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.