Cheating Allegations Lead to "Strip Search" of Chess Player

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Cheating Allegations Lead to "Strip Search" of Chess Player

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Suspicion quickly fell on the previously unheralded player who defeated four grandmasters, but nobody knows how he did it.

Bulgarian chess player Borislav Ivanov had a pretty good run at a tournament in Zadar, Croatia last month. He came in third with a record of 5-1-2, earning 60 tournament points while defeating four grandmasters and a "strong master." The only problem is that he's a low-ranked master who since mid-2011 had earned just one single tournament point. His FIDE rating, which had previously peaked at 2227 in 2011, shot up to 2342 this month.

That has an awful lot of chess observers convinced that he's cheating. He was reportedly "strip searched" at the tournament, although it turned out that he just had to remove his shirt, turn out his pockets and submit his pen for inspection, but nothing was found. Even so, Croatian grandmaster Zlatko Klaric insisted that some kind of shenanigans were going on.

"Ivanov is chess [computer] programmer, who since mid-2011 until now had won only one rating point, while at the Zadar tournament he won 60. He made moves like a computer, which was obvious in the game vs Jovanovic," he said. "Technologies are so developed now that theoretically, since the games were aired live, Ivanov's friends in the neighboring room, from Sofia, or even from the Antarctic, could have sent him hints for his moves through chips, which could have been placed under the skin, in the ear, or in the teeth."

That sounds a little crazy, but Klaric's theory is reinforced by the nature of Ivanov's losses at the Zadar tournament. The first loss occurred in "a long game in a closed position," which the New York Times says computers perform poorly in, during which he made a "rudimentary mistake" that led to his defeat. The second and final defeat came after organizers stopped broadcasting matches over the internet, so that any potential accomplices wouldn't be able to see what was going on.

Computer science professor and international master Kenneth Regan ran Ivanov's moves through a mathematical modeling system based on tens of thousands of games that he's spent the last five years creating. His findings would appear to support the cheating hypothesis, as he said Ivanov had the highest "move performance score" he'd ever seen, surpassing even that of the highest-rated chess player of all time. Even if Ivanov had a rating around 2700, which would put him among the world's best, he played "well above what a world-class player normally would and more like a computer."

And yet, nobody can figure out how he pulled it off. ChessBase has gone as far as to solicit help from the public. "We would be interested to know if anyone finds suspicious correlation of Ivanov's moves with that of a chess engine, e.g. Houdini," the site wrote. "Especially in view of the very sharp, tactical games Ivanov played, successfully, against strong GM opposition, this could be a fairly important task."

Anyone?

Sources: ChessBase, New York Times

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He's Bulgarian: Obviously he was using the Wronski feint.

weirdguy:
they may have to check to see if he's a robot

Borislav,
Borislav, you're the fifth

they may have to check to see if he's a robot

Maybe he achieved Chess Enlightenment?

Wait, no. That's probably not it...

It's weird having a competitive game that can be beaten by computers, you actually sort of check if you made the right move in any situation.

I really want to know how he managed it if he did. There are too many options for moves to do the cough once for yes thing, there must have been a really clever system to be able to inform him of the correct move without it being incredibly obvious. In some ways I'm almost more impressed that/if he managed to cheat than that he did so well in a tournament

EDIT: Oh looks like it might not necessarily be that impressive. One person a while back just had them text him the answers
http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=8370

Ivanov, your skills have become almost machine like, you have actually managed to gain more pieces then you started with... wait a minute, these are Connect4 counters and Kinder Egg toys!!!

Sorry, when you mentioned cheating at chess this is the only method I could think of.

I can see this taking a dramatically different turn:

Cop 1-"Sir, hands in the air!"

Cop 2- "HE'S GOT A ROOK, TAKE HIM DOWN!"

I would bet 10:1 he has a small device embedded in either his shoes or his underwear that deliver a set of light taps that correspond to positions on the board.

PunkRex:
Ivanov, your skills have become almost machine like, you have actually managed to gain more pieces then you started with... wait a minute, these are Connect4 counters and Kinder Egg toys!!!

Sorry, when you mentioned cheating at chess this is the only method I could think of.

A pair of queens up his sleeve?

It is a tricky situation, especially if only when performing without a live feed he was defeatable.

My theory is that, instead of having somebody send him moves, he just had extra chess pieces up his sleeves that he sneaked onto the board when nobody was looking. It makes so much more sense!

ohnoitsabear:
My theory is that, instead of having somebody send him moves, he just had extra chess pieces up his sleeves that he sneaked onto the board when nobody was looking. It makes so much more sense!

