Are security measures at chess tournaments ineffective?

by André Schulz
10/28/2022 – After the incident at the Sinquefield Cup, strict controls for technical aids are undertaken at the Fischer Random World Championship. But how well do these controls work? A journalist from the Norwegian TV station NRK tried it out.

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The problem of computer-assisted cheating in chess is highly topical at the moment. And by no means for the first time. In the past, there have been a number of allegations of fraud and proven attempts at fraud in various chess tournaments. FIDE and the organisers of chess tournaments introduced various security measures to prevent computer-assisted cheating in chess.

One security measure used at almost all major tournaments is scanning players and people in the playing area with metal detectors. After Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup in protest, these scanners were used to control the players before each round. It looks professional, but is it professional?

To answer this question, one would have to know or test how sensitive these devices are and what they can detect during scanning. Another question is whether the staff operating the scanners are adequately trained to do so. Maybe they aren't. And the next question concerns the timing of the check. Is it enough to scan the players before the round? How do you then check whether someone installs an aid in the course of the game, perhaps after the first opening moves?

A journalist from the Norwegian TV station NRK did something obvious - she tried out which technical aids would be detected by the scanner used as a security measure in Reykjavik at the Fischer Random World Championship - and which would not. The result was not very encouraging.

Upon entering the game room of the Fischer Random World Championship, everyone is screened with scanners.

The journalist from the NRK underwent this procedure and had a whole range of electronic aids hidden on her body.

In her ear canal, she had placed a tiny pearl-sized earpiece in front of her eardrum, invisible from the outside. This was connected as a receiver to a signal transmitter hidden in her clothing, which communicated with a smartwatch attached to the inside of her belt buckle.

Tiny earpieces

This equipment allows a second person to send signals to the Smartwatch from outside, which are then relayed to the tiny earpiece.

The NRK journalist also brought a walkie-talkie into the playroom, an electronic power bracelet and sunglasses with built-in earplugs.

At the entrance check, the walkie-talkie and the power bracelet were discovered. The earplugs, the smartwatch and the technology in the sunglasses were not discovered.

Apparently, there is still room for improvement here for FIDE and the organisers of chess tournaments.

Article at NRK...

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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Jacob woge Jacob woge 11/1/2022 05:18
Thanks a lot, Tauno! for releasing the intel.

This one, then.

That makes a quite a bit lot more sense to me.

There appears to be just this game.

By the way, are not the "opening repertoire leakage" and the "somehow cheating" theories at odds? I mean, someone might be convinced about one or the other, but you cannot really bank on both can you.
Aighearach Aighearach 11/1/2022 09:01
Regarding the transposition, there are no less than three (3) lines from Carlsen's history that reach that position, as Hans explains in the video. According to Aagaard, Hans the best memory of anybody he ever worked with, and so of course he would be ready for a position that is that commonly reached. Different players have different skills, but players at the top level with excellent memory cannot be surprised except by playing a weak line. That's just the reality of opening preparation.

What surprised me is how many C or D or lower players comment without understanding transpositions. I'd think even class E players would have at least a couple lines they know pretty well, and so could understand how transpositions work.
Aighearach Aighearach 11/1/2022 08:55
The editors threaten to close comments, but I'd like to second the past suggestion that the individual toxic commentors who call people trolls (and worse) and generally are not having a reasonable discussion should simply be banned, and their comments deleted.

Removing toxic individuals is a necessary, expected part of online commenting. The alternative is to have a toxic cesspool; basically, by design. The presence of those comments reflects on the editorial staff.
tauno tauno 10/31/2022 11:15
@Jacob woge

I see, this internet thing is pretty new to you and you're not used to googling, so you have to ask people to look up facts and references because you can't do it yourself. But ok, I'm not usually that helpful to lazy bastards, but here's a valuable tip: instead of searching through threads and considering them as rumors, type [ carlsen niemann transposition ] into Google's search box and spend a few minutes going through the links you think may contain something relevant.

For example, I found this one here below, but consider it just a small example of what you can find yourself once you learn how to google.

“It would appear that the central issue is whether Carlsen believes his pre-game analysis of his intended surprise 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.g3 was leaked, either by a mole within his camp or by a computer hack.

An alternative explanation of the "leak" could be quite innocent. The relevant pawn structure, with plausible transpositions into Carlsen v Niemann, had already occurred in a previous well-known Carlsen game against England's Michael Adams in 2006.

