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Ken Hits The Big Time

October 10, 2015

Our own Ken is featured in the Wall Street Journal

Christopher Chabris just wrote a wonderful piece on cheating titled “High-Tech Chess Cheaters Charge Ahead.” Chabris is a research psychologist who is well known for his book The Invisible Gorilla, written with Daniel Simons.

Today I want to point out that the piece is in this Saturday’s review section of the Walll Street Journal.

Often this section is reserved for commentary on politics or the economy or some other issue of the week. But this week our own Ken Regan is featured as the expert on chess cheating. Wonderful. Here is a short part of the article—see the article on-line for the rest.


Ken Regan, an international chess master and computer scientist, has developed a software tool that automates the process of comparing human and computer moves, and flags suspicious cases. The approach is sophisticated: It doesn’t suggest that, say, current world champion Magnus Carlsen is a cheater just because his moves often match those of a computer. That’s to be expected. Mr. Regan instead finds cases in which players matched computer moves much more often than expected, given their skill levels and the situations on the board.

Open Problems

Read not just the article but some of the comments. One offers a way to try and stop the problem:

I’m no electronics expert, but wouldn’t it be possible for a location holding a major tournament to install some sort of jamming device that would interfere with signals?

Jamming is usually illegal, and I do not think it would solve the problem anyway. But it does raise the problem: is there some way to stop chess cheating? For now we have Ken to thank for at least a post-factor method of detecting cheaters.

Again congratulations to Ken.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tam permalink
    October 10, 2015 9:14 pm

    What about airport-style security right before players approach the chess table? That way you know there’s no metals/electronics on them when they play the game.

    • October 11, 2015 7:37 am

      (Tam and Bill) That is done for the highest-level events, but the FIDE Anti-Cheating guidelines which I helped write do not impose this on all ranks of tournaments.

  2. William Gasarch permalink
    October 11, 2015 9:47 am

    Yeah Ken. (I would have put an exclamation point but your spam-blocker often doesn’t like that.)

    How common is cheating in chess? Hopefully your work will serve as a deterrent.

    Does airport-style security work to stop it? If so then why not have it on less-high-level events?

    bill g.

  3. delazeur permalink
    October 12, 2015 12:00 pm

    It’s an open that the Secret Service uses jamming to protect the U.S. President from remote control attacks. (Apparently people’s cell phones stop working when they are close to him.) Obviously that’s a special circumstance, but the legality question is interesting.


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