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Shortcuts to Winning

 

January 5, 2023 | View PDF

William H. Benson Columnist

How does a player cheat at chess?

When playing on-line chess at home, on his or her computer, a cheater receives instructions, hints, and directions from a second computer, standing beside the first, that contains chess analysis software.

But how does a player cheat at chess over-the-board, or in-person? Often, the cheater will work with an associate, who will access that same software on a hand-held device and will then signal to the player the better moves. Or a cheater hides a cellphone in the restroom, and takes frequent breaks.

Magnus Carlsen, a 32-year-old Norwegian, and reigning World Chess Champion since 2013, lost a game to a brash 19-year-old American, Hans Niemann, on September 4, at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. The next day Carlsen tweeted that he would withdraw from the event.

Then, on September 27, Carlsen issued a statement to the Chess world.

"I believe that cheating in chess is a big deal and an existential threat to the game. I believe that Niemann has cheated more than he has publicly admitted. Throughout our game in the Sinquefield Cup, I had the impression he wasn't tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions.

"We must do something about cheating, and for my part going forward, I don't want to play against people who have cheated repeatedly in the past, because I don't know what they are capable of."

The scandal prompted Chess.com to restrict Niemann from their website, and also from playing in the Chess.com Global Championship tournament in the fall of 2022.

Hans Niemann admits he has cheated twice, both online, once when he was twelve, and again when he was sixteen, but he declares he is innocent now. He has filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit.

How did Hans Niemann cheat, if he did?

One possibility. Last July, a computer programmer named James Stanley demonstrated that he could cheat at chess by communicating with an associate through vibrations transmitted into his shoes.

If indeed Niemann cheated, the truth as to how he cheated will come out someday.

How did Lance Armstrong cheat at bicycle racing to win seven Tour de France races? He would "remove his blood prior to a race, store it in a fridge, and then transfuse it back into his body during the race. He also took testosterone to aid his recovery between races." Blood doping gave him an edge.

How did Bernard Maddoff cheat? The short answer: he ran a Ponzi scheme. Like Charles Ponzi, namesake of the scheme, he paid off old customers with proceeds from new customers.

Religious organizations are not exempt. In the 1980's, Jim Bakker overbooked hotel reservations at his "Heritage USA Theme Park, by selling tens of thousands of lifetime memberships that entitled buyers to an annual three-night stay at a single 500-room hotel," close to an impossibility.

Bakker was indicted on twenty-four counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. Following a jury's guilty verdict on all counts, Judge Robert Potter sentenced Bakker to 45 years in prison, and a $500,000 fine. After his sentence was reduced twice, he served 4 ½ years in prison and was released.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Watergate burglary, that occurred on June 17, 1972. According to Michael W. Pregrine, a Chicago attorney, this crime "exposed the capacity of the most senior of leaders to place ambition and expediency before individual responsibility and morality."

"These scandals were the byproduct of human failings that never seem to go out of style: unbridled personal ambition, impulsive loyalties, pragmatic ruthlessness, and the absence of a moral compass within the organization."

This week marks the second anniversary of January 6, 2021, the day when a mob stormed the Capitol building, at an hour when legislators were meeting to certify the 2020 election returns.

Each of the rioters believed and then acted upon Donald Trump's claim, without evidence, that he had won the election, but that others had stolen it from him. He told the crowd that day, "We will stop the steal. We won the election. We won it by a landslide. This was not a close election."

His words incited a riot inside the Capitol. Bill Barr, Trump's attorney general, had told the President that there was no evidence for election fraud, and yet he refused to accept that advice.

"How to strangle democracy while pretending to engage in it?" The answer: dispatch burglars into the opposing party's campaign headquarters at night, and then try to cover it up, Nixon's plan; or make up a story about voter fraud, and incite a riot, Trump's plan.

On December 22, 2022, the thirteen members of the January 6 committee released their 845-page report, and in it, they made four recommendations.

"The former president should be prosecuted for assisting in an insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, making false statements to the federal government, and for obstructing an official congressional proceeding." It is now up to Jack Smith, special counsel for the Department of Justice.

A game of chess, a bicycle race, a business, a theme park, and two elections, shortcuts to winning.

 

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