A tragicomic journey between a joke and reality
The Manual of the Brave Cheater
By Paolo Cortese, I2UIY, NH7DX
(written for CQ Contest - September 1996)
About 25 years ago, several Contest Committees began performing logging accuracy studies. The first attempts were made without the invaluable help of the computer, so reliability wasn't very high. Still, it was a beginning.
Once the computer became a common tool, checking procedures improved with the development of more sophisticated methods. Accuracy, in this case, is mostly based on the analysis of uniques and/or on the comparison of the logged calls against a database containing all the existing calls in a given country.
Actually, depending on the percentage of logs-on-disk submitted, it's possible to crosscheck each single QSO on both logs, including exchanges. Read Ville, OH2MM's, article in this issue for more information about these techniques.
All these procedures rely on the fact that everyone is fair, honest, and nobody cheats. Under this philosophy, each mistake found in a log is unintentional, and results of these screenings are mostly used for statistical value. From time to time, someone complains because of penalties they receive, and such data can be used to clear up misunderstandings. Unfortunately, if you call into question the statement that everyone is fair, most of the structure collapses. Every Committee making a serious log check has found several cheaters over the years, even in the so-called minor contests.
Before I go on, it's necessary to stress that there is only a very small percentage of dishonest contesters. The enormous majority of participants are fair and honest, but we can't deny that some errant rogues exist. In cases such as these, there's a real risk of generalizing, however, CQ Contest wants to highlight contesters* most curious behaviors, including these!
Why?Why would someone cheat in a contest? It's just a game, a hobby, you say, so take it easy. You're right, but not totally. Let's answer our first question with another: Why are we contesting? Maybe for the same reason.
How many of us DXers, after logging a red circled "new one" into our logbook, apply for the QSL card and suffer the torments of hell until the postman puts the envelope containing that card in our mailbox? That QSL will be useful in applying for that last award, and for hanging on the wall. Thus, we kill two birds with one stone: (1) most of our friends will be green with envy and, (2) our egos will be satisfied. Ego, that magic word. Since, in a contest, valuable prizes aren't offered, but rather symbolic rewards, ego is the only reasonable motive for competing.
I know that many compete just for fun. It's my guess that most of these participate from their favorite armchairs, from their warm houses, using the same antennas they use every day, and operate for varying intervals depending on family, job, and free time. These numbers probably include 90 to 95 percent of all participants, who enjoy contesting this way. They aren't competing to win. They compete for the pleasure of competing.
The remaining 5 to 10 percent of participants enjoy competing to win. Some may travel to rare countries, or to stations like K1EA's. A few may find themselves operating between giant tortoises or bloody mosquitos. Because of their desire to win, we must agree that these contesters' motivations are different from those of the armchair participants. They want to have fun, yes, but EGO is what really drives them. Now, ego can be a very potent fuel for achieving a top score entry. On the other hand, if a really obsessed contester's chance to capture the winner's plaque is frustrated, he may think that any means is justified to reach the result, including cheating.
Now, let me play Devil's advocate and suggest a few opportunities that could make someone a thief. Contesting encourages cheating because almost everyone competes alone, from his own location. As a result, many details can't be verified and must be accepted on trust. In the last few years, many new categories were created under the guise of adding new blood, but they simply provided more opportunities for cheaters. When winning is not enough, the record itself (call areas, national, continental, world) offers new goals and limits for our heroes.
How?Cheating isn't difficult. Once you've decided to do it, most of the job is done. What's really important is choosing the right category. This isn't a major problem because the big contests offer a large choice. As in all things, it's necessary to be very professional to obtain the best results. Here are the basics. The Basic Cheater Rule is "Remember that the Committee will get only your log. Everything that cannot be proven by using your log is open for cheating." There are many different ways to become a "serious" cheater. Some are easy, while some are more sophisticated, more refined, and more devilish. Just a few years ago it was easy to add several hundreds of never worked QSOs into a log, now it's unthinkable to try this technique, unless you are content entering only the couple of contests managed by TOP SECRET where you can still use these methods. For other annual contests, you must follow some instructions:
- Power. The easiest way to cheat is by manipulating power levels. In most contests, there are three power-based categories QRO, Low Power, and QRP. The last two provide fruitful soil for cheating. It's easy to run 100 watts and then declare you were QRP. You could also claim you were using a pair of 3-500Zs and mark your log Low Power. Nobody can check it. Suggestion do not exaggerate.
- Single operator 'Assisted'. The magic word "assisted" means you can use any kind of DX-alerting assistance. However entering the assisted category may be restrictive, as all or most of the big guns operate in the non-assisted class, the most prestigious one. As the brave cheater knows, it's enough to monitor the local PacketCluster™ node without getting connected to obtain enough information. You can also get connected by using your best friend's callsign and obtain an advantage from the logging software features. Nobody can check what you've done, and no tracks will remain in your log after the change of callsign. Under the new rules, you aren't permitted to spot yourself, but if you're using your best friend's callsign to connect to the PacketCluster™, you can.
