Chess Cheating conference in New York

12/2/2006 – On Monday a “Chess Cheating Town Meeting” at the historic Marshall Chess Club in New York will bring together some of America’s leading chess authorities in a panel discussion about ways to head off computer-assisted cheating in organized chess competitions. The subject has turned hot in recent years and the conference is well worth visiting.

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The session will showcase expert views on a broad range of issues – legal, logistical, technological, and economic – that arise in connection with proposed anti-cheating measures. It is expected to command wide attention from fans of chess and other mind sports both in the U.S. and overseas, in view of:

  • The VIP panel (see below);
  • Recent heavily publicized instances of alleged cheating during a major chess tournament held in Philadelphia this past summer; and finally;
  • Sensational accusations surrounding the World Chess Championship match in Kalmykia that concluded last month.

Time will be provided for both the audience and the press to pose questions to the panel.

Background

With the availability of grandmaster-strength chess playing software that today retails for around $50, the potential for computer-aided cheating has emerged in recent months as a major challenge facing the chess community.

In an episode from the 1960s TV drama “Mission: Impossible”, master-of-disguise Rollin Hand (played by Martin Landau) impersonated a chess master competing in an international tournament. Using a hearing aid to receive computer-generated moves from his mission colleagues, Rollin demolished his grandmaster opponents (“A Game of Chess”, episode aired Jan. 14, 1968). That plot device was widely ridiculed in chess circles. At the time, even the best chess programs could hardly compete with casual players, let alone professionals.

Fast-forward to July 2006. In an open-to-the-public chess tournament with a $28,600 first prize, a little-known amateur player, who Chess Life magazine later dubbed “The Cat in the Hat,” was tearing up the field. Suspicions mounted after he defeated the world’s 43rd ranked player, the Israeli Grandmaster Ilya Smirin – who was quoted saying, “I felt like I was playing against a machine.” As the next round got under way, the tournament director confronted the hat-wearing magician and asked to search his person. The suspect agreed, but first ducked into a bathroom. Although no device was found on him and no penalty applied, suspicions remain that he used that bathroom visit to dispose of a miniature wireless receiver that might have been hidden in the hat he wore.

In a second incident in an all-amateurs section at the same tournament, a man who was on the verge of winning the sectional first prize of nearly $18,000 was ejected during the final round after a clandestine listening device was found on him and he refused official requests to inspect him further.

Bathroom visits also figured prominently in a series of public accusations hurled last month during the World Chess Championship match between Bulgarian Veselin Topalov and Russian Vladimir Kramnik. Cheating charges leveled against Kramnik by Topalov’s manager and publicist were widely covered by the mainstream press. They almost caused the contest to abort mid-way through, when officials responded to the complaint by denying Kramnik the use of his private bathroom, and Kramnik in turn refused to continue playing. (He ultimately relented and went on to win the match.)

Did the nearly 40-year old “Mission: Impossible” fantasy become reality this summer? Only the suspected cheaters know the answer. But one thing is certain: this time, the chess world isn’t laughing.

Event details

  • What: Chess Cheating Town Meeting – A panel discussion and public forum about ways to safeguard
    both professional and amateur chess competitions against cheating.

  • When: Monday, December 4th, 8:00-11:00 P.M. – Prepared remarks from panel speakers: est. 8:00-9:00 P.M.; Q&A from audience and panel: est. 9:00-11:00 P.M.

  • Where: Marshall Chess Club, 23 West 10th Street, New York City

  • Why: With two much-discussed instances of alleged cheating during the World Open in Philadelphia this past July, followed by sensational accusations surrounding the recent World Championship match in Kalmykia, the potential for computer-assisted cheating has emerged as a major challenge facing the chess community.

Come and hear a freewheeling discussion among a panel of chess authorities and professional and amateur competitors, covering a variety of possible measures to combat cheating. The session will showcase expert views on a broad range of issues – legal, logistical, technological, and economic – that arise in connection with proposed anti-cheating measures.

