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D.P. Singh – a supreme talent or a flawed genius?

1/8/2007 – Recently an Indian chess player was banned for ten years after he was caught receiving computer assistance during a game. A second player is under suspicion of having done similarly, after suddenly gaining 260 rating points in a short period of time. Top Indian grandmasters complained and the case is under investigation. Eyewitness report by Praful Zaveri.
 

For a while we had our doubts about publishing part two of Praful's report on the 44th Indian National Championship. Is it fair to name a player who is under investigation for cheating, before he has been convicted? Must we not wait until due process has been delivered? After some deliberation we decided that as in any other news section it is not in the interest of our readers to keep the matter strictly quiet and postpone any discussion until a final verdict has been passed.

Apart from these general considerations we were approached by some of India's top players, especially after some previous reports that praised the new Indian "shooting star", who were dismayed by our "uncritical" acceptance of such a phenomenon. "If the player in question was a fifteen-year-old your enthusiasm would be justified. But if someone has shown a stable performance over so many years, and then suddenly shoots up, with multiple every-game-won performances, we would expect alarm bells to ring in any chess reporter's mind." Others asked us for advice on how to catch computer cheats in the environment of an open tournament. And finally the players themselves took the initiative and formally submitted a complaint to the Indian Chess Federation.

So here goes. In the following report our correspondent Praful Zaveri, who was present during a number of tournaments of the player under suspicion, gives us his eyewitness report of what occurred during the recent Indian National Championship in Gujarat.

D.P. Singh – a supreme talent or a flawed genius?

By Praful Zaveri

The Atul 44th Indian National 'A' Chess Championship tournament, on which we reported last week, will be remembered for all the controversies generated and centered around one of the participants: IM Diwakar Prasad Singh, our hero, the "Swiss King of India", who rose from the ashes to the phoenix of Indian Chess in a span of one year. Diwakar has been accused of getting external help, as his moves matched the Chess Engine 'Deep Junior' with amazing consistency. The question: is Diwakar a supreme chess talent or a flawed genius?

Only time will answer this question. But the sequence of events leading to this state of affairs, is a pot-boiler straight out of the Bollywood movies.


Under suspicion: IM D.P.Singh

The two players who had dominated Indian Chess tournaments (basically, the Swiss league tournaments) in the year 2006 were Umakant Sharma (25) and Diwakar Prasad Singh (31). Both are sparring partners and live in the same place. Umakant was rated Elo 1966 in the July 2003 list, hovered around this figure for a period of three years (until April 2006, where he was listed Elo 1989). And then suddenly his rating chart rose like a Petronas Tower to Elo 2484 in October 2006 – a phenomenal gain of 495 points!


The rating progress of Umakant Sharma in the last three and a half years

Similarly, 30-year old, Diwakar Prasad Singh was rated Elo 2191 in January 2000, and from thereon averaged Elo 2300 until July 2005. However he garnered 260 points in a span of one year with some unbelievable performances. The success also brought the bonus of finishing joint first in the 43rd National 'A' Chess Championship and thereby getting an opportunity to represent the country at the Torino Olympiad 2006.


D.P.Singh's rating progress in the last six years

Both the players were hailed as supreme talents, but doubts started creeping in after their games were analyzed, which turned into suspicion as one of the IMs found that it matched the best choice of one particular chess engine! This triggered a chain reaction, and established players, who had lost their games to these two players, now decided to lose their midnight sleep to find out the 'Secrets of Chess Engines'!


