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Bob Cox, Wave My Boredom! Or Nostalgia, Part II

The challenge of catching cheaters barehanded and their punishment has always been the most important element of HF and VHF sports communications. As far as our sports are basically extramural even in case of on- and off-site competition, a temptation to break the rules, cheat and not being caught in the same time is extremely great. In various times, tool sets for catching cheaters were different, but the methods were the same: logs crosscheck and analysis, listening to the audio records, inspector visit to the position, - and that is equal to referee supervision directly at the participant position, and monitoring the bands at specially equipped control stations.
In this article I’d like to review cheating issue only during the biggest international events, like CQWW, as every contest has its specifics determined by the particular rules, and it is not always that this article’s conclusions may be extrapolated to other contests. Even if we narrow the issue down to one particular CQWW ranges, I would restrict myself within one entry only, - SOHP, not assisted, as every entry has particular nuances in the strategy of operation, etc.
To start with, here are two examples that show the difference between the 70’s and nowadays.

I’d like to go back to the example in the first part of this article, when prestigious contestman working in CQWW SSB 1978 in SOHP entry claimed 7.8M points, - that is 1M more than UK9AAN M/S claimed score.

Bob K3EST, had access to this participant’s log only, and he noted a lot of call sign oddities like UA6NAF, UA4MAC, many incorrect (inconsistent with call sign structure) East Germany, Baltic states calls, and so on.

I clearly remember, even Heard Island was in that log, but that station did never mentioned to work in the contest. It is necessary to get proper respects to Bob, who knew by hart call sign structure (prefix/suffix) of the most countries worldwide, and that was of great assistance in those precomputer times.

I had 3 pages of incorrect calls and doubtful mults found by Bob. After discussion with Sam, I told everything directly to the prestigious contestman, and asked him for face-to-face meeting, with the only provision that original log shall be presented, and only in that case ‘gentle DQ’ conditions would be possible to be discussed, - in other words, that meant log withdrawal from official scores.

The meeting was held in the same Uralskie Pelmeni restaurant. Sam attended the meeting. While consuming a standard set of dishes (by the way, the price of that set did not exceed 3,00 RUR those times), Sam and me reviewed the original log written in two handwritings and two inks accordingly.

As the saying is, no comments, and the meeting finished with multiply apologies of the prestigious contestman, pleases for gentle settlement of the case, and numerous promises like “No more!”

So that was settled up.

The next year, same situation repeated to the other, not that much prestigious contestant.

Same symptoms, – numerous structurally incorrect calls, numerous rare mult write ups, very high claimed score. This time, I was unable to bluff the person off and make him come to Chelyabinsk. I had to go there myself with Igor UA9BZ, another Chelyabinsk Radiosports Federation member. His trip was approved by late Vsevolod Vishnya, UA9AZ, Federation Chairman (Let him rest in peace. Amen.).

On arrival, we met the contestman and convinced him that the best way out for him would be to provide us with his original log, and then perhaps we will not ‘wash his dirty linen at home’, and will gently remove his call sign out of official contest results.

That log was written by three different handwritings, from two different positions located in the city (according to the contestman).

That gentleman, a real old top, who made a lot for development of amateur radio in the oblast (later he became my very good friend); he almost wept with large tears in the executive qualification committee meeting and prayed us spare him and do ‘gentle DQ’ in order not to spoil his name.

By the way, all ‘assistants’ of those contesmen are still in good health, some of them are very famous persons in amateur radio circles. None of them was noted in cheating ever since. To be fair, one could say that actually all call sign errors were done by exactly these operators that were inexperienced those times.

One can see in these two examples, there is no much difference between the 70’s and nowadays cheaters’ methods - such as external assistance, multiply signals operation, diverted operating positions, log write-ups.

Comparing those years with nowadays from the refereeing point of view, one can say, that today’s referees are provided with new smart tools, such as powerful computers; a person does not have to think outside the box in order to recognize a real call sign apart from the incorrect one.

Use of powerful PCs today allows us to perform complete check of any received log, and not random (sampling) control, as this was in the 70’s.

Complete check based on the participant’s log and his called parties’ logs, and, as funny though it may appear, - check of the called party’ called parties logs, use of various data bases besides participant logs, such as cluster archives, skimmers in CW contests, - gives the possibility to reproduce operation scenario of any participant, - even in case exact frequency of each QSO was not given the log. My meaning of ‘scenario’ is actual, but not entered into the log, time and frequency of one or another QSO, actual call sign of the particular called station.

For experienced referee, such scenario is quite reliable indicator of possible cheating of the particular contestant. Well, if the referee knows that frequencies and times
are falsified, and unverifiable calls match with those announced in QSO alerting networks, such log shall be given more close attention, and cheating evidence may be tried to dig out. Though, as far as I am concerned, I would transfer such logs with falsified times or frequencies into check-log status right away, and even into DQ if discrepancies are numerous.

And if, as in the case of RX4HZ SOSB 80m CQWWCW 2008 log, there would be two and more unverifiable cluster calls (he had 6 or 7 of them), I would DQ him, instead of placing ‘SO 80m unassisted’ country winner, which he is now.
Such cheating attributes (falsified frequencies) were in many logs of Hrane YT1AD, operated 3V8BB. But he was pitied, as our countrymen in the 70’s. Such pities brought us to the extreme point. Alexander and me urged Bob often to get away of such ‘ostrich policy’. The only thing we heard in reply: “We have no reliable evidence; therefore we can’t DQ a person and thus ruin his life. This is just a hobby, Willy!”
I modestly hope, our pressure served its role, and progress towards more severe refereeing happened, particularly, but not exclusively, due to Alexander and my efforts.
But it’s not that simple! Nowadays, many contestants operate ‘Single Operator-2 Radios’. I dare state current Status Quo: there is no reliable algorithm to definitely determine fair SO2R operation from ‘Two Operators – 2 Radios’! That’s it! However much sophisticated would be Jose СТ1ВОН, his attempt to design ideal SO2R operation mask and fit it to the contestant logs had failed. His mask is capable to recognize stupid idiot only, that goes straight ahead, without looking back, - but not a clever and sly cheater. You do not need a mask to recognize a stupid person. Besides that, stupids never get on top.
Knowing all this internally, for example, I, like Alexander, was disappointed in serious contesting. Therefore I miss those old times. The times when an operator was face to his own face during the entire 48 hours, along with band conditions, single radio without the second VFO, and without a chance to pink into a prompt like cluster or skimmer.
But it’s not that bad, gents! There is still a chance to add some fire into the Big Contesting furnace! I think, if ‘Single Operator – One Radio – No cluster, etc.’ entry would be added, this will be possible to recognize with the highest supreme reliability, did a person operate alone or assisted. Even if the second VFO would be allowed! (better not, then the reliability would be almost 100%).
If you would ask me, what happen if two ops worked actually in turn, - one on, - the other having a rest? I must say, operator's style is like handwriting, - there is no way to escape. In case audio records are provided for the contest, the issue is automatically over.
Besides high refereeing reliability, such contest category would give a chance to many DX-peditioners in rear and undeveloped entities where it is hard and expensive to deliver double set of equipment for SO2R. Today, one can forget top score at all without 2 radios, except the only one extraordinary case - EF8M, to whom the CQWW Contest Committee has special awe feeling.
We talked all about this with Bob Cox many tens of times. Let’s hope, that nothing comes through tracklessly, and perhaps, we shall fight tooth and nail in the contest with simple setups, without mad number of antennas and towers, and in the same time, we will get enormous pleasure of the feeling that the fight is fair, and cheaters won’t work!
73’s & GL, Willy UA9BA

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