Niemann said he asked himself what ideas Carlsen might produce to divert him from his planned Catalan with ... Bb4+ and decided to check 5.Nc3, a rare transposition to the Nimzo-Indian.

There was also Niemann's own very recent game against Le Quang Liem at Miami, where 5.g3 (instead of 5.e3 d5 as played) d5 6.a3 could easily transpose into Carlsen v Niemann…”

You can also watch the video where Niemann himself explains the transposition (if you find it).
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/31/2022 09:30
“After the scandal, it has become known that a transposition of the opening moves in the game in question has also occurred in an earlier Carlsen game. ”

I, for one, would like to see the score of the game referred to in order to form an opinion. The similarity with the first blitz game reference, Carlsen-So Calcutta 2019, is limited to the term “g3 Nimzo”. Yes, Carlsen has played a g3 Nimzo as white in a blitz game. With those words, rhe similarity with the C-N game stops. Branching off for good at black’s fifth move.

So now, the second game. Any chance of an actual reference? Who was the opponent, what was the event? Does it have more than the rather remote relevance of carlsen-So, for the C-N game? I may not have looked closely enough, as there have been a lot of threads, but until reference is provided - and since this argument is repeated I guess those using it ought to have seen the game - I shall regard this as a rumour.

As for g3 nimzos, has 6 games, including the Niemann one. Which is the only one featuring dxc4 and a3.

Facts, please. Not hearsay.
tauno tauno 10/31/2022 04:52

After the scandal, it has become known that a transposition of the opening moves in the game in question has also occurred in an earlier Carlsen game. It may be true that Niemann lied about when and where it happened, although I think he just forgot, because I have a hard time understanding why he would have lied about such a thing that is so easily verified.

It is very likely that Niemann had studied Carlsen's openings before the match, and while it seems quite unlikely that he had even looked at the particular opening that was played, it is still very possible that the "ridiculous" coincidence really happened - accidents happen.

Niemann played the opening very well - no one can deny that - especially compared to the rest of the game. But the big mystery is why Carlsen played so poorly in all phases of the game and made so many mistakes that he couldn't even get a draw.

I think it's time to scrap the cheating conspiracy theories because it's been so long without anyone being able to produce a single piece of convincing evidence. Instead, we should focus more on the real reason behind this scandal.

And the real reason is that Carlsen can't concentrate when playing against Niemann because he's so annoyed that their external characteristics are so terribly similar. From the hairstyle to the walking style, from the sloppy posture to the depressed facial expression, and so on.

The riddle is solved.
Science22 Science22 10/31/2022 11:35
Trolls her are people who never relate to the facts.

There are many evidence Niemann has cheated OTB. One is that he lie after the game against Carlsen about the reason why he played the rare opening flawless.

You simply ignore all evidence an attack the critical person with something else.

You constantly forget that Carlsen shall not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Niemann was cheating.It is reverse, when you sue like this, Niemann has to prove that Carlsen knew he was not cheating. That he was in evil faith. If Carlsen actually believed in what he said, there is no case.

Niemann is one of the worst con men I have ever heard about. At the level of Armstrong. And as Armstong he will never admit before it is all over.
saturn23 saturn23 10/30/2022 01:21
Science22, so people who do not agree with you are trolls, right? If someone cheated online it automatically means that they cheated in over the board chess. People who are asking for evidence are obviously trolls, because there's no need for evidence.
northwolf northwolf 10/30/2022 12:07
everybody talking about cheating.
how about game fixing.elo seller and gambling sponsorship ????????????
Science22 Science22 10/29/2022 10:29
Breaking news : Unknown absurd drama of Samuel Beckett has just been found in San Francisco : Waiting for Reality

Troll (1) : There is no evidence of cheat OTB. Carlsen will have to pay Niemann big time.
Troll (2) : You are absolutely right. I think Carlsen will have to pay 100 mio. US because Niemann cant play anymore. His life is in ruin.
Evidence (1) : But he is playing first board soon in FIDE Team championship for US Team in few days !
Troll (3) : That means nothing. His life is in ruin. This means nothing.
Troll (1) I completely agree with Troll (3).
Troll (2) : I completely agree with Troll (3)
Evidence (2) : He has cheated online many times and lie about it. Why should he stop now ? Security has not been good enough OTB.
Troll (4) : What ? He has never cheated, he had a little fun at 12, everybody had fun at this age, and everybody else cheat online . So it is not cheating in the classical sense.
Troll (1) & (2) & (3) : We completely agree with Troll (4)
Evidence (3) : His score OT is much higher in live transmission than not live transmission and he lied big time after the game with Carlsen about preparation. Carlsen had never played this line. His analysis was a joke, he had no idea about what he had just played. He also bang out only - win - moves in seconds, only a computer can that.
Troll (5) : Everything means nothing. In fact everything that looks like evidence against Niemann is per definition not evidence.

