Inhuman Cheating

When perseverance isn’t a virtue


How can you catch cheaters in online chess tournaments? Are all top players that good or are some replying on a computer chess program? faces this issue because their members’ rankings are largely established by online games allowing players at home consult chess programs.’s solution? Look for non-human patterns in players’ games… more specifically, look for an inhuman absence of perseverance. Chess programs analyze the board, evaluate their options, and make their move based on a plan thinking several moves ahead. Then in the next turn they do it all over again.

Humans also analyze the board, evaluate their options, and make their move based on the best of all options; but our “tell” emerges in the next turn… we don’t do truly do all over again. We give strong preference to our plan formed in the last round and even if the current board warrants revising the plan. Why? Because we have an unconscious emotional attachment to our plan (because it’s our plan) and even grand masters succumb to this human pitfall.

Computers are cold, emotionless machines (at least for now). They can easily toss their prior plan for anything better every move – and by spotting inhuman unattachment to prior plans, catches cheaters in their undeserved victories.

Heads-Up Football

While we like to think that “sticking to the plan” and “staying the course” demonstrates noble characteristics of determination and perseverance, it is often an excuse for our blind spots and biases. We can look to quarterback for models of superior leadership. Great quarterbacks may call one play in the huddle, change it with an audible once viewing the defense’s positions, and still throw or run something completely different once in motion when warranted.

They are not wed to their first play, nor the audible. Neither do they fear accusations of flip-flopping – so they win games. Unattachment drives success, not determination to stay the course.

The Lesson for Leaders

Challenge your plan regularly, engaging objective outsiders because we simply cannot see our blind spots (which is why the term is “blind” spots). Every plan is potentially obsolete the day after it’s formed because the pieces on the board move – have an appetite to continuously look for something better than what you’ve got!

© Dave Wittenberg

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