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Cheating in Chess: 25 Things You Should Know (Collusion, Online Chess,…)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Many people who don’t play chess or else only play it casually think to cheat in chess is inconceivable. Unfortunately, there are many ways to cheat at chess, but thankfully also many ways to detect cheating to ensure that the game remains ethical.

Cheating in chess can be accomplished using a chess engine or a chess book, usually in the bathroom. Bathrooms are typically monitored at tournaments. Cheating at chess online is far easier, but algorithms can pick up if you advance too quickly. In addition, penalties for cheating can be severe.

Read on if you want to know more about the several different ways players can cheat at chess and how they can get caught.

These are 25 things you need to know about cheating in chess: 

1. There Are Several Ways To Cheat In Chess

Whether it be collusion, illegal moves, or computer cheats, cheating in chess is undoubtedly possible. 

2. Chess Engines Can Be Used To Cheat

Computer programs known as chess analysis engines are one of the most common ways to cheat. Chess engines have been around for decades, with former world champion Garry Kasparov having been beaten by the IBM “Deep Blue” computer several times in the late 1990s.

Deep Blue beating Garry Kasparov was the first time a computer program had won against a world champion.

3. Chess Cheats Originated Centuries Ago

In the 18th and 19th centuries, chess-playing machines were already devised. However, these chess machines were complete nonsense and did not even work a tiny fraction as well as the chess engines work these days. 

4. Chess Books Can Be Used To Cheat 

A chess book can be used to help a player remember opening knowledge.

5. Bathroom Breaks Are Often Used to Cheat

One of the most prevalent ways cheating takes place is for players to go to the bathroom to check on the chess engine on their devices. Players with high Elo rankings can usually memorize the moves that came before to input them into the AI.

6. Measures Are Taken To Mitigate Bathroom Cheating

Nowadays, measures are taken at most competitions to decrease opportunities for cheating in bathrooms. Some tournaments temporarily confiscate players’ phones before entering the location where the tournament is held.

Of course, this can be circumvented with a second phone or using older technology like a pocket chess set or a book. Thus, some tournaments have hired workers to inspect the bathrooms and the players before the players enter the bathroom.

7. Other Ways To Cheat Include Accomplices

Having an accomplice is another way to cheat at chess. An accomplice might send signals to a vibrator, talk into an earpiece or make signals from the audience. These signals would probably also be based on direction from a chess engine.

8. Some Use Clocks To Cheat

The clock timer used in chess can be manipulated to give a player extra time or to give an opponent less time.

9. Some Chess Players Collude To Fix Matches

Some players collude with each other to split the prize money once one player wins. Some players also agree to draw to preserve energy for a larger prize. 

Grandmaster Bobby Fischer accused the top Soviet players in 1962 of conspiring to draw so they could focus their energies on him. He ended up taking fourth place, and his claims were considered so significant that the tournament format consequently changed.

10. It Is Possible For Chess Players To Swap IDs

Higher-ranked players can swap IDs with lower-ranked players to beat low-ranked players easily and earn some money. However, this is a risky endeavor as anyone who knows the two players can out them for cheating. 

11. Chess Softwares Use Algorithms To Detect Cheating

Large-scale chess websites allow online play use algorithms to single out unusually strong play or rapid acceleration in rankings. They then delete the accounts of the players suspected of cheating.

12. Proving Cheating In Chess Is Problematic

Computer analysis can be used to look for cheating, but this is often not conclusive. It would be best if you generally had a confession or you had to catch the player red-handed.

13. Reading Chess Opponent’s Prep Can Also Be Cheating

Another possibility of cheating can be leaking your opponent’s preparation and consuming this before the match to your advantage. Whether it is cheating depends on the player’s role in obtaining such information. 

If it is rumored information, the player may not even know if it is accurate, and whether this is cheating is questionable. However, if the player actively seeks this information, it would be considered cheating. 

14. Illegal Moves In Chess Could Also Be Cheating

Moves that contravene the rules of chess can be considered cheating. For instance, pawns cannot move backward, and rooks cannot move diagonally or jump. 

15. Ignoring The Chess Touch Move Rule Constitutes Cheating

The touch-move rule in chess stipulates that a player who touches a specific piece must move that piece. Ignoring this would constitute cheating. In 1967, Grandmaster Milan Matulovic played a terrible move, took it back, and played another move that won him a draw. 

In 2003, Grandmaster Zurab Azmaiparashvili touched one piece and played another while his opponent looked on wordlessly. It’s best not to violate this rule, lest you find yourself in hot water. Azmaiparashvili and Matulovic were lucky that the arbiter didn’t rule against them.

16. Software Can Detect Cheating In Online Chess

Most online chess websites have software that can detect if a player switches between programs. However, if the player uses a different device from what they use for chess online, it’s much harder to catch them. 

17. It’s Easier To Cheat At Online Chess

Because of using a different device to cheat without detection, it is easier to cheat at online chess. Therefore, online chess rankings should be taken less seriously, and online chess should not necessarily offer prize money.

18. It’s Possible To Cheat At Chess Using Morse Code

Arcangelo Ricciardi was accused of using Morse code and a pendant with a hidden camera to cheat at the International Chess Festival of Imperia in 2015. Ricciardi denied cheating. This is possible and should be watched out for. 

19. It’s Possible To Cheat Using A Bluetooth Device

In New Delhi, after playing so well that it raised suspicions, a man’s woolen hat was inspected, and a Bluetooth device was found in the hat.

20. Even The Top Grandmasters Can Be Caught Cheating

The cheating scandal that erupted in 2022 surrounded Magnus Carlsen accusing Hans Niemann of cheating. 

21. FIDE Has Set Up Anti-Cheating Guidelines

FIDE, the International Chess Federation, published anti-cheating guidelines with updates happening from time to time. 

22. Sandbagging Is Considered Cheating In Chess

Sandbagging is a highly irritating form of cheating in chess. Sandbagging occurs when a player intentionally lowers their rating through losing to have a better chance at beating lower-ranked players in tournaments where money is involved.

23. Measures Exist To Prevent Cheating

Live transmission of games should be eschewed in favor of a few moves delay so that cheaters cannot easily be assisted. Also, there should be electronic jamming to prevent wireless communications in the playing area. And all types of electronic devices should not be allowed in the playing area.

If you want to prevent cheating, the playing area should be built so the players cannot see the spectators. Furthermore, no interaction should be allowed between the players and anyone besides the tournament officials.

24. Cheating In Chess Can Result In Harsh Punishments

The punishment can be a suspension of up to 3 years for a first offense. Still, some even call for a lifetime ban with the cheater’s FIDE title and rating being rescinded. A 15-year suspension from FIDE is possible for a second offense.

25. Cheating In Chess Isn’t Ubiquitous

Cheating in chess is a grave action, and although plenty of people do it, don’t think that everyone in chess cheats. On the contrary, it is an honorable sport, and many people take pride in playing without the help of a chess engine.

In Closing

It would be best if you didn’t get discouraged about cheating in chess. But unfortunately, there are many ways people try to cheat the system. Still, the vast majority play ethically, and there are measures in place to prevent cheating, whether it be sandbagging or using an electronic device.

JC Franco

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.