Cheating incident mars Delhi under 1600

5/25/2016 – The total prize fund of the Delhi Chess Association Below 1600 FIDE Rated Chess Tournament 2016 was a cool one million Rupees (about US $15,000). Many participants feared that such a colossal sum – by Indian standards – was bound to attract cheaters. But the arbiters were ready for that. When one player finished with 8.5/9 points he was searched and found to be using machine assistance – in a fairly clever way.

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Cheating incident mars Delhi under 1600

By Nitin Pai

After winning a roller coaster game in the final round, I went to the arbiter M.S. Gopakumar to share the excitement, but he had something even more interesting to narrate! He had busted a cheat on the top board. "Didn't I tell you that I would catch any cheater who would come here? Got him very easily!" he told me in Malayalam.

The 1st DCA below 1600 FIDE rated chess tournament was held at the Ludlow Castel Sports Complex, Kashmere Gate, New Delhi, from 14-16 May 2016. With a prize fund of Rs. one million (about US $15,000), the event attracted more than 700 participants from all over India and some from Nepal as well.

Like many others players I went into the event with the hope of winning the 1st prize of Rs. 125,000 ($1900), but more than that wanted to play some good chess. With a rating of 1569, I started as the 16th seed. I was a bit skeptical about playing in Delhi, especially in the below 1600 category, as my friends had warned me about the possibility of cheating, due to the highly attractive prize money. The venue was very spacious and was the same as that of the Delhi GM open held earlier this year.

The chief person in charge of security for the event was IA M.S. Gopakumar (above), a renowned arbiter. I spoke with him before registering for the event and he assured me that he would do his best to catch cheaters and that all recommendations of the FIDE anti-cheating committee were in place.

The organisers were very punctual and the first round started exactly as per schedule. The venue had a very good capacity with resting room for players and parents below the playing hall. However, even with such good facilities, such a large turnout meant the resting room was extremely crowded with not enough room for everyone. Even during games, players had to queue up on few occasions to use the restrooms.

Shrang Rajendra of Uttar Pradesh, with an Elo of 1527, was playing on 7.5/8 on the first board. The only draw in one of the earlier rounds was just a safety measure and it looked like only one player would reach 8.5 points in the final round. He had completely destroyed his opponents in the other rounds and similarly won very quickly in the final round as well. Little did we know that he would still fail to win the tournament.

One of the arbiters later told me that being chess players themselves, they could easily identify engine moves and that of a below 1600 player and had their doubts on this person's moves. After the last round, the accused was taken to the arbiters' room and checked thoroughly. What exactly was found is unknown to us, however, the chief arbiter immediately declared the game in the favour of the other player from Andhra Pradesh and the cheater was disqualified and not given any prize money. Apparently, there was no formal complaint or allegation from any of his opponents and the arbiters worked on their personal doubts.

The Andhra player Y. Suman moved on to 8.5 points and won the championship

Top finishers, displayed in the final table of the Delhi Chess Association

Back to Shrang Rajendra. This player was rated 1471 in the April list and played two tournaments to gain 56 points to reach 1527. He did not play any extraordinary chess in those two events and there were quite a few losses against 1600 and 1700 players and few draws and wins that enabled him to increase his rating. Later in the metro station, I was hanging out with a gang of players from Kerala. We spotted Shrang and approached him to ask what had actually happened. We asked him if he was being framed and was innocent. He did not say anything and it was two of his friends who spoke for him. They told us that he wasn't in a state of mind to talk to us and hadn't told them anything. They claimed that he did not know what was going on and was indeed innocent. For some time, I really started wondering: what if he really was innocent? What if the arbiters did not have concrete evidence and were just speculating. What if something like this happens to me — that I win a tournament fair and square by playing good chess but later denied prize money due to allegations and even banned? But then my friends told me that he wasn't innocent and it was clearly visible from his body language that he was guilty.

What actually happened?

Later on, the Delhi Chess Association informed ChessBase India that before the start of the tournament, Mr. A.K. Verma, secretary of the Delhi Chess Association, and chief arbiter M.S. Gopakumar had briefed the arbiters and volunteers to keep a vigilant eye for any suspicious activities during the tournament. Consequently, all the top boards were on the close watch, but without giving any suspicion to anyone. The surveillance included toilet breaks of players playing on the higher boards.

By the time the final round came by, Shrang Rajendra, who was on 7.5/8, and playing his final round game on the top board, had attracted the special interest of organisers. Deputy chief arbiter Biju Raj S. was told to keep a close watch, with Verma and Gopakumar standing nearby. Shrang was pitted against Y. Suman of Andhra Pradesh with the black pieces, and he eventually won the game. The arbiters decided to frisk the players immediately after they finished.

