The Chess Cheat: A Quick Method for Identifying this Parasite

Whether you refer to them as a “chess cheat” a “computer abuser” or whatever, we all know who they are.

This post will discuss my perspective on cheating in online chess (not the global epidemic of cheating in open events) and will provide:

  • A short rant on the topic ūüôā

and then…

  • A method you can use to get a pretty good idea of whether your opponent is a chess cheat.

So let’s get started…

The Chess Cheat

Defintion:

This guy is a dishonest and pathetic parasite who instead of sharing his passion for chess in an honest, fair game (and MAYBE even trying to improve his chess) prefers to be a chess cheater over the internet.

Clearly headed for great things in life.

CHESS CHEAT

The chess cheat has basically ruined online chess for players rated over 2000 or so. They’re simply the criminals of chess in my opinion.

He will typically have two windows open.

One is his chess-playing website of choice, be it chess.com, Lichess, or even my new fav Guo Xiang Lian Meng.

The other window open is his chess engine.

This is how he¬†“plays” online chess.

Method 1: Manual Transmission

  1. Opponent moves
  2. He enters the move into the engine window and engine responds.
  3. He relays this move to chess website.
  4. Rinse and repeat until poor guy on the other end is crushed senseless and depressed (especially if he like many naive players, thinks he just “played so poorly that he was crushed“)

This is just the most primitive (but also most common) way of cheating.

There are also more “sophisticated” methods like using apps like…

Method 2: Automatic Transmission

InternetChessKiller (suitable name I know)

This¬†app¬†makes the entire process mentioned above automated, so no window switching is required and it even has (so I’ve heard) ways to make the engine only choose like only the 2nd or 3rd best move in order to avoid detection!

Sneaky rats.

You guys starting to see why I train more and more against engines now? At least I get to tweak, weaken and make the engines more “human” before I play them.

Better than taking on Stockfish 7 with its monstrous 3300 rating, which would demolish even Magnus Carlsen.

A friend asked me recently:

“But I don’t get it… Why would they¬†even want to win in such a way? There can be no pride in winning by relaying engine moves mindlessly onto a chess server”

Typical online cheats are low rated, lazy fucks who never had the work ethic to study chess diligently and become a half decent player.

Don’t get it twisted and be offended by my use of “low rated”

This is not a strength issue.

Even 1600 ELO is not bad if you worked hard to get there. Great effort!

I sincerely applaud you.

One the other hand…

A chess cheat is similar to¬†a guy who tries to use “pick up lines” to get a date, rather than just improving himself¬†to the point that a member of the opposite sex might find him interesting.

If You’re a Chess Cheat…¬†Like All Actions in our Lives, This is a Reflection of Your Inner Workings:

If you cheat at chess online, you¬†clearly orient yourself towards…

  • Instant gratification
  • Moral bankruptcy
  • A slothful mindset
  • Poor self-image (need to win by any means necessary to reinforce ego and feel “successful”)

Cheating Destroys Chess Culture

One of the saddest things to see is the lack of trust now in online chess.

Strong players (myself included) after suffering a crushing loss online, immediately suspect that the opponent has had engine assistance.

Its only natural since the problem is rampant.

Just tonight even the mighty Hikaru Nakamura accused an IM who beat him at blitz of using Komodo to beat him!

Amazing.

Here’s a screen cap.

nakamura accuses chess cheat

How I’ll do My Part to Deal with Cheats

At the bottom of this post I have made a video showing you a quick way to get an idea if your opponent is using an engine. Don’t accuse people until you have overwhelming proof (read: don’t be Hikaru ūüėČ )

How You’ll do Your¬†Part to Deal with Cheats

Run suspicious games through the test I give below and if somebody is found to be guilty of cheating, send a report to staff of that website, complete with the links to the games and screenshots from the test.

  • Make a note of the country the cheat says they are from (some cheaters returning with new accounts after being banned seem unable to remove their national pride, and still use the same country indicator.)
  • Make a note of¬†the account name (some cheaters returning with new accounts after being banned only change one digit in the user name to gloat to site staff. So “iMaChEaT” might become “iMaChEaT2”)

Keep all of this gathered intelligence in an “evidence file” for future reference.

How to Identify a Chess Cheat:

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for…rant over I promise! ūüėČ

Its time for the nuts n bolts of this method.

First some no brainers that often point to engine use…

  • Consistent time usage for each move, regardless of position type (cheats don’t use their own brain. So for a decent operator it takes about 5 seconds to switch windows and get a response from the engine, then switch back and make a move. This can be made very obvious when an opponent takes 5 seconds for a forced move or recapture, which a non-cheat would do within 1 second.)
  • PERFECT defence even in scary, knife’s edge, tactical positions with an unsafe king.
  • Account Age: a lot of cheaters have accounts which are less than one year old, due to having previous accounts banned.
  • Failing the “LiChess Test” (video below)

The LiChess Test

Use the¬†test in this video to drive the final nail into the cheat’s coffin.