I'd thought that too prior to reading the part of the article about the only time(s) he lost was when the live feed was down and when the room was effecting computer broadcast signals. Those two things give clear indication of a Wi-Fi info feed being streamed to him by some 3rd party watching the matches live. Now, the thing they should have done is searched him with both a metal detector and a wireless signal reader (yes, they do have those, my old place of employment handled large financial information databanks and the security ran random sweeps weekly....seen people fired over just having a cellphone on with them).

Wait, you AREN'T supposed to strip while playing chess?

Oh.

weirdguy:
they may have to check to see if he's a robot

That got me thinking - what if he is? Is there a rule that only living people can be in the tournament? Imagine that "Sir, we just found out that half the people on the tournament are robots, what do we do? Also, of the rest, a quarter are undead, three are aliens masquerading as humans, two are humans masquerading as each other, one has ascended to a new plane of existence and only the part of his being that intersects with our dimension is playing." Hmm, I'd actually definitely watch that. Heck, I think you could make a decent chess game, where you have to out-cheat your opponents and everybody is some sort of weird non-human being, yet they all have to pretend they are human.

OMG BOT!
CALL GM!
PERMA BAN HIM FROM CHESS!!

Maybe, and I'm going out on a very long limb here, he's just really good at chess?

Maybe he practiced a lot. Not like "couple-hours-a-day" a lot, but more like "holy shit I have nothing else in life time to practice 24/7" a lot.

I mean, the article says he's a programmer (of chess games nonetheless) and having experience in programming I can say that it does develop memory and logical/critical thinking skills, so theoretically this guy could have just extensively studied the top tactics and/or the common tactics of his opponents (if he knew who he was facing beforehand) and just memorized the best moves for those situations. It sounds incredulous, but remember, there are people that can recite the value of pi to at least 100,000 digits from memory. This seems like child's play compared to that.

I have a different theory. He must be getting directions from a 600 year old ghost of a grand-master chess player. He likely discovered the ghost after touching an old, haunted chess board in his attic on day. The Ghost just wants to play chess so he posses the man's body to experience the thrill of playing again. The guy is slowly building his skill on his own, however because he doesn't want to rely on the Grand-Master's skill, he wants to win by his own will so he constantly plays against the ghost and is slowly improving.

Or wait... I was just thinking of something else.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikaru_no_Go

Could it be that, as a COMPUTER CHESS PROGRAMMER he may have devised a relatively easy (for him anyway) algorithm or some such to think somewhat like a computer?

I don't see why this is implausible.

I think its kind of disgusting that because egos he must be cheating because he can't possibly have improved to win a couple of games against GMs.

Or maybe he just had a string of good luck?

How about innocent until proven guilty? How about any physical evidence that he was cheating? No there isn't any?

I know it because it's "just a chess tournament" but imagine shit like this was pulled in a high profile sport? OMG this basketball player is so good he must be on drugs. Lets figure out a way to prove his on drugs, even though there isn't any real evidence that he is...

Much the same and would cause a fucking UPROAR.

Oh well, maybe i'm reading too much into it

Sounds like the people he beat are pretty butthurt.

Maybe it was like the LOL incident and he just looked over his shoulder at the giant monitor behind him?

DoPo:

weirdguy:
they may have to check to see if he's a robot

That got me thinking - what if he is? Is there a rule that only living people can be in the tournament? Imagine that "Sir, we just found out that half the people on the tournament are robots, what do we do? Also, of the rest, a quarter are undead, three are aliens masquerading as humans, two are humans masquerading as each other, one has ascended to a new plane of existence and only the part of his being that intersects with our dimension is playing." Hmm, I'd actually definitely watch that. Heck, I think you could make a decent chess game, where you have to out-cheat your opponents and everybody is some sort of weird non-human being, yet they all have to pretend they are human.

As long as no unicorns are allowed, I'm game.

Zen Toombs:
Wait, you AREN'T supposed to strip while playing chess?

Well, seems Ivanov did have a winning streak...

TheSYLOH:
OMG BOT!
CALL GM!
PERMA BAN HIM FROM CHESS!!

Easily solved with captcha.

WWmelb:
Could it be that, as a COMPUTER CHESS PROGRAMMER he may have devised a relatively easy (for him anyway) algorithm or some such to think somewhat like a computer?

I don't see why this is implausible.

I think its kind of disgusting that because egos he must be cheating because he can't possibly have improved to win a couple of games against GMs.

Or maybe he just had a string of good luck?

How about innocent until proven guilty? How about any physical evidence that he was cheating? No there isn't any?

