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> Also, clever cheating devices have been found in over the board chess competitions

The most convincing candidate for such a device I've seen is an Illuminati Thumper Pro hidden in Hans's shoe: https://illuminati-magic.com/products/thumper. If you watch the footage of him getting scanned before his match with Alireza (and, crucially, before Magnus announced he was dropping), there are a couple of subtle things that are consistent with this theory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIulWkTHuu0:

1. He swallows (seemingly nervously) at 4 seconds shortly before his left shoe is scanned.

2. As the left shoe is being scanned, there are 2 beeping noises that at least to me, sound like they are coming from the wand, but are seemingly ignored by the wander. The same beeps do not repeat when his right shoe is scanned (that is, it's not just metal parts built into the shoes themselves). Two caveats to this part: First, I've heard differing opinions on whether the thumper will trigger metal detectors. Second, it's possible (even if unlikely IMO) that those beeps are not from that wand and it's just a coincidence that another wand or object beeped - since we can't see the wand in frame.

3. At 1:17 he starts nervously fidgeting with the credit card as the RF scanner gets close to his left foot and noticeably slows down when the scanner switches from his left foot to the right foot, and appears to stop completely as soon as the scanner is moving up away from his right foot. The RF scanner, to my understanding, would only detect devices that are actively transmitting which the thumper shouldn't need to do at all if Hans were using purely to receive engine moves/hints during the but the fact that it theoretically could transmit would explain why he'd be nervous about getting scanned anyway.

Of course none of these observations are proof but they sure look suspicious to me.

You don't need something that transmits if you're searching for bug-like devices or any general integrated circuits with a nonlinear junction detector:


I am very far removed from anything related to Chess, but if they want to get serious about this they should hire people who specialize in the federal-contracting adjacent field of TSCM (technical surveillance countermeasures).


I also think that people putting a lot of focus into shoes or other clothing articles underestimate the motivation and capability of people to use the traditional "prison wallet" method of concealing things.

That's a fascinating device.

Wouldn't putting the electronics inside a conductive case hide them from it? Maybe it's hard to get an antenna out if you do that though?

The wiki said that it doesn't work against shielded electronics, however who knows how accurate that actually is. I really enjoyed the anecdote about the US embassy in Moscow having diodes embedded in the cement throughout to make finding actual bugs much harder.

With that nest of hair I wonder maybe he disassembles the device and puts small parts in various locations, the most detectable in the shoe or "the pocket".

Someone familiar with slight of hand could comfortably scratch here and there while dropping pieces in a 'build' pocket.

You've seen the film The Man with the Golden Gun ? A cufflink here, a pen there, that pack of chewing gum... assembled together could be a cheating device.

of all the whacky theories I've heard so far this one stands out. Don't get too swept up in it

I love it. The idea that someone would undergo training as a magician in order to cheat at chess is just hilarious! It’s not totally absurd though, given the history of cheating (as well as espionage) in sport.

The tricks people have pulled to cheat in baseball and (NFL) football are similarly amusing!

My favourite, "Apple Watch and Cheating in Baseball": https://blog.watchdoctor.biz/2018/10/29/apple-watch-and-chea... .

If anyone has other examples, I'd love to read about them; it gives me similar satisfaction as learning how a magic trick works.

Doesn’t seem absurd at all to me. There might not be as much money in chess cheating as other scams but someone could be motivated to just become known as one of the best chess players.

The first paragraph was mostly facetious.

The second merely suggests an unusually clever, yet plausible methodology.

>I also think that people putting a lot of focus into shoes or other clothing articles underestimate the motivation and capability of people to use the traditional "prison wallet" method of concealing things.

I felt silly for even thinking this, but seeing as you've mentioned it. It would be so hilarious if true considering he has offered to play naked[1] to prove his innocence!

1. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-09-07/rising-chess-star-off...


