How can you cheat in chess? Artificial intelligence and Morse Code

This is the story that has rocked Chess and shows no signs of slowing down.

Magnus Carlsen is the scandal that has engulfed the sport and involved five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen is what everyone is talking about.

In a lengthy Twitter statement, Carlsen specifically accused Hans Niemann, a rival grandmaster, of cheating Monday.

This accusation is made weeks after the Norwegian pulled out of the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis on September 19, following his unexpected defeat to the American.

“When Niemann was invited to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup last minute, I seriously considered withdrawing before the event. Carlsen said that she ultimately decided to play.

Niemann has cheated much more than he has admitted publicly. His progress across the board has been remarkable. Throughout our Sinquefield Cup game, I got the impression that Niemann was not tense or fully focused on the game in critical situations. He outplayed me as black in ways I believe only a few players can.

“This game helped me to change my perspective.”

Niemann admitted that he had cheated at the age of 12 and 16, and stated that he was banned from competition. However, he said that he never cheated in Over-the-Board games in an interview with St. Louis Chess Club.

For a game with a structure that is so straightforward – one chessboard, two players, and 32 pieces total – many people are asking the question: “How can someone cheat in chess?”

Technology is on the rise

Despite being an ancient game, chess has made its way into the modern era.

The internet and computers have made it easier to compete and connected players all over the globe. Artificial intelligence gives players the ability to plan their moves even before the match begins.

It all began in 1996 when Garry Kasparov (a grandmaster widely considered to be one of the greatest players ever) faced an IBM supercomputer named ‘Deep Blue in a series of matches.

Kasparov won the match but Deep Blue won the second game. This made Deep Blue the first computer program to defeat a champion in classical games under tournament rules.

One year later, they faced off again with Deep Blue defeating Kasparov. This made Deep Blue the first computer program ever to defeat a world champion in full matches.

While Kasparov’s performance against Deep Blue has been reexamined over the years, the importance of the results cannot be understated. It marked the beginning of artificial intelligence’s impact on chess and was a significant moment in technology’s ability to play “perfect” matches.

With the advancements in computer hardware and software, chess engines helped transform the sport into a 21st-century game.

According to, “a chess engine” is a program that analyzes chess positions and calculates the best moves.

In recent years, chess engines have grown to be stronger than humans. Many exceed a 3,000 Elo rating. The Elo rating system is used to measure the strength of a player’s chess game relative to their opponent. Carlsen, who reached 2,882 Elo ratings in 2014, holds the record for the highest Elo rating by a human player.

Stockfish is one of the most advanced chess engines, with a rating greater than 3,500. This means that it has a 98% chance of beating Carlsen and a 2% chance to draw the five-time world champion.

While chess engines are a great tool for players to improve their skills, they also allow some players to cheat easier.

Online chess sites like have created anti-cheating technology that detects when players use outside software during games to stop foul play.

Although anti-cheating technology has improved in recent years, Emil Sutovsky, director general of FIDE’s governing body for chess, says that chess must create a “social agreement” with online players to end cheating.

“Now, it has been that cheating online was seen as a lesser crime than if you were cheating over the board,” Sutovsky said. He believes online chess cheating is a “massive issue”. It was almost like you were playing online chess. Therefore, it wasn’t taken as seriously.

“And many players suspected other players were cheating, and they became naturally more motivated to try their luck. This is not what happens in board Chess. This culture or heritage must be changed. People should recognize that cheating online or off the board is cheating.

“Especially now, when the situation has changed because there are serious prizes at stake hosts tours such as Magnus [Carlsen] who conducted his tour. This whole perception must be replaced with an understanding that online cheating can be a very serious sin and that the punishment should also be very severe for that.”

FIDE is working to stop online cheating. However, over-the-board Chess has seen a higher level of purity with cheating becoming more complex.

Andy Howie is an arbiter who is also a member of FIDE’s Anti-cheating Fair Play Commission. He outlined some of FIDE’s measures to stop over-the-board cheating, such as signal scanners, metal detectors, non-linear scans, and thermal imaging.

However, cheaters are still allowed to cheat. The history of the game is littered with scandal.


During the 1978 World Chess Championship Final in Beijing, accusations of cheating were hurled back and forth. One grandmaster was there and described it as “the most bewildering match in the history of chess.”

According to El Pais, Anatoly Karpov, a young Soviet champion, claimed that Viktor Korchnoi, a Russian exile, tried to blind him using his mirrored sunglasses.

Later, waiters offered Karpov blueberry yogurt. Korchnoi suggested that it could be used to code communications with his adversary’s analysts.

Karpov won the match and it is reconstructed in “The World Champion” a Russian film from 2021.

FIDE also removed Georgia’s Gaioz Naigalidze from his Grandmaster title. They also banned him for three years from competitive chess in 2015. He was repeatedly seen going to the toilet during a game to check his smartphone to determine the best move.

In 2015, an arbiter also caught Arcangelo Ricciardi, an Italian amateur who used Morse code to cheat in a competition.

Ricciardi was believed to have hidden a video camera in a necklace around his neck with wires attached to his body, and a small box under the armpit.

“I just kept looking at him. Jean Coqueraut, chief arbiter, said that he was always seated and never stood. It’s quite strange that we are talking about hours upon hours of play. He always kept his thumb under his armpit and his arms folded. He never took it out.

“He blinked unnaturally, as if he was concentrating on the board but losing focus on something else. I realized that he was deciphering Morse code signals. Point line point line. That was it.

Riccicardi denied cheating.

It is not clear if Niemann cheated against Carlsen. The American strongly denies these accusations.

Theoretically, however, anyone could input Carlsen’s moves into Stockfish’s chess engine, and they would either beat Carlsen or draw him with almost 100% probability.

Although there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence, the five-time world champion is convinced that foul play was involved in the Sinquefield Cup.

Cheating is much more difficult when you are sitting across from your opponent and have them staring into the camera.

Howie believes that top players who depend on their chess career are less likely to cheat with more to lose.

“You have Hikaru Nakamura, Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Ian Nepomniatchtchi or Magnus Carlsen. He said that if they were caught cheating, it would be catastrophic for their careers. This is their career. It would be extremely devastating for them if they could not afford it.

They would lose all credibility and all sponsorship. They have too much at stake. However, we don’t treat them as if they aren’t going to cheat. Far from it. We are very strict when dealing with them in tournaments. I don’t expect to find any cheating.

“I would be shocked if one of these guys was cheating. As you get lower in the ranks, you are more likely to see players cheating than your stronger ones. They are banned for two years for those who view them as not important. ‘So what? “So what? I’ll be there in a few years. I don’t care as much about it.” It doesn’t have the same impact on them that it has on top players. It is not their livelihood.

The Carlsen-Niemann controversy continues its dominance in the sport. Who knows what truths the events will reveal?

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