AkshatChandra.com ~ Credit-Adam Gault, Getty Images

Locked Out from Chess.com
– a set of games in 2015 were unfair claims Chess.com

 

AkshatChandra.com ~ Chess.com claims GM Akshat Chandra used unfair means but doesn't provide evidence

Exactly one day after the "Titled Tuesday" concluded on April 17, I found myself unable to log into my Chess.com account. I tried many times to reset the password, but I never received the confirmation email. Without really thinking too much about it, I fired off an email asking how can I resolve this issue, as I figured it must be another of the many glitches and bugs Chess.com has. The response I received a few days later was unexpected, to say the least. It was a mail from Chess.com VP of Content & PR, IM Danny Rensch, saying that my account had been suspended for "Fair Play Policy" violations.

"Fair Play Policy" violation is their way of saying cheating.

In this email, I was told by Danny that,

"...we would not be acting here or making this communication if we were not 100% sure that you did indeed use engine assistance at some point in your games on Chess.com."

He talked about a cheating detection system they had which is,

"designed to detect patterns of in-human approaches to chess games and effectively determine, beyond reasonable doubt and regardless of a player's "chess strength", that a game or series of games were played using engine assistance. Our systems have been tested thoroughly by numerous leading statisticians in the field (see one such testimonial from Harvard) and we are prepared to stand by them..."

Okay, so you make a serious accusation, close my account, and don't even offer any concrete evidence, instead stating that you aren't required to disclose anything. Furthermore, the testimonial of their cheating detection system from the Harvard professor only speaks of a "high probability" of being right. Nowhere did it say that the Chess.com's system detects the issues with 100% accuracy. Such 100% predictive chess systems do not exist. So I have no idea where they got the "100%" part from.

Heck, Danny himself says in this old Chess.com article about cheating,

"And we don't need to engage in legality debates that deny a simple truth: Short of confession, etc., there can never be 100% proof of cheating in online chess."

So to get that confession, Chess.com does some arm-twisting.

I was told that I'd not be allowed back on the site "without an acknowledgement that what we are saying is true."

In other words, confess to something which I have no details about, even when I know I'm innocent. Thereafter, they'll allow me to make a new account where I'll have to start fresh with no history of prior games. I'll also be banned from playing Titled Tuesday and other cash prize events for a certain duration.

I replied to this email stating my shock at the accusation, the autocratic manner in which they were approaching the entire situation with no regard to due process, and how I perceived the entire tone of the email to be condescending and coercive by forcing me to admit to their conclusions.

When Danny wrote back, he continued to reiterate that Chess.com is not going to budge on their stance, and expanded slightly on his earlier comments, saying

“To clarify the semantics again, I want to note that I was never calling any particular performances outside of the *single set of games from 2015* into question.”

Wait, what? 2015!

That was ~3 years ago.

This was nothing to do with the Titled Tuesday, immediately after which I was locked out.

How could it have taken 3 years to verify something which, according to them, is “beyond any reasonable doubt?”

Why wait till now to bring it up? Bizarre.

As I noted in my response,

“… I can't remember the games I played on Chess.com during 2015 when I was around age 15, but what I can unequivocally recall is that I never used any "outside assistance" then, now, and ever."

The one time I got accused of cheating online is by Chess.com's brand ambassador, Hikaru Nakamura. In 2016, shortly after we drew OTB at the US Championship, he accused me of cheating in the Chess.com game chat after I beat him in a blitz game. Of course, Chess.com players immediately set up a Reddit thread and dismissed the allegations as being vintage Nakamura. A couple of months ago, he even blocked me on Chess.com.

This appears to be a witchhunt which took Chess.com back 3 years to find something and ban me from the site.

As an example of further arm-twisting, I was informed that I won't be able to play in the ProChessLeague.

Now, this was a jarring piece of news.

It was jarring for they presumptuously assumed that the league Commissioner Greg Shahade will blindly follow Chess.com's instructions and ban me from the League because of some games from 2015, which I have no idea about, and that have nothing to do with the ProChess League.

Would the PCL also become a party to such autocratic action?