That was a joke reddit post.

lol can't believe I fell for that one. Thanks!

correction: twitch comment

I believe this is the source reddit comment, though it was riffed all over twitch and Twitter afterwards: https://www.reddit.com/r/chessmemes/comments/x8217h/the_real...

Here's a link to the original comment, since removed: https://www.reddit.com/r/chess/comments/x77n0h/comment/inazu...

Jokes about Buttfish (a play on the chess engine stockfish) are surely older than both.

You miss the vitally important point: they weren't needed in the game in question, so we don't even get to the point where fanciful theorising is relevant.

Magnus didn't play particularly well and Hans played ok. This was not an example of a superhuman intelligence passing hints to overcome Magnus at his best.

Understated part of Magnus’ play is that he may have been playing a worse line that should have pushed Hans out of theory, but apparently didn’t.

I don’t totally buy Hans didn’t prepare the weird line, but it’s worth calling out; it’s at least marginally possible that Magnus out himself in an unwinnable position on purpose, but couldn’t convert it.

> Magnus didn't play particularly well and Hans played ok.

Everyone says this, but do you really know? Those statements are after-the-fact observations of engine evaluations. They don't speak to the amount of mental work that Hans would have had to put in to play optimally (or 'ok' as you say) in those positions.

You might find yourself making the same remarks when looking at the post-game analysis of any top player against an engine. Everyone crumples eventually against perfect play.

Yah, even to club level players, Magnus played a bad game. Hans had nowhere close to perfect play ( I think the stock fish analysis says it’s close to 70% best moves, which is equivalent to Hans rating ). As a club level player, it blows my mind how many people are siding with Magnus. : edit, typo

> They don't speak to the amount of mental work that Hans would have had to put in to play optimally (or 'ok' as you say) in those positions.

Yes, they do. When Magnus makes poor choice - not giving himself an advantage or playing moves giving black an advantage - it makes it easier for black. That’s the whole point.

No, that is not how that works. An engine evaluation saying that a position is better for black does not mean that it is easier for a human to play that position. Easy to play and winning for an engine are orthogonal concepts.

Putting your opponent in positions that are better according to the engine but only with engine-like perfect play is a strategy at the highest levels of chess. Because the move is objectively worse, it won't be played, because it's not played, your opponent won't know it, because they don't know it, you'll play it better, then you win.

Magnus letter explained that he claimed to notice Niemann's odd behavior during the game. That may have distracted him.

Even better, in that video he has a pack of gum that sets off the sensor, the security guard takes it, finishes the scan, and then gives it back! Obviously not proof of cheating but how hard would it have been to hide a device in that pack of gum?

Now I want to watch the tournament footage to see if he ever chews gum...

He chews pretty much the whole game

Now analyze a video of Magnus being wanded!

Why? Has Magnus admitted to cheating on multiple occasions in the past? No. He has not.

As a control.

You want to look for evidence that such an intense level of scrutiny is too good at finding signs of ill intent.


Now I’m waiting for the big reveal when it turns out Carlson has been three PC Jrs stacked on top of each other all these years.

is there any thinking on how many bits of information do you need to cheat, and how many can be communicated via thumper?

e.g. is the bit of information "move the knight" aka theres only about 4 bits of info, or is it "move the knight to E6" which is a good deal more bits, that could be lossy/error prone.

just on the surface of it, i dont see how this thing could give enough info but i suppose with a loooot of training you could improve the info transfer rate?

Here's a relevant quote from Magnus regarding cheating:

"I would just needed to cheat one or two times during a match, and I would not even need to be given moves, just the answer on which move was way better, or here there is a possibility of winning and here you need to be more careful. That is all I would need in order to be almost invincible."

Even just 1 bit - an indication to be careful - would be enough to boost the strength of a GM. An accomplice coughing in the background to let you know there's something to watch for. For a strong player - and there's no doubt that Niemann is a strong player, the question is just how strong - that's all they need to avoid making mistakes. GMs can solve insanely hard puzzles, because they know it's a puzzle and has a specific solution. Same thing with 1 bit of info.