The first hour will be devoted to panel members’ prepared remarks, with the remainder of the program reserved for Q&A from the audience and from panel members.

  • Who: Confirmed panelists:
    • Bill Goichberg, USCF President; and America’s dominant chess tournament organizer.
    • Grandmaster Alex Stripunsky, 2005 US Chess Championship runner-up
    • Dr. Danny Kopec, Brooklyn College computer professor, chess and computer author, International Master
    • Nelson Farber, practicing attorney and active chess player
    • Steve Immitt, US "Tournament Director of the Year" for 2005
    • Jon Jacobs, active non-professional competitor, chess author, anti-cheating activist.

Panel member bios

Bill Goichberg is the President of the U.S. Chess Federation, elected in 2005. He is also America’s pre-eminent organizer of chess tournaments through his Continental Chess Association, which he founded in 1968 and continues to operate. Bill is a FIDE Master.

GM Alexandr Stripunsky tied for 1st place in the 2005 US Championship, and won a number of tournaments in Europe and the US over the last several years. He tied for 1st in the US Open in 2002, and won the USCF Grand Prix in 1998, the year after he moved to the United States.

IM Dr. Danny Kopec is an associate professor at Brooklyn College, where he is graduate deputy chair of the Department of Computer and Information Science. His academic interests include artificial intelligence and the genesis and avoidance of errors in medical treatment and other fields, including chess. Dr. Kopec is the author of 6 chess books, 8 chess DVDs and some 80 academic articles, and runs one of the best-known chess instruction summer camps. He relishes the time when chess was the "Royal Game."

Nelson Farber is a practicing attorney in Manhattan and an active member of the Marshall Chess Club.

Steve Immitt is a national-level TD who has directed over 2,200 chess tournaments since 1991, when the US Chess Federation began publishing its statistics, and was the USCF's most active tournament director from 1986-1991. Last year the USCF honored him as “Tournament Director of the Year.” He has been directing the Marshall Chess Club’s Thursday “4 Rated Games Tonight” tournaments and many of the weekend events since 1994.

Jon Jacobs is a non-professional tournament competitor based in Brooklyn. He maintains the “Blockade Chess Cheaters” Web site, www.seniorchess.zoomshare.com. He became interested in the danger of computer-aided cheating after a local tournament encounter with a player who later figured in a notorious incident in a class section of a big national event.

Contact:

Jon Jacobs, (347) 782-3393. Email: jacobs310@optonline.net
(Principal contact, available at all hours)

Marshall Chess Club, (212) 477-3716. Email: marshall.cc@verizon.net.
Web: www.marshallchessclub.org
(Note: The club is open only on evenings and weekends.)


ChessBase articles on the subject

Chess, cycling, hearing and other aids
26.08.2006 Seldom has a report generated such intense feedback as our series on cheating. It turns out that the communications device worn by a player at the World Open, the Phonito, was indeed a hearing aid, but one that is ideal for wireless communication as well. It is made by a company that sponsors cycling. Interesting information.

Cheating at the World Open – more details
17.08.2006 Last week we reported that two players were accused of using computer assistance during their games at the World Open in Philadelphia in July. The story was in the New York Times, but contained some inaccuracies. The tournament director who found the secret communication device sets the record straight. And one of the victims sent us analysis of his game. You'll probably guess who played it.

Cheating Accusations at the World Open
10.08.2006 Two players are under suspicion of having received help from computers at the World Open in Philadelphia. One locked himself in a bathroom stall, the other, who was leading the event before the last round and stood to win $18,000, was caught wearing a "hearing aid" which turned out to be a wireless receiver used for surreptitious communications. The New York Times reports.

Scandal in Lampertsheim – cheating in the loo
07.01.2003 At the Open Tournament in Lampertsheim a player was caught cheating. He was consulting the program Pocket Fritz during the game in the toilet. While we in ChessBase condemn every form of electronic performance enhancement we would like to express our thanks to the player for choosing Pocket Fritz for his devious behaviour. We recommend that the next time he use the new Pocket Fritz 2 and carefully follow the instructions.



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