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

Replay all completed games



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.
Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

adp adp 2/11/2020 10:40
We have come to this.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 2/11/2020 06:30
" If you don't like the rules, you should try to change them. " Really? There are many instances in which organizations/groups/countries, etc, are wholly unwilling to change rules even when the majority want a change. It may be a completely impossible strategy.

I am surprised that hardly anyone is blaming the organizers. Knowing that some tournaments have different rules to theirs, could they not have made the policy more clear to the players? As it states in the article "this rule was not specifically mentioned in the regulations of the National Team Championships 2020". This would have been the easiest way to prevent such an unfortunate situation.

With the Akobian issue, I thought that the TD stepped in and made the decision, was it Akobian that instigated it? I do not believe that was totally clear, because what constitutes a note? Aren't players allowed to write down the amount of time taken for each move?
Jacob woge Jacob woge 2/11/2020 05:52
“Some people delay their claim until their position on the board is beyond repair.' Risky strategy, your opponent may give his watch to his team captain, and poof is your proof. “

On the other hand, the risk is that you get to play a chess game, which is why we are all here.

“My main problem is people blaming IM Krishna.”

I might just have leaned over and said, “could you please hand your watch to your team captain”. Team event or not. On the upside, he did not delay it, and might have been prompted by his own team mates. No way out then.
besler besler 2/10/2020 11:42
I think the main problem here is pretty clear: The first violation of this rule should result in a WARNING, contingent on the result of a careful investigation of the "electronic device" in question. I really can't see any downsides to this: It wouldn't require any extra work from the arbiter, since they are already involved at this point, and presumably the task of inspecting a watch would only take a few moments. In fact, a policy of issuing a warning first would probably reduce the arbiter workload overall, since it would reduce the inevitable complaints, arguments and subsequent appeals that will result from the "hard line" policy described here.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/10/2020 10:36
Jacob Woge,
'Some people delay their claim until their position on the board is beyond repair.' Risky strategy, your opponent may give his watch to his team captain, and poof is your proof.
My main problem is people blaming IM Krishna. If you don't like the rules, you should try to change them. Don't know how democratic the AICF is, but if a majority wants the rules as they are, nothing can be done about it as long as they don't contradict FIDE rules.
By the way, I don't read anything about GM Adhiban having a problem with te rule. He had forgotten about it and seemed to accept nothing could be done about it.
BKnight2003 BKnight2003 2/10/2020 08:47
It is a team competition, so the player has the obligation, is respect to his teammates, to claim the win in view of a clear breaking of regulations. Even if he doesn't agree with the rule.
littlefish littlefish 2/10/2020 07:58
Technically speaking, an analog watch with a battery is an electric device but not an electronic one.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 2/10/2020 02:10
“A wrist watch can help players to notice when the game clock is not keeping time correctly without having to check on the game clocks of other players.”

It may also help a player show up on time, lest another draconian measure sets in. The number of ways to have a chess game decided off the board is steadily increasing.

“I wouldn't claim a win in this situation, but I wouldn't complain either if my opponent did.”

Some people delay their claim until their position on the board is beyond repair. While off the board the player, unbeknownst to his adversary, has a stable and decisive advantage in reserve. Just waiting for the right moment..

Perhaps not a scenario laid out for a formal complaint. But I would not hold it against anyone if he or she grumped for a bit.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 2/10/2020 01:08
I wouldn't claim a win in this situation, but I wouldn't complain either if my opponent did. He is not responsible for the regulations. The FIDE rules ban all electronic devices from the playing area (except for those previously admitted by the arbiter - pacemakers), but leave organizers some flexibility in whether and how severely transgressions are punished. The strictness of the rule should match the importance of the event. In the French team competition (at least in the lower groups), you can leave your phone in your pocket in the off-position; in the Dutch team competition, you should put it on the table.
The Indian organizers have chosen for a strict approach. They are entitled to do so, according to FIDE rules. Not be willing to check all watches seems a reasonable extension of the rule. Taking even a non-electronic watch into the playing area therefore creates a disturbance, and you can expect to be punished just for that.
It would have been better if this extension of the rules had been written down beforehand. But if players and team captains were properly warned to attend the player's meeting, the oral communication seems enough for me.
PhishMaster PhishMaster 2/10/2020 01:05
@TaichungChess Whose rule it is makes no real difference there. The game was a FIDE-rated game, and had begun. Once the game begins, it is rated, thus the points are lost when a forfeit is declared.
TaichungChess TaichungChess 2/10/2020 12:17
Why is he losing the 7 ELO if it is an Indian only rule?
peterfrost peterfrost 2/10/2020 09:56
What a miserable way to win at sport. Agree fully with "thirteen"...just ask him to take off his watch! Gain 7 ELO and lose respect of chess world...bad bargain.
Asdracles Asdracles 2/10/2020 09:25
I think the main reason to ban them is that in a huge event, the arbiter is not going to review all the few hundreds players watches to see which ones are digital and which ones are not. And even sometimes is not obvious for a non expert to see if a watch can transmit info or not.

