While at first glance, chess may not seem like a game that players can cheat in, that couldn’t be further from the truth. But how do you cheat in over-the-board chess? It’d be obvious with a player sitting right across the table and, in many cases, a whole crowd watching.
Players can secretly use a chess engine in a bathroom stool, with the help of an accomplice, or hidden in a secret device. They can also fabricate the score sheet to make it look like they won the match.
Well, it’s these tight circumstances that have sparked the creativity behind some of these methods, and in this article, we’ll tell you all about it!
How Do You Cheat in Over the Board Chess?
Let’s see the different ways chess players used to cheat in this game.
1. Taking a Bathroom Break
If one player is in a tight spot and doesn’t know how to move next, they can ask to use the bathroom.
This is standard procedure in chess tournaments, as the games can go on for a very long time.
What’s not standard procedure, however, is that chess players can use a phone they’ve hidden inside the stool.
They feed their opponents’ moves to a chess engine and it’ll tell them the next best move.
This is a tricky method for several reasons.
First, not all tournaments allow players to have their phones. In this case, players would need to come up with a way to hide their phones inside the stool before the tournament starts.
Furthermore, players can only use this method once or twice. Any more than that, and the organizers will probably suspect the player is cheating, although that has happened on several occasions.
An example of this would be the former Grandmaster, Igors Rausis, who was caught sitting on the toilet seat with a phone in his hand during a tournament in 2019.
As a result, the FIDE stripped him of his title and banned him from their tournaments for six years.
2. Using an Accomplice
This one works most effectively in tournaments that broadcast live footage of the game.
Players can have accomplices watch their opponent’s moves, feed them into a chess engine then tell the players the engine’s countermoves.
During the tournament, players can receive this information in several ways.
They can have a micro speaker in their ears to listen to their accomplices, like Dhruv Kakkar.
They can use a phone that they’ve hidden inside a bathroom stool to receive a text with their next move.
That’s kinda what happened with Grandmaster Sebastian Feller.
Feller’s accomplice watched the live broadcast and fed the moves of Feller’s opponent to an engine. He then texted the engine’s countermoves to Feller’s coach, Arnaud Hauchard.
Hauchard sent the moves to Feller with secret signals that they both agreed on beforehand.
Not all tournaments broadcast live footage of the game, though. So how can one cheat then? In some instances, players have used small cameras hidden in a locket, a watch, or their glasses.
That way, their accomplices can watch the game and tell them how to move.
3. Using a Fake Scorekeeping Device
Yes, that’s happened before.
Scorekeeping devices keep track of the players’ moves. They’re a modern alternative to using pen and paper.
They’re allowed in some tournaments. That’s if their real purpose is to only keep track of the players’ movements.
You see, these devices can be tampered with, making it possible to grant players access to a chess engine in the middle of the game.
Clack Smiley was a rising star in his local chess community. In one tournament, he was caught using this exact method and was suspended from the chess federation of Virginia.
4. A Vibrating Device
This one’s a bit unorthodox, though it’s aroused the intrigue of the chess world for a while.
Some players can hide a small vibrating device that’s connected to a chess engine and connect it with wires to sensors and vibration motors.
In theory, players can use a sequence of vibrations by using force-sensing resistors to transmit the moves of their opponents to the device.
They can choose to hide the sensors and motors in any part of their bodies, but it has to be a part they can move freely to send accurate vibrations to the device.
The vibration motor would then allow them to receive the instructions of the chess engine in the form of vibrations.
Of course, deciphering the meaning of the vibration sequences isn’t easy. Whether it’s Morse code or any other sequence, there’s a huge room for error here.
In fact, when James Stanley tested this method, it didn’t work that effectively. Don’t get the wrong idea, the device actually worked to an extent.
But Stanley kept messing up the signals he sent the device in his pocket. He also misinterpreted some of the signals the device sent him.
So the technology exists.
With careful steps and paying close attention, a player can score a solid victory with this method.
5. Messing With the Score Sheet
A score sheet is a piece of paper on which players write every move they make in the game.
This sheet is an official record of the game. So some players can fabricate the score sheet to make it look like they won the game.
This one’s hard to pull off. If they’re lucky, things might work out for them.
In conclusion, chess is a game that’s difficult to cheat in. But it’s because of that difficulty that players have come up with creative ways to deceive the system.
So how do you cheat in over-the-board chess?
Most chess players cheat using a chess engine, whether by secretly using it in a bathroom break or having an accomplice relay its countermoves.
An unconventional way has sprung up recently. It involves using a vibrating device. While the technology is advanced, the results aren’t guaranteed.
Cheating in chess isn’t limited to technology, though. Fabricating the score sheet is a shameful act that some players use to make it seem like they won the game.