The pandemic has led to a surge of popularity for online chess—and a corresponding surge in cheating. The Guardian reports that the widespread use of powerful apps that can calculate near-perfect moves has caused an "atmosphere of paranoia and recrimination" within the game, despite efforts to crack down by FIDE, the game's international governing body. "The pandemic has brought me as much work in a single day as I have had in a year previously," says Kenneth Regan, a Buffalo-based international chess master and computer science professor who created FIDE's anti-cheating guidelines and a program to catch cheaters. "It has ruined my sabbatical."
In some top matches, players must now agree to be recorded by multiple cameras and to grant remote access to their computers. The problem has also affected the game at lower levels: Sarah Longson, who runs a junior chess tournament in Britain, says at least 100 of 2,000 online participants cheated, with numerous pre-teens who had previously been unexceptional players suddenly playing at the level of the world No.1. "It's the children from the private schools, sadly," she says. "When I ring their parents they just get angry with me. They're under such pressure to succeed." Chess.com reports that notorious cheater Igor Rausis, a former grandmaster now banned from FIDE-rated tournaments, showed up at an in-person tournament in Latvia last week, using a new name and apparently hoping his face mask would conceal his identity. (Read more chess stories.)