All other trolls together singing : We completely agree . There is no evidence, there is no evidence, where is the evidence, where is the evidence, halleluja, halleluja.


Science22 Science22 10/29/2022 09:32
@Green22 : You dont read a single of the evidence. You just ignore everything and repeat the same sentences of no evidence over and over and over and over and over and over again. No matter what you are explained you just ignore it and repeat over and over and over and over again the same sentences. Even you nickname is a new account made for this intimation.

You are a time robber. You steal time from honest people. Bye
rimen rimen 10/29/2022 09:19
Simple, expensive solution. Implement a full body scanner, like the airports. Have trained (TSA) handlers man the scanner. It will detect hidden devices (anus, ear canal, mouth, hair, etc.) regardless of size. It will also detect wires in bras and girdles.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 10/28/2022 10:01
I'm not sure if means much that Niemann is board 1 for the world team championships, USA doesn't have its top players there for a long time, it's normal. Look at Astana and going back before that.
tauno tauno 10/28/2022 09:59
@mc1483 - I agree. However, in order to completely eliminate any possibility of cheating, I suggest an additional security measure, namely that spectators should wait 30 minutes outside the toilet before allowing to visit and another 30 minutes after the visit before giving back access to the audience area.
mc1483 mc1483 10/28/2022 09:03
It's obviously not possible to go along this way. A complete medical examination (with the players, even women, having to stand naked) would be needed in order to find out every small device a player may have hidden somewhere. It would be humiliating, it would take too much time, it would be useless: what about dental fillings? Pacemakers? Titanium joints? Hearing aids? A vibrating device could be hidden inside any such apparatus.
Only solution, a big delay in the broadcast. 30 minutes should be enough. It would be still necessary to keep an eye on the spectators (they could memorize the position, go out, send the advice, re-enter the playing hall), but a discreet surveillance could be very effective.
Green22 Green22 10/28/2022 08:25
@Science22 you seem triggered all the time with your replies against Hans and cheating. Do you have any evidence or proof that Magnus nor anyone else can provide? lmao -- Cheating otb IS simply very, very difficult as one person stated below. Regan's analysis and story didn't prove anything lol just like all the data, graphs, pie graphs, etc etc.

"A first degree con man" HOW is he a con man? educate us all. You have ZERO proof and your credibility with these bogus claims make you look as bad as Magnus who royally screwed up this whole thing. Hans should get plenty of compensation from the suit, but i'm sure you will come up with some cooky wacky theory on that.

"Niemann's violence against chess" what? LOL smh dude you got issues..
tauno tauno 10/28/2022 08:24
@wermoll - Many thanks for your comment. Here's a link to the source article by Leonard Barden:

Hans Niemann chosen to lead USA at World Team Championship
Science22 Science22 10/28/2022 07:58
A very good article that clarifys how easy it is to get help OTB.

No, it is not difficult to cheat OTB as Ken Regan has clarified, you can reduce the cheating to only critical moves like serious mistakes from opponent,s and then his model does not work. The z- score sneak below 5. Incidentally, the statistics that definitively bring down Niemann is a model Regan propose long time ago but never got FIDE to use ressources on.

There is nothing more to surprise about Niemann's violence against chess. He writes in his summons that Carlsen has destroyed his career so that he cannot play anymore. He is mentally exhausted. Nobody want to accept him playing. A few weeks later, he is ready to play the first board for USA. A first degree con man.
adbennet adbennet 10/28/2022 07:50
I went to spectate at a USA tournament where they had a detector of some kind. I was wearing my over-the-ear hearing aids, and carrying my smartphone in airplane mode. After passing the scan, I asked the official if the hearing aids were okay? I asked because they are bluetooth hearing aids and were actively connected to the smartphone even in airplane mode. He scanned near my ear and said simply "It's not interested in your hearing aids."
tauno tauno 10/28/2022 04:01
You could also use a very small radio…
…and connect it to the implanted ear pieces. If the game broadcast is delayed by 30 minutes, it should not be an obstacle, because no one would suspect anything if you think 30 minutes in a critical position.

