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Checkmate I

Bobby Fischer, the chess genius and super-self-hating-Jew, is such a ranter that it might seem sensible to have brushed aside his long-ago charges that Soviet chess players used to collude to ensure a Soviet champion in international chess competitions.

But the economists Charles Moul and John Nye, both of Washington University in St. Louis, argue convincingly that the Soviets did just that. In the famed Candidates tournaments, they argue, Soviet players would intentionally play each other to a draw and then try really hard to beat non-Soviets.

In their paper “Did the Soviets Collude?: A Statistical Analysis of Championship Chess 1940-1964,” Moul and Nye write this: “[T]he finding that the Soviets were more likely to draw amongst themselves in critical FIDE tournaments than they were when playing other masters should not come as a surprise. But our paper has been the first to provide strong statistical evidence in support of this result … The likelihood that a Soviet player would have won every single Candidates tournament up to 1963 was less than one out of four under an assumption of no collusion, but was higher than three out of four when the possibility of draw collusion is factored in.”

The Moul-Nye analysis is reminiscent of the analysis used by Levitt and Mark Duggan to show how sumo wrestlers collude. And, as for Bobby Fischer, we are reminded once again that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that someone isn’t out to get you.