by Ian Rogers
The expulsion of Georgian Champion Gaioz Nigalidze (Front cover and top) from the Dubai Open last week might seem like a bog-standard case of computer cheating.
Nigalidze had been the subject of suspicion for some time, with his win in Al Ain last year attracting attention due to his curious over-the-board behaviour.
Finally, during round six of the 2015 Dubai Open, an opponent of Nigilidze decided to complain to the arbiter.
An initial search found nothing but the opponent, Armenian star Tigran Petrosian, insisted and a search of a toilet cubicle found a well-hidden smartphone with a chess app following the game.
Nigalidze was thrown out of the tournament and faces a likely 3 year ban.
However, just as when Sebastian Feller (below) was caught at the 2010 Chess Olympiad in Kahnty Mansiysk, the unanswered question is how long had this been going on?
Petrosian believes that Nigalidze used his cheating system to win the first prize of $US11,000 in Al Ain and question marks are also attached to Nigaladze’s two Georgian titles.
With the arrival of Google Glasses and microchips, tournament organisers may soon have to accept that detecting cheating will only be possible by matching a player’s moves to those of a computer program.
A high correlation in a single game would not prove much – any player can have an inspired day – but should the similarities persist over a tournament, the probabilities are similar to those in DNA matching.
However there are still hold-outs on the FIDE Anti-Cheating Commission, (which included, until recently, Australia’s Shaun Press), who believe that without physical evidence a player should not be punished, regarding statistical evidence alone as insufficient.
Perhaps as a consequence, FIDE appears to be moving toward symbolic measures such as hand-held scanners, tested in the recent Reykjavik Open and found to be close to useless – as well as being distracting if employed while a game is in progress.
Of course the Nigaladze revelations do not mean, as one newspaper reported, that cheating in tournament chess is endemic. (The number of cheats in professional chess seems to be vanishingly small, though it is impossible to be 100% sure since we have no idea of the number of cheats not being caught.)
However the Nigaladze case does mean that arbiters will have to learn new skills; identifying possible cheats through behaviour and move-matching, as well as mollifying paranoid players who believe that their opponent must be cheating because the opponent played three good moves in a row.