The joint winners of the 43rd National Indian Championship: C. Sandipan,
DP Singh and S. Ganguly, who came first on tiebreak

While all the games of Umakant were not available, the 20 games of Diwakar played at the 43rd National 'A' Chess Championship held in Arpil 2006 at Visakhapatnam were scrutinized to the utmost. GM Dibyendu Barua, the President of the Chess Players Association of India (CPAI) formally submitted his complaint to AICF and the matter is now under investigation. The following three games are the ones of chief interest:

Singh,D (2395) - Sriram,J (2444) [C99]
43rd ch-IND Visakhapatnam IND (8), 08.04.2006
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 cxd4 13.cxd4 Nc6 14.Nb3 a5 15.Be3 a4 16.Nbd2 Bd7 17.Nf1 Rac8 18.Rc1 Qb8 19.Ng3 Rfe8 20.b3 axb3 21.Bxb3 Na5 22.Rxc8 Rxc8 23.Bg5 Nxb3 24.axb3 Be6 25.Qa1 h6 26.Bd2 Bxb3 27.Qa3 Be6 28.d5 Bd7 29.Nxe5 dxe5 30.Qxe7 Re8 31.Qa3 Rc8 32.Re3 Rc4 33.Bc3 Rc8 34.Qa1 Re8 35.Bb4 Qb6 36.Ra3 Bc8 37.Qc3 Bd7 38.Bc5 Qb8 39.Ra7 Rc8 40.Qa3 Kh7 41.Bd6 Qb6 42.Bxe5 b4 43.Qa1 Rc1+ 44.Qxc1 Qxa7 45.Qb2 Qa3 46.Bxf6 gxf6 47.Qxf6 Be8 48.Kh2 b3 49.d6 Qc1 50.f4 b2 51.Nh5 1–0

Singh,D (2395) - Koneru,H (2537) [E52]
43rd ch-IND Visakhapatnam IND (14), 12.04.2006
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0–0 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 b6 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Ne5 Bb7 9.0–0 Nbd7 10.f4 c5 11.Qf3 Bxc3 12.bxc3 Ne4 13.Bxe4 dxe4 14.Qg4 Nf6 15.Qg3 Nd5 16.c4 Ne7 17.dxc5 f6 18.Ng4 Nf5 19.Qh3 bxc5 20.Nf2 Bc8 21.Qh5 Qe8 22.Qxe8 Rxe8 23.g4 Nh6 24.h3 f5 25.g5 Nf7 26.Ba3 Be6 27.Bxc5 Rec8 28.Bd4 Rxc4 29.a4 Nd8 30.Rfc1 Nc6 31.Rxc4 Bxc4 32.Bc3 Rb8 33.Rc1 Bd5 34.Nh1 Rb3 35.Ng3 g6 36.Ne2 Kf7 37.Nd4 Rb7 38.Kf2 a6 39.a5 Nb8 40.Ba1 Nd7 41.h4 Ke7 42.Rc8 Kd6 43.h5 Rc7 44.Rh8 Nc5 45.Nxf5+ Kc6 46.Ng7 Nd3+ 47.Kg3 gxh5 48.Rxh7 Kb5 49.Rxh5 Rc1 50.Bd4 Rf1 51.g6 Kc4 52.Rxd5 Kxd5 53.Nf5 Ke6 54.Nh6 Rf3+ 55.Kh4 Nf2 56.f5+ Ke7 57.f6+ Ke6 58.g7 Rh3+ 59.Kg5 Rg3+ 60.Kh5 1–0

