Professor builds better program to detect cheating in chess

by ChessBase
3/21/2012 – Whatever some people may say, the subject is not going away anytime soon. Even the New York Times has picked it up, telling about the work of Kenneth Regan, a computer scientist who is also an International Master. He has been researching the problem for five years and was an expert witness in the French cheating scandal. Tell us what you think of his anti-cheating work.

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By Dylan Loeb McClain

When it comes to cheating, chess might seem all but invulnerable. After all, the board and its pieces are out in the open for all to see. But an eruption of recent scandals has made it clear that cheating – fueled by powerful computer programs that play better than people do, as well as sophisticated communication technologies – is becoming a big problem for world championship chess.

Last year the French Chess Federation accused three players of colluding at the Chess Olympiad in Russia in 2010 by using coded text messages and a signaling system. The federation banned the players for five years, though the ruling is under appeal.

Of course, elite players are elite precisely because they win lots of games. When they come under suspicion, how can officials determine whether they are cheating? That is where Kenneth W. Regan comes in. An associate professor of computer science at the University at Buffalo who is also an international master at chess, Dr. Regan has been researching the problem for five years and was an expert witness in the French case – though his principal focus is the holy-grail math problem P versus NP. (P versus NP is about whether problems that have solutions that can be verified by a computer can also be solved quickly by a computer.)

Dr. Regan, 52, became interested in the chess issue during the 2006 world championship match between Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria.

Ken Regan periodically communicates with us, commenting on the news stories on our web site and telling us about the work he is engaged in. His most recent message was in connection with the article A history of cheating in chess (4), on which he wrote:

Dear Frederic,

You are quite right that the "one-bit" form of cheating is the major prospective problem. It even might be conveyed unwittingly by "vibes" from a live audience – though I must report that in my game with Anatoly Lein from the 1978 US Championship, an obvious Qxg5 hxg5 Rh8# combo went unnoticed (by Lein – I saw it as soon as I played ...Ng5??) for 25 minutes despite much fidget and my awareness of people running between the analysis room and the back of the hall to see if he'd played it. Well that was a different matter being a blunder – and I'd like to see live chess watching preserved.

[Event "USA-ch"] [Site "Pasadena"] [Date "1978.??.??"] [Round "9"] [White "Lein, Anatoly"] [Black "Regan, Kenneth"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E14"] [WhiteElo "2505"] [BlackElo "2430"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "1978.06.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "USA"] [EventCategory "10"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 b6 3. d4 Bb7 4. e3 Nf6 5. Bd3 d5 6. O-O Bd6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. b3 Nbd7 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Bb2 a6 11. a3 c5 12. Ne2 c4 13. bxc4 dxc4 14. Bxc4 Bxf3 15. gxf3 Bxh2+ 16. Kg2 Bb8 17. Rh1 b5 18. Bb3 Re8 19. Rh3 Nf8 20. Qd3 Ne6 21. Rah1 h6 22. Qf5 Ng5 {[#]} 23. Rxh6 ({I noticed the following combo as soon as I played ...Ng5??} 23. Qxg5 hxg5 24. Rh8#) 23... gxh6 24. Rxh6 Nfh7 25. Rxh7 Nxh7 26. Bxf7+ Kf8 27. Bxe8+ Kxe8 28. Qe4+ 1-0

Of course one-move helps won't show up in (my) statistical analyses. Nevertheless, there have been regretfully numerous cases where cheating on essentially every move of every game turns out to be the issue, and this does show up.

For the record, Rybka 3 to fixed reported depth 13 sees 20.g4! in Kasparov-Anand from several moves away, per my Arena-scripted Single-PV analysis from June 2009 which is pasted after my name. So does the 50-PV analysis used for my full-bore statistical modeling. This analysis underlies my published scientific papers last year with Guy Haworth and Bartlomiej Macieja.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Kenneth W. Regan

