After many months of preparation by the FIDE/ACP Anti-Cheating Committee, finally a proposal for new anti-cheating regulations was submitted for voting by the General Assembly, last month in Tromsø. Unfortunately a vote was not established due to a lack of quorum, but FIDE will allow arbiters to adopt the new regulations anyway.
On July 1, Chess.com presented the biggest changes in the new Laws of Chess here. The “anti-cheating rule” (11.3.b, part of the “conduct of the players”) — in practice the rule about mobile phones — goes as follows:
b. During play, a player is forbidden to have a mobile phone and/or other electronic means of communication in the playing venue. If it is evident that a player brought such a device into the playing venue, he shall lose the game. The opponent shall win.
The rules of a competition may specify a different, less severe, penalty.
The arbiter may require the player to allow his clothes, bags or other items to be inspected, in private. The arbiter or a person authorised by the arbiter shall inspect the player and shall be of the same gender as the player. If a player refuses to cooperate with these obligations, the arbiter shall take measures in accordance with Article 12.9.
However, this rule is already out-dated. The current Laws of Chess were approved by the General Assembly in Tallinn, Estonia in October 2013 and came into effect on July 1st, 2014. Meanwhile, the FIDE/ACP Anti-Cheating Committee has proposed a change of this 11.3.b — to a less severe one in fact. It reads as follows:
During a game, a player is forbidden to have a mobile phone, electronic means of communication or any device capable of suggesting chess moves on their person in the playing venue. However, the rules of the competition may allow such devices to be stored in a player’s bag, as long as the device is completely switched off. A player is forbidden to carry a bag holding such a device, without permission of the arbiter. If it is evident that a player has such a device on their person in the playing venue, the player shall lose the game. The opponent shall win. The rules of a competition may specify a different, less severe, penalty. The arbiter may require the player to allow his/her clothes, bags or other items to be inspected, in private. The arbiter or a person authorized by the arbiter shall inspect the player and shall be of the same gender as the player. If a player refuses to cooperate with these obligations, the arbiter shall take measures in accordance with Article 12.9. The final decision to make this change to the Laws of Chess shall be made by the 2014 FIDE General Assembly.
The above change should have been approved by the FIDE General Assembly in Tromsø, but wasn't because of lack of quorum. Whereas almost all delegates turned up for e.g. the Presidential elections, many of them preferred to visit the playing hall or do something else during this important vote.
This is a pity, especially since the next General Assembly isn't scheduled before 2016, while these new rules are expected to be approved by a big majority. That's why the Chairman of the FIDE Arbiters’ Commission, Takis Nikolopoulos, has suggested that arbiters start using it on October 1, 2014, even though it is not part of the official Laws of Chess yet. On the FIDE website he writes:
“As the change is very significant and as the period until the next FIDE General Assembly will take place is too long, FIDE suggested that the Arbiters shall apply the above change of the article 11.3.b of the Laws of Chess during all their tournaments that will be held from now on.
Therefore you are instructed to apply the above wording of the article 11.3.b. of the Laws of Chess in all your tournaments, starting from 1 October 2014.”
Nikolopoulos also gives an interpretation of the change:
“In minor chess tournaments, where the players is not possible to leave their mobiles out of the playing hall and the organizers cannot provide an area for collecting the mobiles of all the players during the rounds, the Arbiters have the possibility to apply the new wording of the article 11.3.b., allowing the players to have their mobile phones in their bags, but completely switched off.
The player shall inform the Arbiter before the start of the round, in case that a completely switched off mobile phone, or any electronic mean of communication, or any other device capable of suggesting chess moves is in his/her bag.
All the above shall be included in the rules of competition (tournament regulations) of the specific event in advance. The Chief Arbiter may make an announcement before the start of the round.
This possibility will not be valid for the World and Continental FIDE events.”
With the new regulation, the problem is addressed that it is highly impractical to forbid mobile phones altogether. Chess players are usually happy to switch it off during a game, but it would be too much to keep it at home — a smartphone may be used to find the venue (and thus avoid the loss by zero-tolerance), or read the news on the way there!
Some chess fans might wonder if all these anti-cheating regulations are really necessary, but new cases of (alleged) cheating keep popping up. For example, two weeks ago the Dutch Chess Federation banned 2239-rated Wesley Vermeulen for one year from its events, after he was caught with a mobile phone during a game in Romania earlier this year.
The Romanian Chess Federation reported the case to the FIDE Ethics Commission, who haven't discussed it yet. Nonetheless, the Dutch federation took the decision to ban Vermeulen anyway, “given the seriousness of the case and the start of the new league season”.
It remains to be seen whether the new regulations will effectively prevent cheating in chess. German IM Bernd Kohlweyer, an active tournament player, wrote on Facebook early August:
“Toilet cheating is easy as ever. Nothing has changed.
It was told here that Fide wanted to change some rules for players to make cheating a bit more difficult. Let me tell you what I experienced in 2 of my last open tournaments:
In Benasque Open players were forbidden to bring mobile phones into the playing hall. Very nice! This is big progress if this new rule would be executed in every chess event. But in practice nothing has changed. The players didn´t care and most of them didn´t even know about that rule. They kept on wearing mobile phones in their bags, rucksacks and pants. To my knowledge nobody was checked, so the nice rule was just on the paper, nothing more.
In Badalona I noticed a GM who put 2 mobile phones into his pants just before the games started. I asked the referee about the rules and he said: “If the phones make no noise, it´s ok.”
To me it seems that to go to the toilet and take a look at the chess engine on your mobile is as easy as ever. It´s not the cleverest way of cheating, but the easiest; everybody can do it without much effort.
I´m still waiting that anti cheating rules will be executed.”
It should also be noted that cheating in chess is certainly not limited to getting computer assistance during a game. Also on Facebook, IM Yochanan Afek of Israel remarked early September:
“And even when we will manage to control all technology cheating we will still face the "classical" cheating in opens which Fide and arbiters often refuse to deal with, such as fixed games "insured" results, twisted last round pairings and the likes. Obsessed by the fiber-cheating phobia we almost forgot that cheating in chess was common practice long before the silicon era.”