Chess Fans Believe Big Scandal Causes More Online Cheating

Magnus Carlsen plays chess.

photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos (Getty Images)

Remember the anal beads scam controversy? As much as I’d like to forget it, it turns out a lot of people are still thinking about it. Some chess players have reported an increase in computer cheating Matches since the story about Hans Niemann became known. One player has dubbed the recent surge in cheaters the “Hans Effect”.

There was one two weeks ago high profile controversy that shook the chess world. World Champion Magnus Carlsen unexpectedly lost to Grandmaster Hans Niemann and Carlsen eventually withdrew from the tournament. Both his sudden exit and the difference in altitude were so drastic that viewers began to accuse Niemann of cheating. Chess streamer Hikaru “GMHikaru” Nakamura pointed out that Niemann previously admitted to cheating on as a youngster, hence the current controversy.

Since the competitors were playing live, it’s difficult to pinpoint a possible cheating method (One fancy theory includes anal beads). But you don’t need…uh…special equipment to cheat at online chess games, and Players who participate in online matchmaking are increasingly convinced that more and more people are cheating.

If you are interested in how to cheat chess look up Google trends, you’ll see a significant spike in interest in the weeks following the famous chess match, as searches double during the month compared to the rest of the year. Whatever really happens during the games, people are concerned about the issue.

A chart showing an upward trend in search queries.

screenshot: Google / Kotaku

This is somewhat momentous for users because they can lose more points for losing matches against a lower ranked player (in one case refunded points to a player who lost in a suspicious game). kotaku has called to ask if there is a notable increase in cheating and what measures their monitors are taking to ensure fair gaming.

dr Kenneth Regan

How do chess players find out someone is cheating? Several players posted on Reddit that their opponent suddenly improved drastically in the middle of the game.

Said Quay_Z, “I’ve had so many games in online blitz lately where the opponent is obviously cheating since the Hans stuff is picking up steam. I got about 3 people banned in the last 2 days. Ridiculous.”

I_have_chosen_a_name discussed how players would do poorly only to come back for a perfect win, adding: “And three days later you get this email from and you get your points back.”

“What hurts the most,” he says soghff, “is when you have a better position or your opponent blunders a pawn or piece, then “thinks” for 2-4 minutes and then suddenly starts playing perfect engine moves after thinking about each move for 5 seconds to have. Are you really that undisciplined and helpless?”

Another thought it would be suspicious if someone took it same time with every movement. But the vast majority of victims checked their opponent’s game history. Several perfect matches in a row was enough to set red flags for a player. Another noted that his opponent only lost new accounts.

On the other hand, some players say they have been unfairly accused of cheating. A Reddit user was accused of fraud because her opponent had botched an early move. Another mentioned that people had accused them in other games once they have reached a “flow state”.

Some scammers were just annoyed that the newcomers were so bad at cheating. “Everyone cheats online,” he said a player. “The only difference is that some are smart scammers and some are dumb scammers.”

Are they just imagining it or is it actually happening? While not every instance is a true scammer, there is plenty of evidence that hijinks are afoot. reported the increase in apparent cheating when speaking to Grandmaster RB Ramesh this morning. “It’s well recognized that many indulge in online scams,” he told the outlet, “especially at the younger level where the stakes aren’t high.” He goes on to say that online gaming is becoming increasingly popular during the Covid lockdown became more frequent, with big cash prizes, adding: “As a result of what’s happening, even some professional players, not many, some professional players are giving into it. So that’s going to be an important issue.” themselves published an article on cheating yesterday, beginning by stating, “Cheating is the dirty not-so-secret secret of chess.” Tickets related to the topic.

We turned to world-renowned chess expert Dr. Kenneth Regan of the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, to ask if he’d seen an increase in cheating allegations recently. “I had never heard of an increase in the general ranks of players,” he said kotaku, “but it doesn’t surprise me.” He seems to cast doubt on the veracity of such a spike, adding: “One thing that has been reinforced is all the pseudo-scientific methods of fraud detection.”

In live games, cheating is still extremely marginal, explains the professor. “Previous odds counts from players in the tournament are reported variously between 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 5,000, and that’s consistent with what I feel.” But he adds that online it’s dramatically higher. “The previous rate is 100x – 200x higher, one per cent to two per cent lower in rigorously vetted high-level events, but higher in school events – for the latter, Notice the character of Sarah Longson two years ago.”

We were wonderfully treated by Dr. Regan also linked to a 2014 TEDx talk in which he “condensed the ways people have cheated in personal chess up to this date into a Dr. Seuss rhyme”. Then he adds, “and actually forgot to provide the verse ‘Some had computers in their shoes / Or hid them in the toilet’.”

Last but not least, the broader chess scandal is definitely bringing more high-profile cheaters to light Niemann’s grandmaster trainer now is also accused of admitting he used it once AI to help him choose moves. And when the pros probably dochances are average people might be tempted to cheatto.

Additional reporting by John Walker. Chess Fans Believe Big Scandal Causes More Online Cheating

Curtis Crabtree

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