Viswanathan Anand’s simultaneous online chess games against celebrities on Sunday night raised more than ₹10 lakh. Less than 24 hours later, the event, conducted by chess.com for COVID-19 relief, began to be talked about for all the wrong reasons: one of the players, it turned out, had resorted to unfair practices during his game against the five-time World champion.
Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of stockbroker firm Zerodha, had sprung a surprise; he was the only one among the nine celebrities to defeat Anand. Actor Aamir Khan, cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal and singer Arijit Singh had all lost.
Kamath is now facing allegations of cheating – that is, using the aid of the computer during his game against Anand. Chess.com has closed his account, for “violating the fair play policy”. He has admitted this much on Twitter:
“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 was understandably upset by the whole episode. He 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.”
The interesting fact is that Anand would not have lost that game if he had not chosen to concede. Kamath had only a few seconds left on the clock, but Anand, the great champion and gentleman that he is, resigned, rather than waiting for his opponent to lose on time.
Aruna Anand, his wife and manager, said what happened was unethical and against the spirit of the game and the cause. “Mr. Kamath had spoken to Anand over phone this morning,” Aruna told The Hindu . “Anand said to him: ‘Whatever you do, you please do in your personal capacity, and don’t involve my name’. Then Anand also texted that he cannot deny what an algorithm finds out.”
She said Anand’s name should not have been dragged into Kamath’s tweet and be used as an excuse. “I think Mr. Kamath now needs to set the moral compass right,” she said.