Sunday, 15 April 2007

Electronic Chess Wars (Part 2)

One of the errors I often make when reading other people's blogs is to overlook the little 'Comments' link at the bottom of a blog. Often the most interesting stuff is tucked away in the reactions to the original post. This is true here: I urge you to read Mike Yeo's considered response to my earlier 'Electronic Chess Wars' blog, based on his own experiences with MonRoi at a recent tournament in Zagreb. Click on the comments link immediately below the earlier blog.

I don't consider myself to be against the use of technology in the capture and transmission of chess games, but it is clear that we need open debate involving players, organisers, technologists and spectators if the technology is to be developed to the point where it satisfies the requirements of all parties. At the moment my feeling is that it is only really at the experimental stage. MonRoi hasn't been fully accepted by leading players, while neither MonRoi nor DGT have the full confidence of the audience.

One worry I have is that the people selling the equipment may be pushing the idea that their automated systems can save tournaments money in respect of human resources needed to input games. I used to be a professional IT purchaser and came up against this sort of salesmanship all the time. In reality I suspect that there are only limited savings to be made in terms of human resources. To do the job properly, you merely replace your expert games inputter with an expert DGT/MonRoi operator. And if the latter have scant chess expertise (i.e. cannot diagnose 'mad gamescore disease' at a glance), then additional chess expertise will need to be hired anyway.

Another problem is that chess organisers aren't necessarily any good at implementing IT solutions. Mike draws our attention to the difficulty of using a MonRoi with only 30 second increments. This also applied in Dresden. It strikes me as insane expecting a chessplayer to play chess and also act as a data input operator in the space of 30 seconds. Fortunately Stewart Reuben doesn't like 30 second increments so competitors in Hastings and Gib are spared this insanity. But FIDE is proceeding gung ho down this path.

Mike makes further relevant points about the visibility of the opponent's score. Added to my earlier point about needing to be 'square-on' to the screen to see what you are doing, and other points made elsewhere on the web about the limited visibility of a small computer screen (particularly for those of us well stricken in years), my growing feeling is that the current implementation of MonRoi is a system for which the world at large is not yet ready. When we have small computer screens which are as visible as a piece of paper at different angles and reasonable distances, and as user-friendly, then it might be different. I suspect we are still a very long way from this scenario.

Mike makes the point about a time lag in transmission being necessary to curb an easy way of cheating. There is a growing feeling that this is an essential step in the fight against electronic cheating. However I suspect it might prove to be technically difficult for anyone other than the most expert webmasters or system operators to build delays into web transmissions. And of course it does not preclude the use of stooges in the physical audience using their mobile phones to transmit current moves back to cheating HQ.

Both Mike Yeo and Stewart Reuben have put me right on one point: the women in Dresden were using the MonRoi system as it is part of the Monroi Women's Grand Prix. Thanks for that.

1 comment:

  1. It appears that about all prestigious tournaments in North America are using the Monroi technology. Perhaps people are there more innovation-oriented. About everyone knows by now that electronic boards (I do not know if they were DGT or some other) did not work at all in Dresden in the first few rounds. Organizers pay and end up inputting games manually into computers. If you are working in IT, you saw new technologies replacing old ones (it could hardly be called a battle, let alone war), but there are all sort of speculations until people actually learn how the use new toys. In my opinion it’s just a matter of time when all tournaments will use electronic score-sheets.