Conclusion:

Chess cheats are rampant in online chess, but I hope the methods in this post can at least allow you to put your mind at ease about whether you really lost fair and square, ¬†and most importantly…if your opponent was playing fairly.

Keep up the training guys, take care and I’ll see ya soon!

Brendan

  • gareth

    Hi Brendan

    Informative post, after spending many years away from chess
    i do believe online chess is a fantastic portal to supplement over the board
    club chess. Personally unfriendly manner and engine abuse should be dealt with
    and not at all tolerated. In reading your article in relation to the 3 games
    against that same player, is amazing chess.com has chosen to rule against your suspicion.
    I am a current premier member of chess.com and dismayed they would take
    that view. I would say there is a strong argument for creating closed clubs of
    say 100 players controlled by elected members. The idea being to hold the trump cards regarding
    dealing with cheaters and plain bad manners i.e not relying on paid admins to make a decision. Another way also is for over the board chess clubs to create a national world online chess gamesmatches and tournaments open only to club members with published
    over the board ratings. The above would easily able to root out any offenders
    and create a better online chess experience.
    Cheers…Gareth

    • Brendan J. Norman

      Hi Gareth, Sorry its taken a while to get to this comment and respond. I agree that the internet is amazing for participating in chess communities and improving our chess and it really annoys me that a small percentage cheat and ruin it for others. Your idea of closed clubs is also brilliant (seriously), but we’d need to have some way to police it. So your ideas of elected representatives (assuringly with shared philosophy) worldwide is quite interesting. Perhaps some sort of “Fair Online Chess Association” or something for serious players and you need to register with your local official and register with I.D etc? ūüôā

  • Tomasz

    Hi Brendan

    I hope you can think of writing the second part of the article. At least I want to show you some evidence and suggestions.

    There are some exceptions you CANNOT say (at least with absolute certainity) anyone is cheating. What are they? It is my list of doubts ūüėČ ūüôā

    1. The game is simply too short. Here are two (real) examples (from my practice).

    1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 Nxe4 4. Qe2 Nf6 5. Nc6+ Qe7 6. Nxe7 1-0

    1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 c5 5. Nf3 a6 6. a4 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. axb5 axb5 9. Bxb5+ Bd7 10. Rxa8 Bxb5 11. Nxb5 1-0

    2. All the game’s moves are forced (or very easy to find/play). It is very close to the examples presented before.

    3. You played too small number of games. If some weak opponents could have played 2-3 games against you and you (being 2200 and they are about 1500-1600) would crushed them soundly – they could think of you as a cheater.

    Of course there could be more points to consider, but they are just for the reflection and some suggestion.

    What are the conclusions?

    1. Do not take into consideration the games the ends before move 15.
    2. Do not take into consideration the games that have obvious and/or forcing moves [very easy to find for most average players like: captures, checkmate finals, combinations that leads to mate, etc.].
    3. Do not take into consideration the games the ends with a known [especially forced] variation (theory) and after that your opponent blundered (and resigned or disconnected purposely).

    And below you can see one of the best games of mine – and it consists only ONE inaccuracy. It is a proof we can play “perfect games” from time to time – without being a titled player (not to mention World Champion or using an engine). However the difference between the opponents was 300-350 rating points (Let’s say: a strong B-class player against weak C-class player).

    1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d4 Bxd4 6. Nxd4 Nxd4 7. f4 d5 8. fxe5 dxc4 9. exf6 gxf6 10. Be3 Nc6 11. Qh5 Be6 12. Nc3 Ne5 13. Rad1 Qe7 14. Nd5 Bxd5 15. Rxd5 Ng6 16. Bd4 Qxe4 17. Bxf6 Ne7 18. Bxe7 Qe3+ 19. Kh1 Qxe7 20. Re5 1-0

    To be completely clear: I DO NOT defend cheaters, but I want to inform/warn people about false accusations. There are additional (necessary) conditions that have to be met… before they accuse anyone of using an engine.

    Let me know if you agree on me and if my examples convinced you about my conclusions.

    BTW. I am only B-class player (approx. 1700-1750 ELO) and If I could play some (close to) “perfect” games, try to imagine how strong players (2200+) can make an outstanding performance.

    • Interesting thoughts Tomasz,

      Yeah clearly if a game is too short, we cannot judge it accurately or if the game’s moves are easy to play thats also true.

      The number of games played isn’t important though, since clear indications of cheating can be found even from a single game played (provided it fits into the criteria mentioned in this post).

