A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Oct 23, 2020

Covid Driving Upsurge In Online Chess And Of Surveillance To Stop Cheating

If it's digital, it's hackable. JL

Glyn Moody reports in Tech Dirt:

Chess has enjoyed a boom in internet play as in-person events have moved online and people stuck at home sought new hobbies. With that has come a rise in the use of powerful chess calculators to cheat (using) programs or apps that can rapidly calculate near-perfect moves in any situation. To counter, players in top matches must agree to be recorded by multiple cameras, be available on Zoom or WhatsApp and grant remote access to their computers. Other approaches include tracking the movements of players' eyes and algorithms able to spot "deviation from the proclivities of an honest human player".

Techdirt has been noting some interesting tech trends arising out of the increasing number of people who work and study from home because of COVID-19. One that few of us saw coming is a greatly increased enthusiasm for playing chess. That would be a good thing, except that life is never simple, as the Guardian reports:

Chess has enjoyed a huge boom in internet play this year as in-person events have moved online and people stuck at home have sought new hobbies. But with that has come a significant new problem: a rise in the use of powerful chess calculators to cheat on a scale reminiscent of the scandals that have dogged cycling and athletics. One leading 'chess detective' said that the pandemic was "without doubt creating a crisis".

When life moves from in-person to online, there is a loss of many subtle aspects that arise from being in the presence of other people. Back in May we wrote about a problem in the field of education, where some have concerns that students might be cheating when taking exams online, since there is no invigilator around to check on them. This has led to the rise of remote proctoring services that aim to cast a beady virtual eye over students who are sitting exams. According to the Guardian, similar ideas are starting to enter the world of chess:

At the heart of the problem are programmes or apps that can rapidly calculate near-perfect moves in any situation. To counter these engines, players in more and more top matches must agree to be recorded by multiple cameras, be available on Zoom or WhatsApp at any time, and grant remote access to their computers. They may not be allowed to leave their screens, even for toilet breaks.

Other approaches include tracking the movements of players' eyes, to see if they are looking away with suspicious frequency, and algorithms that are claiming to be able to spot "deviation from the proclivities of an honest human player". The fact that the once-staid world of chess is resorting to these kinds of advanced surveillance techniques is a further indication of the extent to which COVID-19 is changing the world, and deepening digital technology's impact on our lives.

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