Articles on cheating over the years

A history of cheating in chess (4)
28.02.2012 – Las Palmas 1996: Garry Kasparov is agonizing over his 20th move against Vishy Anand. He calculates and calculates but cannot make a very tempting pawn push work. Immediately after the game he discovers, from his helpers, that it would have won the ultimately drawn position. The point that became clear to him: a single bit of information, given at the top level in chess, can decide a game.
A history of cheating in chess (3)
18.12.2011 – In January 1999 the main topic of conversation amongst top players like Kasparov, Anand and others: who was the mysterious German chess amateur, rated below 2000, who had won a strong Open ahead of GMs and IMs, with wonderfully courageous attacking chess and a 2630 performance? How had he done it? Turns out it was with unconventional methods, as subsequent investigation uncovered.
Early chess cheating story by Martin Gardner
18.10.2011 – American writer Martin Gardner anticipated current cheating woes in chess with his short story Nora Says 'Check'. In it a world champion called Sierpinsky alleviates his chess boredom by guiding a not very bright waitress named Nora to chess fame with the help of a confederate and some electrical trickery. You should not miss this visionary jewel of a tale, written in 1948!
A history of cheating in chess (2)
04.10.2011 – Coaching players during the game is probably the most widespread form of cheating (rivaled only perhaps by bribery and the throwing of games). Although this practice began long before the advent of chess playing machines, computers have added a new and dramatic dimension to this method of cheating in chess. You will never guess: who were the pioneers of cheating with computers?
A history of cheating in chess (1)
29.09.2011 – Hardly a month goes by without some report of cheating in international chess tournaments. The problem has become acute, but it is not new. In 2001 Frederic Friedel contributed a paper to the book "Advances in Computer Chess 9". It traces the many forms of illicit manipulations in chess and, a decade later, appears disconcertingly topical and up-to-date. We reproduce the paper in five parts.
Feller's interview, and a solution to the cheating scandal
23.08.2011 – The French Championship is in its eighth round, with four GMs in the joint lead. The event is marred by continued suspicion and anti-cheating measures, brought on by accusations that one of the participants had in the past engaged in organised cheating. Sébastien Feller has given an interview on the subject, and we have a proposal on how to clear up the matter quickly.
Anti-cheating: the fifteen minute debate continues
29.06.2011 – Our recent reply to stern criticism leveled against us in the Dutch magazine New in Chess resulted, unsurprisingly, in a large number of letters from our readers, many quite effusive. But we decided not to publish any until at least one turned up supporting the views of our NiC critic. Six weeks went by until it at last came, authored by the critic himself. Now we can publish your letters.
Brilliance, drama and scandal at the German Championship
04.06.2011 – GM Igor Kenkin tied for first with GM Jan Gustafsson, winning the championship on the tiebreak score. In the women's section Sarah Hoolt took sole first with 7.5/9 points. In round six the defending champion, 19-year-old IM Niclas Huschenbeth played a delightful game against Gustafsson, and in the final round FM Christoph Natsidis was disqualified for cheating. Big illustrated report.
Anti-cheating: the fifteen minute broadcast delay
13.05.2011 – For five years we have been trying to get FIDE to implement a 15-minute delay in the Internet broadcast of important games – to make organised cheating harder. A chess journalist has now pointed out a fatal flaw in the plan: it would force chess journalists to walk many yards to find out the current status of the games. Damn – and we thought it was such a good idea! What is your opinion?
Cheating scandal: Opinions, concerns and revelations
06.04.2011 – In a series of interviews, Robert Fontaine from Europe Echecs, culled the opinions of the players, to get a clearer idea on how players both French and foreign viewed the cheating scandal. A lengthy interview with Jean-Claude Moingt, the president of the French federation, revealed not only the next steps to be taken, but also that confessions were not only made to the players. An eye-opener.
Cheating in chess: the problem won't go away
30.03.2011 – As you know the recent suspicion of organized cheating during a Chess Olympiad has led to three French players being suspended. One is currently playing in the European Individual Championship, where his colleagues have published an open letter demanding additional security. For years we have been proposing a remedy for this very serious problem. It needs to be implemented now.
French Chess Federation suspends players accused of cheating
21.03.2011 – On Saturday the Disciplinary Committee of the French Chess Federation suspended GMs Sebastien Feller, Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo, finding them “guilty of a violation of sporting ethics” for allegedly cheating during the Chess Olympiad 2010 in Khanty-Mansiysk. The three received suspensions, after evidence was presented, including a detailed description of how it was done.
