Leading Chess Site Asked Top 100 Players Exposed As Cheaters To Confess (And They Did)

Leading Chess Site Asked Top 100 Players Exposed As Cheaters To Confess (And They Did)

A chess player stares at his chessboard while scratching his head.

Photo: Hudson (Getty Images)

Tuesday night, The Wall Street Journal published a high-level preview of a report produced by Chess.com, on Hans Niemann, the player suspected of cheating in the Sinquefield Cup against reigning five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen. (Perhaps the Internet has joked many times, with using anal beads.) Not only did the chess website defend its decision to ban Niemann from online play, but it also made the shocking claim that he concluded the young grandmaster cheated in more than 100 online games. Now the full report is out, and it’s a whopping 72 pages full of charts, annexes and exhibits which say more or less the same thing, but in more detail. The report also presents other instances of cheating in addition to those that make the headlines, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

I’m sure many will debate whether or not it’s fair to punish Niemann without proof that he’s ever cheated in a real environment, and why Chess.com saw fit to let Niemann go in the first place. continue playing on his website if, in fact, there are dozens of pages of information that suggest he is a perpetual and habitual cheater. The evidence is both overwhelming and has been for years, Still, Chess.com insists its system is world-class for finding cheaters, as many of those reviewed by the site end up confessing their misdeeds. Chess.com clearly discovered that Niemann was a cheat, of course, but didn’t think his story was a danger until it became a huge controversy. Niemann was temporarily banned from the website in 2020, but continued to play in live environments alongside online tournaments that awarded cash prizes soon after. Somehow it’s taken until now for events to really take a turn, as Niemann has been banned from the website again and also banned from playing in a Chess.com championship, with a prize pool of 1 million dollars, to which he had already been invited. .

The website’s report literally says, emphasizing our own, “…we had suspicions about Hans’ play against Magnus at the Sinquefield Cup, which were intensified by the public fallout from the eventmeaning that public perception played a part in the timing of it all. And the document’s introduction has Chess.com positioning itself as a steward of the game itself, with the responsibility of growing the game’s fanbase and keeping things fair. With $1 million at stake in the Chess.com World Championship, he argued, he simply couldn’t ignore the explosion that was underway.

To the site’s credit, the document’s introduction also admits that the organization probably could have made better decisions in the face of this situation; it is, after all, run by humans. But if you don’t know how or why events unfolded the way they did, I direct your attention to “Exhibit C” of the report. It contains a series of emails that Chess.com cites as an example of an interaction he had with another high-level player who apparently cheated, and I think that’s pretty illustrative of how the general functioning of the website.

“This person participated in a single event with 10 total matches in 2020. Their strength score alone was not necessarily sufficient to act, but indicated that there was potential for cheating,” the report states, with reference to the rating system used by the website. to catch fish business. “Even taking into account this player Elo rating of almost 2700, our team of experts was able to discern the truth that this player was indeed selectively cheating using a chess engine. When confronted with our allegations that they had sought outside help, they confessed, as shown in the redacted email exchange attached as Exhibit C to this report. This chain of emails reflects the deliberate nature of our process and how we engage with players like Hans who are suspected of cheating on the platform.

Read more: Chess champion breaks silence on ‘Anal Bead’ cheating controversy

While the player initially plays dumb, it eventually becomes apparent that he’s been caught red-handed. But this is where it gets really interesting, because rather than just banning the cheater outright, Chess.com is giving them a chance to come clean:

As a titled player, we would like to offer you a chance to re-establish yourself within the Chess.com community, and for this reason, we have made no public statements regarding the reasons for your account termination or our findings. If you choose to acknowledge any of the behaviors that you believe could have caused your account to be closed within the next 72 hours, we may attempt to work with you privately to open a new account, equipped with a title and of a Diamond Membership.

And here is the player, conforming (grammatical errors theirs):

Hello, I have already written to you in previous emails that I will cooperate fully. I only used the assist in a few matches, not because I wanted to win a prize, but because I was bored and just wanted to see how good your team was. Before that I was sure everyone was doing it, now I see your team is very serious and good. I want to apologize for my behavior, this will never happen again! I’m sorry for what I did and I’m ashamed of it. Thank you so much for giving me this chance and not making it public. Actually, I was surprised you caught me because I only cheated in 5 games. I cheated games. The others I haven’t which is why I think you are doing a fantastic job. Again, I apologize for my behavior.

Of course, this is all mainly there for Chess.com to brag about its cheat detection: Not only did it catch a lot of players before, but some of those players were top tier! You should trust his methodology when he says Niemann cheated profusely, that’s all his spiel. Even the cheater gives the detection team props to find out how good they are. But what I want you to take away from that is that there was a big element of trust placed with the cheater, provided they were willing to admit what they did. Consequences were met, but they still let the player continue using the site assuming that, as promised, they would never transgress again. It didn’t matter if they were in the top 100 players, they always had a chance to redeem themselves.

Top 100 chess player admits to cheating in online game on chess.com, revealed during his

Screenshot: Chess.com/Kotaku

Which now brings us to Niemann. The site says Exhibit C is a showcase of how it approaches situations like Niemann’s, and likely something very similar happened in 2020 when he was originally captured. Chess.com states in the report that, even more recently, “Chess.com’s general policy has always been to handle account suspensions/closures and invitations for titled players (such as Hans) in a non-public manner.” Clearly, he trusted him to come back to play and hoped he would keep it clean, as the initial ban had only lasted six months. Perhaps it’s not so much a coincidence, but rather that the people who consider themselves the stewards of chess have always wanted to create a healthy community where it is possible to rehabilitate. Niemann might have been a cheat, but they wanted to give him the opportunity to be a better player.

It may seem like pulling this now is an offense on the part of Chess.com, but remember, in light of the charges, Niemann assured the public that he had only cheated several times, and that these cases happened a long time ago, when he was younger. If Niemann was lying about this, and was doing so very recently, you could argue that he broke the pact here first and therefore cannot be trusted to further Chess.com’s larger goal of keep the game fair.

Of course, many observers will still have doubts, especially considering that the site made an offer to buy Magnus Carlsen’s company for millions of dollars. The report repeatedly tries to assure the reader that it in no way favors Carlsen, with one of the first major sections devoted to whether or not his decisions were influenced by the grandmaster. It doesn’t matter that we still don’t have evidence that Niemann ever cheated in an exaggerated setting, with theoretical anal beads or not.

Nonetheless, I encourage you to spend some time reading Chess.com’s massive 72-page report: Whatever you take away, it’s a fascinating and unprecedented look at one of competition’s biggest scandals. of the year.

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