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Measures against electronic cheating

The possibility of electronic cheating is a worry in many cerebral sports. I thought people here might be interested to hear about some of the heavyhanded attempts to prevent this at last month's chess Olympiad in Baku.

The problems are slightly different for chess and bridge administrators; in bridge it is discovery of the unknown hands via the Internet which would be the biggest gain, whereas in chess in SOME positions, computer analysis of the tactical possibilities is of great value. The chess authorities seem to be proceeding under the assumption that anyone with access to a computer during a game of chess would use it very often, maybe every move. They do not seem to have grasped that for a strong player this would not be necessary (and not always useful - human understanding is often more valuable.) However, to obtain computer assistance at occasions of one's choice even only once or twice during a game could be a big advantage. Perhaps like seeing the records of one or two hands in a session. So really, the security problems are similar.

To prevent players having electronic devices on their person, phones, watches and personal pens (even biros) were forbidden in the playing area. Metal detectors were used on players not only before and after the game, but even DURING play. Time usage is properly monitored in chess, and sometimes one can be required to move quickly. In such circumstances to be mechanically frisked is undoubtably irritating and disruptive of one's thought processes. One English grandmaster loudly told an administrator to F***-off when a metal detector was waved at him at a critical point in the game. He has been officially reprimanded, though most players sympathise.

Past experience has alas shown that some players might keep an electronic device hidden in the toilets. As a result, the organisers decided to monitor how often each player used the toilets during the 4 hour session. If a players wished to go, he/she had to inform an arbiter, who kept a tally. A women's team captain exploded at one point, when an official asked him "Your player is visiting the toilet quite often. Is she menstruating, do you know?"

Team captains require access to the playing area during chess Olympiad matches, to give players permission to accept a draw offer, for example. Worries about them communicating analysis to the players, led to a ban on them holding any papers, including novels. I'm not sure of the rationale here.

Olympics style drug-tests continue though there is no chance of Chess being accepted as an Olympic sport. On the plus side, the "zero-tolerance rule" (whereby any player not present for any reason at the precise second a session started would automatically lose) has now been relaxed to a more sensible 15 minutes.

So it's all a mess and occasionally outrageous. Perhaps some sort of workable framework will be established in time. But for the moment, whatever you think of the WBF, I advise you to stick to bridge.

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