By the way, is not an only-indian thing. World Blitz&Rapid, among others, had this very same rule. However, I agree that the penalty for a first offence is too harsh.
Shakey Shakey 2/10/2020 06:11
Point 1. Absurd rule that any and every watch is banned.
Point 2. And the opponent Krishna should be utterly ashamed claiming a win for this. Shame on him.
IntensityInsanity IntensityInsanity 2/10/2020 02:08
I know rules are rules but the article mentions that the opponent claimed the win. Seriously? I would never have the audacity to claim such a win. It may be within the rules but that is such a low move on the other guy. I would be way too ashamed to claim such a win. Reminds me a few years ago when Akobian claimed a win against Wesley So regarding the “notes”. Yes, technically speaking, Akobian was right and within the rules to complain, but ever since then I have lost all respect for him as a sportsman.
wb_munchausen wb_munchausen 2/10/2020 01:30
There are watches available now that have internet access now, and can run applications for chess, etc, so I understand the rule. But surely they could have found a way to resolve it without making him forfeit the game.
Masquer Masquer 2/9/2020 10:16
Too draconian to the point of being absurd and even kafkaesque. Would a simple warning have killed them?

@GreenKlaser -- agree
GreenKlaser GreenKlaser 2/9/2020 10:06
A wrist watch can help players to notice when the game clock is not keeping time correctly without having to check on the game clocks of other players. It would be considerate of the players if an event in which players are not permitted to have wrist or other watches that there be large wall clocks that are checked before the event for accuracy.
amarpan amarpan 2/9/2020 09:59
@macauley thanks for the clarification. Its increasingly rare for even a British English speaker to use "Analogue" in electronics but I take back my statement that it is incorrect.
KevinC KevinC 2/9/2020 09:19
Well, it is now clear that you should treat your watch, no matter what kind it is, like you would a phone, and simply not have it with you at all.

Personally, I think this rule is moronic, and it should simply be no smart watches. If the watch cannot "do" chess, then it is fine. If it can somehow help you play better, then you lose for having it on during the game.
wittgenstein wittgenstein 2/9/2020 07:48
Sorry, this is ridiculous. That is what chess has become? I prefer more and more to study chess classics. Due to the excess of rules, professional chess is becoming dull. Can you imagine Mikhail Tal claiming a win on this basis? Sham on the winner, shame on the arbiters IMHO. People are becoming obsessed with rules and forgetting about the essence of the game of chess. Disgusting.
dumkof dumkof 2/9/2020 07:12
The clock is big enough to build a secret communication device in it. It's theoretically possible.

The best thing to avoid such situations is to put the clock off, before playing. You don't need it during the game. Rules are rules.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 2/9/2020 07:09
Could Adhiban's opponent not have claimed the win? Fair play. I would not be proud of winning that way.
macauley macauley 2/9/2020 06:20
@amarpan - I double-checked this one (being an American) ;) "Analogue" in British English (which ChessBase uses) has the same meaning as "analog" in all cases. (See for instance Grammarist: Analog vs. analogue.) I'll check if it was electronic or mechanical, as that's indeed not clear.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 2/9/2020 05:59
@Leavenfish, I am not interested in what "they say", especially given absurd, draconian, unjust, or silly laws in many places. Let's look at the specific situation and facts. In this case we are not discussing laws, but rather rules.

To clarify, since it was allowed in Gibraltar, these are rules specific to this event and not a FIDE rule. The organizers should have been more clear in notifying players beforehand.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 2/9/2020 05:41
Chessbibliophile - 'ignorance of the law is no excuse' as they say.

That said, it is an analog watch - no screen to possibly display any 'cheating info'. Rules are sometimes set and used by small minded men who want to control everything. It is those who wrote the rules that need to have more common sense.

So, now I wonder....if you have a heart condition and must wear a pacemaker, can you play in the tournament????
amarpan amarpan 2/9/2020 05:40
The author needs work on his vocabulary. First of all there is a completely different meaning between "analogue" and "analog". In this case it should be analog, if at all. However as mentioned by @svr, I think he seems to imply "mechanical" as opposed to "electronic". Electronic devices can be analog or digital, both will require batteries but mechanical watches typically do not require batteries, they need to be wound, or the winding takes place "automatically" through hand motion occurring from regular activities. So what was Adhiban wearing?
Chessspawnvt Chessspawnvt 2/9/2020 05:28
I see a revival in mechanical wrist watch popularity in chess circles.
chessbibliophile chessbibliophile 2/9/2020 04:36
In this case both the AICF and arbiters, its enforcers have been high-handed and a law unto themselves. If Rules are neither in the Book nor formally signed and displayed on the Board, they have no legal validity. The players should protest. So should we.
stumpy stumpy 2/9/2020 04:14
this seems too draconian - the game of chess must be won or lost at the board.

Can the rules be looked at, so that the game continues but the offender loses say half a point in the match but result stands for grading?
thirteen thirteen 2/9/2020 03:46
Could have been just reminded, then asked to remove it? Or is that being TOO sensible here? It was just a watch. Not a mobile, or other.
svr svr 2/9/2020 03:06
Analog watches are usually electronic nowadays. The opposite of electronic is mechanical, and the opposite of analog is digital.