- Single band. The single-band category offers more opportunities to the most enterprising cheaters. As you know, the single bander must work everything on that band it he wants to fly high and, to do that, it can be useful to have one or more reliable accomplices. The cheater will concentrate on the pile up: rate, rate, rate, nothing else but rate. He won't lose time chasing multipliers. his accomplices will take care of them. Each associate operates from his own station (It doesn't matter how far it is from the cheater's location The farther, the better, as there is less interference ), and he will search and pounce for any possible new multiplier. His duty is to find them and WORK them trying to call only once or twice, so people won't notice that there is more than one signal on the same band simultaneously. The connection between the main station operator and his accomplices is maintained via packet because as you may not know (but our cheater does), two computers running CT logging software can be (networked) connected using two TNCs and two RTXs. This setup means each member of the team will see all the QSOs as well as the multipliers' tables on his screen. This method can be used by multi/single efforts, too. Suggestion you can exaggerate. Nobody will trust you, but you will win.
- All band. All-band participants can use the single-band method only it their stations are among the better equipped. In such a situation, the number of accomplices increases proportionally with the number of sunspots. Multi/singles must fight with the 10-Minute Rule making the game even more difficult, this isn't an insurmountable barrier as the times can he adjusted. Suggestion remember that a clock can be fast or slow, but it can't be fast and slow at the same! Since war has been declared on the unique QSO, this game must be played to the death with multipliers. There's no longer room for the so-called "creative logging" that made some operators famous in the old days. The secret lies in being able to work more multipliers (much more) without caring how it's done. There is a way to log the multipliers without working them, but my editor K3EST says I can't show it to you.
- Friends. Having friends around the world can be a great help, especially if they live in a "rare multiplier". Because it is likely none of us has a friend living in Kingman Reef, it's probably someone else lives there. Your friend will probably listen to you on all bands while the guy from Kingman Reef won't necessarily listen to your competitors. It can be useful to set some skeds before the contest. Statistics dictate that just a few of these skeds will be successful, but because yours aren't common skeds, the percentage of success will be unexpected. Suggestion ask your friends to work someone else on the easiest band.
- Modes. There are some contests where a number of modes are allowed in the same weekend. The serious cheater always enters the mixed category. If the required exchange is fixed, it will be easy to maintain a CQing station on one mode and a search and pounce station on another. When aided by sunspots, two CQing stations and at least one S&P operator are required. If the exchange requires variable data (serial number), the operating time will be divided into 10-minute sections, and each section will be allowed 20 QSOs done by CQing or S&Ping. Some time will be required to puzzle out the log following the contest.
- Multi/Multi. The category that offers the least opportunities to cheat is multi/multi. Here (almost) everything is spelled out: one CQing station per band, multipliers stations on each band, PacketCluster™, full legal power. So, where is there room for deceit? Well, when most of bands are open and alive, it's not easy keeping four or five KW stations running in the same place. The solution to this serious problem relies on linguistics. Thus, if we attach a broad meaning to the words "same place" we solve the riddle. Sometimes even the cheater wants to show he's a good guy who follows the rules, so we must find a good reason for overflowing the meaning of "same place". If we locate our shacks in some buildings belonging to the same owner (the Government, for instance), the distance between buildings is no longer a problem IF the property is big enough. If the Government owns the property, it owns everything or almost everything. At the least, it owns all the roads of the country. Consequently, if the buildings are on a road, this means that all the shacks are on the same property. Clever, isn't it?
And so...As the title says, this was a tragicomic journey between a joke and reality. It would be nice if the journey had been only jocose and fully invented, but as each log checker knows, it was not. When the Committee finds it must play private detective, or is forced to think like a cheater to prevent cheating, this destroys the fun of contesting (can you imagine Bob Cox in Sherlock Holmes' guise with overcoat, distinctive hat, briar pipe, magnifier, and his beloved violin?). And so it happens. that a very few guys can ruin the game for everyone.
Computers are changing everything. But in the same way log checking was revolutionized by computers, cheaters have taken advantage of the new techniques to improve their devious methods. Unbelievable records set by cheating, will only be beaten by more and more of the same. Undoubtedly, Cheaters' Clubs will spring up (or have already), so everyone can exchange information and experiences. This will cause some of those who are already a part of contest history to turn in their graves.
As I said, each Committee will go on trying to perfect log checking techniques but there will probably always be someone who continues to cheat because he thinks that the winner's plaque is more important than anything else. That someone must be admired because of his perseverance, he will probably never give up But wait! A plaque costs about $50 so if he really wants one, well, lets give him one and he'll be satisfied.
Take it easy - as someone once said - it's just a game!
The content of this page was last updated at 7th Feb 2005 at 15:25:37 UTC
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