We are all aware that with the recent rise of strong Go AIs, some online Go players are using bots while playing online to achieve a stronger play. This behavior has always been forbidden within the OSR community (as explicitly stated in our league rules), but unfortunately we have had to deal with botting allegations, investigations, and, in a few cases, people have confessed to having cheated. It is a real problem that threatens our community as an online Go club.
Why is this an issue?
While we would prefer to rely on trust in this matter, the OSR team thinks it wouldn't be healthy to allow such behavior inside our community. An atmosphere of doubts and rumors is not what we want in OSR. On top of that, we had some strong players expressing worry about participating in OSR because they fear that strong players might be botting.
The OSR leagues have prizes to be won, and these prizes are available due to the contributions of our community, so we can't just ignore the issue and tolerate cheating. In addition, we try to take our teaching environment seriously, and we would not like someone teaching other members with any doubts about their real strength.
How has it been dealt with in the past?
When some players showed signs of play much better than their rank, or when we received direct allegations, we analyzed a number of games from the player in subject to get statistics on the correlation between the player's moves and those recommended by one or more Go bots. Those results were reviewed with discretion by other high ranking players, and the findings were discussed with the player.
This kind of work is clearly unpleasant to do. It is quite time consuming and the situation is uncomfortable for both the player being analyzed and the OSR team. On top of that, such statistics cannot be considered as conclusive evidence.
Since those efforts are unpleasant and of limited worth, we felt the need to take immediate action that would stop this sort of situation from reocurring. But what can be done?
A player's true strength cannot be effectively proven online, so we decided to rely on real life results for very strong OSR members. These can be rankings from official federation or tournament results if the player's country doesn't have a ranking system.
OSR Real Life Rank Rule:
Every strong Go player (5d and above) must provide some real-life proof of their Go strength to take part in OSR either as a player or a teacher.
This rule means that we can confidently say that all OSR strong players are authentic, leaving no space for doubts, toxic accusations or rumors.
What about the strong players without real life records?
They will need to get real life results if they want to participate as a player or a teacher in OSR. Most strong players refer to their real-life achievements when introducing themselves. That has been the case long before AlphaGo. These strong players often teach online as a job and real-life achievements have always been the best indicator of their strength. Have a look at any one of our teachers for instance.
These strong players are quite rare and most of the time well-known for succeeding in real life Go events.
Some members suggested to have the user prove his strength by streaming themselves while playing. We believe that if someone really wants to cheat, he will find a way. On top of that, we prefer not to take the position of "judges" in saying if a user is legitimate or not. We also think it is more convenient for the players not to be in a situation of having to prove their innocence.
Having considered several alternatives in the context of the club's limited resources, we reached the conclusion that this new policy is the best option for OSR at the moment. We may re-evaluate as and when new options for combatting cheating in online Go become available.
The OSR is and will always be a community. If you have better ideas for how to deal with this issue, please share them on Discord or by participating in this forum thread.