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People who watch chess cheating: “We built a crime scene analysis for every player in the world” | chess


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DrDid a teenager cheat to beat the world chess champion? This question has caused turmoil in the chess world since September 4, when it was its best player, the 31-year-old. Magnus Carlsenabruptly withdrew from the $350,000 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis after a stunning loss to 19-year-old Hans Niemann.

Carlsen has not explicitly accused Niemann of cheating. But chess watchers collected Carlsen’s accusations from a mysterious meme he tweeted after the match saying he would be in “big trouble” if he spoke – fueling wild theories, including one that Neiman had cheated by receiving messages. Through vibrating anal beads.


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The uproar continued on Monday, when Carlsen faced Niemann in an online match and quit after just one move. On Wednesday, Carlsen gave short interview In which he refused to explain his actions, but said “people can draw their own conclusions and they certainly have.” He said he “liked Neiman’s play and think his mentor Maxim Dluji is doing a great job” – another obvious accusation, because Dluji is a chess master accused of deceiving himself.

Nieman Cheating denied Against Carlsen, he commented after the previous match that the world champion should be “embarrassed to lose to an idiot like me”. but he He confessed to cheating twice On the online platform Chess.com at the age of 12 and again at the age of 16, which he said prompted him to be kicked out of the site. The controversy deepened at the podium announce It banned Neiman again, citing “information inconsistent with his statements regarding the amount and seriousness of cheating on Chess.com”.

But the move contrasts with other top chess stewards, including the organizers of the Sinquefield Cup, who say they have analyzed the Niemann games and found no evidence of any wrongdoing. So, if neither Championship nor Magnus explicitly accuses Neiman of cheating, why do so many in the chess world think Neiman is a cheat?

Danny Rench, master of chess and chessChess watchers – from authorities to armchair theorists – are not analyzing Neiman’s performance correctly, the .com executive told The Guardian. “They are not anal beads. The problem is that our situation is very different in terms of how we look at it and measure things.”

A man prepares to move his piece in a game of chess.
Magnus Carlsen refused to reveal why he quit an online match with Hans Niemann after just one move. Photo: Sri Loganathan / ZUMA Press Wire / REX / Shutterstock

Wrench said his platform has developed a pioneering anti-cheat model that has been trained on a massive set of real-world gaming data from the games being played on its platform. “What we did was really different from everyone else — and because we were a private company that was making money and we were able to invest — we went out and built what I would call DNA crime scene analysis for every chess player in Chess.com that means that Chess.com has a detailed model Very well for what the legitimate behavior of millions of users across hundreds of millions of games looks like, which he can use to spot inconsistencies.

“Anomalies happen every now and then. But if you have a lot of smoke, a lot of evidence, a lot of reason to believe in someone’s DNA, and you walk into a room and just say, ‘I just raised that fridge with one arm,’ you’re like, bullshit. Fucking, you motherfucker.”

Rench declined to go into detail about Niemann. “I won’t go on record for anything I think about the overall scandal with Hans or Magnus, but you can suggest whatever you want based on what I say,” Rench said. in Forum Posts This week, Eric Alibest, CEO of Chess.com, hinted that his company may release more information soon.

This can help answer one of the central questions in this debate: What is the best way to detect cheating in chess?

It is important that you understand how computers affect the game. The best human chess players are a mixture of artist, mathematician and scientist: they not only have the creativity and mental endurance to solve very complex problems, but also spend thousands of hours researching previous chess games and theorizing new playing lines. The problem is that modern chess software, called chess engines, have become so powerful and widely available that even the best players in the world stand no chance against software that anyone can now download for free. For the chess industry, which is enjoying a huge interest due to the pandemic in everything from online amateur games to live broadcasts to top masters, spotting cheats has become an existential challenge.

