Cheating News from the Chess World

Chess player caught cheating at a tournament:

I kept on looking at him. He was always sitting down, he never got up. It was very strange; we are taking about hours and hours of playing. But most suspicious of all, he always had his arms folded with his thumb under his armpit. He never took it out.”

Mr Coqueraut said he was also “batting his eyelids in the most unnatural way.”

“Then I understood it,” he said. “He was deciphering signals in Morse code.”

The referee attempted to expose Mr Ricciardi by asking him to empty his pockets, but nothing was found. When the Italian was asked to open his shirt, he refused.

Tournament organisers then asked the 37-year old to pass through a metal detector and a sophisticated pendant was found hanging around his neck underneath a shirt. The pendant contained a tiny video camera as well as a mass of wires attached to his body and a 4cm box under his armpit. Mr Ricciardi claimed they were good luck charms.

Older posts. A grandmaster was caught cheating in April.

Posted on September 10, 2015 at 12:30 PM16 Comments


WhiteKnight September 10, 2015 2:55 PM

I used to be confused when people would say someone was cheating in online chess games. At the time I thought the only way cheating was possible was to programmatically send crafted responses to the server to force the application to accept an invalid move.

Provided that the web application has no bugs and will not accept an invalid move cheating still does occur. You can use a real time chess evaluating program like Stockfish to analyze moves and counter moves as they happen. The player on the other end has no idea this is going on, all they see are the final moves entered while the cheater is simultaneously using a chess algorithm rated in the upper 2000’s.

I have read that certain chess websites can pick up on this behavior but I am uncertain on how they do so.

Dr. I. Needtob Athe September 10, 2015 4:01 PM

I’ve read of this before. Cheating players have been detected by running the moves they make through the most popular and powerful chess programs available to see how the player’s moves correlate with what the chess programs advise.

rgaff September 10, 2015 4:38 PM


I still don’t get why they don’t make cars and duffelbags illegal… I mean, both can be used to commit bank robberies… It’s the same with TOR… TOR can be used by both criminals and the innocent alike… If you’re gonna outlaw one, you gotta outlaw all of them… just to be fair, you know.

Clive Robinson September 10, 2015 4:40 PM

Whilst I can understand people making and using such gizmos for poker, roulette and other “games of chance” with significant financial pay out… I don’t get why people would want to do it in game where the payout is at best non existent to tiny, and any fame likewise non existent to tiny.

It’s kind of like the runner people were sure was cheating Bruce blogged about.

However, there is a UK newspaper who’s chess corespondent –who was once a grandmaster– has been repeatedly accused of plagiarism, and very questionable business practices. So I guess some people do se millage in cheating at chess and it’s reporting.

r September 10, 2015 10:31 PM

Athletes are only human apparently, not the super humans we’d like them to be. Maybe the juicing, the blood doing, the cheating and the aggression is a product of stress and a feeling of inadequacy?

ianf September 10, 2015 11:50 PM

What I don’t get is that chess cheater’s stupid strategy to speed up his advance in the world rankings (I didn’t know these stretched to 50000 and apparently more places, but he had to be aware of it) at such a pace, that it’d raise suspicions, if not alarms, that something strange is afoot. Obviously, he never got the memo that, if one is up to no good, the first rule of survival is not to draw attention to oneself (this tactic gleaned from lectures of mass paperback spy thrillers ;-)) That would have to include not having to sit still with his thumb up the armpit, but, above all, spreading his advance in the rankings over time… couple of years at least (provided it could have been managed/ predicted with some precision—which I doubt).

That said, this being chess, i.e. a game with known number of pieces, and highly formalized semantics to describe their moves with a minimum of word atoms, I’m surprised the cheater did not devise a less “Morse-receptor-for-thumb-in-armpit-needy” method of surreptitious communication. Had he e.g. employed 4 separate RF channels, he could have had remotely controlled air pressure pads on his thighs, or elbows. Then devised & perfected a chess-move-lingo to convey these actions through practically soundless “taps” on combinations (really, combinatorial nets, CS 101) of pads on this body. After all, he had to perfect Morse decoding, so the extra effort for a dedicated method would pay off. But of course, it all relied on the cheater not being so greedy for make-believe advancement in this shady demimonde of competitive chess (remember Bobby Fisher’s long descent into paranoia & mental illness!)

r September 11, 2015 1:33 AM

@ianf: Thank you for reminding me about Mr Fischer, I’m wiki’n him now. The emotional stress is what I was thinking about before I posted what I did.

I’m leaning towards sympathy for trapped or stunted athletes.

scram September 11, 2015 6:21 AM

In one article I read, the suggestion was this player was just testing out the system, presumably on behalf of someone planning on entering a much higher-stakes game. So not trying to advance his own rankings, per se.

But it backfired in this case as he was beating people with much higher ratings than himself, which drew attention to the scam.

Wael September 11, 2015 5:18 PM

@Clive Robinson,

Whilst I can understand people making and using such gizmos for poker, roulette and other “games of chance” with significant financial pay out

The person that comes to mind is Keith Taft. His story is told in the book: “The High-Tech Gambler: The True Story of Keith Taft & His Astonishing Machines”, and for $5.99 (kindle edition), it’s a bargain. It’s an amazing story. He was a genius that applied his intellect to the wrong field. I believe he could have commanded several hundred million dollars had he used his intellect in a different area.

As for cheating at chess, I’ll have to admit I have done that a few times (for fun) in online games. Started at Netscape games, but I stopped doing that when I moved to, where some of the most famous players often show (Nigel Short, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Hikaro Nakamora (I think his handle is/was Starwars), etc…) I would start with the most bizarre opening, then engage the chess engine. Was hard to do in a 1-minute game, but I had a lot of laughs 🙂

I believe some of the world champions still play there sometimes under anonymous handles, and sometimes not. Its been a few years since I visited there.

SteveMB September 12, 2015 8:05 AM

Whilst I can understand people making and using such gizmos for poker, roulette and other “games of chance” with significant financial pay out… I don’t get why people would want to do it in game where the payout is at best non existent to tiny, and any fame likewise non existent to tiny.

I suppose it might be an ego thing. Or maybe some people just have a compulsion to cheat, like Dick Dastardly stopping to set traps for all the other racers (even though the fact that he’s able to do so clearly implies that he’s way out in the lead and would almost certainly win if he just kept driving).

Clive Robinson November 24, 2016 6:09 AM

@ Wael,

I’m surprised no one accused Sergey Karjakin of cheating, yet 🙂

Give Raymond “The Penguin” Keene OBE time to steal others words, prior to starting in on such a hissy fit 😉

Wael November 24, 2016 11:01 AM

@Clive Robinson,

Raymond “The Penguin” Keene OBE…

Didn’t know about him. Had to look him up 🙂

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.