The arbiters found the above mobile phone in Rajendra’s pocket, a hidden spy device and a power bank stitched to a special inner wear inside his trouser. A micro earpiece was hidden inside his right ear.

In his statement, Shrang Rajendra explained that a phone connection was maintained throughout the duration of the game. Immediately after his opponent made a move he would press any button of the mobile which will indicate the move is made on board, and his accomplice would recite all the possible moves available for his opponent. When hearing the correct move Shrang would a press a button again to acknowledge the same and the accomplice would communicate the best move possible for him after consulting a chess engine.

The DCA team confiscated all the material evidence and the same has forwarded to All India Chess Federation along with a report for further necessary action with FIDE. One has to wonder how easy it is to cheat in these tournaments. On every stroll I took to the restroom during my games, I could see scores of people discussing and analyzing games on smartphones, right outside the tournament hall. One can't be sure what precisely is going on. But we have to congratulate the arbiter M.S. Gopakumar and his team for catching a culprit this time and hope that FIDE would give the strictest possible punishment which may send out a warning to all potential cheaters.

Overall,the event was a grand success. But one has to feel bad for those players who lost a point against Shrang. Nothing can be done for them. Some of them asked the arbiter for some sort of compensation in the end, but to no avail. All he could do was to report the incident to FIDE.

Nitin Pai is a twenty-year-old undergraduate student in Electrical Engineering at IIT-Madras. He is a passionate chess player with an eloquent voice and has contributed his feedback and photos for ChessBase in the past. When he is not studying or surfing the internet for crazy science stuff, or working on his projects, you may find him hunched over a chessboard, trying not to blunder.


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peterfrost peterfrost 8/7/2016 09:36
@ex0, you are putting words into my mouth that I did not say. I am most certainly not proposing that prize money be limited to closed professional tournaments only. What I am suggesting is that very large prizes for low rated amateurs isn't appropriate. I accept the validity of the point made by @Rama and @David Gonzalez, who note that it it is usually necessary to offer decent prizes to amateur players to attract good fields, and that prize money for masters is extracted from these entry fees. In fact, I have no problem at all with low rated players winning "decent" prizes...what I am objecting to is when they win prizes of tens of thousands of dollars. Such a prize should only be accessible to masters who have achieved a very high level of play. We should not bestow riches upon peddlers of mediocrity. That demeans the true artists of our game.
david gonzalez david gonzalez 5/27/2016 02:34
Peter Frost: The prize money for low rated players come from high entry fees that is paid by those same player.They are not taking money from the master players to pay those prizes.
JimNvegas JimNvegas 5/26/2016 11:56
Cheating on lower levels of chess tournaments will continue to be a problem. Only solution is to with hold prize moneys until games of those winning money can be analyzed for possible engine use.
MarriedRhombus MarriedRhombus 5/26/2016 08:00
At least his guy has the prize money as his motivation for cheating. But those cheating in online games (playchess, ICC,, with no prize money, I still fail to comprehend what do they have to get in winning by cheating.
tigerprowl2 tigerprowl2 5/26/2016 07:27
I like how the article is about cheating and the photo of the writer of this article shows him playing white but about to move a black piece.
gmwdim gmwdim 5/26/2016 04:28
@peter frost You make some good points. I have always personally avoided big money tournaments because they are a lottery at best, and a haven for cheaters (with smart enough methods to not get caught) at worst. Perhaps that is the only true solution to preventing cheating at the amateur levels: eliminate the incentives to cheat. Players who enjoy playing chess will continue to play without the prize funds.
ex0 ex0 5/26/2016 02:07
And top GM's earn less than 30,000 a year? lol. Which Top GM's are you talking about exactly? Their appearance fees from one tournament is probably already 10g or more, and they still get paid(more than enough to cover the cost of travel/accommodation etc) even if they come last in a closed tournament.

I'm guessing you mean like, GM's in top 100 but not top 20/30 etc.. but even then, if you are rated like 2650, i'm sure they can make more than 30,000 in a year easy from chess, either from coaching/open tournaments or even invites if you're lucky enough.