I know it because it's "just a chess tournament" but imagine shit like this was pulled in a high profile sport? OMG this basketball player is so good he must be on drugs. Lets figure out a way to prove his on drugs, even though there isn't any real evidence that he is...

Much the same and would cause a fucking UPROAR.

Oh well, maybe i'm reading too much into it

Computer algorithms for chess rely on the ridiculously fast pace at which computers can search all possible moves and the likely series of moves that would follow. The human mind just isn't capable of that level of processing capability (at least at the focused levels required for something like chess). There are ways of measuring how much someone plays like a machine, and this guy has set off all the alarms for those measures.

The people running the tournament aren't saying he is guilty for sure, but his play style is suspicious. Yes the current evidence is only circumstantial, but that's why they're investigating the matter further before bringing out any formal accusations. You're right to say that the ego of some of the GMs has a hand in this, but if the investigation turns up nothing, then it won't matter anyway.

If a relatively unknown - typically slow - Olympic runner were to suddenly run a single race at record speeds, there would likely be an investigation too. The only difference is that an Olympic investigation would likely be kept more quiet than what we are seeing here.

At the beginning of the article i though to myself "hey ill make a brain implant joke in comments".
by the time i read the article though i ended up thinking it may not be a joke after all.

the loss at broadcast cancellation does raise a theory, that he was indeed using a computer. somewhere out there sitting calculating every move and having its time to do it since it can calculate during opponents thinking time as well. and then trnasmitting it to some implant he had under his skin that made him do it.

i would love to see him perform in a room with wave scrambling, you know, those that turn off cellphones in theaters and such. could he still perform. if yes, then theres only two posibilities:
1. during his programming he discovered some way to analyze the board very efficiently and computer-like that he can use in real time. if so, thats an amazing discovery and if by the end of this all he would go on and say thats how he did it it would be AWESOME.
2. back to my theory of brain implants.

kajinking:
Maybe it was like the LOL incident and he just looked over his shoulder at the giant monitor behind him?

sorry, doesnt really work in chess, you see everything anyway.

They probably have to update the rules to compensate for technology anyway, like make all players walk through a metal detector and that wireless signal reader mentioned earlier, along with either using pencils or pens owned by whoever's running the tournament.

Would be a little annoying but if countless people are willing to do such things in airports everyday then I'm sure the chess players can handle it just fine. Oh and if the guy continues winning then obviously he's not cheating, but if his record goes back to "normal", then there's your answer.

KefkaCultist:
Maybe, and I'm going out on a very long limb here, he's just really good at chess?

Maybe he practiced a lot. Not like "couple-hours-a-day" a lot, but more like "holy shit I have nothing else in life time to practice 24/7" a lot.

I mean, the article says he's a programmer (of chess games nonetheless) and having experience in programming I can say that it does develop memory and logical/critical thinking skills, so theoretically this guy could have just extensively studied the top tactics and/or the common tactics of his opponents (if he knew who he was facing beforehand) and just memorized the best moves for those situations. It sounds incredulous, but remember, there are people that can recite the value of pi to at least 100,000 digits from memory. This seems like child's play compared to that.

That doesn't explain why his performance was inconsistent - he pulled this for the first time, the mathematician dude calculated a way high efficiency - higher than chess masters, and his performance suffered when there was he was not televised. Yeah, he could have just devoted his life to mastering chess after a while and the televised thing is just a coincidence but...it's also improbable.

WWmelb:
Could it be that, as a COMPUTER CHESS PROGRAMMER he may have devised a relatively easy (for him anyway) algorithm or some such to think somewhat like a computer?

I don't see why this is implausible.

Erm...it is. The only reason computers are better than humans is because of sheer number crunching power. Any chess algorithms rely on that. Unless he suddenly, and I do mean suddenly (remember - it's not his first tournament - it's the first one he's so good), devised a way to juggle millions of numbers in his mind, which is implausible given that he never seemingly showed any aptitude for it.

WWmelb:
I think its kind of disgusting that because egos he must be cheating because he can't possibly have improved to win a couple of games against GMs.

But out of nowhere? Really? Until that point he had won one point and then pulls 60. Yeah, so in a few months, he manages to become so good.

WWmelb:
Or maybe he just had a string of good luck?

Are you kidding me? In chess? What, did he roll high or something?

WWmelb:
How about innocent until proven guilty? How about any physical evidence that he was cheating? No there isn't any?

I know it because it's "just a chess tournament" but imagine shit like this was pulled in a high profile sport? OMG this basketball player is so good he must be on drugs. Lets figure out a way to prove his on drugs, even though there isn't any real evidence that he is...

