In 1996, in Philadelphia, the world chess champion, Garry Kasparovbeats an unprecedented opponent: it’s called Deep Blueit’s a supercomputer Ibm.
A year later, in a New York skyscraper, the rematch takes place. This time the computer, which in the meantime has been updated, beats the Russian. For the first time, a car defeats a reigning world champion.
Kasparov, who will call Deep Blue “as smart as an electronic bedside alarm clock”, doesn’t take it well. And at the time accuses IBM of cheating. On several occasions, according to the Russian chess player, the car would have taken too ‘creative’ decisions. Behind those moves, for Kasparov, there had to be a man.
Many still ask themselves on the web: “Did IBM really cheat against Kasparov?”.
Twenty five years later, there is no sure answer to this question.
Even today, indeed, we are here to ask ourselves if Hans Niemanna rampant 19-year-old chess player, he really cheated in the surprise match he won last September 4th against Magnus Carlsen33-year-old reigning world champion and – according to many – one of the best ever in front of a chessboard.
Per Kenneth Reganprofessor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Buffalo, considered among the greatest cheating experts in the world of chessNiemann is ‘clean’: “A statistical analysis of his moves does not reveal any cheating.”
Players and simple enthusiasts tend to think that what happens on the board, “over-the-board” as they say in jargon, always corresponds to the truth. Either if a man and a computer face each other, or if the game is between two human beings.
There are exceptions, of course.
The former Russian chess grandmaster, Viktor Korchnoiwas convinced that his compatriot, Anatoly Karpov, cheated in the bizarre 1978 World Chess Championship final, played in the Philippines. During the match, Karpov received a blueberry yogurt from his team that he didn’t ask for. For Korchnoi that was a clear coded signal.
Exactly seven years ago instead, in Imperia, an Italian chess player used a pendant with a micro cameraand a receiver connected to threads sewn into his shirt, to get the better of the opponents of the International Chess Festival. Angelo Ricciardi he hid that receiver under his armpit. And he won, most likely, thanks to the impulses that someone, far from the board, sent him. The judges noticed this thanks to a metal detector. And Ricciardi was disqualified.
Niemann, as he is known, was also accused of defeating Carlsen thanks to impulses sent remotely by one or more (hypothetical) buddies. The method he would use was imagined but never demonstrated. Among the detractors of the young chess player, there is also Elon Muskwhich on Twitter he expressed himself in a colorful way on the affair.
The growing miniaturization of optical and electronic devices, unwittingly lends itself to the art of cheating. In face-to-face challenges, as we have seen, man finds creative ways to hide technology. Like a modern magician, the cheater studies a trick that is invisible to those who watch the game.
But online is something else. Even the king is naked online. They are Chess.comthe platform used by almost one hundred million users, Niemann got caught. She would have cheated at least a hundred times. Including a match against Ian Nepomniatchchirecent challenger to Magnus Carlsen for the world title.
If the investigation conducted by Chess.com were true, Niemann would not have done much to hide his tracks. The owners of the platform easily discovered his method. Chess.com uses a anti-cheating software which recognizes when a user opens another window on the screen while they are playing. When it happens frequently, there is a possibility that the player is consulting a program that uses artificial intelligence to suggest the most appropriate movesnot to mention winning.
In Niemann’s case, Chess.com found that his performances improved dramatically every time he opened another program. “We are ready to present a real statistic,” said Danny Rensch, the head of the platform.
Online, in short, everyone can cheat at the game of chess. Just use one of the many apps that suggest the best move in every situation. By using a device other than the computer on which you log into Chess.com, no one in theory can immediately grasp the trick. For this, many ask that the cash prizes of some tournaments be eliminated.
In his book “The art of cheating in chess”, grandmaster Bill Jordan wrote that “a high correlation between a player’s moves and those that a machine would have taken can make it possible to determine if a chess player is cheating.” However, those who cheat, in order not to be discovered, could exploit artificial intelligence only in crucial moments. “Even a single computer-facilitated move in chess can be enough to defeat an opponent of the same level.”
Professor Regan, whom we mentioned earlier, added another piece to the understanding of technological cheating: “Software that suggests moves not only play better, they do it differently. By analyzing thirty million high-level chess games, I have archived enough data to establish patterns: of play but also of deception ”.
In short, cheating at chess is possible. But the biggest risk, caused by technology and in particular by artificial intelligence, is that in the future no one believes anymore in the miracle of a nineteen year old who beats the strongest chess player in the world. Everyone will be potential champions. And at the same time possible cheats.