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Ever since computers overtook humans in chess, the game has been haunted by the spectre of cheating.

World champion Magnus Carlsen focused global media attention on the issue when he suggested a fellow grandmaster, Hans Niemann, was cheating. Niemann had just beaten Carlsen in a tournament game, and Carlsen responded by withdrawing from the event.

Niemann quickly admitted he had cheated just twice in online games, once when he was 12 and again when he was 16. But he said he had never done it in over-the-board play.

Then the online platform chess.com said it had analyzed Niemann’s games and found he “likely cheated in more than 100 online chess games, including several prize money events”. The web server uses sophisticated software to compare human moves to those likely played by a computer.

Cheating may be human, but changes in society are leading people to cut more corners

Consulting a computer is easy to do in an online game, but much tougher in person.

Carlsen now refuses to play Niemann in tournaments. But in all the publicity surrounding the two players, another finding by chess.com has gone virtually unnoticed.

It said it found cheating by dozens of grandmasters around the world, including four players in the top 100. That’s a finding which should concern the entire chess community.

Magnus Carlsen v. Hans Niemann, Miami, 2022

Handout

How does Black force a win of material?

Black played 35. … Be4, and White is tied in knots. White tried 36.Qxc5 Bxf3 37.Nxf3 h3 and Black won soon afterwards.