Chess, a haven of peacefulness, a group of men and women with solemn expressions bidding to outsmart each other by being extraordinarily clever in moving their pieces around a small board. To the victor, a small trophy and the warm glow of being a smart arse?
Certainly not, chess has become big business. Tournaments now offer prize money well into six figures. Indeed the World Championship offers well over a million dollars to the winner. As a result of all this prize money it has prompted some ingenious and not so ingenious ways of trying to win some.
Although few attempts to cheat at chess have been more blatant than that of a Rastafarian who tried to help himself to prize money in the “unrated players” section of the World Open held in Philadelphia in 1993.
Our dreadlocked mystery man clearly had a sense of irony. He had entered the tournament under the name of John Von Neumann, a pioneer of computing and Artificial Intelligence. He initially did rather well, scoring 4.5 points out of a possible 9 in the Open section. He managed to gain a draw against a Grandmaster and also beat an International Master.
Wearing large headphones under his hair, he refused to remove them whilst he was playing. He claimed that the music helped him concentrate. One pocket bulged with a device that he repeatedly pressed as the game progressed, which most people assumed was a Walkman.
Whilst making his way back from a cigarette break, he was collared by a TV crew anxious to learn more about him. After a few questions about chess tactics, it became quite obvious that he had no idea about even the simplest of strategies and promptly ran out of the building. The red faced organisers then admitted that he was relaying his opponents moves to an accomplice in a large black van in the nearby car park, who would then send recommended moves back through the use of a chess computer.