Chess Cheating Scandal

Russian grandmaster Igros Rausis has apparently been cheating his way up the international chess rankings,

Igors Rausis, at 58 the oldest among the world top 100 grandmasters, was last week caught analysing in the toilet during his game in the Strasbourg Open. Rausis later told the Czech newspaper Lidovky: “I signed a statement that I am guilty in full … I completely ruined my name and also destroyed the trust of all my colleagues and friends.”

Rausis’s steady advance up the rankings in his 50s, after many years at the 2500 moderate grandmaster level, was clearly abnormal. He played in smaller events which could not afford the strict anti-cheating measures of major tournaments, and he exploited a rule where a win against an opponent 400 or more rating points lower gains 0.8 of a point. Rausis played many games where the rating difference was much higher, so that the statistical odds favoured him.

Chess Steganography

James Stanley created this Chess Steganography tool “to encode/decode short messages as chess games.”

Enter a message that you want encoded, and the tool spits out a PGN chess notation file that can then be decoded to reveal the original message. For example, “I’m Batman!” is encoded as:

f4 Nf6 2. c3 b6 3. Nf3 c6 4. Qa4 b5 5. Qb3 Rg8 6. c4 Nh5 7. f5 g6 8. e3 Rh8 9. Qd1 bxc4 10. g4 Nf6 11. Ng1 h5 12. g5 Ne4 13. f6 e5 14. Nf3 d5 15. Qa4 Bc5 { White resigns. } 0-1

The code for the tool is available on Github.

Chess960 Variant

Chess960 is a chess variant created by Bobby Fischer in which the starting position of the pieces on the home ranks are randomized (with a number of restrictions):

Before the game, a starting position is randomly determined and set up, subject to certain requirements. White’s pieces (not pawns) are placed randomly on the first rank, with two restrictions:

The bishops must be placed on opposite-color squares.
The king must be placed on a square between the rooks.
Black’s pieces are placed equal-and-opposite to White’s pieces. (For example, if the white king is randomly determined to start on f1, then the black king is placed on f8.) Pawns are placed on the players’ second ranks as in standard chess.

After setup, the game is played the same as standard chess in all respects, with the exception of castling from the different possible starting positions for king and rooks.

This yields a potential 960 different starting positions.

Fischer’s motivation in creating the variant (and its popularity since) was to, as Frederic Friedel summarized it in Chess News, “eliminate the staggering amount of preparation that is required in regular chess.”

Fischer’s intention in introducing the new rules was to eliminate the incredible level of openings preparation that prevails in contemporary chess. In my conversations with him, I admitted that this was a real problem: imagine a world championship in a few years from now, where the two players reel off 28 moves of a known variation, in just a few minutes — and then one of them plays a novelty. His opponent thinks for an hour and resigns the game! Bobby enjoyed this somewhat facetious scenario that justified his introduction of New Chess, where players must devise original moves from the start. Memorizing thousands of home prepared opening lines would be eliminated, and the playing field would be levelled.

Friedel notes a number of issues with Chess960, however, the biggest of which is that some of the randomized positions give a substantial advantage to one side. This can be remediated somewhat by having players play two games, swapping the white and black starting positions, but this requires more time and has other issues (as Friedel notes, “in the second game players have learned from the first one” so the second game isn’t necessarily a great equalizer).

ChessPlus

ChessPlus is a chess variant where you can split and combine chess pieces into new combinations.

Chessplus is played under standard chess rules with one difference – pieces can be merged to combine their powers, and merged pieces can be split back into their individual pieces.

Here is a quick guide to the rules:

1. Merging or splitting is considered a move.

2. Individual pieces must always move according to their traditional ability.

3. A player can create a merged piece by moving an individual piece onto the square of another piece of the same colour, except for the king.

4. A merged piece can move as either of it’s joined pieces, or can be split by moving a joined piece away individually.

5. When a merged piece containing a pawn makes it to the other end of the board it is promoted to a queen.

6. When a merged piece is captured or promoted the merged piece leaves the board.