Play fair for a checkmate 

Screenshot of live match on Comedian Samay Raina's YouTUbe Channel

Nikhil Kamath using unfair means during a charity match, which he incidentally won, against the five time world champion Vishwanathan Anand has created an uproar and rightly so

Last week, an unprecedented incident took the chess world by storm. Vishwanathan Anand, a five time world champion and chess legend was defeated in an online chess game by billionaire Nikhil Kamath, the co-founder of Zerodha, an online stock trading company. The match was played for charity to raise funds for Covid relief organized by Chess.com India and All India Chess Federation (AICF).

This charity match was live streamed on the YouTube channel of comedian Samay Raina, where Anand was playing simultaneously with five players — actor Ritesh Deshmukh, Sudeep, Cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal, film producer Sajid Nadiadwala and Kamath.

Games on three boards kept fans suspicious. It was confirmed hours after the match when Chess.com, the chess hosting website banned Sudeep, Kamath and Nadiadwala’s account who were playing on these three boards for “violating fair play.” But the most shocking turn of events came from Kamath’s game. It left everybody speechless, as he played like a grandmaster, of course through unfair means.

Next day, Kamath apologised on Twitter saying that he took help from “computers” and “people analysing games”, he tweeted, “It is ridiculous that so many are thinking that I really beat Vishy in a chess game, that is almost like me waking up and winning a 100mt race against Usain Bolt.”  

He added, “Yesterday was one of those days that I had dreamt of when I was a really young kid learning chess, to interact with Vishwanath Anand. Got the opportunity thanks to Akshaypatra and their idea of raising funds for charity conducting a bunch of chess games with Vishy.”

The Kamath incident did not go down well with Anand and his wife. Aruna Anand, wife and manager of Vishy Anand told chessbase after the incident, “Well, Nikhil contacted Anand today and explained this tweet. Anand replied to say that he can’t deny the algorithm and personally wouldn’t comment on the issue. He requested Mr. Kamath not to involve Anand’s name in his Tweets or in his course of action. That he went ahead and did it and alleged something is disrespectful.”

 Kamath’s Chess.com profile, where one can see his accuracy with his games with other players and one with Anand

However, Vishy did not take it further after which Chess.com reopened all three accounts, Anand tweeted, “Yesterday was a celebrity simul for people to raise money. It was a fun experience upholding the ethics of the game. I just played the position on the board and expected the same from everyone.”

Many, however, were wondering how Chess.com detected cheating.

There are not many details about  how these chess websites detect unfair means. But there were a few red flags like, Kamath played with an accuracy of 98.9% which means he played most of the moves which engines suggested. Also all three players took more time for even the simplest moves. This is perhaps the reason chess.com detected something fishy in the game; all three players played with unusually higher accuracy. And Chess.com found in its investigation, these accounts violated its fair play policy. 

Interestingly, Nikhil had only 13 second left, when he played his last move and Anand could have flagged and won the game by time but he showed why he is a legend and decided to resign. When Raina asked him about it, he replied, “What should I have done instead of resigning in that position? I think it’s a bit silly to blitz. It’s ok for them to try to blitz me but it would be ridiculous if I try to blitz at that point.”

The Chess community couldn’t believe the result as it was not easy for a player to defeat Anand even in Simul, that too when a player is not even FIDE rated. Soon after the match, Sagar Shah, co- founder of Chessbase, wrote a piece recounting an event in which he explained Anand’s seriousness about every match by an anecdote when Anand played 20 young players in a simul and defeated all of them. Shah in a video that he later made showed disappointment over what Kamath did to Anand.

Not just Shah, Goh Wei Ming, seven- times Singaporean Champion replied to the apology tweet of Kamath, “So cheating on a live stream and embarrassing a living legend of India and the global chess community is your idea of fun and charity? What a role model you are, buddy. Various other youTubers and chess players like Antonio Radic, Levy Rozman strongly reacted against Kamath.  

Kamath has told in various interviews how chess helped him in his career. He claims that he has played at national level chess and boasted about his chess prowess. Despite that, it is surprising a billionaire would think of getting away with cheating in a game.

Since the pandemic and the simultaneous chess boom, chess websites like chess.com, lichess.org have become very vigilant about cheating on their platform. This is because cheating in chess has spurted in the last couple of years. There have been instances when even grand masters have been found using unfair means in a match. In such a scenario, people resorting to such tactics, for whatever the reason may be, seems silly. 

 

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