Eliminating Cheating in Online Chess Tournaments

Sorry, I’ve always wanted to write a clickbait headline and this was my chance.

It’s impossible to 100% eliminate cheating. But read on and I’ll tell you what to do instead of attempting the impossible.

There are two types of cheating in chess:

  1. Flagrant Cheating – simply copying a computer’s moves
  2. Intermittent Cheating – support from another person, glancing at opening theory, checking a critical move with a computer, etc

It’s surprisingly easy to catch a player replaying computer moves! Any game can be put through a correlation analysis with the moves of a computer engine and it’s instantly obvious for any player below International Master standard.

It’s Intermittent Cheating that is impossible to prevent and difficult to catch.

At Tornelo.com our objective is not to “prevent cheating”. The attempt itself may even encourage more cheaters by giving them a challenge! And a feeling of success when they “get away with it”.

Our goal is simple:

  • Attract players who wouldn’t cheat in real life.
  • Provide an environment which maximises the likelihood that these players will engage with the SAME behaviour online as over-the-board.

Three simple things achieve this:

  1. Reputations
  2. Clear expectations
  3. Community

We all know people behave much worse online than in real life. Behavioural psychology suggests this is due to:

  • Dissociative anonymity (“They’ll never know who I really am”)
  • Invisibility (“We can’t see each other online”)
  • Asynchronicity (“I can leave my message behind without immediate consequence”)
  • Solipsistic introjection (“This is how I see you, in my mind”)
  • Dissociative imagination (“My online persona is different from who I am in real life”), and
  • Minimization of authority (“I can do whatever I want online”)

To combat these risk factors Tornelo.com creates an environment in which:

  • We use real life identities
  • We see and talk to each other, face-to-face and in real-time
  • We build a community, encouraging empathy for other players
  • We provide a visible Authority (arbiter) for every event

The platform ensures that:

  • There are no “personas”, everyone is themselves
  • Cheating becomes “high stakes”; it requires taking a Personal Risk (online behaviour impacts real-world reputation)
  • Players value their reputation which is built over time and makes it progressively harder to cheat
  • There is a community with knowledge of every player, making it harder to play “unexpectedly well”
  • Full transparency and digital archive of all games played by a player. Games can be viewed by users or provided via API access for long-term analysis

Tornelo.com is a platform for Arbiter Led events. The Organiser builds a community. They know the players. The players know each other. Reputations are built offline and extend into Tornelo.com from the real world.

Arbiters are present and interact with players throughout every event. The arbiters should be explicit about their expectations at the start of every event. Explaining what cheating is, why it’s not ok and creating high expectations – people will usually live up to your expectations (be they good or bad).

Mega-Portals are completely different from Tornelo.com and have a very different challenge. They are a single community of millions of anonymous players. Games are played on-demand, unsupervised and anonymously. They must rely on big-data and statistical analysis to identify cheating.

We don’t need to prevent cheating, we just attract players who wouldn’t cheat in real life and engage them in a community with a culture of fair play and integrity!

We haven’t eliminated cheating, it’s just not the done thing on Tornelo.com.

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