FFE Cheating: Judge rules incriminating SMS inadmissible
11.03.2011 – After unearthing a series of SMS messages between players accused of cheating at the Olympiad using a phone lent by the French Chess Federation vice president, the FFE sought to have those messages transcribed and included as evidence in the upcoming Disciplinary Committee. A judge ruled that secrecy could only be waived if the FFE sued in court, as the FFE explains in a public statement.
FFE: cheating not the first time, Biel statement
01.02.2011 – The French Chess Federation disclosed they had evidence that the "organized cheating" accusation, which has rocked the chess world recently, is in fact not the first time. They have now mandated the Federal Bureau to take the case to trial in a court of law. Meanwhile the Organisers in Biel have issued a statement on the same players earlier last year in their Master Group. Open letters.
French GMs: ''We express our full support of the FFE
27.01.2011 – Four grandmasters Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Vladislav Tkachiev and Romain Edouard have expressed their dismay at the charges brought against three of their colleagues who are accused of cheating. "If the allegations are found to be true, we will condemn them firmly," they write, in this public statement in Europe Echecs.
Battesti: 'It's insulting to our president and his federation'
24.01.2011 – Instead of adopting an ostrich position the President of the French Chess Federation and his VP have initiated an investigation of French Olympiad members suspected of cheating. They have appointed Leo Battesti, a Sorbonne-educated lawyer, as the spokesperson for the Federation. Battesti has reacted to the criticism of one of the accused player with an interview in Europe Echecs.
Feller replies: 'I completely deny the cheating accusations'
24.01.2011 – Two days ago the French Chess Federation announced the investigation of three French players on suspicion of "organized cheating" at the Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansyik. Now one of the three, 19-year-old French GM Sebastien Feller, has replied emphatically, implying that the entire action was a result of his support of the current FIDE president (the FFE supported his rival Karpov). Open letter.
Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (56)
23.01.2011 – Cunning, gamesmanship, skulduggery, bluff, trickery, foxiness, dishonesty and cheating are just some of the terms that may be applied to a set of episodes related by the Editor of Chess Notes. They include play-acting, intentional time-trouble and illegal moves. Never let it be suggested that chessplayers are devoid of ingenuity in trying to outwit their opponents by fair means or foul.
FFE accuses its own players of cheating
22.01.2011 – Shocking news: the French Chess Federation (FFE) has announced that it has initiated disciplinary action against three players – one of them one of France's most promising talents – on suspicion of "organized cheating, serious breach of sport ethics, undermining the image of the national Olympic team in Khanty-Mansyik”. We are following the investigation. Press release.
Anand: Russia is still one of the strongest chess nations in the world
21.11.2009 – "For the greatest part of my life I have been fighting the three K’s – Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik," says Vishy Anand on Moscow radio. "I have played no fewer than a hundred games with each of them." The World Champion talks about the Russian school, chess as an Olympic sport, computer cheating and the world championship format. Interview with WGM Elmira Mirzoeva.
Wesley So wins Dubai Open, player disqualified for cheating
17.04.2008 – 14-year-old Wesley, the world's youngest grandmaster, has won this year's Dubai Open. Wesley scored 7/9 with a 2708 performance. The event was marred by a case of cheating: an untitled Iranian player was caught receiving moves by SMS on his cellphone. His brilliancies against grandmasters were annulled and the delinquent disqualified. Shocking.
Washington Post: Winning by Rook or by Crook
18.11.2007 – It's been a banner year for cheating scandals in sports. But a couch potato's juices really start to flow when the epidemic spreads to chess. Paul Hoffman was particularly horrified that an eight-year-old participant at a children's championship was accused of receiving illicit help. The journalist, author and chess aficionado vents his frustration in today's Washington Post op ed piece.
FIDE Ethics Commission rules on Short and Topalov/Danailov
31.08.2007 – After intense deliberation over the complaints brought against Nigel Short, who had criticised top FIDE officers, and Veselin Topalov and Silvio Danailov for accusing Vladimir Kramnik of cheating during the 2006 World Championship, the Ethics Commission has issued severe reprimands against the latter, while Nigel was warned for using the word "dunderhead". Full judgements.
FIDE to hold public hearing on Topalov/Danailov
17.07.2007 – FIDE Ethics Commission is to hold a hearing (on July 28 in Athens) on the activities of Veselin Topalov and his manager Silvio Danailov during and after the 2006 World Championship match in Elista, in particular the accusations that his opponent may have been cheating and that the Topalov team was under pressure by the organisers and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Statement and summary.
