Chess Grandmaster Exposed As App-Using Cheat

from the there's-an-app-for-that dept

I love chess. As the original multi-player turn-based strategy game, chess serves as the backbone for many a modern era game, for which it has my respect. Despite this love I have for the game, I happen to be quite horrible at it, but that only makes me all the more reverent of those that master its wily machinations. Kasparov is a name I know solely because he was a grand champion, one of those faces of chess that spurred on so much intrigue as people wondered just how he was able to dominate his opponents so completely.

Gaioz Nigalidze was one of those folks, too, having attained the title of grandmaster, but now he isn’t. He might actually be as good as advertised, but we can’t trust that he is any longer because he was found to be using a iPhone to cheat his way through a match. The plot begins and ends, as all good plots do, in the toilet.

On Saturday, Nigalidze, the 25-year-old reigning Georgian champion, was competing in the 17th annual Dubai Open Chess Tournament when his opponent spotted something strange.

“Nigalidze would promptly reply to my moves and then literally run to the toilet,” Armenian grandmaster Tigran Petrosian said. “I noticed that he would always visit the same toilet partition, which was strange, since two other partitions weren’t occupied.”

Yes, the strange part was which toilet Nigalidze used, not the fact that his bladder decided to punctuate each move with a potty trip. As it turns out, Nigalidze had hidden an iPhone in one of the restrooms, wrapped in toilet paper because there ain’t no stealth in chess, and had been running the game he was playing through an application that analyzed and suggested moves. In other words, he totally h4x0red that chess tournament, ya’ll!

It turns out that being the Barry Bonds of chess isn’t great for one’s career and Nigalidze’s past and future have both been placed in jeapordy.

Nigalidze was expelled from the tournament, which is still ongoing and features more than 70 grandmasters from 43 countries competing for a first-place prize of $12,000. The Georgian’s career is now under a microscope. His two national titles are under suspicion. And under recently tightened rules against cheating, he could be banned for up to 15 years.

This has reportedly sent the chess world into some kind of insane tailspin over concerns that, now that someone has proved that cheating in tournaments with a small device such as a phone is doable, who knows how many other of our revered grandmasters are big, steaming, salty cheat-burgers? The ancient game is now understood to be relatively easy to master with something as common as a smartphone, which means chess tournaments are about to get way more TSA-like with security, I guess.

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Comments on “Chess Grandmaster Exposed As App-Using Cheat”

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From the Washington Post:

Nigalidze?s expulsion is a nightmare scenario for chess: proof positive that technologically enabled cheating, rumored about for more than a decade, is now pervasive

This one incident is proof positive that it is pervasive?

“Pervasive” would be like steroids in baseball, where loads of top pros were taking them.

Also, this isn’t easy to get away with. If you’re analyzing everything on your phone, you need to stop and enter all the moves into your phone after every move and see what it tells you to do. If you do what this guy did and run to the bathroom after every move, it’s suspicious and getting caught is inevitable if you make this a pattern.

If you only did this twice a game in critical positions, you’d have a much better chance of not getting caught, but that’s going to result in a far smaller advantage.


Some day Deep Blue will be available as a phone app.

But probably not this decade.

That said, I can’t see how a chess app of this decade would be particularly useful against high-ranking masters. Our home-computer chess guns are good but not that good.

In the meantime, the current chess tournaments are about devising human error into the equation, hence rules like Once you pick up a piece, you have to move it. I think it’d be neat to see a game that allows for free-form consultations with all the software you want. Maybe even human lifelines. A different game, yes. But still one worthy of playing, just as open-dictionary Scrabble has its charm.


Re: Some day Deep Blue will be available as a phone app.

Uhm… The best chess programs are virtually unbeatable by humans in chess. Even with severe handicaps on the computers ability, a grandmaster will have a hard time even drawing today.

It has come so far that the best chess players use chess engines to guide their positional understanding in their training, but do not use them for actual play. Magnus Carlsen has said something in line with: “Playing against a computer is like playing against a retard. It constantly makes stupid moves, but always win.”. Or in other words: Human players would never make some of the moves computers do, so training against a computer would not make you better in human tournaments generally. Computers simply play chess so much better than humans, that it isn’t worth training against.

As for free form cunsultation, it is a common way to play online in correspondence matches.

No, chess is not solved yet for more than 7 pieces on the board, except for specific positions. But a chess engine playing on good hardware is getting closer to playing perfect.


What a boring way to cheat. He should have done it James bond style, (or Lock Stock style), with a little radio transmitter and piezo-electric device that can tap out patterns on your upper thigh, then have someone in the audience (or watching via binoculars, or via TV, or tiny camera), relaying a computer’s move to you remotely.

I could build a fully self-contained device that I could hide on my person for under $100, and have it connect via 3G. Cheaper than an iPhone, and you don’t have to get up and go to the bathroom after every move.


Anyone else think the cheating part wasn’t nearly as bad as

?Nigalidze would promptly reply to my moves and then literally run to the toilet,? Armenian grandmaster Tigran Petrosian said. ?I noticed that he would always visit the same toilet partition, which was strange, since two other partitions weren?t occupied.?

Who makes note of which stall a guy uses in the can? Creeper . . .



Who makes note of which stall a guy uses in the can?

A guy who notices that his opponent is running to the bathroom every move for the last several moves, possibly, especially when the opponent is moving instantly.

And hey, it could be worse. He could have continued “… and whenever I peeked under the stall his pants were never down.”


As the original multi-player turn-based strategy game, chess serves as the backbone for many a modern era game, for which it has my respect.

This statement is a bit like saying that World of Warcarft is the original MMORPG. It ignores all the predecessors just because it’s been the largest of its kind for so long that what came before feel like foot notes to its success.

There are actually quite a few very interesting predecessors to chess that have some very interesting rules and strategies, but most lack the depth offered from chess due to a more limit set of pieces or moves.


Western civilization was slow to warm up to Go.

In fact, there’s controversy in the east about Imperial Go players (as in the Empire of Japan) and post-imperial Go players. The former are more polite and find the latter inappropriately ruthless.

Chess gets its big status from its use for good publicity during the Cold War, as a means for the US and USSR to try to humiliate each other outside of proxy wars.

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