India: player gets ten year ban for cheating

12/28/2006 – Umakant Sharma is an Indian chess player who had performed at a steady 1900 level for many years. Then suddenly his rating climbed to 2484, after a series of spectacular tournament successes. A spot search revealed: he was using a bluetooth device stitched into his cap to receive external computer assistance. Now all players are being scanned for hidden devices.

25-year-old Umakant Sharma has been under observation for a while now, together with his colleague IM D.P. Singh, who was the hero of our story The Swiss King of India, published in August this year. In fact our glowing report led to a few very strong Indian players writing in to ask whether we did not think that such rapid ascents – D.P. Singh had climbed from 2350 to 2500 – were cause for suspicion. We did, and started to monitor the situation through the eyes of colleagues in the Indian chess scene.

For Umakant Sharma things came to a head at the Air Marshal Subroto Fide rating tournament at Delhi recently, where a hidden bluetooth device was found stitched into his cap. After a thorough investigation the All India Chess Federation slapped a ten year ban on him at its Central Council meeting on December 26, 2006 at Chennai. The cap and device were exhibited at the meeting by Mr.Bharat Singh Chauhan, Treasurer - AICF.

In the case of D.P. Singh, against whom complaints have been filed by the Chess Player's Association of India (CPAI) for alleged cheating, one of our confidants informs us that this player appears to be "clean". Since December 17, 2006, D.P. has been playing in the Indian National Championship, and with one round to go he was in joint 5-16th position with a score of 6.5/11. During the tournament all the precautions measures were being taken, like metal detector and frisking.


New standard in chess: scanning the players during the Indian Championship

D.P. Singh has volunteered himself for these checks, and, to prove his innocence, he has even gone so far as to offer himself for the MRI or X-Ray scans for any hidden metal objects in his body! His room mate reports that he usually prepares for the next day's game until 3.00 a.m. in the morning. He is pleading for a fair trail and open to any sort of questioning. To prove his innocence he has further decided to play in Parsvanath & Aeroflot Open.

International news reports

Reuters: Who knew you could cheat at chess?
An Indian chess player has been banned for ten years for cheating after he was caught using his mobile phone's wireless device to win games, chess officials said on Wednesday. The player, Umakant Sharma, had logged rating points at a rapid pace in the last 18 months and also qualified for the national championship, arousing the suspicion of officials and bemusing rivals. Sharma was finally caught at a recent tournament when officials discovered that he had stitched a Bluetooth device in a cloth cap which he always pulled over his ears. He communicated to his accomplices outside the hall, who then used a computer to relay moves to him, Indian chess federation secretary D.V. Sundar said on Wednesday. "We have banned him for 10 years," he told Reuters. "We wanted to send a clear message to such people." Chess officials were also probing whether another player had similar advantages through such illegal means, he added.

The Hindu: Umakant Sharma banned for 10 years
The All India Chess Federation has slapped a ten-year ban on Umakant Sharma, a chess player from Southern Railway, for using a Bluetooth device during a FIDE-rated tournament in Delhi and gaining unfair advantage through it. At the meeting, the AICF Treasurer, Bharat Singh Chauhan, exhibited the device to the members. This is the first time that the Federation has taken such a severe action against a player in the country. The Federation Secretary, D.V. Sundar, said Sharma and another player D.P. Singh, an International Master have been under the scanner ever since it was noticed that the two had risen phenomenally in their Elo rating – from 1930 to 2484 in the case of Sharma and from 2350 to 2500 for Singh – in the space of just one and half years. "Not even Viswanathan Anand has progressed with such speed," said Mr. Sundar.

NDTV: Umakant Sharma banned for 10 years
AICF Treasurer and Delhi Chess Association President Bharat Singh Chauhan, who exhibited the cap and device at the meeting, said the decision was taken after a long deliberation. "The Council also checked Umakant's complete record, including his games and even financial background and was surprised to learn that he had expensive mobile set despite being unemployed," he said. "It is only recently that he got a job with the Southern Railways in Chennai," he said. "His games were also studied and he was not an extraordinary player who could have naturally gained heavily in ratings in such short duration," he said.

Information Week : Chess player banned for cheating with Bluetooth
The World Chess Federation (Federation Internationale des Echecs, or FIDE) bars the use of mobile devices during play. "It is strictly forbidden to bring mobile phones or other electronic means of communication, not authorized by the arbiter, into the playing venue," the group's rules read. "If a player's mobile phone rings in the playing venue during play, that player shall lose the game."


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