Soviet Chess Collusion: A New Paper

Lynne Kiesling

My friend John Nye has a new paper up at SSRN with Charles Moul. They find that the pattern of draws when Soviet players faced each other is consistent with collusion, not competition:

We expand the set of outcomes considered by the tournament literature to include draws and use games from post-war chess tournaments to see whether strategic behavior is important in such scenarios. In particular, we examine whether players from the former Soviet Union acted as a cartel in international tournaments – intentionally drawing against one another in order to focus effort on non-Soviet opponents – to maximize the chance of some Soviet winning. Using data from international qualifying tournaments as well as USSR national tournaments, we estimate models to test for collusion. Our results are consistent with Soviet draw-collusion and inconsistent with Soviet competition. Simulations of the period’s five premier international competitions (the FIDE Candidates tournaments) suggest that the observed Soviet sweep was a 75%-probability event under collusion but only a 25%-probability event had the Soviet players not colluded.

Very interesting.


3 thoughts on “Soviet Chess Collusion: A New Paper

  1. I don’t see how they have demonstrated collusion over unconscious patriotism or friendship. Collusion requires a deliberate intent to cheat. How have they shown that?

    I too am certain there were tournaments where the Soviets clearly colluded, but I don’t see how this study elevates that belief from conjectured to (more) proven.

    Also, what’ll you bet there are also (weaker) non-Soviet groups in the data, as well as anti-draw “colluders? – pairs and small blocs who tended to be more likely to go for the 1 than the ½ when playing each other? No mention of that in the abstract, though. Maybe it’s in the paper; my first try at a download quit on me.

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