Share your opinion: FIDE President address on anti-cheating policies

by ChessBase
8/24/2020 – In an open letter to the chess community, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich states, “I believe there is a consensus that computer-assisted cheating is a real plague of contemporary chess”. He then addresses the fact that the online chess boom has created new challenges for all involved, and presents the main questions regarding the sanctions that should be applied to the players that get caught cheating. You may answer the questions raised in this letter or simply submit your proposals to an official email account. | Photo: David Llada

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A letter by Arkady Dvorkovich 

Originally published on FIDE’s official website

Dear chess friends, 

I believe there is a consensus that computer-assisted cheating is a real plague of contemporary chess. 

We have already taken strong steps to enhance our efficiency in fighting it, including strengthening analytical tools, using detectors and scanners in all official FIDE events, training arbiters, finding a right legal basis, and having a dedicated team working on these matters. 

The online chess boom brought new challenges, and although the number of suspicious cases is fairly low, FIDE must act vigorously, sending a clear message to potential violators in order to create a secure environment in our competitions. 

We work together with the leading online chess platforms. We have adjusted the algorithms used for online play. Having a lot of data, we sharpened our statistical methods – and in these regards, I’d like to thank Professor Ken Regan, who keeps improving his algorithm – and those who think his method does not work against the so-called smart cheaters, they will be surprised. 

We must act, and I want to emphasize that FIDE will be ready for the ensuing legal challenges. 

However, I feel that we need a broad consensus on the measures applied. Below are the main questions we would like to have your opinion on: 

  1. Our methods of detection, although very advanced and ever-improving, can't provide a 100% confirmation. In many cases, the probability estimated is higher than the one for DNA tests. Do you believe a statistical algorithm (or a combination of those) giving close to 100% probability of cheating could stand as sufficient grounds for banning a player? If yes - what odds would you find sufficient? 
  2. Shall FIDE apply sanctions for alleged online violations to over-the-board-play (and vice versa)? 
  3. Shall we apply sanctions for alleged violations at platforms’ own events, and other unofficial online events, to official FIDE online events (and vice versa)? 
  4. Shall we publish the names of alleged violators after the very first conviction? 
  5. Shall the violators be punished retroactively, with their prize money, rating and titles been revoked for some period preceding the verdict? And, if yes, how far back should these actions go? 
  6. What would you consider a reasonable banning period for first-time violators, and for repeat offenders? How strict should be the measures in youth competitions? 

There are many questions and some of them are related to the moral and legal aspects of the subject. Having a fair and transparent system will require a trusted framework. The worst thing to do would be to ban an innocent player. 

Likewise, the reputation of chess and our global chess family could suffer tremendous damage if a tsunami of scandals and court procedures starts to overshadow the exciting environment of international chess competitions.  

We must be strict, but responsible. Firm, but accountable. And before approving a general policy, we would like to hear your opinions. You may answer the questions raised in this communication or simply submit your proposals to the following email: 

It is going to be a long battle, but I am sure we will succeed.


