The Weekend Australian - Review - - Mind Games -

Last week we re­ported on the ris­ing in­ci­dence of cheat­ing in chess; this week a con­tro­ver­sial grand­mas­ter de­cided to find out for him­self just how easy it is to break the rules. And the re­sults are star­tling. To cut a long story short, $30, 90 min­utes of re­search and a will­ing col­lab­o­ra­tor were all it took to cheat like the per­fect scoundrel.

Vladislav Tkachiev, 41, a French-Rus­sian-Kaza­khstani grand­mas­ter, de­cided to in­ves­ti­gate the is­sue af­ter a se­ries of re­cent cheat­ing episodes made the press. Tkachiev found that he could hire the rel­e­vant equip­ment for a day for a cou­ple of rou­bles. A tiny trans­mit­ting de­vice could be hid­den in the ear, where even walk-through air­port scan­ners couldn’t de­tect it. His col­lab­o­ra­tor viewed the event on closed cir­cuit cam­era, an­a­lysed the po­si­tion with a lap­top com­puter, and told Tkachiev what to play via his ear­piece. The re­sult was that Tkachiev ab­so­lutely thrashed a player of sim­i­lar strength who nor­mally would have put up tough re­sis­tance.

Tkachiev’s col­leagues have of­fered var­i­ous so­lu­tions to con­tain the cheat­ing prob­lem, in­clud­ing mon­i­tor­ing toi­let vis­its, scan­ning play­ers with metal de­tec­tors, and even lie de­tec­tor tests, all backed up by the threat of a life­time ban if you’re caught. (At present the penalty is three years for a first of­fence and 15 years for the sec­ond.)

His own sug­ges­tions seem a tad face­tious: pay­ing boun­ties for hunt­ing down cheaters, set­ting up a “Cheaters Anony­mous” for those who want to re­form, or even us­ing of­fend­ers to help track down other of­fend­ers. It takes one to know one, I sup­pose.

Tkachiev, more se­ri­ously, sug­gests that cheat­ing at chess might be an of­fence un­der Rus­sian law – “dam­age to prop­erty by de­cep­tion”. In­ter­est­ingly enough, an English poker player was once jailed for cheat­ing.

Tkachiev him­self is an in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter who leads a wild life­style. He caused con­tro­versy at a tour­na­ment in Cal­cutta in 2009 when he for­feited a game be­cause he was so drunk he passed out at the board. And he earned the ire of fem­i­nists by set­ting up the “World Chess Beauty Con­test” with his brother Evgeny, an on­line pa­rade of beau­ti­ful fe­male chess play­ers where the au­di­ence could vote for their favourites. The con­tro­ver­sial site is now off­line.

Mean­while, in other chess news, a ma­jor event – the FIDE Grand Prix – is un­der way in Rus­sia. Play­ers in­clude Fabi­ano Caru­ana, Hikaru Naka­mura, Alexander Grischuk, An­ish Giri, Maxime Vachier-La­grave, Sergey Kar­jakin, Evgeny To­ma­shevsky, Boris Gelfand, Dmitry Jakovenko, Peter Svi­dler, Leinier Dominguez and Baadur Jobava.

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