Not having access to Chess.com hurts my chess training, as they have the strongest player base presently and, due to my high blitz rating of ~2800, I am able to play many world-class players on a regular basis.

But I'll bear the cost because I don't use unfair means and will not be coerced into admitting to something I didn't do.

There are bigger questions which arise here, though.

Have we chess players made the Chess.com platform so big and powerful that it can dismiss a Grandmaster with impunity without any due process, and are answerable to no one?
Does life just go on for Chess.com without any meaningful consequences?
As players have we become powerless against an online regime?

Also, I wonder how many times this may have happened before, where a GM or titled player capitulated and was forced into a confession despite believing they're innocent.

With Chess.com, it's Their Way or the Highway!

So to summarize: I'm now locked-out from Chess.com as of April 18, 2018, because they discovered anomalies in a set of games from 2015, which they will not share any information about, and I won't offer the confession they seek as a precondition to reusing their site.

Feel free to share this posting

You will be seeing a lot of me now on LiChess,  where I've started streaming as well through my Twitch channel.

I leave you with a few of my recent memorable games on Chess.com, one of the last ones being in the April 3 Titled Tuesday against none other than Nakamura himself. That game was drawn after I blundered into a repetition in a completely winning position.

(A further update to this article is the next one and can be read here.)

shadow-ornament

An interesting draw with MVL.


A satisfying, although not entirely sound, win over GM Dmitrij Kollars.


An exciting win over GM Ian Nepomniachtchi!


Some nice tactics in a win over GM Grzegorz Gajewski


Some fireworks in a Sicilian against GM Lenier Dominguez.


A funny win over GM Vladmir Fedoseev. Yeah, we were both tilted at this point 🙂


A miniature over GM Pavel Eljanov


A little bit of trolling against GM Eljanov, in which I jokingly marched my king over to a5. No disrespect intended to the great Pavel!

14 Comments

  • Steph

    Reply Reply April 29, 2018

    Hi Akshat!
    I just read your post about your ban from chess.com and wanted to write to you in solidarity.

    I’m just a random fan and have only been exposed to your games through (>>>>>>) but I fully support you and know many others do too. Stay strong! It is completely absurd to accuse you of cheating in games from three years ago and use that as rationale to kick you out of PCL and the website.

    What you wrote about Naka was particularly interesting and I wonder if someone else with a lot of sway is salty you beat them and instigated all this…

    Anyway good luck and I will be boycotting chess.com from now on. I hope this gets resolved quickly and justly, and brings about more transparency in how cheating is dealt with.

    Sincerely,
    Steph

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply May 8, 2018

      Thanks for your kind words, Steph!
      Appreciate the support.

  • Giorgio Torreggiani

    Reply Reply May 4, 2018

    I have seen a video on youtube where Joel and Lia explains how British people say sorry all the time even if there is nothing to say sorry about.
    It is the same tendency with Japanese people because they are striving for harmony.
    In this situation even when you have not cheated
    you can choose to confess, you can choose to humble yourself and you will be back on chess.com.
    What is the reason that I write this?
    People are proud and have pride in their hearts
    When people humble themselves, they will be lifted up, you will be given favor
    If you choose to humble yourself with a confession
    you will win the account and you will play the titled Tuesday and get training.
    What are you loosing? You will just loose your pride and proudness.
    Yes, people are unfair sometimes

    Whatever you choose I wish you good training and that you will win us championship one day.

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply May 8, 2018

      Hi Giorgio,
      Thanks for the counsel and kind words!
      I understand what you are trying to convey.
      It was possible for me to just kept quiet about it, agree to a fake confession, and carry on, even though I have never done what they claim.
      As Chess.com wrote to me:
      “We have received confessions from GMs north of 2650+ FIDE, and you would never know it…”
      But for me, it didn’t make sense.
      First, Chess is a game of trust. It’s hard for me to continue playing chess if I even falsely confess.
      Second, at some point, one has to take a stand against a false accusation.
      Third, if I falsely confess and start playing again, my game will not change and Chess.com will again come back and say you’re using unfair means. Remember, for the Guilty the 2nd account solution offered by Chess.com can work. But not for the Innocent.
      Anyhow, I’ve been pushed into this situation and it’s a lesson for all to not believe in systems blindly, actually look at the games from a human perspective, and to keep an open mind.
      Regards,
      Akshat

  • Anthony

    Reply Reply May 9, 2018

    I was just listening to The Perpetual Chess podcast interview with Ben Johnson in which you defended yourself against cheating accusations from Chess.com. According to Ben Johnson I guess Chess.com generally determines that someone is cheating because they happen to play the “absolute” best move more than a certain percentage of the time.

