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Viswanathan Anand: Gracious in Victory, Defeat, and Against Deceit

Anand resigned in a game of chess against Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of Zerodha, conceding victory to his opponent.

Updated
Other Sports
3 min read
Viswanathan Anand won the World Chess Championship for the first time in 2000.
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One of Indian sport's most unassuming yet respected personalities, Viswanathan Anand has fortunately stayed away from controversies in his professional career.

However, a well-meaning initiative meant to help battle the deadly COVID-19 pandemic – that has brought the country to its knees – left a sour taste in the mouth for the Grandmaster, that too without him making any wrong moves at all.

The ‘king of 64 squares’ resigned in a game of chess against Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of Zerodha, conceding victory to his opponent.

While Anand had more than 9 minutes on his clock, Kamath was left with 13 seconds at the time of the final move (Anand’s resignation). Kamath, as was seen on the event’s stream, was surprised and not in the manner one would expect after overcoming one of the best chess players in the world.

The way things played out left most watching surprised and shocked, but the worst was yet to come.

How Did the Events Pan Out?

The legendary Anand and Kamath were playing an online game of chess in a fundraiser called ‘Checkmate COVID’, that was organised by Chess.com India along with NGO Akshaya Patra Foundation, on 13 June.

Normally used to being in a strong position in a game, Anand had a few tough moments as the contest turned into a close one. The former World Number 1 however resigned, allowing his opponent to win the game in a time-based game.

However, as it has been revealed by Kamath, the Chess Grandmaster had been defeated but not by his opponent, but an army of brains including computers.

In effect, Kamath had resorted to blatant cheating and played very much against the rules.

After the match, on Monday, Kamath’s Chess.com account was banned on grounds of violating the fair play policy and he took to Twitter to respond to the cheating allegations.
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“Our systems have been thoroughly vetted by mathematicians and experts in the fields of data science and audits have shown that Chess.com makes its decisions conservatively and with the confidence that an account once closed is statistically certain to have violated rules,” Danny Rensch, chief chess officer of Chess.com, said in a statement.

“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 100 mt 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,” Kamath tweeted.

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How Did the Grandmaster React?

After the unexpected and rather surprising admission of taking external help by Kamath, which kicked off a storm on social media on Monday, the Grandmaster, a veteran of plenty of battles on the board, wrote about his experience of the game.

“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,” he tweeted.

According to Anand’s manager and wife Aruna, Kamath had a conversation with the chess champion about his response to the situation.

“Anand didn’t insinuate anything but said he will go by what the algorithm (used by the fair play team at Chess.com) says. He told Kamath, ‘please do not personally involve me in whatever you want to say. Whatever you do in your personal capacity to clear the situation is your call, but do not use my name in your personal tweets’,” Aruna told The Indian Express.

“It (tweet) basically alleges that Anand was helping him and it is the most outrageous thing I have heard in Anand’s career. He (Kamath) has taken a lie and used another lie to cover that. If he was helped by computers and friends, so be it. That is on his conscience. But he can’t drag Anand’s name and say Anand helped him,” Aruna said about the tweet.

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How Did Others Reacted?

Present at the event was another ace Indian chess player, a national champion, Tania Sachdev, who said that nothing justifies cheating.

India’s only individual Olympic Gold Medallist Abhinav Bindra said that this is a lesson that following the rules is a must.

He tweeted: “The @nikhilkamathcio episode gives us all a wonderful life lessons that only sport can give - Fairness ,the need to follow rules , integrity , honesty. Although caught on the wrong side on this one I am hoping thru his sport experience he will be enriched as a human being!“

Rules were broken, liberties taken, but the lies told as an attempt to outwit one of Indian sport’s most loved fell flat on its face.

The silver lining, however, is the amount raised in the event – Rs 12 lakh.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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