FIDE on Anti-Cheating: plans and proposals

by Frederic Friedel
6/8/2014 – "The FIDE ACC recognizes that computer-assisted cheating poses a major perceived threat to the integrity and credibility of chess," writes the Anti-Cheating Committee of the World Chess Federation, "and that immediate action is required." FIDE is set to extend its Rules of Chess to explicitly forbid computer cheating, and also provide a tool for off-line checking of games. Encouraging.

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Draft Copy of Recommendations of the Anti-Cheating Committee

The paper has been prepared by Klaus Deventer, Laurent Freyd, Yuri Garrett, Israel Gelfer (Chair), Konstantin Landa, Shaun Press and Kenneth Regan and is the result, among many other interactions and meetings within the Committee, of two seminal meetings in Paris (Oct. 2013) and Buffalo (Apr. 2014). Valuable contributions came from other members of the Committee, such as Nick Faulks, Miguel Illescas and George Mastrokoukos, and ex-ternal experts such as Andrea Griffini, Bartlomiej Macieja, Takis Nikolopoulos, and Emil Sutovsky. All names are in alphabetical order only.

In the past few years, the rapid development of information and communication technology has resulted in a limited number of well-identified instances of computer assisted cheating, and also in an increased perception by the general public of the vulnerability of chess. FIDE and the Association of Chess Professionals jointly identified this as a major cause of concern for the credibility of chess. To put it in simple terms, no one wants to be associated with a sport whose results can easily be affected by computer-assisted cheating. Accordingly in mid-2013 FIDE and the ACP set up the joint “FIDE/ACP Anti-Cheating Committee”.

While the Committee was also asked to look at more traditional areas of malfeasance (such as rating fraud, fictitious tournaments and result manipulation), it was soon agreed to focus on fighting computer-assisted play as the most important perceived threat to the integrity of chess. Of course, the Committee retains jurisdiction on the above-mentioned areas as well, but it will deal with them at a second stage of its development, since the current Rules of Chess are deemed to be sufficient to fight these frauds. Computer-assisted cheating has priority both in its threat, and in needed additions to the Laws of Chess and competition policies. Both FIDE and the ACP recognize the importance and urgency of this work.

This document contains the first set of recommendations from the Committee. The first and most important recommendation is that FIDE establish a permanent Anti-Cheating Commission (ACC). The Commission shall operate with a view to prevent instances of cheating and to avoid the spreading of the related plague of false accusations. In order to achieve this result, it shall:

  1. monitor and constantly improve the anti-cheating system and regulations;
  2. perform sample checks on players and tournaments both on-site and remotely;
  3. receive complaints;
  4. investigate and decide on open cases;
  5. make recommendations to other FIDE Commissions and propose changes to the Laws of Chess, Tournament Regulations, Rating Regulations and Title Regulations.

The Committee also recommends new procedures for the reporting and investigation of suspected cheating incidents. These recommendations have been developed by involving other FIDE Commissions where needed, such as WCOC, Rules and Tournament Regulations, Qualifications, Ethics, Events and Arbiters. In some cases action has already been taken by these Commissions in the area of anti-cheating, and these changes have been noted in this report.

The Committee recommends the implementation of a FIDE Internet-based Game Screening Tool for pre-scanning games and identifying potential instances of cheating, together with the adoption of a full-testing procedure in cases of complaints. Together they shall meet the highest academic and judicial standards, in that they have been subject to publication and peer review, have a limited and documented error rate, have undergone vast empirical testing, are continuously maintained, and are generally accepted by the scientific community. Once in place, the Internet-based Game Screening Tool will be accessible to arbiters and chess officials and will be a useful instrument to prevent fraud, while the full test procedure will adhere to greater privacy as managed by FIDE and ACC.

The document will also present a set of recommendations for arbiters and for the Arbiters Commission, the most important of which is recourse to Continuous Training. The intended purpose of the recommendations is to prepare arbiters to adapt to the changes introduced by the new Anti-Cheating framework.

Lastly, the Committee wishes to share with the General Assembly and FIDE Officers the notion that the task it has been assigned is very sensitive and extremely complicated, and one where no previous skill has been acquired by FIDE – or indeed any other party. While the Committee feel that the proposed regulation will contribute to tackle cheating and reinforce confidence in all interested parties, it also understands that future adjustments will be needed to fine-tune the system in the light of the experience of the first period of operation. Also, the changing environment in which the Anti-Cheating Committee will be operating calls for necessary prudence. Thus, the outcomes of the present proposal shall need constant monitoring and possibly a thorough revision in the course of the next few years.

