDE Commission for World Championships & Olympiads and intellectual rights.

Mahir Mammadov, the director of the operations committee for the Chess Olympiad

Presentation of the Olympiad logo at the closing ceremony of last year's FIDE World Cup in Baku

FIDE Vice President Israel Gelfer on Anti-Cheating in Baku

Gelfer is the Chairman of FIDE's Anti-Cheating Committee and, in an interview with Anastasiya Karlovich, described the measures being implemented for the Olympiad:

First of all, I would like to explain the general idea of anti-cheating. Unfortunately, the issue of anti-cheating became important in the last couple of years – with the development of telecommunication technologies (mobiles, watches and even glasses) we are facing a problem which we can not ignore. We are trying to balance between our will to fight against cheaters and at the same time not to create unhealthy atmosphere in the chess world. We don't want to look like a police, which comes to every event and checks everyone. At the same time we cannot ignore the problem. Unfortunately there were several cases discovered. We all know about the big case during the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk. The cheater was caught after the Olympiad.

During the forthcoming Olympiad we will make some precautionary measures. Of course, there will be gates for security. It's mainly for security but it will also produce a sound if someone has anything small in the pocket. The players will be not allowed to bring mobiles, watches and pens. The organizers will provide pens for every player.

Apart from that FIDE is purchasing a new device, a very modern and a very sophisticated one, which actually identifies everything. At the last Presidential Board we decided that probably after every round of the Olympiad and sometimes during the game we will check the players. It's very effective and very quick (5-6 seconds). We will have specially trained arbiters who will check randomly chosen players (8-10 each round). It's like we are doing anti-doping after the games. We are still checking the possibility to secure and block the whole area in Baku by using jammers. We already tried it during the World Cup, but didn't succeed. In any case, we are going to use all other measures.

We have decided that there will be no broadcast delay [to make it more difficult to get external help]. We are fighting for this because we don't want to destroy the whole communication, live transmission of the games to the world, etc. To have a delay is not a disaster, but we came to a conclusion that we are ready to have all the measures I've spoken about, and only then to have a delay. Live transmission, press communication and interest of all spectators are important for us.

I would like to mention that all the games will be also checked live with the system of Professor Regan, which belongs to FIDE. If there is a very-very strong indication that someone is playing much above his level, then the Chief Arbiter of the Olympiad will be informed about it in order to have special check in.

So we are ready! I don’t mean that nobody is going to cheat. Who knows. We can compare our situation with athletics and doping control, where they have the war of labs. Maybe the cheaters are smarter than we are, maybe the cheaters are more advanced than we are. I hope not and I hope the measures will cover all theoretical cheating possibilities which may arise.


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Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.