      Another way to avoid all online cheating is to simply play on a paid chess site like ICC, which I have began to do. People aren’t likely to cheat (and risk a ban) when they’ve paid for their account. ūüôā

  • John Diamond

    Hi Brendan thanks interesting article and I agree with your
    feelings . Just wanted to add a bit about internetchesskiller as someone
    recently showed me this program running (privately and not on an actual game site I hasten to add) and I wanted to make people more aware
    so they can watch out for it. You say above that it automates the process so no
    window switching is required.Thats true but in fact it’s even more devious than
    that. You can choose to have it play the moves automatically for you to a
    set time control where it actually moves the mouse for you in which case move
    timing would be consistent regardless of complexity of the position (by the way
    this is how people use it as an autoplayer in bullet time controls like 1
    minute for the entire game) , OR you can set it to manual input mode so that
    the program suggests the engine move in a little window but you then actually
    make the move manually with your mouse. This means that anyone who has any
    chess nous can actually vary the move timing so that simple moves like piece
    recaptures are quick but complex moves/positions appear to take longer.
    Also using this method, you can choose to use the engine’s offered move or do a
    move of your own choosing, so the game is a mixture of engine moves pus your
    own moves making detection more difficult. Also you are correct that you
    can set it to offer the first, second or third engine move choice to try to
    make detection harder. You can also load any engine you choose so by loading a
    weaker engine (eg. 2000 elo and not the 3300 elo super engines) that could also
    make it less obvious. Just sharing this in case people aren’t aware that
    in the hands of a clever user this method of cheating can be very hard to
    detect and prove categorically.

    • Thanks John, very helpful info. I’m sure many will get something from it.

  • x1134x

    The funniest thing about these articles is the supposed reasoning behind the cheater that is surmised from the cheated. It simply MUST be a low-brow thing. The cheater MUST be lazy. The cheater MUST want to win to achieve the same feeling that the cheated feels when they win fair and square, but is unable so they MUST resort to using a computer. Allow me to enlighten you and the lucky few who happen to read my comment, as to WHY you’re being cheated, and WHY perhaps YOU should start cheating TOO, and why laziness or a desire just to win a game is the furthest thing from the “cheater’s” mind.

    When seriously studying chess it doesn’t take anyone very long before they run into this advise: “to improve, you must study the games of the grandmasters”, or more specifically as Yasser Seirawan suggests: Put yourself in the seat of the grandmaster, and try to make the move you think is best, then check against what the granmaster did, if you match say “yay”, if you don’t make the grandmaster’s move try to understand why it was better, then make the opponent’s next move and repeat. This method actually does produce very good results, however the results are “top-heavy” i.e. this helps you best prepare for and play against *grandmaster* opposition, and will send you deep down memorized classical lines. i.e. these games will increase your chess skills, but will never appear on the board when YOU play some other lesser human. The opponent the grandmaster is playing against is also a grandmaster, So really the game is “over your head” You can study games from grandmasters vs normal people from exhibitions, but they are so few and far between that collating them and drawing statistical conclusions about grandmaster vs normal person chess with your specific flavor of opening repertoire is simply not possible. However a hybrid approach to this method is possible due to internet chess: You can actually get a human to play seriously against you without them becoming discouraged or knowing in advance they’re going to lose horrifically to a strong engine. You can then tailor yourself an opening repertoire and over time catalot a LARGE database of games using only those opening moves where an unbelievable good “master” shows you how to tear apart normal human play. If, instead of filling your database of games you study from full of “human vs human” games, you fill it with “houdini/rybka/stockfish” vs “peon” games you end up quite quickly with a new edition of Bruce Pandolfini’s popular “Chess openings: Traps and Zaps!”, and with free programs like Scid vs PC, you can build a tree and sort these games by popularity, which allows you to focus your study on the lines the humans tend to try, and fill your brain full of smashes when your opponent plays poorly. Now of course this isn’t the end-all be-all of chess-training, the opposite approach where you play 1000 games yourself with your best effort, throw out all wins, and study with a computer (or master) all of your losses, is absolutely essential as well, however when it comes to obtaining good chess “thinking” you can either feel around in the dark that is the endless amount of chess moves in chess hoping to find ideas on your own, OR you can have the jedi master walk you through it and show you how good chess is played. Sure you’re not going to memorize every single line, and every opponent is not going to be weak enough to fall for a human error you’ve already studied, but WHERE TO FIND THOSE, is through being a total jerk and forcing a human to play vs your opening but against ridiculously “perfect” play, and going over 1000s of these games, the repetition helps you learn by “osmosis” simply absorbing the style of the engine you use.

