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News Navigator: Why are shogi and Go matches having anti-cheat measures added?

Both Japan's shogi and Go associations have recently banned the use of electronic devices by their players during matches to prevent cheating. The Mainichi answers common questions readers may have about such measures.

    Question: What steps have the two associations taken?

    Answer: Since the end of last year, the Japan Shogi Association has banned the use of electronic devices by its players during shogi matches and it has started taking custody of those devices for the duration of the matches. It is also considering whether stronger measures are necessary. Meanwhile the Nihon Ki-in, the organization that governs Go, announced this January it would also ban the use of electronic devices by Go players during matches, although it would leave the devices in the players' care. Both organizations have said that punishment for players that violate the bans could include disqualification from the organizations.

    Q: Why are these measures necessary now?

    A: In both Go and shogi, software that is as good or better than top-level players has been developed, and if the players are simply left to their honor not to cheat by using the software, suspicions of cheating could linger.

    Q: What about other competitive board games?

    A: In 1997, the supercomputer Deep Blue defeated the chess world champion. It is now considered nearly impossible for a human to defeat these kinds of competitive chess programs. The World Chess Federation has banned bringing electronic devices into its matches, and if any are found in use by a player, they are immediately disqualified. According to the Japan Chess Association, at international competitions there are metal detectors like those at airports set up at the entrances.

    Despite this, there are sometimes cases of cheating, such as hiding smartphones in restrooms or communicating with a hidden camera and Morse code with the outside.

    In face-to-face games of backgammon, there is no time to leave the area or cheat. However, according to the Japan Backgammon League, there was an incident overseas where a top player was punished for using software to cheat while competing online. Observers are now sent to watch over both sides in online backgammon matches, and there are now fewer online matches for prize money. In this way, all competitive board games are facing the same issue of having to revise their professional rules due to the development of strong software that could be used to cheat. (Answers by Satoshi Mogami, Cultural News Department)

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