So, you think someone cheated?

A lot has been said about how to identify players who may be getting unfair assistance. But not much is being said about what to do once you have suspicions, or your suspicions are confirmed.

Rules for Conduct of Organisers

Nobody expects arbiters to get it right 100% of the time. There will be ‘false positives’ and players will be punished unjustly. But, we need to make sure that the players who are being punished unjustly remain on ‘our side’ regardless of the outcome of the enquiry.

  • Chief Arbiter should have a face-to-face conversation with the player before disqualification (hopefully multiple conversations)
  • Chief Arbiter should personally tell the player (zoom or in person) that they are being removed (“The man who passes the sentence should swing the blade.” – Ned Stark). Impersonal communication in this situation is cowardly and weak.
  • All players should be given the opportunity to admit to having made a bad decision, to pledge to change their behaviour and to return to play with no major negative consequences (of course, repeat offences cannot be treated the same way, a repeat offence is a demonstration of malice and forethought).

The fundamental principals I believe in are “to build a community of trust” and “behaviour change” for those who are playing unfairly. “Catching cheaters” will never be a solution in the long-run, no more than “catching graffiti artists” will solve graffiti… can see already how much effort is being put into supervision of players… and yet, we are saying (to ourselves and to players) with every decision that the supervision is meaningless.

If supervision is pointless (which it clearly is if experts believe that even a 12 year old girl can subvert our highest level of supervision) then supervision maybe should only be as an audit and not as a primary methodology. We can save thousands of work-hours by implementing far less strict supervision routines.

We should be strict and unforgiving of players, parents, arbiters, officials and others who poision our communities with seditious accusations of impropriety, allegations and talk of Unfair Assistance or use of the ‘C word’. Here is an example of an email I sent to a player who made a complaint against the conduct of an opponent – because the opponent wasn’t visible on camera at all times during the game.

“With this in mind, we expect all players will do the right thing and play fairly at all times. We start from a position of trust, and we hope that all players and parents can follow our lead and default to positive thoughts and conversations.

An expectation is not enough. We also ensure that the Environment in which players are participating is conducive to fair play. We provide visible authority figures, ensure players are using genuine profiles, have conversations about fair play and talk about the negative consequences when players make poor decisions and seek unfair assistance.

And still having a positive environment is not enough. We also provide Supervision for players, in the form of Zoom cameras and screenshare, which will help us to observe suspicious behaviours if they occur and adds another strong psychological incentive to play fairly.

But even with supervision, we still do more. After each round we analyse a Fair Play report which provides sophisticated correlation analysis between player moves and the moves of a chess engine. We can identify easily which players are likely to have been receiving unfair assistance from an engine.

All of this happens in the real, imperfect world and in real-time. We must understand that the internet all over the world is unstable and inconsistent and network connections have problems all the time. It is a highly complex system.

Our arbiters are given the authority to provide compassion and empathy to players where they are convinced that camera disconnection issues are genuine and will not negatively impact any other players.

We are all highly aware that rare ‘bad actors’ can attempt to take advantage of this trust and maliciously and deliberately manipulate the system to gain an unfair advantage. We are vigilant in our observations and make decisions to ensure that this does not happen, but also that fair players are not penalised disproportionately or unjustly for situations outside of their control.”

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