Chess fans believe that a major scandal caused an increase in the number of cheating on the Internet

Magnus Carlsen plays chess.

A photo: Dean Mukhtaropoulos (Getty Images)

Remember the anal cheating controversy? As much as I would not like to forget, it turns out that many still think about it. Some chess players report a surge in computer fraud in matches since the Hans Niemann story broke. One player called the recent surge in cheaters the “Hans effect”.

Was two weeks ago loud dispute who rocked the chess world. World Champion Magnus Carlsen unexpectedly lost to GM Hans Niemann, and eventually Carlsen withdrew from the tournament. Both his sudden exit and the difference in level were so dramatic that viewers began to accuse Niemann of cheating. Chess streamer Hikaru “GMHikaru” Nakamura noted that Niemann previously admitted to cheating on as a child, hence the current controversy.

Since the opponents played live, it is difficult to determine the potential method of cheating (One outlandish theory includes anal beads). But you don’t need any… mmm… special equipment to cheat at online chess, and players involved in online matchmaking are increasingly convinced that more and more people are cheating.

If you are looking for an interest in “how to cheat chess” on Google Trends, you’ll see a significant spike in interest within weeks of the famous chess match, with searches doubling within a month compared to the rest of the year. Obviously, whatever actually happens during the matches, this topic is in people’s heads.

A chart showing an upward trend in search queries.

Screenshot: Google/Kotaku

This has some bearing on users because they can lose more points for losing matches against a player with a lower rating (on one occasion, returned points the player who lost in a questionable match). Kotaku turned to ask if there is a noticeable spike in cheating and what steps their overseers are taking to ensure fair play.

Dr. Kenneth Regan

How do chess players know that someone is cheating? Several players wrote on Reddit that their opponent suddenly improved dramatically in the middle of the game.

Said Quay_Z“I’ve been having so many online blitz games lately where the opponent is clearly cheating as things started to pick up steam for Hans. 3 people have been banned in the last 2 days. Ridiculous.”

i_have_chosen_a_name discussed how players would play poorly and then go back to a perfect win, adding, “And then 3 days later you’ll get this email from and get your points back.”

“What hurts the most,” says sohff, “is when you have a better position or your opponent blunders a pawn or piece, then continues to “think” for 2-4 minutes, and then suddenly starts making perfect engine moves after 5 seconds of thinking about each move. Like, are you really that undisciplined and helpless?

Another considered suspicious if someone took the same amount of time on every move. But the vast majority of victims checked their opponent’s game history. Several perfect matches in a row was enough to light the red flags for one player. Another noticed that their opponent only loses against new accounts.

On the other hand, some players say they have been unfairly accused of cheating. One Reddit user was accused of fraud because their opponent blundered early. Another mentioned that people accused them in other games once they have reached the “flow state”.

Some scammers were simply annoyed that newbies were so bad at cheating. “Everyone cheats on the net,” said one player. “The only difference is that some are smart scammers and others are stupid scammers.”

Is it just their imagination or is it really happening? While not every case can be a true scam, there is plenty of evidence that pranks do occur. reported this morning on the rise in outright cheating, referring to Grandmaster R.B. Ramesh. “It is widely recognized that many are involved in online scams,” he told the publication, “especially at a younger level where the stakes are not high.” He goes on to say that during the Covid lockdown, online gaming has become more common with bigger cash prizes, adding, “As a result of what is happening, even some pro players, a little, some pro players are conniving at it. So it’s becoming a big problem.” Yesterday he published an article about cheating, starting with the statement: “Cheating is a dirty not-so-secret of chess.” They go on to explain that they close an incredible 800 accounts a day due to fraud, and that six percent of support calls are related to this topic.

We reached out to world-famous chess cheating expert Dr. Kenneth Reagan of the University of Buffalo, State University of New York, to ask if he’s noticed the recent spike in cheating allegations. “I haven’t heard of a surge in the core ranks of players,” he said. Kotaku“But that doesn’t surprise me.” Seemingly questioning the veracity of such a surge, he adds, “One thing that has been reinforced is all of the pseudo-scientific ways to detect fraud.”

In a live game, cheating is still extremely marginal, the professor explains. “The estimated number of times a player enters a tournament is between 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 5,000, which is exactly how I feel.” But he adds that online is significantly higher. “The previous rate is 100 times – 200 times higher, one to two percent, less in well-tested high-level events, but higher in training events – for the latter pay attention to the figure of Sarah Longson two years ago“.

Surprisingly, Dr. Regan also linked us to a TEDx talk he gave in 2014, during which he “put the ways people have cheated in personal chess up to this point into a Dr. Seuss rhyme.” He then adds, “and actually forgot to say the couplet: ‘Some had computers in their boots/or hid them in the closet.’

At the very least, the wider chess scandal definitely brings out more known cheaters, with Niemann GM coach currently also accused of admitting to having once used AI to help him choose moves. And if the pros probably do itchances are high that ordinary people might be tempted to cheattoo much.

Additional report by John Walker.

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