    The final thing I’d say about this is that after using an engine in such a fashion another side-effect benefit is that you come to know a quick and easy way to identify those who use a computer against you. I know what Houdini vs Houdini looks like using my opening systems. I know what houdini vs rybka looks like, I know what komodo vs stockfish looks like. Its just like if someone were to play vs you one of the “classic games” of the masters like “the evergreen game” or heck even “the scholar’s mate” that would pop up in your head if they are played become quite obvious. Human players cling to “opening rules” when faced with a non-classical opening. Chess computers disregard these rules when its more positionally advantageous. These moves become a signature, and with just a few of them in a row, you recognize. “this is houdini 1.5 vs rybka 4” When playing humans the humans when playing poorly get swallowed up, and when playing well, usually choose the same lines that do well but conform to the commonly-taught opening rules of “don’t move a piece twice”, “control the center”, “pawns first”, “knights before bishops”, “castle early” etc. These human lines usually have a few higher level tournament games you can draw from and will have studied. “Karpov V Miles 1980” comes up a lot. When my opponent seems to know the better moves that violate classical principles that KARPOV didn’t see. . .I can immediately draw a conclusion that the opponent is likely using a computer whether I am or not at the time. You don’t really have to dissect it very far, it just becomes obvious that they’re using an engine.

    Finally even my obscure opening (the saint george defense, played both as white and black, as recommended by IM Michael Basman) has had enough analysis and play that the “traps” that humans fall into were already known. For every 1 player that falls for a trap I learned from Rybka or Houdini, 4 fall into a trap I learned from Basman. So no I’m not saying this is a “core” training technique, rather a very effective “supplemental” training technique, all moral implications of defrauding a person of a human level opponent and showing them their true skill of chess vs CHESS ITSELF aside. (there has to be some level of benefit enough to show a few entries in the “pros” column when analyzing having been playing against a computer. Those of us who study chess much know you learn much more from your losses than from your wins and draws.)

    I never really understood the AWE and beauty of the play of players like Fischer who could play like an engine during their time vs normal opponents until I started watching rybka tear humans apart, not using “trade down to won endgame” human strategizing but using *CHESS*, almost every game a “brilliancy” like watching Morphy play at a kiosk in public. That type of study shows you what you’ve been missing the whole time, the things the grandmaster’s opponent DID see, but you never did when studying grandmaster games. Now that I’ve seen tactics used in such brutal fashion, I’m much more aware that THEY ARE THERE TO BE FOUND almost EVERYWHERE in chess games, and I look for them much harder and spend a lot less time thinking about “the rules of the opening say ________” or “the goal of the middle game is _________” to try to guide my move choice between two or three seemingly equal moves. “which move leads to a tactic or is most likely to coordinate pieces such that a tactic appears” is much more my thought process after 10 years of studying computers tearing humans apart. Humans really are HORRIBLE at chess. That’s why there’s such vitriol against cheaters and chess engines, we don’t want to play against CHESS ITSELF, the state-space that is the game and all its moves and beauty, we want to play against someone who misses those moves like we do. {:-)

    • What’s your ELO, may I ask?

      • x1134x

        0000

      • x1134x

        So your focus simply cannot be pried off of ad-hominem? 2200 but I haven’t played rated games in over a decade. Most people who play chess do not compete in organized play, and many would do well if they did, kinda like the best guitarists mostly have other day jobs. Many of my friends play competitively and I usually defeat them easily, unless we’re playing blitz, then I lose on time but material ahead, and still feel like I won. To me chess isn’t about you vs me, its not spassky vs fischer, it’s white vs black. “What’s your highest score on Galaga?” Doesn’t really convey anything about love, dedication, or time spend in pursuit of an enjoyable alien bug zapping experience.
        As an example, I’m using an engine vs someone in a faster game say 3 or 5 mins, I’m up a “game’s” worth of material or more, and time is coming to a close. In your mind the cheater would abandon the slow process of consulting the computer, start moving fastly, even stupidly, to secure the “win” on time, because winning is everything, and the rating is the cheater’s focus. I however will continue to consult the computer, making 3300 level moves all the way until I win or I lose on time. And then retrieve the payload, the thing I’m after, the pgn of perfect play vs humanly selected moves. I’m not looking for “I beat you” or even “here’s how I beat you” I’m after “here’s HOW TO beat this guy”. “To win” is not the focua. “To witness how to win” is. Then later I will play vs your move list, myself. I will play good and bad moves, but rather than me leading the lesson down an untenabe line, we’ll course correct the whole time. I can measure my progress by scoring my chosen move against the score of the computer’s best option . Basically your lichess method in reverse. Use it to rate vs known best play with the ability to continue lines vs human selected moves rather than engine vs engine moves when you make your first mistake. Studying your own games you have to continue down your bone headed lines or pretend you and your opponent both suddenly start playing like 3300 engines. My way, you continue down the correct line, and see both how you can still blunder it away, and how your opponents human tendencies can be defeated, because theyre still present down the line you should have chosen, because you cheated earlier when collecting the data. Also whtly I don’t get my briefs in a bunch when people are obviously using an engine against me, whn im not, hopefully they learn something from it, I know I will.