Cheaters never prosper — at least not all the time. The arrival of supercalculating chess programs has brought with it a rash of incidents of cheating in chess, with players and their confederates consulting with programs at critical points in games in hopes of gaining an edge.
A player in the just-concluded German national championship tournament forfeited after he admitted that his frequent bathroom breaks during a critical late-round game were opportunities to log on to his home computer. In the harshest new rule instituted in decades, the mere ringing of a player’s cellphone during play is grounds for instant forfeit, no questions asked.
The most celebrated — and contested — case of computer-aided dishonesty came in charges lodged against three members of a French team last fall at the Olympiad tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Young French GM Sebastien Feller was among those accused of getting help from a coach during games, through a clever system in which the coach stood behind various players as he watched the games to signal what piece and which square to focus on. Later it was found that the players’ moves almost invariably were also the first choice of one of the world’s strongest chess-playing programs.
Feller and his compatriots have proclaimed their innocence, but the French Chess Federation recently imposed lengthy playing bans on the accused. Exhibits A and B in the prosecution’s case might be today’s two games. In the first, played early in 2010, Russian GM Artyom Timofeev nicely outplays Feller in a complex tactical battle; seven months later at the Olympiad, it is Feller who wins the duel. Whether silicon enhancement aided Black’s cause we leave for the reader to decide.
In their game from the Aeroflot Open in early 2010, Feller as Black acquits himself well early in this Queen’s Gambit Meran but takes an unnecessary risk with 25. Rd3 e5 26. Bc3 Na3?! (simply 26…Rf4 27. f3 Bc5+ 28. Kh1 Bd4 gives Black a fine game) 27. Ba5 Qb8 28. Bxd8 Rxd8 29. Nc3 b4, apparently hoping his strong bishop pair will compensate for the lost exchange.
But White balances defense and offense in the clash that decides the game: 38. Rg4 Be3? (the kind of tactical oversight a good computer program wouldn’t make; vital first was 38…Rf8 to forestall White’s next move) 39. Bf5! Qxd5 (Re8 40. Be6+ Rxe6 [Kf8?? 41. Qf6 mate] 41. dxe6 Qxe6 42. Qd1, and White should win) 40. Bxg6! Qd4 (hxg6 41. Rxg6+ Kf7 42. Qg7+ Ke8 43. Rf6 Bc5 44. Re1+ wins) 41. Bc2+ Kf8? (see diagram - the last mistake; 41…Kh8 42. Qxd4+ Rxd4 43. Bb3 Nc4 at least allows Feller to fight on) 42. Rgxf4+!! Bxf4 43. Qc1! Kg7 (Qd2 44. Rxf4+ Kg7 45. Qf1! Qxc2 46. Rg4+ Qg6 47. Rxg6+ hxg6 48. Qa1+ Kh7 49. Qe5 is also winning) 44. Rxf4 Qc5 45. Rf7+, and Black resigns as the White queen dominates after 45…Kxf7 46. Bg6+ hxg6 47. Qxc5.
Compare that to the same players with the same colors seven months later. In what evolves into a Caro-Kann Botvinnik line, Black’s 14. Qa4 Nb3!? already raises red flags: Many strong human players wouldn’t risk sending the knight so far afield with no clear way of getting it back home.
But by 20. Qd6 Rd7! 21. Qxd5 Rxd5, that wayward Black knight helps win the White d-pawn, and Timofeev is forced to take increasingly risky measures to try to save the game. With Black staying firmly in control, another tactical dust-up decides this game, but this time Feller’s performance is noticeably improved.
Thus: 31. Bb5 Rb4 32. Bc7 Bd5! 33. Bd7 Bxb7 34. Bxc8 Bxc8 35. Re8+ Kh7 36. Rxc8 Rc4!, a pin that paralyzes White’s rook and bishop. Feller can either maneuver to win the bishop on c7 or simply push his passed a-pawn with 37. f4 a4 38. Kf3 a3 39. Ra3 Rxc7 and win; White resigns.
Short takes … American No. 1, Hikaru Nakamura, is back in action at the Bazna Kings Tournament under way in Medias, Romania. Nakamura lost to Norwegian superstar Magnus Carlsen in the opening round but bounced back with a win in Round 2 against local star GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. … GMs Loek van Wely and Varuzhan Akobian tied for first in the annual National Open in Las Vegas, one of the country’s strongest open events. … In a bizarre bit of timing, mercurial FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov showed up in Libya over the weekend, meeting with embattled leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi and playing a game with his son Muhammad. FIDE said in a statement that Ilyumzhinov was there as part of the organization’s Year of Africa celebration.
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c6 4. e3 Nf6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4
7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 a6 9. e4 c5 10. d5 c4 11. Bc2 Bb7 12. O-O
Bc5 13. b3 Qa5 14. Qe1 Rc8 15. Rb1 cxb3 16. Rxb3 O-O 17. Bd2
Qc7 18. dxe6 fxe6 19. Nd1 Ng4 20. h3 Nge5 21. Nxe5 Nxe5
22. Be3 Bd6 23. Bb1 Nc4 24. Bd4 Rcd8 25. Rd3 e5 26. Bc3 Na3
27. Ba5 Qb8 28. Bxd8 Rxd8 29. Nc3 b4 30. Nd5 a5 31. Rg3 Bc5
32. Qd1 Qd6 33. Bd3 g6 34. Kh1 Kg7 35. f4 Bxd5 36. exd5 exf4
37. Qa1+ Kg8 38. Rg4 Be3 39. Bf5 Qxd5 40. Bxg6 Qd4 41. Bc2+
Kf8 42. Rgxf4+ Bxf4 43. Qc1 Kg7 44. Rxf4 Qc5 45. Rf7+ 1-0.
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Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.
At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...
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