I also agree that if you played a game vs a proven cheat, then the other person should be awarded the full point. It's only fair. Or at least it should be that way if the cheat played every player in the tournament. If not, then the game should at least be drawn, and they should at least get half a point, rather than NOTHING AT ALL, which is just ridiculous, because even if they were Carlsen, they would lose no matter what vs a decent player(cheat) using an engine..
ex0 ex0 5/26/2016 02:02
@Peter Frost: So, what little money there is for open/amateur events, you want to make it even less or non existent at all, and limit prizemoney to professional/closed tournaments only? Erm, no. Just no. GM's and Pro's already have lots of tournaments they can make money from(even Opens), and they also get fees just to turn up, ie appearance fees. Just because they have more motivation to cheat doesn't mean anything, since Pro's or even higher rated amateurs/pros(like 1600-2500) also have more motivation to cheat if the prizemoney is there, so why not remove that from the game too if your logic is sound(that prizemoney = more cheating, and that people should be playing for the love of the game rather than for money)?

Your logic doesn't make any sense whatsoever, and is probably coming from a position of pure bias/ignorance. The conclusion you drew from that is just ridiculous.. and i STRONGLY hope that they don't do what you said and instead offer even MORE prizemoney for EVERY CHESS PLAYER(regardless of rating) and host even MORE tournaments(with prizemoney of course) , and that tournaments with decent/good prizemoney is not limited to just players in the top 10/20 etc.. otherwise, what's the point of even trying to go pro to begin with when you can't even support yourself? How are we going to get the next Magnus Carlsen etc when theres no incentive whatsoever to do it? It's already bad enough as it is, since players in the top 100 can't even support themselves AS IT IS, and you want to make this even worse? In any other sport, a top 100 player can at least make a living solely by playing and sponsorships etc, if not be able to retire comfortably by the time they've passed their primes(like say, 35-40). A top 100 player in chess? You probably wouldn't even be able to name/recognize most of them, and they probably need to take another job just to support themselves. Even players like Wang Hao/Wang Yue have to open chess schools/coach and do other things on the side and they are top 20 players basically(or at least 2730+!). How is this good for chess? Answer: it's not. More money in the game is ALWAYS WELCOME. You are the first person i've ever heard say that there should be less money in chess, or that it should be restricted to those at the very top only.. but then you don't talk about why up and coming players would even want to play to begin with or put themselves through such an ordeal as playing chess and being 2700 and STILL not be able to support yourself just from playing..
Resistance Resistance 5/26/2016 09:58
Hummm. Chessbase could also do an investigation, and a report, about the cheating that takes place under their own roof: Playchess. Many cheaters there, pretty annoying at times...
Mr TambourineMan Mr TambourineMan 5/26/2016 08:53
Next time beeing done without Power bank and without mobile phone
Rama Rama 5/26/2016 06:34
@Peter Frost, when there are no sponsors it was learned that the way to get substantial prizes to masters in large Swiss tournaments is to charge hundreds of dollars for amateurs to compete for "obscene" jackpots. Therefore master players benefit. I agree it seems unseemly though.
peter frost peter frost 5/26/2016 05:20
Are tournaments which offer very large cash prizes to mediocre players good for chess? Such events make it seem that the money is more important than the game. The rating system is not so reliable (especially in India!) as to ensure a fair event anyway, even if there was no physical cheating. And one's own rating can be easily manipulated on a short term basis. I feel strongly that access to a substantial cash prize should be limited to master level players (or those who demonstrate in a tournament that they can beat such high level players). The most obscene example of this undesirable trend is the "Millionaire" tournament in Las Vegas, where rank amateurs can win $30,000, more than a top GM will earn in an entire year. Non-professional players should be competing because we love the game, not because we are lured by money. Events like this take all the class out of chess...they are fundamentally "grubby".

dysanfel dysanfel 5/26/2016 04:21
When the cheaters get smart enough to use 25 year old engines that play at 2200 instead of 3200 it will be much harder to catch them in a under-1600 event. Even more so if they are smart enough to choose the 2nd or 3rd best move in a position where the move is not so obvious. Or, if they stop using phones and use more subtle haptic feedback devices.
flachspieler flachspieler 5/26/2016 12:01
Do you know the movie "Slumdog millionaire"? Then you understand how
suspects (innocent or guilty) may be treated in India...
horius horius 5/25/2016 10:53
Too bad he looks like he could actually use that price money :(
flonks flonks 5/25/2016 10:41
Isn't it possible to search them for cell phones just before the games? Cell phones and even pens and watches can't be brought to high level events either.
Queenslander Queenslander 5/25/2016 10:34
Isn't it just natural law that those who are the victim of a proven cheat should have the game forfeited to them and therefore they should receive a full point?
sranj sranj 5/20/2016 12:34
Its interesting that such incidents can be openly reported when they happen in a democratic country like India. Its not likely that you will see such reports from closed, authoritarion or communist countries.. Good job catching the culprits.