No physical evidence yes but that does not mean "no evidence". Did you read the article? His performance suffered when the games weren't broadcast. Also the mathematician dude with the simulation. Also the fact that he has never shown he can do that. Yeah, not "physical" but come on, you just discarded it as if it was nothing. Here is something else I found (weirdly, I can't find the original link just some people quoting it)

I have again gone through all nine games with Stockfish on my laptop. Ivanov makes a total of 290 moves (I did not evaluate the opening moves that could be considered to be theory). 256 of these are the first choice of Stockfish. That makes 88%. It would have been higher if he hadnīt started to lose his magic in round 8 after the 15 first moves. In the last 19 moves he commits several mistakes, small and big. It is reported that the internet relay of the games went down during this round.

So how good is 88%? I took nine top games of nine world champions to compare with. Here is a summary of the results.

Lasker - Capablanca, St Petersburg 1914, 1-0. Lasker reaches 81%.

Nimzowitsch - Capablanca, St Petersburg 1914, 0-1. Capa reaches a record 84%.

Botvinnik - Keres, Moscow 1953, 1-0. Botvinnik makes 79%.

Fischer - Spassky, Reykjavik 1972, game 6, 1-0. Fischer makes 61%. Considered to be Fischers best effort in the match by many including Spassky - who applauded Fischer on stage after the game.

Karpov - Kasparov, Wch match 1993, game 17, 1-0. Karpov reaches 64%.

Karpov - Kasparov, Linares 1993, 0-1. Kasparov makes 76%.

Topalov - Anand, Wch match 2010, final game, 0-1. Anand makes 76%.

Carlsen - Anand, Master final 2012, 1-0. Carlsen makes 57% in this brilliant game.

Kramnik - McShane, London CC 2012, 1-0. Kramnik makes 68%.

A total of 249 moves when the known opening moves are subtracted. 181 are first choice moves for Stockfish. That makes 73%.

Ivanov is not playing world champion chess. He plays 15% better.

So how unlikely is it to play that well by pure chance? Letīs do some math.

If we simplify and say that in every position there is only two moves a good player (or computer) has to choose from. An oversimplification for sure, but the results are staggering. Then the chance to reach the world champions score 73% is in the order of one in 10 to the power of 21 (a one with 21 zeroes after it). To reach Ivanovs 88% you have one chance in 10 to the power of 53.

If we grant Ivanov world champion strength his chance of reaching 88% would be one in 10 to the power of 32.

I assume it's the mathematician referenced but I'm not sure. Still, if true, it's pretty jarring, assuming those numbers are correct.

Why is it that this is the first thing that came into my mind?

Well the answer is obvious. Either he's The One and downloaded chess algorithms via the port at the base of his skull or he's Skynet. Just to be safe, I'd pull all nuclear arsenals offline until further notice.

WWmelb:
Could it be that, as a COMPUTER CHESS PROGRAMMER he may have devised a relatively easy (for him anyway) algorithm or some such to think somewhat like a computer?

I don't see why this is implausible.

Because human minds do not work that way, you cannot work them like a computer, and they can never function as fast as one. Besides, even if it was possible, being a programmer doesn't mean he'd have any understanding of the human mind, cout doesn't really lend itself to the human mind know what I mean?

Plus they are only investigating him, for his extremely suspicious behaviour.

OR, you can be good sports, give the kid the prize, but withhold the prize money and discretely investigate the matter till the cheating allegations have been resolved.

Remember, there is always the chance that he is simply a brilliant chess player and treating him this way for being "too good" is an insult not just to him but to the game.

Chess players are supposed to be smart, but they are approaching this in such a thick headed way.

XX Y XY:
I would bet 10:1 he has a small device embedded in either his shoes or his underwear that deliver a set of light taps that correspond to positions on the board.

Thinking of that guy who used a similar system to count cards in Vegas?

OT: Even if he did cheat, he deserves some sort of prize for getting away with it!

DoPo:

That doesn't explain why his performance was inconsistent

That doesn't prove illegal aid, people get better, can even get radically better, within the rules. And his opponents can get worse.

It's not implausible for people to perform barely adequately then suddenly make a breakthrough.

I mean this guy didn't even come first, he came THIRD!

His FIDE rating, which had previously peaked at 2227 in 2011, shot up to 2342 this month.

Uhh, is that a logarithmic scale? Because that's only 5% higher. That's hardly "shooting up". It may be simply the scoring system doesn't give the huge tournament points until you've crossed over a threshold of the best of the best.

He could be using any other advanced technique that's "Quasi legal" like cold reading, telling the opponent's moves by reading their body language. He may have played a more probabilistic game, based on what his known opponents are likely to try.

