Can you catch the cheater? | So Good News


Note: As always, but it should be clearly stated in this specific context, the views expressed in GM Serper’s articles are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Chess is back in the world news, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. FIDE also set up a special investigation team as the dispute between general directors Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann escalated. Today only a lazy person does not speculate on this topic.

As I don’t have any material on this debate that you can’t find elsewhere, I won’t do any theoretical work on the subject, instead let FIDE do the due diligence. However, I completely agree with Carlsen that cheating poses an existential threat to our game, so I would like to share my thoughts on this general topic.

Don’t expect me to be too original here—as far as I know, the opinion I’m about to share is shared by most chess experts. The penalty for fraud should be much more severe than it is today. We had a young grandmaster at a major international tournament who was using his cell phone. As punishment, he was banned from official chess tournaments for only three years. A group of players were caught cheating at the Chess Olympiad, one of FIDE’s biggest and most popular events. Of course FIDE punished them very severely, didn’t they? Yes, they have different suspensions from one and a half to three years!

In my opinion, such a punishment is no more than a slap on the hand. If a chess player is caught cheating and I am caught with really hard evidence—as in all the cases in the above paragraph—then the punishment should be really severe. If such a person is a minor, then a temporary restriction of only two to three years is enough. But if the offender is an adult, the first offense should result in a lifetime ban, full FIDE title and rating cancellation!

I would like to emphasize the main point of my proposal. A chess player should not be punished unless there is clear, indisputable evidence, but if there is such evidence, the punishment should be severe. This is the only way to make people think about the possible negative consequences. “Even if I get caught, it won’t be a big deal because I’ll only spend a year or two teaching chess” should never enter the mind of a criminal. It should be clear: If you get caught, you lose all your chess titles and rankings, so to potential students, you’re a beginner chess player!

A chess player should not be punished unless there is clear, indisputable evidence. But if there is such evidence, then the punishment should be very severe.

Again, because it cannot be repeated enough, the bottom line is: proof of fraud must go beyond any reasonable doubt. For example, a chain of fantastic results does not prove anything by itself. Otherwise, we’d have to call GM Bobby Fisher a cheater for going 6-0 in a row against GMs Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen in 1971.

Even playing too hard in a particular game is not evidence of cheating. For example, Carlsen himself has played so well in many of his games that I sometimes wonder if, like the protagonist of this famous song, he turned out to be the best chess player in some laboratory:

At this point I would like to offer a challenge to our readers. Cheaters played four of the next eight games and got caught. Can you identify in which games one of the players used computer assistance and catch the cheater? The answers are under the games.








  1. Kholmov-Bronshtein, USSR Championship 1964/1965. This is one of the great victories of the famous Soviet grandmaster.
  2. B. Ivanov – Kurajica, Zadar Open 2012. This is one of the many victories of this famous chess player against grandmasters.
  3. Bischoff – Nogueiras, Cuba 1998 This beautiful queen sacrifice by a highly respected German grandmaster will be featured in chess textbooks for years!
  4. Allwermann – Kalinitschew, Böblingen 1999. This was one of the first high-profile cases of computer-assisted cheating in chess.
  5. Smirin – Varshavsky, World Open 2006. This is a unique story, a chess player also cheated in the Sudoku tournament!
  6. Ivanchuk – Shirov, Weik aan Zee 1996. The Ukrainian grandmaster made hundreds of great moves in his chess career, but this is probably the most memorable!
  7. Agrest – Ponomariov, Plovdiv 2003. A famous incident where the FIDE World Champion forgot to switch off his mobile phone. On his birthday, a game was played and one of his friends called to wish him a happy birthday. The phone rang and the game was instantly lost for poor Ponomariov. There was no fraud here, just a painful case of carelessness.
  8. Petrosyan – Nigalidze, Dubai 2015. During the game, a mobile phone belonging to GM Nigalidze was found in the toilet. The position of the game was analyzed by the engine there.

Was it easy for you, my dear readers, to distinguish fantasy games from computer games? That’s my point! Strong moves and flashy plays are not evidence of a player cheating!

This is the biggest challenge in providing indisputable evidence of fraud, so don’t ask me how to do it—because I’m not an expert, I just don’t know. I know the only way to deter potential fraudsters is to make the penalties for fraud more severe than they are now.


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