Ramesh,R (2491) - Singh,D (2395) [C90]
43rd ch-IND Visakhapatnam IND (21), 17.04.2006
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Nf6 6.0–0 Be7 7.d3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.Nbd2 Nd7 10.Re1 Na5 11.Bc2 c5 12.Nf1 Nb6 13.h3 Nc6 14.Ng3 Bd7 15.d4 cxd4 16.cxd4 exd4 17.Nxd4 Nxd4 18.Qxd4 Bf6 19.Qxd6 Nc4 20.Qd3 Be6 21.Qe2 Qc7 22.Nh5 Be5 23.f4 Bd4+ 24.Kh1 f6 25.Rb1 Rac8 26.Bd3 Qe7 27.Rd1 Rfd8 28.b3 Na3 29.Bxa3 Qxa3 30.Ng3 g6 31.Rf1 Rc7 32.Rbd1 Rcd7 33.Bb1 Qb2 34.Rd2 Qc3 35.Rd3 Qc7 36.Qf3 Bf7 37.Qg4 Bb2 38.Rdf3 Kh8 39.e5 Bd5 40.R3f2 Bd4 41.Rc2 Qb8 42.Re2 f5 43.Qg5 Qb6 44.Rfe1 Be6 45.Kh2 Bc5 46.Bxf5 gxf5 47.Nxf5 Bxf5 48.Qxf5 Rd5 49.Rc2 Rf8 50.Qg5 Be3 51.Rf1 Rd4 52.g3 Rd7 53.Qg4 Rfd8 54.h4 Rg7 55.Qf3 Rdg8 56.Rg2 Qc5 57.Re1 Bd4 58.Re4 Rf8 59.Qd3 Rd8 60.Qf3 Qc6 61.Qe2 Re7 62.Kh3 Bc3 63.Qf3 b4 64.Rge2 Rf8 65.Qe3 Qe6+ 66.Kh2 Rd7 67.Qf3 a5 68.Qe3 Rd1 69.Kg2 Rfd8 70.Qf3 Qc6 71.R4e3 Qxf3+ 72.Rxf3 Kg7 73.h5 R8d2 74.Rff2 Rxe2 75.Rxe2 Kf7 76.Kh3 Ke6 77.Kg4 h6 78.Re4 0–1

The basic belief amongst the chess fraternity of India was that both these players used an accomplice or accomplices equipped with a computer near the venue of the tournament. By means of some device the moves played by their opponent was relayed to this "communication center", which in turn would feed this move to the computer and, the best reply suggested by the chess engine would be communicated back to the tournament hall. However, the deadlock continued, since no concrete proof was available against the accused players.


GM Dibyendu Barua, the President of the Chess Players Association of India, who filed a complaint

Then came the big real breakthrough in the uncovering of chess cheating. During the course of the Air Marshal Subroto Mukherjee Memorial FIDE Rating Chess Tourney (01st to 08th December 2006), a young talented player from Karnataka, Sriram Sarja submitted a written complaint to the organizers that the sequence of moves made by his opponent, Umakant Sharma in their 6th round encounter game, matched perfectly those of the chess engine Hiarcs 10. The eventual winner of the tournament, IM Rahul Shetty further demanded that Umakant be subjected to a body search for any hidden devices. Since the tournament was held in the Air Force complex, the organizers sought the services of an air force official for this purpose. Umakant was caught red-handed in the seventh round, when the metal detector indicated a presence of a bluetooth device hidden in his cap! Umakant was duly expelled from the tournament.

Now all the attention shifted on Diwakar, who was seeded directly to the 44th Indian Championship by virtue of finishing in top six at the last National A. The following bits of information, emanating from his fellow players, added more fuel to the fire:

  • Diwakar went away to an undisclosed destination for two days in the middle of the Indian Coaching Camp at Goa without taking permission from the Coach, GM Ubilava.

  • He came back and played some practice games and got good results against GM Sandipan Chanda and GM Pentala Harikrishna.

  • He was not able to answer questions posed by the coach on the test positions during the camp. Basically, he was interested in just playing practice games.

  • In the first round of the Chess Olympiad in Turin Diwakar lost to a weak opponent from Morocco, Muhamed Arbouche (rated 2248 in the April 06 list).

  • He did not participate in the US and the Canadian Open though he was very much entitled to. He was interested in participating in only FIDE rating events in India.

The player's meeting held on 17th December 2006 before the commencement of the 44th Indian Championship had its share of drama. While all the 43 selected players were present, the whereabouts of Diwakar and IM Girinath was not known. Subsequently, the organizers got the message that Girinath was on his way. When they were able to establish contact with Diwakar they learned that he preferred to stay alone in a hotel rather than in the accommodation provided by the organizers. He was immediately advised to report at the meeting, which he duly did. Perhaps, all these events had an effect on Diwakar, as he lost in the first round to WGM Swati Ghate in just 34 moves from the white side. Nearly all the players felt vindicated by this result.

