Recently there was a really well written and well researched article about a cheating scandal that happened in Virginia during a scholastic tournament.
It is a very interesting read. I sent a copy to all of the active tournament directors here in Colorado.
I feel it is a good “cautionary tale” for all the Colorado Chess tournament directors who are rather lax (in my opinion) in terms of what devices are being used to notate games (iPads, iPhones, etc).
I got a lot of responses from the tournament directors.
Right now the only USCF approved devices are the Monroi (http://www.monroi.com) and a program called eNotate, which runs on a limited number of PDA devices (not phones). (http://www.nachess.org/enotate/learn-buy)
There are no approved chess scoring devices for iPhones, iPads, iPods, blackberry’s, Android phones, personal computers, etc.
However here in Colorado you will see people using the above devices. People are using various unapproved programs to keep score of their games, including Microsoft “excel”, and various programs such as “Fritz” and “shredder”, supposedly with the “analysis” features turned off.
Here is a photo taken from Fred Spell’s Eagle and King July 2012 Colorado Springs Chess Night newsletter:
You can see that Dean (left) is using an iPad to keep score of his game. If you look closely you can see that Mark McGough playing Isaac Martinez in the background, is also using some sort of phone device to notate his games.
Do I think that these players are cheating?
No, I don’t. I have known both for years, and I think they are honest players.
But I do think that they are both breaking the USCF rules.
Tournament directors are allowed to post exceptions to the rules. For example a tournament could choose not to enforce the “touch move” rule. This is to be announced in advance, so that anyone that chooses to play in the event will know that these are the rules they are expected to play under. Otherwise, players can come to a tournament expecting to play under the rules defined in the USCF rule book.
I am not aware of any efforts by any Colorado tournaments to announce that non approved computers are allowed to notate games.
Jerry Maier, who is a very experienced tournament director, wrote to me in response to the above article, quoted the USCF as saying:
The TD tip for rule 43 Scoresheets is
Tournament directors are advised to be flexible on the above [type of scoresheet being used, paper vs electronic, and the various flavors thereof]. Many players have their own scoresheet in the form of notebooks or recording devices, and prefer to keep their games in an orderly fashion within that book. If a player can provide a copy of the score from their notebook, or a printout or downloaded from the electronic scoresheet, this is acceptable. You have the score and the result of the game. Contact the USCF office regarding the policies and guidelines for electronic scorekeeping devices.
pages 16 & 17 of Rulebook Changes [2003-2012], Effective 1 January 2012.
Several of the tournament directors responded to me that all players at these tournaments are required to have their phones and devices in “airplane mode”.
But this would only prevent a player from getting a text or phone call. It would do nothing to prevent the use of an analysis engine.
I was an early adopter of the “Monroi” device for keeping score. While it has its flaws, it does its job well. It is designed as a combined hardware/software solution that does only one thing – keep score of a game. You can’t load any “apps”, there is no “open source” operating system that you can hack at, you can’t do anything besides notate a game on it.
I got a comment from Randy Reynolds that said
Monroi owners are always going to be mad at those using their ipod/ipad apps to record games, because Monroi-ers dropped $370 on the USCF sanctioned product.
There may be some truth to this, and I could see how I could come across as “sour grapes”, since I “followed the rules”, and now it is the “wild west” for electronic scoring devices.
But this is always the risk of being an “early adopter” of any technology. You pay more, you risk it being replaced by a cheaper better model, etc. The plus side is that you get it early. Everyone that goes out an buys an iPhone 5 knows they will be giving them away a year from now, but they don’t care. They want it NOW!
Most everyone agrees that paper score sheets have lots of problems with them and archaic. They are hard to read, filled with mistakes, error prone, etc.
Fred Spell said
I am always dismayed as to what is turned in to the TD. Smears, smudges, chicken scratchings, coffee stains.
Fred said that he uses the following rules in his tournaments:
- First, the device must be placed in “Airplane” mode.
- Second, you can only record moves that have been played, not search possibilities.
- And thirdly, the device can never leave the table.
Penalties for the first violation is a loss of 10 minutes on the players clock, or if they are under 10 minutes, half their remaining time deducted. Second penalty is the forfeit of the game and the third time it happens, forfeit of the tournament with no refund of entry fee or eligibility of prize money being awarded.
Some TD’s said that they know the players are using Shredder to notate their games, it would be easy to cheat, but that it doesn’t make any sense to cheat. Since the prizes are so low, why would anyone cheat?
I know of lots of shady things that have gone on at chess clubs, tournaments and organizations.
- People playing under fake names,
- notebook computers getting stolen,
- club funds being ripped off,
Even using the computer for one or two moves per game could be a huge advantage. It sounds like the player in the tournament was using his computer for every move of the game. He could have probably won the game using it for less than half the moves.
Paul Covington, the past Colorado Chess President, said that he approves players using the non official devices, so players can have “a perfect scoresheet”.
I totally understand the desire to have a perfect scoresheet, which is why I use a Monroi.
My buddy Francisco sent me this screenshot from his Shredder lite program that he has on his iPod Touch.
“On my iTouch, I can use “Shredder Lite” (no chess engine) and still get hints from the computer by pressing the “?” button.. I would beware of anyone using Shredder as a notation device.”
My Friend Pete Short added:
Monroi was approved because to date, it is the only electronic device that can be used because the programmers and hardware developers who made the device were ensuring that it could not give an unfair advantage to a player or be modified to allow cheating. It should not be viewed as a crutch to say all chess players have a right to use electronic devices of their choice to avoid paper scoresheets. The whole point of the ability to “notate” in Fritz and other chess engines is the enter a played game for analysis – it also gives you the opportunity to see analysis as you enter. Not approved. Everybody on this email chain has demonstrated their hard work and commitment to advancing chess in Colorado. If anything – we should all remain committed to ensuring great playing environments and a level playing field. Not pushing entitlements.
- I feel that tournament directors do have the right to modify the USCF rules, but these modifications should be announced and advertised in advance.
- The Monroi continues to be the only electronic device that I would truly trust.
- Tournament directors should read the above story about the cheating scandal in Virginia and draw their own conclusions.
- The desire to have a “perfect scoresheet”, does not justify the rights to ignore the USCF rules.
- Tournament directors need to become educated on the technology if they are going to allow “rogue” devices. Turning on “airplane mode” will not prevent you from switching to a computer with a grandmaster level analysis engine with one or two clicks.
Comments are very welcome!