Chess fans think big scandal is causing more online cheating

Magnus Carlsen plays chess.

Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos (Getty Images)

Remember the anal beads deception controversy? Although I would like to forget it, it turns out that a lot of people still think about it. Some chess players have reported an increase in computer-assisted cheating in matches since the Hans Niemann story broke. One gamer has dubbed the recent increase in cheaters as the “Hans Effect.”

Two weeks ago there was a high profile controversy that shook the chess world. World Champion Magnus Carlsen lost to Grandmaster Hans Niemann and Carlsen eventually withdrew from the tournament. His sudden exit and the level difference was so drastic that onlookers began accusing Niemann of cheating. Chess streamer Hikaru “GMHikaru” Nakamura pointed out that Niemann previously admitted to cheating on as a youngster, hence the current controversy.

Since the contestants were playing live, it is difficult to pinpoint a potential cheating method (A wacky theory involves anal beads). But you don’t need any…er…special equipment to cheat online chess, and players who participate in online matchmaking are increasingly convinced that more and more people are cheating.

If you are interested in “how to cheat in chess” on google trends, you’ll see a significant increase in interest in the weeks following the infamous game of chess, with searches doubling during the month compared to the rest of the year. Clearly, whatever really happens during the matches is on everyone’s mind.

A graph showing an upward trend in searches.

Screenshot: Google/Kotaku

This is somewhat consequential for users because they can lose more points for losing matches against a lower-ranked player (in one case, points refunded to a player who lost in a suspicious match). Kotaku reached out to to ask if there is a noticeable increase in cheating and what steps their monitors are taking to ensure fair gaming.

Dr Kenneth Regan

How do chess players find out that someone is cheating? Several players posted on Reddit saying their opponent suddenly drastically improved in the middle of a game.

Said Quay_Z, “I’ve had so many online blitz games lately where the opponent is obviously cheating, since Hans’ stuff started to pick up steam. I had like 3 people banned in the last 2 days. Ridiculous.”

I_chosen_a_name discussed players’ poor performance and then coming back for a perfect win, adding, “And then 3 days later you get this email from and you get your points back.”

“What hurts the most”, says soghff“is when you have a better position or your opponent makes a mistake on a pawn or piece, then goes on to take 2-4 minutes of “thinking”, then suddenly starts playing perfect motor moves after 5 seconds of thinking about every move. Like are you really so unruly and helpless?

Another felt it was suspicious that someone was taking the same period of time on each move. But the vast majority of victims have checked their opponent’s play history. Several perfect matches in a row was enough to raise red flags for a player. Another noticed that his opponent only lost against new accounts.

On the other hand, some players say they have been wrongly accused of cheating. A Reddit user was accused of cheating because their opponent had blundered a first shot. Another mentioned that people had accused in other games once they have reached a “flow state”.

Several cheaters were just annoyed that newcomers were so bad at cheating. “Everyone cheats online,” said a player. “The only difference is that some are smart cheaters and some are stupid cheaters.”

Are they imagining it or is it actually happening? While not every instance is a true cheat, there is plenty of evidence that hijackings are taking place. reported this morning on the increase in apparent cheating, speaking to Grand Master RB Ramesh. “It’s widely believed that many engage in cheating online,” he told the outlet, “especially at the youth level, where the stakes aren’t high.” He goes on to say that during the Covid lockdowns online gambling has become more mainstream, with big cash prizes, adding: “As a result what is happening, even some professional gamers, not many, some professional gamers s indulge in it. This therefore becomes a major issue. » himself published an article about cheating yesterday, beginning with the statement: “Cheating is the dirty not-so-secret of chess.” They go on to explain that they close 800 extraordinary accounts a day due to cheating, and that 6% of support tickets are related to the topic.

We contacted a world-renowned expert on cheating in chess, Dr. Kenneth Regan of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, to ask if he had observed a recent increase in accusations of cheating. . “I hadn’t heard of a spike in general player ranks,” he said. Kotaku, “but that doesn’t surprise me.” Seeming to cast doubt on the veracity of such a spike, he adds: “One thing that has been magnified is all the pseudoscientific ways of detecting cheating.”

In the live game, cheating is still exceptionally marginal, explains the professor. “The previous tournament player case count rate is variously quoted between 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 5,000 and that’s how I feel.” But he adds that it’s considerably higher online. “The prior rate is 100x – 200x higher, one per cent to two per cent, lower in heavily controlled high profile events but higher in school events – for the latter, note the figure of Sarah Longson two years ago.”

Wonderfully, Dr. Regan also linked us to a TEDx talk he gave in 2014, in which he “put the ways people had cheated up to that date at in-person chess to a rhyme by Dr. Seuss”. He then adds, “and actually forgot to deliver the verse ‘Some had computers in their shoes / or hid them, hid them, in the toilets’.”

If nothing else, the wider chess scandal is definitely shining a light on more high-level cheaters, with Coach of the Grand Master of Niemann now also accused of admitting that he had previously used AI to help him choose moves. And if the pros probably dothere’s a good chance that average people are tempted to cheattoo.

Additional reporting by John Walker.