Hopefully, the Committee has provided FIDE with a carefully balanced starting point for developing a comprehensive anti-cheating framework that will prove increasingly successful in assuring long lasting confidence to the game of chess.

The following 24-page document (in PDF) gives the current Recommendations of the ACC

Here are a few points that caught our attention:

  • The ACC recognizes that computer-assisted cheating poses a major perceived threat to the integrity and credibility of chess, and that immediate action is required. [At last!]

  • While the ACC believes that cheating is not as widespread as one could think, it also acknowledges the prime importance of assuring that the players, the public, the sponsors, and all other stakeholders perceive the game as clean.

  • Changes shall be introduced to the Laws of Chess and to the FIDE Statutes with a view to introducing the possibility of personal searches during tournaments.

  • A second set of measures will be adopted for both on-site and remote screening of games by means of sophisticated statistical tools, and procedures will be put in place to match the findings of the statistical analysis with on-site observations.

  • Lastly, a set of sanctions, both discretionary and automatic, both on-site and ex-post-facto, will be developed. [More about this below]

The following action has been long overdue and in fact subject of numerous report (including most explicitly in this one on Ukrainian WGM and lawyer Irina Lymar): make it clear, we demanded, that cheating in chess using electronic means is actually illegal, according to the rules of the game, and not open to legal debate. Our wishes have been met: the FIDE Laws of Chess that are expected to enter into force on 1 July 2014 introduce new provisions explicitly forbidding the use of external information during a game, and specify methods that may be used to enforce them. Specifically:

11.3.a During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyze any game on another chessboard.

More importantly the Laws will also explicitly forbid electronic devices:

11.3.b During play, a player is forbidden to have a mobile phone and/or other or other device capable of processing or transmitting chess analysis4 in the playing venue. If it is evident that a player brought such a device into the playing venue, he shall lose the game. The opponent shall win. The rules of a competition may specify a different, less severe, penalty.

They also empower the arbiter to ensure that the above rule is adhered to:

The arbiter may require the player to allow his clothes, bags or other items to be inspected, in private. The arbiter or a person authorized by the arbiter shall inspect the player and shall be of the same gender as the player. If a player refuses to cooperate with these obligations, the arbiter shall take measures in accordance with Article 12.9.

Tournament organizers are also free to introduce their own regulations and conditions for events, provided they are in accord with the Laws of Chess. More specifics on the subject can be found on pp. 6–8 of the above Recommendations.

Finally (for the moment) FIDE has announced the development of a new Internet-based game screening tool:

FIDE will supply organizers and arbiters with an Internet-based Game Screening Tool that will be accessible to all authorized FIDE officials (IO, IA, ACC members) and National Federations.

The Internet-based Game Screening Tool shall be hosted on a FIDE-dedicated webpage and will enable authorized parties to upload games in pgn format for a “fast test” that will identify potential outliers in the tournament – i.e. players whose performance is far above their expected level and potentially compatible with computer-assisted play.

The results of the “fast test” are to be kept confidential and are only meant to assist the Chief Arbiter in identifying cases that may call for further measures to assure that players are adhering to the rules. If requested, the ACC shall provide assistance to the Chief Arbiter in determining such measures. It should be reminded that only a “full test” can confer reliable statistical evidence on whether the outlier is receiving external help, so that the results of the “fast test” are not applicable for judgments of complaints.

The Internet-based Game Screening Tool will require the following investment from FIDE:

  • a multi-processor computer capable of processing a very high number of games per hour;
  • adequate storage capacity;
  • a dedicated user-friendly Internet-based Graphical User Interface;
  • a specific certified software for processing games approved by the ACC;
  • instructions for use (administrators and end users);
  • one or more system administrators;
  • a password system for limiting external access;
  • a contract with a provider of server facilities;
  • ordinary and extraordinary software maintenance at all times.

Such hardware will also suffice to run full tests monitored by the ACC.

To this we can only add: maybe a copy of ChessBase 12 would also help. Computer savvy readers will know that the latest updates contain a function that is very relevant to statistically evaluating critical moves of games by a human player and their correlation with the most powerful computers in the world. Instead of giving you the details at the end of a long textual report we have decided to do so in a separate article dealing exclusively with this function.

And yes, we know about the title story in the latest (June 2014) edition of Chess Life. We will report on that separately.

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.


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