Unfortunately, cheating at chess is not new. The correspondence chess network has been attempting to implement strategies geared towards minimizing cheating for many years. You may have seen media articles regarding two recent cheating incidents at chess tournaments. The first game was played between Tigran Petrosian and Gaioz Nigalidze at the Dubai Open 2015. During the game, Petrosian apparently found it odd that his opponent was getting up and going to the bathroom more often than usual during their game. Upon his return, Nigalidze would come up with what would be a high level move. This was somewhat understandable since Nigalidze is a Georgian GM. However as the game progressed, and his opponent continued to find what seemed like a better than usual move, Petrosian advised the arbiters who kept an eye on Nigalidze. The arbiters followed Nigalidze into the bathroom where they located a mobile phone covered with toilet paper. The game was played up the 23rd move when Nigalidze was found out and thrown out of the tournament with the game properly given to Petrosian. Nigalidze received a 2 year suspension and will receive a 15 year suspension if found to be cheating in a subsequent tournament. As an aside, Nigalidze’s computer engine was apparently not necessarily the “best” move since after the game “Houdini” rated the game as “+.55”. So much for cheating.
The second incident occurred at the Dr. Hedgewar Open in New Delhi where Pravin Thipsay was playing Dhruv Kakkar. There, Dhruv Kakkar, a 19 year-old engineering student in his second year and rated at 1624 at the time was found covered in a multitude of wires, transmitters and receivers where he would tap his feet to communicate with his fellow conspirator some 220 km away in order to find the correct move. Here again, Thipsay, a 55 year old GM rated at approximately 2419 at the time, became suspicious of Kakkar’s behavior and alerted the officials who started watching Kakkar’s movements. During play, Thipsay offered a draw when he realized he was clearly lost. The offer was declined where Kakkar instead chose to move forward for the win. After winning, Kakkar was asked by the officials to go to a separate room where he was searched. As noted above, Kakkar was found to be using communication devices to send and retrieve information to ensure he won the game. The All India Chess Federation (AICF) has yet to impose sanctions against Kakkar.
It’s difficult to imagine what motivates cheaters to attempt to cheat, whether it’s just to beat their opponent or to obtain a higher rating. Cheating in any chess tournament is simply deplorable conduct which should be sanctioned in the strongest possible way. There have been calls for Nigalidze to be stripped of his GM title forcing him to re-qualify for a GM title. I agree with that. If caught cheating in such a high level tournament, one can assume that Nigalidze has cheated in the past (or at least there can be a presumption that he did). That in and of itself raises the question of the validity of his current GM title. Having attained a GM title (honestly) carries great responsibility to ensure that chess is promoted in a way where our youth and fellow chess players are able to look up to our high achievers in a respectful manner.
Cheating during a chess game not only denigrates the cheater but shows a great lack of respect for both the game of chess and the members of the chess community. In cases of cheating, meaningful sanctions should be imposed such as lengthy suspensions, mandatory written apology to the opponent, the organizing chess club and arbiters, and at least 2 or three presentations to chess youth outlining why cheating should not be tolerated in any sporting event including chess. Of course, the presentation and presentation materials would have to be supervised by a tournament chess official to ensure that the materials and presentation are appropriately completed.
Honesty truly is the best policy as it shows respect for the game and respect for fellow chess players. Let’s all promote it and encourage our youth to follow the honourable and transparent path of honesty at the chessboard.