P.S. I recommend implanting the radio as well, as it makes it harder to detect.
ChessSpawnVermont ChessSpawnVermont 10/28/2022 03:40
Not only is Niemann on the US team for the upcoming FIDE World Team in Israel, Leonard Barden reports today that Niemann will be playing on Board 1. That is a vote of confidence and shot across the bows of Nakamura and Caruana from US Chess. Bravo to US Chess for doing the right thing.
ChessSpawnVermont ChessSpawnVermont 10/28/2022 03:11
A poorly written article. The reporter does not go into the difficulty of cheating even with the receiver hidden near the eardrum, to wit, the need for a transmitter and a confederate nearby with access to a computer for move analysis. Also, the article has a photo of a banana being scanned, but does not mention that the scanner being used is not a simple metal scanner. My understanding is that the scanner pictured is designed to detect silicone based rf devices and /or any device capable of radio/rf transmission.

Cheating otb is simply very, very difficult. This point was NOT made by the author annd ending with the quote from Nepo is misleading at best, " I still don't feel that it is safe. I heard that an NRK reporter got through. The criminals are always one step ahead, says Jan Nepomnjashchij to NRK."
wermoll wermoll 10/28/2022 03:07
No. This is not about rumors. This is the classic manipulation of facts. It all started with a passage from an article by Leonard Barden, published in The Guardian. Barden inserted that passage not to Niemann's detriment, but simply because Barden is a correct person and therefore took into consideration the hypothesis that perhaps some of the absentees did not want to be summoned due to Hans's presence. That's all. Among other things, in the immediately following passage, Barden adds that the top players of many other nations are also missing.
It is the right way to do journalism.
The problem is that then come those who like to distort the facts.
For example, a Norwegian newspaper recently wrote on Twitter (interpreting the above passage in his own way) that Caruana DECLARED that he did not want to be alongside the controversial Grand Master in the US formation.
I think it's a lie.
Someone asked the source in reply to the tweet, but no response at the moment.
tauno tauno 10/28/2022 02:56
There are rumors that some of the top ranked players from USA may boycott the upcoming FIDE World Team Championship in Jerusalem due to ineffective security measures. But they are just rumors, there may be other reasons as well.

The entry list speaks for itself.

Hans Niemann (first board)
Lazaro Bruzon
Alexander Onischuk
Varuzhan Akobian
Yuniesky Quesada Perez
(captain: John Donaldson)
Science22 Science22 10/28/2022 02:14
@wermoll : Convince you about what ? That internet trolls exist ?
wermoll wermoll 10/28/2022 01:39
hmm, maybe I'm wrong but personally that experiment didn't convince me very much.
tauno tauno 10/28/2022 01:19
How about compiling Stockfish on a very small device with similar technology as in Raspberry PI or Smart Watch and use Bluetooth to connect to the surgically implanted ear pieces? No help outside would be needed. Of course, there is still the problem how to transfer the moves from the chessboard automatically to the Stockfish engine, so some discrete assistance from the player may be needed before this technical problem is solved.
Science22 Science22 10/28/2022 12:19
The Reykjavik security use the same scanners as in Sinquefield cup and USOpen. But make the scanning even more careful.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/28/2022 11:30
So, the journalist managed to fool the security system. She has proven that the Reykjavik security was not up to the task. An obvious benefit of this is that the anti-cheating measures can be improved as a direct consequence of her experiment.
Science22 Science22 10/28/2022 10:47
f the players are isolated from the outside world ...? Which players are isolated from the outside world ? Are they playing on the Moon ? On Mars ?

How do you isolate players from electromagnetic signals ? Was the players elektromagnetic isolated at Sinquefield Cup 22 and US Open ? No, they where not.

The purpose of the experiment was to shov that the scanning is not good enough to catch a cheater. The experiment was a succes. End of story.

As I have said all the time, the security equipment is outdated. Skills cheaters know how to bypass it. They can do all the test at home with the samme type of scanner and se if everything is fine. But we gradually learn how to stop it.
arzi arzi 10/28/2022 08:36
These fancy gadgets that the NRK journalist showed and used are of no use if the players are isolated from the outside world. Even delaying the games would then not be necessary. Of course, delaying could be added to the security system to strengthen the continuation of fair play.