Five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand decided to put an end to the controversy surrounding use of “unfair means” in an online charity event by asking Chess.com to reopen the accounts of billionaire entrepreneur Nikhil Kamath, film producer Sajid Nadiadwala and actor Kichcha Sudeep.
The three were among nine celebrities, including actor Aamir Khan, to play 30-minute simul games with Anand in the charity event called ‘Checkmate Covid’, organised by Chess.com India in association with NGO Akshaya Patra Foundation.
Danny Rensch, Chief Chess Officer of the website’s Fair Play Team, said: “Given the forthcoming cooperation of the players and the clarification that not all the rules were properly understood, neither Chess.com nor Anand himself sees any reason to uphold the matter any further.”
The three accounts were restored immediately after Anand retweeted Rensch’s statement: “It’s time to move on and get closure on this.”
Kamath “beat” Anand in the simul, but later admitted that he used unfair means to do so. Nadiadwala and Sudeep too used external help while playing against Anand, but lost. Chess.com immediately suspended their online accounts for violating “Fair Play Policy”.
Kamath used social media to apologise and admitted that he indeed received assistance from people analysing the game during his simul with Anand. Nadiadwala and Sudeep, however, have not made any public statements so far.
The authorities became suspicious after they found that Kamath played with a near-perfect score of 98.9, Nadiadwala 79.1 and Sudeep’s accuracy was found to be 68.6. Kamath was the only one to “beat” Anand.
The incident exposes the limitations of online chess in preventing “cheating” despite strict counter-cheating measures put in place by organisers.
Grandmaster Srinath Narayanan told Hindustan Times, “As soon as chess moved online, one of the biggest problems has been online cheating, which anyone with a rudimentary understanding of computers can do. It’s a bit like spot-fixing in cricket. It’s something that we see as a threat to the existence of the sport itself.”
Narayanan was the vice-captain of the Indian team that won gold in the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad last year.
Online chess has been there for more than 10 years now, but it gained tremendous popularity during the COVID pandemic. Chess players say it is very easy for anyone to run a game through a chess programme on another PC or a smartphone and execute near-perfect moves.
In the case of this particular charity event, Kamath got caught because of his near-perfect moves during the simul with Anand, which were very sophisticated when compared to Kamath’s earlier games online.