Followup and Responses to Chess Cheating Article

I got a lot of great feedback about my article on chess cheating via e-mail, comments on facebook, twitter,, and blog comments.

Thanks everyone who took the time to make a comment!

In case you missed it, you can read it here:

The comments fell into pretty much three categories

1. I agree, USCF Touranaments should follow the rules 

2. “I can’t believe that any electronic devices are even allowed at chess tournaments”

3. “Yeah, but…”

The people who couldn’t believe that any electronic devices are used at chess tournaments were mostly from people who

  • Have never played in a live over the board rated chess tournament
  • Haven’t played in one in the last 5-10 years

These days it is pretty common to see people using Monroi’s at a chess tournament, especially larger ones.

Some people felt that no electronic devices should be used, and only paper and pencil.

The 2nd group was the “yeah, but” group.

According to the Urban Dictionary “Yeah But” is defined as

1. a phrase used to agree with an opponent in an argument, yet to continue your contempt, disdain, and disagreement with the conclusion

So most of the “yeah, but” people agreed with me that using things like iPads, iPhones, personal computers, etc were against the rules, but added their own “yeah but”.

  • “Yeah, but I can’t afford a Monroi”
  • “Yeah, but I am on a limited income”
  • “Yeah, but the Monroi is too expensive”
  • “Yeah, but it is so much easier than using paper and pencil”
  • “Yeah, but Shredder Light only costs 9.99″
  • “Yeah, but nobody would ever cheat because the prizes are so low”
  • “Yeah, but it is hard to read the score sheets after the game”
  • “Yeah, but the game scores are so much more accurate”
  • “Yeah, but nobody would ever cheat because chess is a game of honor”
  • “Yeah, but most chess players are honest”
  • “Yeah, but you are just saying that because you own an Monroi”
  • “Yeah, but there are so many possible ways to cheat, you can’t prevent them all”
  • etc

I agree with all most all of these statements. 

Using an electronic device is faster, more accurate, cleaner and better in just about every way than using pen and paper.

Most player’s score sheets are almost impossible to read, and are filled with errors. 

When I was editor of the Colorado Chess Informant, it was always quite a challenge to understand another person’s score sheet, and I went through hundreds of them.  Life Master Brian Wall was the only player I ever saw with perfectly readable and mistake free score sheets.  On the other end of the spectrum was Anthea Carson whose score sheets were so unreadable that it was like decoding Egyptian hieroglyphics!  Some people like Paul Grimm used a mix of algebraic and descriptive notation.

So I can sympathize. 

And just to be clear, I am not accusing anyone of cheating in Colorado.

However I don’t really just naturally “trust” everyone, and I think the cheating scandal in Virginia is something that could happen anywhere. 

A couple years ago there was a chess teacher and author here arrested for being a child molester.  He was even featured on “America’s Most Wanted”. Then afterwards everyone is shocked that such a thing could happen.

It is the same with cheating.  A certain percentage of people, although very small, will cheat given the chance.  Then everyone will be shocked when it happens.

Can you completely prevent this?  No.

Should you punish the innocent to prevent the possbility of cheating? No.

All I am advocating is following the rules that are in the USCF rulebook.  Nothing more, nothing less.

My main issue is that when you go to a rated chess tournament, everyone agrees to play by a certain set of rules.  In this case it is the 5th edition of the USCF rulebook.

And the USCF is pretty clear about what is acceptable, and what is not.

To me it is mostly a matter of playing by the agreed rules.

Rule Book

Every organization has agreed upon rules.  When two NFL football teams meet up they know what the rules are going to be.  Same with baseball, basketball, hockey, etc.  And not just at the professional level, but high school, college, little league, etc. 

Sometimes these rules change or are updated.  Organizations adapt over time, and adopt rules for instant replay, or modify scoring like the 2 point conversion, or change how teams get into the playoffs, etc.

They have written rulebooks, and everyone agrees to follow the rules, even if they don’t always make sense, or need updated.  Most organizations periodically update their rule books.

For example, Major League Baseball doesn’t have instant replay, which is kind of absurd with today’s technology.  But they just did modify their rules regarding the number of teams that get into the playoffs.

All the teams and games follow these rules.  You don’t see some teams using instant replay, and other teams only playing 8 innings, and some teams using 6 umpires, etc.

So to me, people using iPads, and taking advantage of technology makes a lot of sense (just like having instant replay in baseball would make sense) but since it isn’t in the USCF rulebook, people shouldn’t be doing it at USCF rated tournaments. 

If USCF wants to change the rulebook, great!  I am not suggesting they shouldn’t.  But in the meantime everyone should play by the rules in the rulebook.  Otherwise it is just anarchy.

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