The last 1–2 years have seen a sharp increase in cheating in online go, especially on higher dan levels. I, personally, have almost completely quit online go, as it not only takes a considerable amount time to find an opponent of similar level, but also the chances of the opponent’s consulting an ai are high. If I want to train with an ai, I’ll rather save my time and run KataGo directly on my computer. For some time, GoQuest seemed a safe haven for 13×13 go in this regard, but recently there is a pattern that if I get paired with a notably weaker player, ‘surprisingly’ the opponent makes no mistakes at all and almost directly follows the ai’s play.
While I (and probably many of you readers) prefer playing go on a real board, the reality right now is that there just are not enough go players around for that. For example chess has roughly ten times more players and chess playing sets are all around in cafés and bars – go is just simply not as widely spread. Therefore, at least for now, it seems to me that the spread of go is dependent on online playing servers.
Luckily, cheaters are more like the exception than the rule among lower and middle levels; there is nothing to ‘gain’ save for improvement and enjoyment, both of which the ai effectively removes – and if you keep on using the ai for winning games, eventually you will hit the upper end of the ranking spectrum. A part of me hopes that even in the higher rankings, cheating is a passing phenomenon and that people will soon realise that there is no purpose to it; but chess ai has been around for 20 years and the problem persists on chess servers, so probably this is wishful thinking.
The upper ranks’ ‘ai contamination’ is luckily a problem only for a small minority of players, and so the real challenge, I think, comes with online tournaments.
We saw with the Corona Cup that there is considerable demand for online go tournaments, at least now in the era of social distancing. When there are prizes and prestige at stake, and the risk of getting caught is slim at best, the number of cheaters sees a sharp increase. How should we try to battle this?
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