Of course, realistically they could simply use Morse code instead of "bits" and transmit two squares (just 4 Morse "letters").

yes but against magnus, who is supposedly two levels above Hans, this is not just a one move cheat, he'd have to cheat + have a continuous absence of mistakes, which is an awful lot of information to transmit.

i dont have a horse in this race i just like thinking about things in terms of information theory since this is a remarkable applied case

another way to decide this - have them play blitz (where the moves are way too fast for info transmission to happen), and see if the skill level scales accordingly?

have them play blitz (where the moves are way too fast for info transmission to happen), and see if the skill level scales accordingly?

Not a fair contest. There are plenty of top classical chess players who are weaker in blitz and vice versa. It’s a different skillset. Classical is all about preparation for the opening followed by some deep thinking in the midgame. Blitz is all about pattern recognition and the ability to simplify down to an ending where you can blitz out the exact solution from a database.

It's true that some people are worse at blitz, but if Niemann's OTB blitz rating is as good as his OTB rating at slower time controls, that's evidence against him cheating ... at least in ways that materially affect his rating. I guess it would be possible to cheat with an engine tuned to your actual rating just to make it less stressful.

Well, even endgames with as few as 5 pieces on the board are beyond what a human can solve with memorization. I don't disagree that blitz is mostly pattern recognition and rapid tactical thinking, but that applies all the way down to the end.

Two levels if he isn't cheating. If he is, perhaps 3 or more. Recently magnus played hans on the beach: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1OBEY99inw

magnus completely destroyed hans in two games, as black. I think the ease with which magnus took hans apart in these beach games, presumably added to his suspicion when hans played so much better in the Sinquefield cup.

Eh casual play has so many factors. I wouldn't put much weight on how badly a gm loses on the beach. For example, drugs could have been involved.

I do think Hans is cheating, but I think the proof will lie in statistical analysis of his games and demonstrating that he has an unusual (>3200 rated) propensity to clutch out specific moves. I think everyone suspects at this point that if Hans is cheating, its only a handful of moves per game.

>this is not just a one move cheat, he'd have to cheat + have a continuous absence of mistakes

Blunders are exactly what a device like the one described would seriously help with. If the buzz means both "there is an only move here and it's not immediately obvious" and "at least one of the natural moves here is a blunder or very inaccurate" then you need to just send a buzz and you've probably cut inaccuracies significantly. That said, a very simple communication device like this is probably badly hurt by a 15 minute delay.

> at least one of the natural moves here is a blunder

Interesting, I'm not sure if a computer has the ability to recognize something as a "natural move but also a blunder." It would require a very human-like way of thinking about moves, which computers don't generally have.

Anyone 1500+ can recognize the natural move--that's what makes it natural.

Probably the easiest case of "natural move but blunder" is anything that is a top 3 engine move when looking 3-5 moves deep, but losing significantly on deeper evaluation.

Also, this sort of categorization is at the heart of how chess puzzle collections are automatically assembled. A good chess puzzle contains an unnatural move that wins--the exact opposite of the natural but blunder. Chess sites scan their online play databases for these all the time, and serve them up as puzzles.

> Anyone 1500+ can recognize the natural move--that's what makes it natural.

Any human 1500+ can recognize the natural human move. The way the computer thinks about moves is different.

I really don't believe that Stockfish can tell you "this move is tempting, but wrong."

I'm sure you could build something in that might kind of work, but until I see it I'm skeptical.

In any case, you would need a human operator who is a very strong chessplayer himself.

Magnus Carlsen has commented that Hans' mentor Maxim Dlugy "must be doing a great job"


Carlsen has broken 3000 in blitz before... Unfortunately he's too good for it to mean anything I think.

> he'd have to cheat + have a continuous absence of mistakes, which is an awful lot of information to transmit.

Perhaps a top-level player can jump to a higher level if they can stop worrying about coming up with brilliances in the macro strategy, and instead focus entirely on making their micro-level play spotless.