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Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/27/2020 12:20
On the same site the policy is to remove or ban a player without making their name/nickname known. They may mention 'someone' has been caught, but don't link that to a specific person. This has to do (confirmed to me by a moderator on their forum) with posible legal problems of the kind I mentioned below. Of course people seeing someone is missing from the results may draw their own conclusions. But these conclusions can be denied if necessary. The IF in your comments is exactly the difference between online play and over-the-board play: it is far more difficult to organise fraud in the latter, and it is extremely more visible. That's why, in my opinion, only a few people with personality disorders have tried it.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 8/27/2020 12:06
@Kesha I consider the assumption of OTB cheating because of blitz cheating premature. Someone who is caught cheating might be a one time offender, or might be a regular cheater. If someone otherwise does not cheat, but has a weak moment for some reason would not cheat regularly, even if they think they could get away with it. A regular cheater would. I would not assume that someone who does an offense once does it on other cases as well. I think that the principle applied in Western civilization, the assumption of innocence should be applied to everyone. This means that if the cheating of someone is proven, then that's a hard fact. But if not, then he/she should not be humiliated or punished.
Keshava Keshava 8/27/2020 03:28
@Frits Fritschy,
On the site that IM Rensch works for even though the titled players can use a nickname their real name has to be visible on their profile in order for them to be eligible for the cash prizes that they play for online there. If a person would risk their reputation to win a few hundred dollars through online cheating then it seems reasonable to believe that they would do similarly in otb play IF they thought that they could get away with it.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 8/26/2020 11:41
I hear the mantra of "online chess is the future" from some people here. I very much hope FIDE thinks otherwise. Because if online chess it the future, then chess has no future.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/26/2020 05:52
You devide people in two groups, those who are morally upright in every aspect of there lifes (like Jerry Falwell jr.?) and those that are eternal sinners. That's not how I look at it (and I hope the majority of people). Opportunity makes the thief. Playing on internet you are (mostly) invisible and so are your opponents, you are allowed to use a nickname (the bane of internet communication), it is technically rather easy (no need to hide smartphones behind the toilet pot). It's like many people who wouldn't dream of frauding on their neighbour or any other concrete person, but have no problems with being 'creative' with their tax returns – then you're just frauding a computer in a town hundreds of miles away. I think it's perfectly possible that none of those 300 online cheaters ever have cheated in over-the-board games.
Keshava Keshava 8/26/2020 02:57
@Frits Fritschy,
Since cheating is a moral failing then I don't see why a titled player who cheats online for money wouldn't eventually try it over-the-board IF he thought that he could get away with it. And as of April IM Daniel Rensch claims that his site has received confessions from over 300 titled players. And of course there are many more who would never confess:
Peter B Peter B 8/26/2020 09:10
1. No algorithm is perfect. The final decision should always be made by a person (or committee).
2. No, online is different. I don't like online cheating, but online chess is "unofficial" so its penalties should not apply to OTB chess. The exception is FIDE sanctioned online events, where cheating should be treated as seriously as in OTB chess.
3. No, see 2.
4. If found guilty, yes. Why not? It's not like getting a parking ticket, cheating is deliberate.
5. Any titles gained after cheating has been detected, should be revoked, similarly for rating. But not further back. When Igors Rausis cheated, he kept his rating (which was gained unfairly) but lost his GM title (which he gained fairly in 1992). It should have been the other way around!
6. Something along the line of 5 years, perhaps less for juniors.
allytton allytton 8/26/2020 07:58
The real problem with international chess is more the Russians than anything else. Arkady Dvorkovich is nothing but a member of the Russian Mafia. He is a former lackey of Putin. I'm not sure he can get a Visa to visit the United States. I believe they launder dirty money through FIDE. The Russian membership in FIDE is large. They should have a say in how FIDE operates. These people should not be involved in Russian politics. Which I believe is not now the case. Until FIDE becomes democratic, the members of the free world should withdraw from FIDE.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 8/25/2020 09:39
3: Yes, definitely. If someone cheats on 1 platform, why should it not apply to another? If someone cheats in the UK, does it mean no sanctions for a tournament in the US?
4. No, definitely not (because of false positives)
5. Only if there is evidence that the player cheater before, in the process of attaining the title/norms.

For online chess, however, the statistical methods discussed are not going to be effective in some cases, because players will receive assistance only for a short duration or specific point in a game. Therefore, for serious online events, I would do the following:

screen-sharing so arbiters can see the player's screen at all times
camera on the player, so the player can be observed at all times
camera in the room, so that anyone else who enters can be observed
audio device in the player's room so that audio communication can be heard

Unfortunately even this is not 100%, and for that reason, I would favor the final rounds of an online tournament being played OTB (once covid-19 is over).
TwoZero TwoZero 8/25/2020 09:21
1: No algorithm can do more than tell you where to look.

A person must be caught with a device or transmitter. Or their co-conspirator and method of passing siginals/moves needs to be caught as well. Definitive proof is a requirement for punitive sanctions to be widely accepted.

2: Cheating is Cheating, whether online or over the board. Sanctions should apply to all FIDE rated & sanctioned events. I recommend FIDE steer clear of Online events as much as possible, and confine itself to over the board play.

3: FIDE should only apply sanctions for FIDE rated & sanctioned events.

4: Yes. Absolutely. They should be made to feel ashamed of themselves.

5: People should only be punished from the date that FIDE's new anti-cheating policies are put into place.

6: When definitive proof is required, and given; proper punishments can then be meted out.

First offense: Stripped of all FIDE titles and rating points. Lifetime Ban from FIDE Rated and sanctioned events.

For all competitions, youth and adult.

