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ACP on Online Chess



9 September 2020

In the immediate aftermath of the Online Olympiad, ACP would like to express its opinion on the current state of affairs in the chess world.

First and foremost we would like to thank FIDE for being proactive and trying to react to the pandemics by organising online events. Had it been otherwise, the chess life for “ordinary” professionals and amateurs alike would have come to a standstill. Doing nothing was not an option.

According to the information we were privy to, we understand that there was no good solution to the events that smeared the final stages of the Online Olympiad. We believe that FIDE acted in good faith when taking their difficult decisions.

On the other side, the main thing we learned from the Online Olympiad and other online events is that online chess is not the chess we are used to. Over-the-board chess is a game of 100% information and the result entirely depends on the players - their skill, knowledge and ability.

This is not the case in online chess, where external factors like loss of connection, not to mention cheating, can instantly decide the game, thus making the players’ skills, knowledge and abilities irrelevant. This is not the chess we know and love, where everything is decided on the board. These external factors cause a lot of anger, resentment and distrust in the chess community.

The extremely problematic element of online cheating, which appears to have been satisfactorily controlled at the Online Olympiad, is still far from solved and requires huge resources in terms of human and scientific capital.

Finally, the interaction between FIDE and the private entities that currently own the most popular platforms does not seem to be the best arrangement for trying to “go online” due to transparency issues and diverging goals. If, due to the continuing emergency caused by the pandemic, FIDE is forced to continue organising official online events, it is our strong belief that they should organise them on their own platform, having complete control over the whole process. This will not solve all problems, but it will at least provide players with full disclosure of what is happening “behind the scenes”. If this should not prove possible, then priority should be given to the platform that allows FIDE the maximum extent of control over its events.

Having said this, investing heavily in developing a stable online environment for FIDE in the future is probably the wrong direction to go. The ACP is strongly convinced that this (necessary) “season” of official online events should be only temporary and that FIDE should devote all its resources to preparing for when OTB chess will be possible again, so that the "new start” will be matched by strong leadership by the world organization.

The game of chess is fair in essence, but this fairness is lost in the online world where external factors overweight the players’ own endowment. Online chess is a different game and should be treated as such. How exactly, this is on all of us to discuss and decide.

The ACP Board