Friday, June 07, 2013

Your Cheatin' Heart

The world of Grandmaster chess has been roiled lately by accusations of cheating.  This is somewhat familiar territory for chess - there have long been accusations of collusion or throwing games, but in the last decade or so, computer programs have become so strong that even world champions cannot compete with them.  The latest accusations focus on a hitherto weak player - weak by grandmaster standards - who suddenly started beating grandmasters.  Not merely beating them, but crushing them with tactically perfect chess.

A third-place finish at a tournament last month by a formerly obscure player was so startling that organizers searched his clothing and took apart his pen looking for evidence that he had outside help. They found nothing.

The most compelling evidence against him was that his moves were not only computer like, but in an exceptionally large number of cases were exactly the moves chosen by the strongest computer program.  Comparative analysis of past world champions reveals that they were much less capable of finding the strongest move than the program or Mr. Ivanov.  In addition, his play was exceptionally uneven.  In some games and tournaments he played like his previous ratings, but at other times, like a super grandmaster.