Are you allowed to use chess computers in tournaments?

Usage of chess engines during a game or within the playing hall is strictly forbidden in tournaments. A player may only consult the computer before/after the game in the resting area. 

Chess computers are the strongest entity that has ever played the game of chess. As such most people use it to assist some aspect of preparation in their games. 

Some beginners may wonder if this answer-giving machine could be used in tournaments which I will answer here. Advanced players may find this question really simple, but I think it is reasonable for someone who is just new. 

This question is not as simple as you think, I will show you why.

I will tackle different aspects of the question in order to give everything you need to know, let’s do it now. 

Do the organizers allow usage of computers in (chess) tournaments?

One cannot use a chess computer within the playing hall or during their games, failure to obliged may lead to a temporary ban from participation in future tournaments. 

Using chess engines is generally considered a form of cheating since you’ll get to see very accurate moves. It is a sort of using a calculator in a contest where you need to solve math equations manually, pretty unfair. 

Organizers usually regulate technologies that could be used as a medium for an engine. In fact, mobile devices (where chess computers can be used)  are not allowed in the playing area. 

The playing hall/area (where the games are played) do not value the presence of chess computers. So much in fact that you are forbidden to use chess engines (in the playing hall) even if your game is over.

Even if it is a flimsy chance of being used as a tool for unfair intention, no one that wants to take a chance. Tournaments after all are played with money on the line, they can’t afford someone having an advantage. 

If chess computers are not allowed during chess matches the competition would no longer be a test of participant’s skills rather something that would test out who’s engine is better. This could not be a good precursor to a healthy competition that is worthy of chess events. 

The banning of chess computers in tournaments (unless there’s an exception) cannot be negotiated. You cannot use chess computers in tournaments even if you and your opponent agreed to it.

The perfect play that these engines provide is just too much to be hosted in human competitions. Chess computers have become so strong that the international body (Fide) has to find a way to regulate them. 

Are there occasions where you can use (chess) computers in tournaments?

A participant can only use a computer (in a tournament) before and after their games, also away from the playing hall (resting area) where they can review their preparations.

Chess computers are not allowed in tournaments unless there is an exception (there are events where such is a feature). There are even those where a computer is considered a participant, although I doubt that it is Fide rated. 

But special tournaments that actually host chess computers do exist, but I doubt that they are very entertaining.  Draws after all is already a problem in chess and with everybody using computers then it’s just an invitation. 

If you want to learn more how draws have become so prominent in chess games then you can go to this article (will open in a new tab) just for extra perspective. 

You are obviously allowed to review some of the lines you’ve prepared just not within the playing hall or during the game. Such a setting would provide players an opportunity to use their companion, the one that can dish out perfect moves (computer). 

Just always remember that you’re only allowed to use computers in the resting area (not during the play). Any source of information in fact is banned from the reach of players during their games. 

Even silly-looking notes that are doubtful to present data can be a subject to suspect, just look at this article (will open in a new tab) I’ve written and you’ll be surprised. 

You shouldn’t’ be penalized as long as you are not using it in the playing hall or during a game. So if an arbiter called you out, you should generously say that you’re allowed to do so according to the rules. 

What is the penalty for using a (chess) computer during a tournament game?

The punishment for being caught using computers (in tournaments) is a forfeit from the event where caught, temporary or a lifetime ban, and revocation of any master titles. 

The punishment for being caught with an engine during a tournament is a sort of a ban. The severity of the punishment (ban) can vary depending on the nature of the offense.

The ban could range within a couple of months, years, or a lifetime. A player who is banned is not allowed to participate in any Fide-rated tournaments within its duration.

Of course they can still play informal chess, just are not those where ratings are at stake. The rest of the rounds from where the cheater was caught shall be considered a forfeit moving forward. 
And if this is a professional (who has a rated title) they are at risk of getting their title revoked. This is not a one-hand solution though since they can still keep the title depending on the discretion of the organizers. 

It doesn’t matter if it is a highly rated lower-rated tournament, it is still forbidden. The penalties will still be imposed (especially the ban) so don’t even think of trying this. 

Are there real-life examples where a player tried to cheat using a chess engine?

Grandmaster Gaoiz Nigalidze tried to use an engine in the toilet, he was caught and was penalized with a 3-year ban and having his grandmaster title revoked. 
Some players have definitely tried to use chess engines anyway despite not being allowed. With the advance of technology after all comes the deceitfulness of those that can use it.

The toilet is one of the places where one can silently peek at a chess computer. It is a place where players are allowed some privacy and therefore harder to monitor if such a thing were attempted.

This is for perspective, the case I’ve found (GM Nigalidze) perfectly demonstrates someone using a chess computer and getting penalized. Grandmaster Gaoiz Nigalidze in Dubai open 2015 has suspiciously spent a lot of time in the toilet during one of his games. 

His opponent took notice of this and immediately informed the arbiter where they caught him in the act (while using a chess computer). His opponent is lucky, if a player is working with multiple people (to cheat with an engine) it is much harder to detect. 

One can act as a cleaner that would dispose of the evidence while the other just plays on with their games. This way, proving guilt is much harder and will make things tricky (which is not the case here, fortunately). 

Gm Gaoiz Nigalidze faces a 3-year ban (from rated chess) as well as getting his title revoked from using the aid of a chess computer (in the toilet). The extent of the ban can differ from place to place and some may not even have their titles revoked. 

But this is a good example of the general approach someone will take when dealing with such a case. 

What are the forms of chess that generally allow usage of chess computers?

Correspondence chess is a form of chess where computers can be used between moves, online platform is vulnerable as well as monitoring of players is difficult. 
There’s a form of chess called correspondence, where it takes days to make a move potentially allowing the use of chess computers. It is technically not allowed to utilize chess computers even in this, although it has become a common practice. 

It’s just not realistic to impose a ban on players who are cheating in correspondence chess. No one can detect someone looking at the engine on the days they have to think of the move. 

Though it really is doubtful if the presence of computers develops positive influence (in correspondence chess). Fewer and fewer people are participating in this and such conditions would make things even more boring.

On a similar note, people in online chess have been observed to use computers on some occasions. It is highly discouraged to use chess computers in online matches though some can get away with it. 

It is hard for an accusation (of using computers) to get through since such a term is thrown around regularly. It can be daunting to separate what is cheating from those that are not since there are so many claims.

You can be banned in online platforms from using a computer during the matches, but I can imagine that you can get away with it. If you have another cellphone from where you can see the computer, or even a new tab from the window you already have an opportunity (which makes it hard to identify). 

Will you use a chess computer during your games? 

Chess computers really are a handy aid for filling the lapses in our preparation.  Using it in a tournament though is not allowed and would cause tons of problems for future competitions. 

I have discussed the complete details of when and when not you can use engines, which is really helpful. You don’t want to be walking in a tournament cheating and not knowing about it in the first place. 

You should definitely use engines but appropriately, which this article hopes to accomplish. I’m sure you learned something, sleep well and play chess.