Tania Karaali is the main referee, or chess referee, for the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, the online tournament that saw Carlsen’s dramatic resignation this week. She said the main way she protects the trophy from cheating is through monitoring. This includes asking multiple players to set up multiple cameras that prove they are alone without other electronic devices. “At random moments, we surprise the players and ask them to move with the side camera to show the whole room,” she said. Referees also ask players to share their screens so they can see the software they’re using, and point a side camera to their ears to check for any bugs.

But the most important validator that Karali uses is the screening program used by Fide, the international chess governing body. Ken Reagan, a chess professor and computer scientist, said he began developing the model in 2006 after he was accused of cheating by Bulgarian Veselin Topalov against Russian Vladimir Kramnik in a world championship match. The Regan model analyzes the possible moves in a chess position and depicts the probability of a player of a given skill level making a move consistent with the best chess engines. “Then, through what is really a human judgment process, one arrives at the final probabilities and decides whether they are extreme enough to reject the null hypothesis” — that is, the fair play assumption.

Because the software analyzes the moves of the game itself, it works on board games as well as online, where the cheat rate is “100 to 200 times higher,” Reagan said. Sinquefield Cup officials asked Reagan to run the program in the Carlsen-Neman match and the results were clear: “I found nothing,” he said. The Reagan model showed that Niemann’s performance “was one standard deviation” on some measures, “but by definition, one standard deviation occurs as standard.”

But this has led to an apparent disagreement between believers in the Reagan model and the Chess.com model, which cannot seem to be resolved without more evidence being released. “It’s a Chess.com move,” Reagan said. He suggested the platform needed to “disclose or explain their reasons for taking further action against Neiman.”

Close-up of a white robotic hand moving a chess piece on a dark brown wooden board.
Matthew Sadler, a great English expert, says that computers have the ability to perceive the entirety of the game in a way that is superior to humans. Photography: Andrei Popov / Alami

This is just the latest episode in a decades-long drama about the role of machines in one of the world’s oldest board games. Matthew Sadler, an English professor who was ranked 14th in the world in the “pre-computer” era, quit professional play in 1999 when he feared the rise of artificial intelligence would “kill the game.” He is now a researcher who has authored several books on chess engines. While he can sometimes outperform PCs in a few moves, he says, there’s no way to match the consistency of the top drives. “In a game of 60 moves, the accuracy of the motors is at a level that is completely impossible for humans to achieve.”

Sadler said that computers have the ability to perceive the entirety of a game in a way that greatly outperforms humans. “Engines are incredibly good at visualizing the entire board and finding maneuvers that use, say, three corners of the board to respawn a piece and achieve a winning angle of attack. When you see people on a weaker level doing that, well, they either have a moment of inspiration or they might There’s going to be something a little funny going on.”

Contrary to Sadler’s fears, the technology didn’t kill the game but rather made it more popular. Chess engines have become invaluable learning tools for players: they delve into the game’s databases and run scenarios through the engines, trying to remember the most important differences. Since even the best brains can’t memorize everything, the game has evolved into trying to throw your opponents out of balance through unexpected gameplay. And for spectators, the engines provide an exciting way to see who is winning matches in real time.

Can a human player discover computer-aided gameplay without sophisticated technological tools? Sadler says the ability to smell cheating comes with experience. “If the opponent had a very complicated decision and it only took a minute over it, while you’d expect, well, any normal big player would take 15 or 20, that’s a little bit.” Other red flags: If your opponent appears “abnormally calm when the situation is very tense,” or “if someone is walking suspicious long distances away from the board.” But these anecdotes aren’t foolproof: “I once had a case like this, and it was just that the poor guy had a long nosebleed, and he had to run to the toilet all the time.”

As for Carlsen’s accusation? Sadler says his experience leaves him in disbelief. While Carlsen is clearly still the best player in the world, “my position is still that cheating at the top level doesn’t really happen,” he said. “There is so much to lose. And chess is one of those games that I have dedicated our lives to and it is a bit hard to imagine that the top players would throw all this away.”