Lancaster Chess Soc embroiled in brutal civil war after president is accused of cheating
One Chess soc member said of the President: ‘I don’t doubt his strength’
Lancaster Chess Society is embroiled in a brutal civil war after the president has been accused of cheating, with one of his only chess accounts suspended due to concerns over “fair play”.
A whistleblower uncovered the alleged cheating within the society and is attempting to make it known to Lancaster students.
Lucy* has been a member of Chess Soc since the beginning of Michaelmas term. She started watching the games and tournaments, claiming this is how she “recognised the cheating”.
In a post on Pastebin, a website where you store text, she posted: “It is my assertion that the President of the Chess Society at Lancaster University cheats at online chess events and when playing chess online. This includes during intra-society events where members play each other and the President makes use of a chess engine in order to win games in an unfair manner.”
A spokesperson for Lancaster University Chess Society said: “We have had someone level accusations against our president, and are having a general meeting on Wednesday to discuss them openly among our society.
“As an exec, we haven’t taken kindly to these and do not believe the allegations that have been put forward. However, we will discuss them fairly with our members and hopefully put the matter to rest on Wednesday.”
The President of Chess Soc, Joshua Higgs, has an official FIDE rating and has played for England chess, with a logged rank of just below 2000 in various formats of chess. Lucy points out that: “This is a reasonably good rank and higher than anyone else in the chess society.”
“Despite this impressive natural talent and ability to win games OTB (On-the-board, in person rather than online based chess) he makes use of a ‘chess engine’ to understand better moves. Chess engines typically provide the user with an advantage by finding the best move possible in a short amount of time.
Lucy describes the cheating method she suspects in-depth, saying: “The best engines in the world beat humans consistently and it is therefore practically impossible to play at the same level of accuracy as a chess engine. Some chess engines are built with speed chess in mind. Blitz, for example, is a format where each player gets five minutes total, so the chess engine does a light search as opposed to a deep search.
“Deep searches take slightly longer and provide the best move, but light searches are done quickly and provide moves that are almost perfect, which can sometimes give accuracy levels of between 95-98 per cent. A deeper search yields around 99 per cent accuracy. This ‘accuracy’ factor is measured by the analysis of sites like chess.com to show how close the player was to the best move determined by the chess engine.”
Lucy presented evidence of Joshua’s account on chess.com and lichess.org, two popular chess playing sites. Josh’s account on chess.com, under the name “kingbooly”, has been banned for breaking the fair play policy of chess.com. The fair play policy of chess.com consists of nine simple regulations to follow, including: “Do not artificially manipulate ratings, matches, or game outcomes”, “Do not use chess engines, bots, plugins or any tools that analyze positions during play” and “Do not allow anyone else to use your account or access anyone else’s account.”
Lucy points out that the president’s accuracy is consistently high in blitz games. “This is almost humanly impossible. The number one ranked player in Blitz chess does not often get 99 per cent accuracy and he is more than 1300 rating points above Joshua Higgs.”
Lucy took her concerns to another member of Chess Soc who defended the president, saying that it was, in fact, the President’s friend who got his account banned – not the President himself.
“He hasn’t got a banned account”, says the member of Chess Soc, “Don’t threaten with LUSU, he’s honestly not [a cheat]. I’m a high ish rated player and I’ve only ever beaten him twice over 50 or so games on various accounts OTB or otherwise. And then it was luck. He’s not a cheat.”
In further messages, he claims Josh gave his chess.com account “to a friend” and says the argument over him cheating is “pointless.”
Lucy protests this defence, saying it is a classic case of “oh sure, ‘my friend did it'”. She continues: “Either you are being deliberately naive or you know he’s cheating and are just covering for you friend.”
The Chess Soc member responds: “Even if he does cheat, the lichess tournaments are too short time control to cheat. He doesn’t cheat OTB or in real tournaments. If he did cheat, lichess would detect and ban him.
“I’m done arguing this mate, you’ve come out of nowhere accusing quite aggressively. Our society is meant to be inclusive, tolerant and fair. Our president is not a cheat, he is an excellent player and our society tries to bring the best chess out of us.”
Lucy told The Tab Lancaster that her main concern was that “the exec of the Chess Society are seemingly unswayed by the evidence of cheating. I am in no way suggesting that Josh is not a good player, as to win OTB events would be difficult without good knowledge. However, he is not 99% capable, as no human consistently is.”
The President of Chess Society has declined to comment prior to the AGM meeting tomorrow.