The national chess championship in Lucknow descended into a farce with three Grandmasters and two International Masters quitting in a huff after three rounds here on Sunday. The players were protesting against mid-tournament venue changes and alleged mismanagement by the organisers, Uttar Pradesh Chess Sports Association (UPCSA).
GMs Tejas Bakre, Abhijit Kunte, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and IMs Neeraj Kumar Mishra and Abhishek Kelkar submitted a letter to the organisers and All India Chess Federation (AICF) quoting statutes from FIDE, the world body.
Nine others, including defending champion GM Karthikeyan Murali, decided to play the fourth round despite a shift in venue.
Trouble started when the first round was delayed by a day on Wednesday. The organisers said the Lucknow Public School (LPS) hall, venue for the event, had to be used for the school’s annual day practice. The players offered to start the championship a day late. On Saturday night, the organisers again announced that the hall would not be free for the entire duration and the tournament needed to shift to a new venue.
Gujrathi wrote on Facebook, “The organisers called the players after the game and said they don’t have a venue. Again! Three rounds are over and they don’t have a venue for the rest of the tournament? I have never seen anything like this. This is the worst tournament I have played in my career.”
Kunte said the event should be postponed as a qualification spot for the World Cup is at stake.
“Never in 25 years have I faced this problem of not having a venue. That too in a tournament of this stature. The organiser just has to provide seven boards. I asked the organiser to show me the allotment and cancellation letter of the venue. He didn’t provide it. It’s an insult to the players. The organiser should be banned and the players should be given back their expenses,” said Bakre.
UPCSA secretary and tournament director, AK Raizada, had no explanation on why LPS asked him to vacate the venue even when everything was decided. “I was told there was a disturbance to the school activities because of this event on Saturday even though no spectators were allowed to watch the proceedings.” he said.
LPS official Vijay Mishra told HT it was Raizada and his team’s decision to change the venue. “We had told them in advance about the preparations for the school’s annual function and had asked them to change the hall. They could have chosen another hall. We did not ask them to vacate the premises.”
Raizada said AICF officials had been informed about the “tricky situation.”
“The incident has tarnished our image as we are hosting the event for the first time, and the event was also supposed to pick the Indian squad for the World Chess Cup qualifying event.
“We may face financial penalty as well as warning from the AICF and world chess body. We had to shift from the KD Singh ‘Babu’ Stadium to LPS after the AICF told us that the venue should have air conditioners.”
Meanwhile, AICF CEO Bharat Singh Chauhan alleged that some politics is being played . “Somebody must have forced him (Raizada) to withdraw the event from LPS in the last minute.”
“I am in US and the AICF chief PR Venketrama Raja would be reaching Lucknow on Monday to resolve the issue. The event will be held at the Marriot hotel now.
“It’s very unfortunate. Big political people are involved. Once school gives you confirmation, and suddenly says that event would be disturbing the school on Sunday! I don’t understand this.”