The real drama unfolded in the evening of the 20th December 2006, which incidentally was the day of double rounds. Deputy Chief Arbiter A.C. Joshi found that one of the spectator was moving in a suspicious manner. On questioning, the person replied that he was local from Valsad and had come to watch the games of Anand and Kasparov! This and other absurd replies raised serious doubts, and the matter was reported to the police. After verifying his driving license it was confirmed that the person in question was Ravikant Sharma, brother of Umakant Sharma! He had accompanied Diwakar and was staying with him in the same hotel for this tournament.

The police party duly searched his hotel room but were not able to find any incriminating evidence. On further questioning Ravikant admitted that he had given wrong identity, and said it was because his brother Umakant was caught red-handed in the Delhi tournament. Ravikant was let off by the police.

The hotel management was also terrified with this episode and they asked Diwakar and Ravikant to make other living arrangements immediately. The organizing in-charge of the tournament, Pratap Mohan shifted Diwakar and Ravikant to a new hotel, and subsequently Diwakar shifted to the Atul Complex along with other players at the half-way stage of the event.


Players being scanned at the 44th Indian Championship


D.P. Singh being checked

When I asked him as to why had Ravikant accompanied him for this tournament, he replied that he (Ravikant) had come here to procure spare parts for his business. The random check on the players was intensified and metal detectors were used to search for hidden objects. Diwakar, on his part, said that he was ready to co-operate with the organizers for any sort of check to prove his innocence. He further informed that he was going to play in the ensuing international tournaments at Delhi (Parsvanath) and Russia (Aeroflot) so that all the doubts can be laid to rest.

Meanwhile, AICF, in its Central Council Meeting held at Chennai on 26th December 2006, imposed a ten-year ban on Umakant. Mr.D.V. Sundar, Secretary of AICF, further informed that a committee under the chairmanship of one of its Vice-President, Mr. Ravindra Dongre, has been constituted to report their findings on the alleged cheating against D.P. Singh for receiving external help during the last National A Chess Championship. The Secretary further informed that all the players were very happy with AICF for having addressed this matter with great concern.


Chief Arbiter Ananthram, AICF Secretary D.V. Sundar, and Ravindra Dongre

I asked some of the players at the 44th Indian Championship whether it is really possible to receive such external help without causing immediate suspicion. A majority of them believed that D.P. Singh had indeed received help. They were of the opinion that it is nearly impossible to attain such results at the age of 30 and, his rating is not equal to his strength. One of the GMs from Chennai, who did not wish to be identified, said: "At first, Diwakar's game gave me impression that a new talent has emerged on the Indian chess scene! I was one of the victims of his brilliant play but, leaving aside my loss, I was very happy with his fantastic touch of brilliance. In fact, I hugged him after the game for such a wonderful display of chess! Only after the game did I realize that the sequence of moves matched with one particular chess engine. It was too much of a co-incidence. Players do use a variety of engines for training, but he is using only one engine. I feel he got external help, but I do not know how he did it. If we are not able to prove that he got external assistance, we have to admit that he is a great genius!" The last word is yet to be heard on this issue.

D.P.Singh's statistics at the 44th Indian Championship:

1-0 4 games = 31%
½-½ 5 games = 38%
0-1 4 games = 31%

The average rating of his opponents was 2507, and his rating performance: 2373 (133 points under his current rating of 2507. He finished 25th in the Championship. In comparison in the 43rd Championship he came in joint first with a performance of 2591.


Praful Zaveri is based at Mumbai. He runs a chess academy for the beginners and is author of the chess book for beginners The Chess Course. He has officiated in more than 25 FIDE Ratings, National and International tournaments as the Chief Arbiter. He is a freelance writer on chess. His ChessBase.com articles include:

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