I was shocked to hear of the amount of children cheating in online competitions when playing online became the only way to play chess due to covid-19. At first I thought “what motivates them?” as it’s not something I would ever have contemplated. I guess Children do not realise they will ever get suspected. Who can honestly say they haven’t done something naughty as a child with the belief that they won’t get caught?

Playing online chess is a completely new experience for many children and for some it seems they think they have discovered a new idea – ‘perhaps I can use the chess engine to improve my results and look good in front of my friends and family’

Of course, it is hardly the worst thing children can do. Disappointing – but a good lesson if they admit a mistake and learn from it.

However, very few are coming forward to admit wrong-doing once rumbled. This is the hardest thing for me to understand. Everyone knows how much better they feel when they have admitted and apologised for their mistakes. Players admitting to having made a mistake will not be able to participate in the remainder of this summer’s competition – but after that we wipe the slate clean and give players a second chance.

In almost all cases the cheating is so obvious – myself and Alex are both strong players plus we have access to an independent panel including respected Grandmasters. Some player’s are playing whole tournaments making moves that World Champion Magnus Carlsen would be proud of!

Of course it is difficult to hear that your child has been cheating – especially if you don’t play the game yourself and if your child is denying it. This must be a difficult situation – your child saying one thing and an ‘expert’ another. Sometimes parents get angry at me – but I can only present the evidence we have and give our best judgement.

I believe in some cases there is too much pressure being put on children – either perceived or real – and this is leading the player into temptation. This is especially potent if the player has the misguided idea that it won’t be detected.

So there are a few things that I want people to take away from this

  • Cheating in chess has victims – the honest players trying their best to improve and progress
  • We are taking this seriously and we will catch players – nothing you can try hasn’t been tried already and we have great tools at our disposal to catch you!
  • If you have made a mistake and cheated – own up > it will feel like a huge weight off your shoulder
  • It isn’t the end of the world to own up to having cheated – there will be a temporary online ban but you will be able to compete in our future competitions

As a new parent I will do my best to educate our daughter to understand right from wrong – but I’m sure she will make mistakes and then when she does I hope that she will have the strength to admit them. That’s all we can ask.

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them”

Sarah Longson

Director – UKCC