Many years ago, provocative news spread through the world of chess: Bobby Fischer plays online! The British Grandmaster Nigel Short, who had even played Garry Kasparov in the PCA- World Championship, caused this rumor to proliferate throughout the news. Nigel Short competed against someone online, who called himself ‘Bobby Fischer’ and played odd opening moves, but gradually turned out to be a very strong chess player. Having lost eight matches in a row, Short came to the conclusion that his opponent could be no other than Bobby Fischer himself! This triggered a massive demand of competing against this ‘Fischer’. None of them stood a chance and suffered disastrous defeats. Unfortunately, this supposedly strong chess player turned out to be an imposter, who had used chess software to gain an advantage using Bobby Fischer’s name, while winning game after game.
Fact is, wherever a ranking list can be headed or prizes and even money can be won – cheaters are around. Due to enormous calculating power of software, chess players are affected to a much higher extent than supporters of the so-called Go- Play. Here, the abuse of software can only lift a cheater from ‘knows the rules’ to a ‘slightly better than beginner’ status. Detecting imposters on chess servers is possible, though expensive, and is already performed by several server operators. This can be done in many different ways: From checking changes in tasks of the users, to process bars and examining headlines of all occupied websites. Cheating can be assumed, when losing focus on the dialog window occurs repeatedly. In case of Free Internet Chess Servers, suspicious matches can be reported by the community and will then be examined for irregularities by a special task force.
However, cheaters have quickly enhanced their abilities and make it increasingly difficult to track down fraud. The use of cross- linked computers can hardly be proven and experienced computer programmers can easily invent new tools, which change headlines by using special program- interfaces and by acting in different dialog windows. With a lot of effort, cheaters can be tracked down by the statistical analysis of their error frequency in their style of playing. This is a reasonable tactic, because a significant and typical error frequency exists for every chess player – varying by their abilities.
The first fraud case was revealed at the German Youth Online Championship in 2003, when a U25 player cheated his way up to finals! An analysis could prove, that the order of moves he had made was identical to the program Fritz 8. The player admitted to cheating and was consequently disqualified from the tournament.
Written by Frank, translated by Birthe