Kramnik on cheating and what to do about it
07.06.2007 – "Did you cheat in Elista?" That is the first question we put to Vladimir Kramnik on this touchy subject. "No, I never cheated in my life," he replied, "not in winning or losing, buying or selling games, and of course no cheating during a game." In part three of our interview the world champion speaks about accusations raised against him in Elista. Warning: this segment contains harsh language.
FIDE to ACP on cheating: problem recognized
11.03.2007 – "During the last Presidential Board in Antalya FIDE officers were tasked with identifying measures and reviewing ideas for the improvements sought to reduce opportunities to cheat," FIDE says in reaction to the ACP letter we published a few days ago. Further suggestions are welcome.
ACP to FIDE: do something about cheating in chess!
08.03.2007 – The subject simply won't go away. Realizing the gravity of the situation the Association of Chess Professionals has demanded that FIDE take immediate action to find a solution to the problem of cheating in general. Meanwhile new accusations have been raised against an Indian IM. Press release.
Kommersant: new cheating accusations against Topalov
11.02.2007 – It just won't go away. On Friday the Russian newspaper Kommersant published a lead story on what it claims is new evidence for assistance given to the world's top-rated player Veselin Topalov during his games. A three-minute video by a Dutch fan is presented as evidence. The ACP and FIDE have vowed to investigate. Report and video footage.
Andrew Martin – The Inside Guide to Chess Cheating
07.02.2007 – It seems that the modern tournament player cannot get by without having at least a working knowledge of the ways one can extract the maximum out of a chess game. In this week's Radio ChessBase Show on Andrew Martin covers the basics of cheating. Miss it at your own cost.
Nigel Short pushes for cheating enquiry
01.02.2007 – The international press has picked up the story on cheating allegations that have been leveled at Veselin Topalov and Silvio Danailov during the Wijk aan Zee tournament. There have been claims that signaling was also used during the 2005 World Championship in San Luis, Argentinia. Nigel Short, who was in San Luis, observed something sinister in San Luis. Press reports.
Toilet War – the Battle of Elista
28.01.2007 – On Friday a new book was released in Bulgaria called "Toilet War – A chess drama in 13 acts." It is by Zhivko Ginchec, the press officer of the Bulgarian team in Elista, and describes the "biotechnological attacks" Veselin Topalov was subjected to by the Kramnik side. In the meantime Silvio Danailov has reacted to the allegations of cheating raised by a German newspaper. Report from the combat zone.
Minutes of the Chess Cheating conference in New York
11.01.2007 – Early in December there was a “Chess Cheating Town Meeting” at the historic Marshall Chess Club in New York, bringing together some of America’s leading chess authorities in a panel discussion about ways to head off computer assisted cheating in organized chess competitions. Results and minutes.
ACP World Cup: Kirsan speaks his mind
05.01.2007 – The opening of the First ACP World Rapid Chess Cup in Odessa, Ukarine, was a festive affair, highlighted by a frank press conference in which FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov answered questions of journalists. These were mainly about computer cables, cheating and a Kramnik-Topalov rematch. Read all about it in Misha Savinov's report.
Chess in the news
04.01.2007 – Is chess a sport, should it be included in the 2012 London Olympics? Is there a basis for thinking that cheating with computers is going on at the very highest level? What is the potential of the strongest Indian players according to Commonwealth champion Nigel Short? And why hasn't Tania Sachdev's face launched a thousand products yet? We've been reading the papers.
India: player gets ten year ban for cheating
28.12.2006 – Umakant Sharma is an Indian chess player who had performed at a steady 1900 level for many years. Then suddenly his rating climbed to 2484, after a series of spectacular tournament successes. A spot search revealed: he was using a bluetooth device stitched into his cap to receive external computer assistance. Now all players are being scanned for hidden devices.
Chess Cheating conference in New York
02.12.2006 – 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.
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.
Louis the Fat clobbered in Hastings
29.12.2002 – The Normans introduced chess to Hastings – William the Conqueror once broke a chess board over the head of his nephew, Louis the Fat, having accused him of cheating. Fortunately this is no longer allowed at Hastings, where the 78th International Chess Congress is currently taking place (from Dec. 28 to Jan 5).
Top seed Mamedyarov withdraws from Aeroflot Open
23.02.2009 – Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is the top seed in the 2009 edition of the Aeroflot Open in Moscow (February 17–26). After five rounds he was leading, together with Alexander Moiseenko and Igor Kurnosov. In round six he was crushed by Kurnosov in 21 moves. Mamedyarov filed an official complaint, essentially accusing his opponent of cheating, and withdrew from the event. Breaking news.

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