‘Outside’ help lands chess player in trouble

April 30, 2015 02:47 am | Updated 02:47 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Cheating in chess is rampant with mobile technology increasingly playing a role. Lesser-rated players taking ‘outside’ help during a game has been noticed in many events around the world, but efforts to put an end to this unethical practice is yet to fetch the desired results.

On Wednesday, during the fifth round of the inaugural Dr. Hedgewar Open chess tournament at the Thyagraj Stadium here, Dhruv Kakkar was caught with two mobile phones strapped to his legs, and a micro-speaker inserted in his left ear soon after he upstaged Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay.

In chess, rating points reflect the playing strength of a player. Thipsay, rated 2409, was playing with black pieces against Kakkar, a 19-year-old with a modest rating of 1517. A rating difference of nearly 900 points pointed to an easy win for the veteran GM.

But, that was not to be. After 87 moves, Thipsay resigned. But, much before the game ended, Thipsay had complained to chief arbiter Dharmendra Kumar. “I noticed that he was taking around two minutes for every move, whether it was a complex move or a simple piece-capture with a pawn,” said Thipsay.

“I expressed my doubts to the chief arbiter, who asked me to continue. By the 29th move, I was clearly lost and chose to offer a draw. He promptly declined the offer.

“But, my doubts stood confirmed when he missed simple winning lines as though he waited for a confirmation from someone.

“At times, I thought he misheard the move (that was transmitted through the strapped phone) and played incorrectly.”

Finally, after Thipsay resigned, Kakkar was whisked away to the tournament office and frisked.

He had neatly tucked away two 9-volt batteries into a pouch and strapped it to a belt around his waist.

The batteries were connected to a loop around his neck, but hidden under the shirt. He also carried two spare batteries in his bag for the next round.

The batteries were also connected to the phones strapped to each foot, just above the ankle.

A micro-speaker tucked in his left ear helped him listen to the moves suggested by his friend Shubham, who sat before a computer using chess software ‘Fritz’, around 220 km away at Yamuna Nagar in Haryana.

Kakkar, a second year engineering student in Electronics from JMIT in Yamuna Nagar, confessed to the crime in a written letter. He admitted to The Hindu that he used the contraption to win the first four rounds.

“I made this device and practised with my friend for three days before using it in this event.”

He added, “Shubham would ask me the moves made by my opponent. I would tap my foot in the affirmative if the move asked by my friend was the correct one. He would then read out the best option suggested by ‘Fritz’, and I played it.”

The chief arbiter immediately expelled Kakkar from the tournament. Action from the All India Chess Federation (AICF) is awaited. The 19-year-old is also likely to face a ban.

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