If you have definitive proof, you only need one penalty. And only the most draconian of measures will have the proper deterrent effect.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/25/2020 08:57
Then I suggest FIDE to be split up in an over-the-board federation for serious chess players and an online federation for you kiddies... Have fun!
ninth-pawn ninth-pawn 8/25/2020 08:48
2 Frits Fritschy: "I think a much safer option for FIDE is to stay away from online chess as much as possible.". This is impossible as online chess is the future, fortunately. Sorry for your (old fashioed) opinion :-)
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/25/2020 05:07
Of course things are completely different in online chess.
I like the comparison with DNA tests. In most countries, DNA tests are never seen as enough evidence in itself, even with 100 percent matches.
Also in most countries, the accused party should have access to all evidence, including the methods with which evidence has been collected. With online tournaments organised by private parties, these methods are not made public. That makes defence troublesome. It would be interesting to see what happens if a person banned from a tournament would take this to a civil court. However, as long as these organisers make clear in advance that someone can be banned from an online tournament just on statistical evidence, and as long as the name of the banned person is not made public, it will be difficult for the complainant in civil court. You can still play in other tournaments and your name isn't tarnished.
It gets different when FIDE would step in. It may also be seen as a private organisation, but that won't always hold, as it has a more or less monopolist position. So, a civil court would demand more proof (a video recording where a second screen is visible, for instance, for which the player didn't give a reasonable explanation), and access of the player to everything pertaining to his case, including the methods of collecting statistical information.
I think a much safer option for FIDE is to stay away from online chess as much as possible.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 8/25/2020 04:28
Firstly, there is NO consensus that computer-assisted cheating is a plague of contemporary chess, at least in over-the-board chess. I've never seen any concrete, statistical evidence for this assumption. I would rather say there is evidence of the opposite.
Any case that comes to light is covered by one or more of the major chess sites. Two-three years back, a Dutch youngster was caught at the C-group (< elo 2000, first prize in the region of € 100) of a Dutch tournament. Even that incident was picked up by a major American site! So how many cheating incidents have been reported about the last ten years? Fifteen? Less than twenty, I suspect. Then people say, yeah, of course there are more cases, but those cheaters are so damned clever. So the absence of proof is used as proof!
It's like the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, before the second Gulf War. Everyone said they were there, that sounded pretty dangerous, so better be sure, they had to be there. They were nowhere to be found and the 'solution' then really brought mass destruction.
So, Mr President, first tell me how you came to that conclusion. Give us some figures. How many cases were successfully prosecuted, how many cases were brought to FIDE's attention by arbiters, how many cases were regarded as suspicious? And which percentage of tournaments and games pertain to these three questions?
Or is it just that some major chess sites generated a lot of rumour, maybe because that attracted a lot of attention and ever so many clicks to make the advertisers happy?
Keshava Keshava 8/25/2020 02:30
Few things are 100% like measuring height and weight. If we stick to that unreasonable standard then it may well be impossible to stop cheaters. However, close to 100% sure seems right ... and then if a cheater is determined don't disclose it immediately but wait for more than one instance to be even more certain. Once that threshold is met then give a two year ban if the person is a first offender + the involvement of law enforcement (we must treat this like the serious crime that it is). Then we have some time to decide what should be done to a person that cheats again after serving their two year ban.
thirteen thirteen 8/25/2020 12:25
A cheater should be impacted upon VERY considerably and this fact should be known to occur in the event of the proving. In fact every genuine player, at any level, truly feels don't they, like cheaters should be taken outside and slapped around somewhat and not a bit either? I hate reading about those 'caring' for such 'futures' of these deceivers, who never-the-less continue to expect one, when all these determined Bastards are concerned with is their selfish, arrogant [but false] superiority. Bring on the PROVING! [Cheaters reading this deserve MORE severities]
mc1483 mc1483 8/25/2020 11:57
Ilyumzhinov would never have done such a thing. Dvorkovich is a much better president, IMHO, no matter what will be decided on this matter.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 8/25/2020 09:35
1. No. In order to damage a reputation and destroy a career one has to be 100%. It is not even enough to be sure, but one should have proof in his/her hands.

2. A very smart cheater would not choose the very best moves in all cases, but moves which do not change the evaluation - for the worst - too much, because that's very difficult to detect and still beats honest players. In online chess, if the format survives the pandemic, there is no way to prevent/detect cheating, unless one introduces an absurd amount of anti-cheating measures into the players' home. Currently there were no big scandals yet on online tournaments, because the current greats seem to be honest people. But if a cheater uses clever tricks and becomes a successful tournament player, then nothing will stop him/her really to get to the very top of online chess. At a tournament site metal detectors can be used and the physical presence of the player helps a lot.

3. Since I do not think that cheating can be prevented/detected reliably in online chess, I think it does not make a difference.

4. One's reputation and career must be destroyed/damaged if and only if we factually know that they were cheating. Not later, but definitely not earlier.

5. A cheater does not deserve anything earned while cheating. If cheating of past events are proven factually, then anything "earned" at those events is invalid. But don't forget, if a player cheated now and he/she played a "perfect" game two years ago, that, by itself does not mean that he/she cheated two years ago as well.

6. I would not ban them completely. I would organize some unrated tournaments where cheaters would also be allowed to play, but they would have to pay a larger sum than others. If the arbiter thinks that the cheater is no longer a cheater, then he/she may initiate a process of re-evaluation.
tom_70 tom_70 8/25/2020 01:08
The solution is to have all participants sign binding contracts that they will not cheat and if caught cheating, agree to lengthy prison terms or a firing squad.
adbennet adbennet 8/25/2020 12:34
I tried to go to the linked FIDE page, but Firefox blocked me. So I will just comment briefly here. As mentioned, there are many moral and legal aspects to consider, and I appreciate that FIDE takes the integrity of competition seriously. Firstly, online and over-the-board standards of acceptable proof should be different, and therefore the sanctions from one should not automatically apply to the other. Secondly, ex post facto algorithms can never definitively prove cheating. Lotteries know this very well, for example in a pick-6 game the sequence 1-2-3-4-5-6 is just as valid as any other sequence. Therefore the only way to prevent cheating in a lottery is by direct observation during the drawing of the numbers, as well as inspection of the equipment before and after. This same principle should be applied to chess as well. Algorithms are all well and good as grounds for investigation, or as corroborating evidence, but if the competition is important then arbiters have to be able to observe the players. This is much simpler over-the-board, which is why the standards have to be separate. One can't simply let all the online cheaters go, but at the same time we have to admit that findings of guilt in online play have greater uncertainty. Which circles back to my first point.