Friday, September 8, 2006

Cheating with a yogurt in chess

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Compared to other sports, cheating (to win, that is) in chess are relatively few and almost negligible among professional players until the advent of computer programs and wireless technology.

Cheating to lose is, however, another matter. The most popular tournament format nowadays is the Swiss System, where it is possible to have an acceptable winner even if the participants number in the hundreds, as players with the same score are pitted against each other.

Cheating occurs usually in the last two or, most often, last round where games are fixed and money exchanged in return for throwing the match. It usually happens in the top two or three boards and the arbiters are hopeless in preventing it. This practice is common in local and international matches where the players know each other very well.

There is a gray area in the game known as “grandmaster draws” where some form of cheating occurs. During the ’70s, when the Soviet Union was the predominant power in chess, they usually drew their games and ganged up on the rest. It was only Bobby Fischer who, by his enormous will to win and incomparable talent, demolished the Russians and became a legend up to this day.

YOGURT SIGNAL Last July, in the World Open in Philadelphia, a scandal occurred when two players were accused of cheating using wireless technology. It seems that a player, who was one of the lowest- ranked in the main tournament, was confronted by the tournament director for a string of wins against much stronger players.

He retired to the bathroom where he spent 45 minutes and after that he lost all his remaining games.

GM Larry Christiansen later analyzed one of his games by using the computer program Shredder. The last 25 moves matched those of the computer.

The other player, later identified as Steve Rosenberg, was found to be using a wireless receiver known as a “phonito” and was disqualified.

The most comical of cheating allegations occurred during the Match of the Century in 1972, when Boris Spassky’s second, Efim Geller, accused Bobby Fischer’s camp of disturbing Spassky’s concentration. The Icelandic police later swept the tournament hall of electronic devices and found two dead flies in the lighting system.

Another comical accusation of cheating was during the World Championship in Baguio City, when Victor Korchnoi accused Anatoly Karpov of cheating by drinking yogurt in several colors, suggesting that these were signals.

Also both camps employed hypnotists to “bother” each other, with Karpov employing a certain Dr. Zukhar and Korchnoi hiring a member of a local cult who was accused of murder.

BLUES. An allegation by Garry Kasparov that he was cheated by IBM in his loss to the computer program Deep Blue in 1997 in Philadelphia shocked the entire chess world, which could not believe that IBM would do such a thing.

Kasparov claimed there was human interference in the second game, won by Deep Blue, when the machine refused to move to a position that had a decisive short-term advantage – an act that showed a very human sense of danger.

Deep Blue, which was able calculate two billion positions per second, was retired after the match.

During the inter-collegiate chess championship in the US several years ago, one college played a match against the University of Chicago, which had a Pinoy player in their line-up at board one, Angelo Young, who is also a strong player. His opponent was the late GM Alexander Wocjiewicz, who was studying in that college in only one subject and enrolled just for chess tournaments. I don’t know if you can call this cheating.

I featured Alex in this column several weeks back as he died just last July and was a Cebu visitor in 1998. He was a regular guy who was fond of karaoke bars and ice-cold beer—like me, Jun Olis, Art Ynclino, Jojo Muralla, Jun Montes and Dante Arguelles.

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