A forfeit for wearing an analogue watch?

by Shahid Ahmed
2/9/2020 – At the 40th National Team Open, a big shock in round three when GM Adhiban Baskaran was forfeited on board one for possessing an analogue watch after 16 moves against IM C R G Krishna. His team still won the match, thanks to wins on the lower boards. It's an unusual case, though evidently all according to the tournament rules. | Photo: IA Gopakumar Sudhakaran

Winning against King's Indian — The main line Winning against King's Indian — The main line

In the classical system of the King's Indian White develops naturally and refrains from chasing ghosts looking for a refutation of Black's set-up. White instead relies on the fact that natural play should yield him a small but lasting advantage.


Adhiban loses due to rules technicality

After playing a fantastic game in round one, Adhiban took a rest in round two. In round three, his team PSPB (Petroleum Sports Promotion Board) faced RSPB-B (Railway Sports Promotion Board). Adhiban was paired against IM C R G Krishna. However, after nine moves were made, Adhiban was found to be wearing a wrist watch which according to the tournament rules and regulations meant a loss. In the past there have been several cases in India of players losing a game because of a watch, however, this was the first instance when a grandmaster was affected by it.

C R G Krishna won against Adhiban in a rule technicality | Photo: Gopakumar Sudhakaran

Speaking to ChessBase India after the incident, Adhiban said,

I just came back from Gibraltar. At the Gibraltar masters there was no such rule about wearing of a watch and all kinds of watches were allowed. I was completely jet-lagged and forgot about the watch rule. My opponent claimed the win and there was nothing I could do about it.

Unlike a walkover, a loss due to the watch rule affects your rating and Adhiban lost 7.7 Elo points. At a rating of 2654, that's quite a bit. However, as always Adhiban was positive and said, "I am happy that my team won the match in spite of my loss. I am playing good chess and that is more important to me than rating points."

The main clause in FIDE's Arbiter's manual is (PDF) under Anti-Cheating Guidelines:

FIDE rules

It is clear that from the FIDE laws electronic devices are not allowed. How then was Adhiban given a loss when he was wearing an analog watch? A few years ago, when the rule was implemented the arbiters all across the country were faced with several instances where they had to decipher an analog watch from an electronic one. Logically if a watch had batteries in it, it would become an electronic one. But it was not always easy to segregate the two. In order to make things less complex and avoid unnecessary appeals, AICF in its Central Council meeting came up with the clause that no watches are allowed. Although this rule was not specifically mentioned in the regulations of the National Team Championships 2020, it was discussed in the player's meeting before the start of the event.

Adhiban is the first GM casualty in India of the analog watch rule | Photo: Gopakumar Sudhakaran


This is the watch that Adhiban was wearing | Photo: Adhiban B

Famous trainer, mentor and chess consultant IM Vishal Sareen tweeted about Adhiban's loss

Here are the nine moves that was played in the game.


No harm done to the team

Karthikeyan Murali got material advantage after the 36th move of the game against Thejkumar M S as he had a rook for a bishop and pawn. However, the game went on for another 73 moves before the former secured a much-needed victory for himself as well as the team.


Karthikeyan gave his all to score a very important victory | Photo: Gopakumar Sudhakaran

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Shahid Ahmed is the senior coordinator and editor of ChessBase India. He enjoys covering chess tournaments and also likes to play in chess events from time to time.


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