This is the opposite of what a computer-assisted player would do. Computer chess engines (generally speaking, somewhat less true of the latest generation) are not great at high level strategy but will never miss a tactic (micro level play).

That's outdated, now that we have deep learning the machines are great at high level strategy too.

> two levels above Hans

What does that even mean?

ELO gives you a statistical evaluation of how likely victory is for one of the player. Hans rating means he has non insignificant chance of winning against Magnus.

Hans can win without cheating as this last game proves. There is not a shred of evidence against him after all.

Sounds like not just the players need to be checked for cheating devices, but the audience too. Or the players have to play in a faraday cage without an audience.

It's not going to make the game more fun, but it's probably necessary.

From what I understand you only need one bit. The assistance doesn't need to be "move piece P to square S", but "this position is critical, if you spend extra time exploring here you will find a winning move".

As these players are on timers there is a race against a clock. So if you know where to focus your time/effort you can easily gain an advantage.

Just "e6" would likely be enough context in most situations. Sometimes only one piece can legally move there. Sometimes it's obvious which piece should move there once the position is pointed out.

I watched the livestreams of Andrea Botez's games in Vegas. Something I was really struck by is even though she's not a GM strength player, her mental board visualization skills are way up there. She did post game debriefs on the streams where she went rapid fire through hundreds of variations with her cohost just verbally. She'd go through them faster than the host could click to show chat at times.

Now imagine what people like the Super GMs are capable of.

I saw a video a while ago.


They put a number of mid-game positions on the board, and Magnus was able to guess the players, tournament, game number, who won, what the next few moves were. Who was playing on the table next to him. What their moves were.

Half the reason people believe Hans was cheating is cause he couldn't do this for the game in question.

Yeah. This is why I think those people are full of shit.

First, those people should look at his YouTube. Obviously he's capable of analyzing games. To think he'd be incapable of analyzing a game he just played? What? It makes no sense.

To think that someone, even if they were cheating in every game, was not a 2600ish rated player and to perform like Hans is just ridiculous. Every 2600 player can out analyze anyone who is a 2100 player (Botez).

The argument doesn't stand up at all.

You don't have to imagine, check out any post match press conference or when players discuss over the board after the game.

They remember all the variations they consider, and they've considered most of the variations their opponents have calculated, so the variations aren't new branches, they're just pointers to spots in the game tree both players have in their heads.

just watch this https://youtu.be/pUgvAoTzWBA and you will see what super gms are capable of

At their level it's pretty much known what location / piece they're thinking about. For key moments, it may be enough to transmit the piece name only. And have some follow up for destination if they really need them.

One move is 12 bits at most. 3 bits each X/Y, two XY pairs for source and destination.

You would only need one set of coordinates. The destination coordinates. Any high level chess players would only need that information to dominate.

Honestly I think all you'd need is the piece. There are 6 pieces, so that's 3 bits of info with room to spare.

I would think a shorthand code would be employed

we're dealing with bits of info here, thats the shortest hand there is

Sure, but the number of bits is what I meant

Not many at all. For instance it takes a maximum of 6 bits to encode a given destination square on the board. This is probably sufficient, or very close to it.

If chess TO are that scared of cheaters, they should just take each player measurements and provide them with their own clothing/accessories.

you missed the beads in the butt story

Deep cavity search livestreamed before match.

Or lock them in transparent cube for week before match naked... So many solutions that specially person like Carlsen should be open to.

Mandatory prematch laxatives

It's interesting speculation, I wouldn't say I was convinced but I did see what you meant.

Tangent: any hack magician that uses that device deserves to lose their career.

As opposed to chess, magic is about lying and cheating. Everybody knows it and everybody is fine with it in magic, as you can see here in Dary's legendary ambitious card routine:


Edit: At the grand finale at 7:51 he says it again: "I haven't cheated yet, but it's coming up."

Nonetheless there's a rough ranking of "acceptable lies", and a thumper - anything with a secretly complicit audience member, really - ranks near the bottom of that.

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