    I don’t know exactly what algorithm Chess.com uses but the idea that every position has an “absolute best move” is absurd. There are lots of closed middle game positions that are very asymmetrical (clearly not draws) but that an engine like Stockfish on level 20 will waiver infinitely over 20 different, similarly-scored, candidate moves.

    I’m sure you know what I mean, but even an unrated player such as myself can use a passive Hedgehog pawn formation against a chess engine and reach a similar tipping point where it can’t determine an “absolute best” move but wins anyway as brute-force calculation which isn’t humanly possible, becomes more relevant.

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply May 11, 2018

      Hi Anthony,

      Thanks for reaching out!
      Yeah, we don’t know what exactly Chess.com uses in their cheat detection system so it’s hard to even say anything meaningful about this.
      I would imagine it incorporates what Ben said, where they look at a % of the time the “best move” is played and then compare it to the “%” of the top player’s performances. If that’s their main criteria, then I feel that it’s a very superficial way of looking at things.
      You can’t compare the % of times the best move was played without taking into account the degree of difficulty of the positions and several other variables.
      There are many cases where almost any normal move you play will be considered a “best move” by the engine.
      For e.g. you could be winning or have a very good position straight out of the opening or early middle game, or benefit from a blunder by your opponent after which literally anything you play would have the engine’s stamp of approval.

      In these situations, it would not be surprising at all for someone to score higher in engine correlation than Carlsen, who may be playing positions/games with a much higher degree of difficulty.

      Also, one must account for opening prep, otb experience in the line, etc. which is impossible to do by solely relying on a system’s input.

      What you say about asymmetrical positions is also very true, and the HedgeHog is a good example of that.

      Thanks again!
      Akshat

  • Alex Ostrovskiy

    Reply Reply May 13, 2018

    Ridiculous that such a strong player is accused of cheating. Trust me, I know from experience how strong you are :).

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply May 13, 2018

      Hey Alex,
      Thanks for writing!
      I really appreciate your kind words.
      Hope to meet you at a tournament!

  • Avik

    Reply Reply May 14, 2018

    Hey Akshat,

    I understand your frustration, because you know what? I’m also in the same boat. Something similar also forced me to leave Chess.com a few months ago, and switch over to Lichess.org, and I’ve never looked back.

    I couldn’t agree with you more : Lichess indeed offers a vastly better gameplay experience than Chess.com.

    I also saw some of your games in the Lichess Titled Arena 5 last week. If I’m not wrong, you play as GM BabaRamdev.

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply May 19, 2018

      Hi Avik,
      Sorry to hear that!

      Hope you are enjoying Lichess.
      Yup, I play and stream under BabaRamdev.

  • Aniket Bramhankar

    Reply Reply May 18, 2018

    I don’t why you are accused of cheating for some games 3 years ago. What was their system doing then? Did it take 3 years for them to figure out?
    Don’t tell anyone anon account on chess.com if you are interested to play stronger opponents!

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply May 19, 2018

      The system was probably taking a leak.

  • Rama

    Reply Reply May 24, 2018

    Absolutely agree with Akshat here. chess.com cheating accusation or any website’s cheating accusation for a matter of fact is pretty leaky. It just does not understand that humans too can make strong/computer like moves from time to time. Accusing a GM of using a computer is shameful without concrete evidence. Accusing someone for a game played 3 years back is a even more a joke. At this rate, chess.com will eventually have only patzers or GMs who are sore losers.
    Wish you the best in future Akshat
    Get into the top 10 and prove them wrong.

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply June 14, 2018

      Hi Rama,
      Thank you for writing.
      Apologies for my late response!

      I really appreciate your kind words and wishes.
      Best to you as well!

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