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NYT: Chess Cheating With Cell Phone Scandal

Posted By: Paul Weaver
Date: Sunday, 18 August 2013, at 8:53 p.m.


A high-profile player has been caught up in the growing number of cheating scandals.

The player, Jens Kotainy, a German international master, was disqualified at the Sparkassen Chess Meeting’s open section before the last round this month after tournament officials questioned how he was using his cellphone.

Kotainy had been the top seed at Sparkassen, held in Dortmund, Germany, and had easily won his first seven games, including one against the grandmaster Eckhard Schmittdiel, before he was disqualified.

The tournament’s director, Christian Goldschmidt, said in a note posted online that when he asked to see the cellphone, Kotainy pulled it out of his pocket and said it was turned off, as required by the rules. But Goldschmidt said that while he was holding it, the phone started giving off vibrations that resembled Morse code.

Kotainy has been quoted on several Web sites as saying that the vibrations were part of an antitheft application installed by his brother, a computer programmer. Goldschmidt did not believe him, writing that Kotainy had reached into his pocket after every move.

Goldschmidt had been suspicious of Kotainy because several experts — including Kenneth W. Regan, a computer science professor in Buffalo who is working on a program to detect cheating — found that Kotainy’s moves had matched the choices of a leading computer program almost exactly. Regan said he had found the same pattern in Kotainy’s games during his previous two tournaments.

Regan, a member of a new anticheating commission at the World Chess Federation, wrote in an e-mail to other panel members that the odds were a billion to one that Kotainy’s moves would match the computer program’s over the three tournaments.

What happens now is unclear. The anticheating commission will hold its first meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, this year, and the question of what is sufficient proof of cheating is on the agenda, as is what is the appropriate punishment. Kotainy could be disciplined by the German Chess Federation, though it has no clear policy on cheating.

Kotainy’s win over Schmittdiel, a fellow German, was in Round 6.

Schmittdiel’s 9 ... b4 was rare; either 9 ... Bb7 or 9 ... Qb6 is the usual move. It did not take long for Kotainy to take advantage and start an attack.

It should also be noted that Kotainy played 25 dc5 to take a bishop, a move that most people would naturally play, when the computer favored 25 Qg3, which would have been much better. Regan and others speculated that Kotainy took the bishop in an effort to disguise that he was getting help from a computer program.

Still, that move only postponed the result. Schmittdiel resigned after 33 Qe6 because he was about to lose a significant amount of material. The game might have continued 33 ... Kh8 34 Bf8 Nf8 35 Qd6 Kg8 36 Qc6 Qc6 37 Ne7 Kf7 38 Nc6, when Kotainy would have been up a rook.

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