29 September 2022

Cheating Mania

It didn't take a crystal ball to predict that this month's Yahoos' post (see the footnote for an explanation of 'Yahoos') was going to be about Carlsen/Nakamura vs. Niemann, aka the chess cheating affair. The scandal broke three weeks ago and shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon. I've already featured it twice, the second time in Talkchess Talks Current Topics (September 2022).

Unlike all previous posts in the Yahoos series, this month requires two charts to present the base statistics, shown below. On the left are the counts derived from Google News, similar to the chart in last month's Olympiad, Business, and Political Yahoos (August 2022).

On the right are counts from a special supplement, linked from the Google News results and called 'Full Coverage'. These stories were 100% about the cheating scandal. The last time we saw this type of coverage was for Queen's Gambit Mania (October 2020), another Yahoos' post that confirmed the chess boom provoked by the twin phenomena of covid confinement and Netflix.

Of the 99 stories returned by Google News, 78 were from the month of September. The seven sources in the list account for at least two of the 78 stories, leaving 32 sources with a single story.

Of the 56 results returned for the 'Full Coverage' supplement, four were from Twitter. Of the other 52 stories, five sources accounted for at least two stories, leaving 41 sources with a single story. That means mainstream news about chess is on steroids. I imagine that one of the reasons for the extensive coverage is the interest in chess fueled by the recent boom.

Back to Google News, none of the 24 Chess.com stories had anything to do with cheating; ditto for the 10 New York Times (NYT) stories. Seven of the NYT stories were titled 'Play NYT Chess Puzzle', making me wonder once again if these aren't inserts paid by the NYT. What's newsworthy about a chess puzzle?

Of the other 44 (=78-34) Google News stories, 17 were about cheating. The same two stories appeared at the top of both the Google News and the 'Full Coverage' lists. Both were published yesterday:-

The last time we saw this sort of widepread media interest in chess cheating was for the 2006 Kramnik - Topalov Unification Match (m-w.com), aka Toiletgate. The 2022 scandal also descended quickly to speculative vulgarity. Chess deserves better.

[Yahoos (mainstream news stories about chess) are derived from Google News top-100 (or so) stories from the past month.]

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