You still ACTUALLY have to prove he is using a computer, not just that he COULD have been using a computer as that applies just as much to all the other contenders, including the one who actually WON the tournament.

wow his Steam VAC is NOT going to be in good standing.

Suddenly, the dark and scary world of chess is revealed.

Firstly, the question remains, if he did cheat then HOW. "It's unlikely that she died of natural causes," is not the same as "you were the only other person in the house so you must have killed her." A good defense lawyer - or even a good cop - would ask: "If it was poison, where are the traces of it? If it was blunt trauma, where are the bruises?" Ditto for cheating at chess. Some have compared his play to Houdini (2 or 3), other to Stockfish. But how was the information relayed to him? He was searched after all and nothing was found

Secondly, there is no such thing as statistical proof of cheating. There is only statistical proof of the improbability of an event. But that doesn't mean that there is a default alternative explanation. The chances of guessing a randomly picked card from a randomly shuffled deck are one in fifty two. But if some one gets it right does that mean: (a) they were lucky, (b) they used trickery, (c) they have supernatural powers, (d) the subject clumsily held the card in a way that it could be seen, or (e) the would-be magician had made numerous other unsuccessful attempts but this is the one that stood out because they got it right? Statistics flag up anomalies. They do not proffer specific explanations.

Thirdly, playing well in open positions and the mid-game, whilst playing badly in closed positions and in the endgame is also the characteristic of inspired but impatient players. It was certainly true of me when I was an enthusiastic young player. (I play very little chess these days.) I did learn some closed-position tricks from a Canadian master, but one of the things he told me is that certain types of player simply don't feel comfortable in closed positions and try to force the issue, ending up losing.

That said, this is all rather reminiscent of Percival Wilde's story Slippery Elm, where the moves were scratched onto tablets that the player was taking ostensibly to combat his opponent's cigar smoke, or David Kessler's Checkmate at the Beauty Pageant, when the hero plays against the villain's computer wearing special glasses that pick up the electromagnetic resonance (AKA "noise") from the computer and translate it into a voice telling him what moves the computer is considering for both players. Whether it happened in real life, is another matter. But this is the stuff of great stories.

KefkaCultist:
Maybe, and I'm going out on a very long limb here, he's just really good at chess?

Maybe he practiced a lot. Not like "couple-hours-a-day" a lot, but more like "holy shit I have nothing else in life time to practice 24/7" a lot.

I mean, the article says he's a programmer (of chess games nonetheless) and having experience in programming I can say that it does develop memory and logical/critical thinking skills, so theoretically this guy could have just extensively studied the top tactics and/or the common tactics of his opponents (if he knew who he was facing beforehand) and just memorized the best moves for those situations. It sounds incredulous, but remember, there are people that can recite the value of pi to at least 100,000 digits from memory. This seems like child's play compared to that.

I would venture that reciting anything from memory is probably easier than beating a chess grand-master, simply because pi won't suddenly up and change itself whilst you are reciting it.

On a related note:
Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Cold Shot" syncs up almost perfectly to your avatar's dancing.

Treblaine:

DoPo:

That doesn't explain why his performance was inconsistent

That doesn't prove illegal aid, people get better, can even get radically better, within the rules. And his opponents can get worse.

It's not implausible for people to perform barely adequately then suddenly make a breakthrough.

I mean this guy didn't even come first, he came THIRD!

His FIDE rating, which had previously peaked at 2227 in 2011, shot up to 2342 this month.

Uhh, is that a logarithmic scale? Because that's only 5% higher. That's hardly "shooting up". It may be simply the scoring system doesn't give the huge tournament points until you've crossed over a threshold of the best of the best.

He could be using any other advanced technique that's "Quasi legal" like cold reading, telling the opponent's moves by reading their body language. He may have played a more probabilistic game, based on what his known opponents are likely to try.

You still ACTUALLY have to prove he is using a computer, not just that he COULD have been using a computer as that applies just as much to all the other contenders, including the one who actually WON the tournament.

Yes it is a scale to determine a players skill level and changes depending on the opponents FIDE rating (there is a formula behind how rating change). To jump over 100 points in one month is also quite a leap but not unheard of.

The problem isn't were he placed, but his level of play during those matches.He performed at a level higher then the greatest GMs in the history of chess have ever performed by a large margin and considering his FIDE rating, its IMPOSSIBLE by any fair means. He would have had to transcend human capabilities for those games and become a computer for those matches in order to achieve what he did without cheating.

There is no question that he did cheat, it is more of how he cheated I'm interested in finding out.

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