Viswanathan Anand. (Getty Images)
Viswanathan Anand. (Getty Images)

Zerodha co-founder ‘beats’ Anand in charity game, then admits he cheated

An online match plunged into controversy after Viswanathan Anand was stunned during a simul chess event, and forced to resign against Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of online stock brokerage firm Zerodha, a high-profile Unicorn, and asset management company True Beacon
By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUN 15, 2021 12:35 AM IST

An online chess match for charity between Viswanathan Anand and an Indian entrepreneur was expected to produce the usual result — a quick win for the five-time world champion, and plenty of funds.

Sunday’s event, though, plunged into controversy after Anand was stunned during the simul chess event, and forced to resign against Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of online stock brokerage firm Zerodha, a high-profile Unicorn, and asset management company True Beacon.

The result immediately raised suspicion that something was amiss. Chessbase.in quoted Anand as telling the host after the game, “…at some point I could not detect a single mistake in his moves. They were just all perfect, tactically also perfect, everything worked.” Chess.com showed Kamath had played with an accuracy of 98.9 against Anand, a statistic made even more staggering as his three previous games on the same website show his accuracy as 80.6, 56.5 and 29.8.

Not surprisingly, the website, which closes a few hundred accounts every day for cheating — it has software that can pick these up — closed Kamath’s.

Then came Kamath’s apology.

Also read | Kamath accepts taking help of ‘computers’ to beat Anand in charity chess match

On Monday, the entrepreneur tweeted, confessing that he took help from chess analysts and computers.

Among other things, Kamath’s long tweet, said: “…It is ridiculous that so many are thinking that I really beat Vishy sir in a chess game, that is almost like me waking up and winning a 100m race with Usain Bolt. I had help from the people analyzing the game, computers and the graciousness of Anand sir himself to treat the game as a learning experience. This was for fun and charity. In hindsight, it was quite silly as I didn’t realise all the confusion that can get caused due to this. Apologies.”

Anand, in a tweet in response to Kamath, was laconic but clear that what happened wan’t chess: “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.”

Kamath then apologised a second time in a fresh tweet replying to Anand: “@vishy64theking in my head, it was just a fun game we amateurs were playing against the greatest chess champ from India to raise funds for charity. But still gives no excuse for what I did. It was wrong and I sincerely apologize.”

The event, called Checkmate Covid, was organised by Chess.com India (chess.com is a global online chess community) with NGO Akshaya Patra Foundation. It featured various Indian celebrities — including cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal and actor Aamir Khan — playing Anand in 30-minute simul games on Sunday evening to raise money for families affected by hunger during the pandemic.

What happened in Kamath’s game?

After blundering a pawn on his first move, Kamath pulled off a series of extremely sophisticated moves. In the end-game, with seconds left on the clock, Anand resigned.

Chess.com shut Kamath’s account for “violating our Fair Play Policy”, which covers cheating, getting help from any other person, using engines, software of any kind, bots, plug-ins or tools that analyse positions during play. Danny Rensch, chief chess officer of the Fair Play Team, said in a statement on Monday: “No account closure is made without hard, statistical evidence as well as a rigorous manual review.”

Also read | Vidit Gujrathi qualifies for Chess World Cup 2021

Kamath was heavily criticised for his actions. Woman GM Tania Sachdev, who was also part of the event, termed it “cheating”. She tweeted: “Woke up to this. Complete disrespect to chess. Nothing justifies cheating...” GM Pentala Harikrishna tweeted: “How can cheating be fun in a COVID charity event? You disrespected not only chess but also other guests and thousands of fans watching the event.”

Chess organisers put in place tight measures in place to prevent cheating, but online events, forced by the pandemic, provide loopholes for some to indulge in unfair practices.

All India Chess Federation (AICF) secretary, Bharat Chauhan, criticised Kamath. He told ANI: “We don’t expect anybody to get help from computers. At the national and state level, we are following the protocols. We are putting cameras where players are playing and there is a fair play committee which includes three GMs and two players.”

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