D.P. Singh has survived his 'Agni Pariksha’

by ChessBase
3/11/2007 – In his article two months ago Praful Zaveri gave a first-hand account of the IM Diwakar Prasad Singh saga, leading to the question: “Is Diwakar a supreme chess talent or a flawed genius?” The answer could only be given by time, in what the Indians call an “Agni Pariksha”, a trial (pariksha) by fire (agni). It appears that Singh has received a clean chit. Report and reader feedback.

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D.P. Singh has survived his ‘Agni Pariksha’

By Praful Zaveri

During the three month period that has passed since the accusations first surfaced D. P. Singh has been subjected to utmost scrutiny during his tournaments, sometimes bordering on humiliation – frisking before and after the game, searching with metal detectors, examined by an ENT specialist for any hidden objects in his ears, feeling isolated from the remaining players in the same event and, last but not least, his every move being subjected to scrutiny by a chess engine for an evidence of external help.

This reminds us of one of the famous quotes of the legendary Boris Becker “When you are thrown onto the stage (at 17) in such an enormous way, it becomes living on the edge, because every step you take, every word you speak, every action you do becomes headline news. And it became, for me, life or death”.

Cleared of cheating suspicion: D. P. Singh

IM Diwakar Prasad Singh found himself in similar predicament as his good performance brought forth nothing but renewed accusations, thick and fast (but sadly, without any evidence) during the recent Kolkata International Open. The latest to join this bandwagon was none other than the eventual winner, GM Tigran Petrosian of Armenia, who felt that Singh’s move matched with that of Fritz.

Tigran may have earned the fan-following of the doubting Thomases with his remark in Express India: “I offered him a draw on the 23rd move which he declined. Actually, I wasn’t surprised when he refused the offer. I’m not sure if I was playing against a computer, but then he made two moves, c6 and Nh6, in two minutes which is impossible for a GM to calculate in such a short time. A GM would normally take 15-20 minutes to calculate the same, or else he would be a world champion. In fact, I analysed his game with (Alexander) Fominyh and found that his moves matched with Fritz’s first suggestions”.

But, since his remarks were not supported by any evidence against Diwakar for having received any external help, they evoked sharp criticism from all corners. Bharat Singh Chauhan, the Treasurer of AICF and one of the members of the constituted committee to look into the alleged cheating responded "I do not find any reason to hang him (Prasad). Simply that his games are matching with Fritz9, does not warrant a punishment. I don't see him guilty. When B Adhiban had defeated Deepan Chakkravarthy during the recent Parsvnath International Open in Delhi, his moves matched cent per cent to Fritz9, which was pointed out by Alexei Dreev and Adley Ahmed," he added.

The Telegraph reported that Diwakar is facing the heat for not being on cordial terms with some of country’s premier players – Quote “It is believed that the 31-year-old who became an International Master (IM) last year, is not in very good terms with top chess players of the country, who are members of the Chess Players Association of India (CPAI) and pushed for a probe against Singh’s alleged misdemeanours”.

For Diwakar, the only way to prove his fair play was to perform according to his rating strength. Initially, it appeared that he has cracked under pressure, as he performed below par at the Parsvanath International Open at Delhi in January 2007 (finished 96 in a field of 345 players with a score of 6/10) followed by another dismal performance at the Pink City Open at Jaipur with a score of 6.5/11). However, he regained his winning touch with a fanstastic display at the Second Kolkata International Open by securing 14th place with a score of 6/10 in a very strong field. In fact, he missed the GM norm by a whisker, by losing from a winning position in his final round. The performance is really praisworthy considering the stress he was playing under.

The D-day for Diwakar is 12th March 2007, when his fate would be decided by the All India Chess Federation as the report of the constituted Committee to look into the alleged cheating would be taken up for discussion in its Central Council Meeting.

However; from the reports emanating, it appears that Diwakar has overcome the stiffest “Agni Pariksha” and he may get a clean chit from the All India Chess Federation (AICF), who have not found any incriminating evidence against him.


Feedback from our readers

Telmo Escobar, La Plata, Argentina
I have read the articles about the alleged misbehavior of a player called DP Singh, who, according to his enemies has been cheating using – presumably – advice from chess engines. The reasons to believe that Mr Singh cheats are, according to the gang:

  1. He is already 30, so he's not entitled to demonstrate significant increase in his strength (chess is for teens);
  2. He wins some games against strong players and lose sometimes against weaker ones (funny that this lack of consistency is assumed to be related to computer asistence);
  3. In some games, some of his moves match the choice of some chess engines (Deep Junior in one case, Hiarcs 10 in other, no further details offered).

After examining the games played by Mr Singh in the 2006 Indian Championship, and the National "A" championship, I don't find any reasonable evidence of cheating. The style of play is consistent with that of a fairly strong player well under the GM strength. In his won games against presumably stronger opposition, Singh made a lot of too human moves (such as naive traps, or weak moves obviously motivated by fear of non-existent dangers) winning only after blunders by his opponents. If necessary, I could send detailed annotations about these games.

I suspect the real reasons to harass Mr Singh are the following:

  1. Several individuals who are accostumed to beat him easily are infuriated that the guy has improved so fast after some years of stagnation;
  2. Singh's successes are contrary to the interests of his national federation, as nobody can believe that he really has a brilliant future in professional chess, while some of his victims are presumably young stars.

By the way, a friend of Mr Singh, a guy called Sharma, has been suspended by ten years "for cheating", but I couldn't find the games played by this individual. Apparently the games have been erased by the Indian authorities. So I don't know if there is real substance in the accusations against that guy, or if there are not one but two cases of harassment against designated losers.

Whit Cotney, Zebulon, NC, USA
I was just reading your articles about Singh and how high his Elo points went up in such a short amount of time. I know he has been searched numerous times, but has anyone thought to check under any fillings he may have in his teeth? These are metal and would show up as only fillings during a metal detector test. Just a thought.

William Shea, Honolulu, Hawaii
Hello, I have no problem with strict policies to prevent cheating at tournaments. In fact, I am strongly in favor of it. Many tournaments talk it up, as if they will do something to prevent cheating. But without metal detectors or bathroom attendants, clearly there is no real effort to deter or detect cheating (at the national tournaments I have attended). But even more appauling, in my opinion, is unsubstantiated cheating accusations. A few rumors fly about this Indian GM cheating, and now he has to deal with the embarassment of his face in the news with allegations of cheating. I hope that his opponents were frisked as well. Did his opponents have to have ear exams and be searched with metal detectors? If not he is being treated unfairly. These policies to prevent cheating should be enforced across the board. All participants. Do we want a chess version of the Salem witch hunts? Your article includes a quote about a strong IM playing 2700 level chess. Well for one game in his career, is this a mystery that an IM can play an outstanding game at super GM level.

Then we have these comparisons to Fritz. This is such an awful method of determining cheating. We accuse someone of cheating then we find that they have a strech of 7 or 8 moves in a row identical to fritz. How about comparing EVERYONE's moves to Fritz. Then we can establish some standard deviations from fritz that we can expect from a strong player. Maybe most GM's and IM's eventually hit a run where there moves fall exactly in line with fritz for a few successive moves. Certainly they are not all cheating. It is time to bring in some strict policies to prevent cheating. Moreso, it is time to start holding some stiff penalties against the people who are now haphazardly throwing around cheating accusations instead of accepting the fact that they lost there game. What is the penalty for false or unsubstantiated cheating accusations? Probably, there is no penalty at all, and that is a problem.

IM Timothy Taylor, Los Angeles, CA, USA
My wife and I have recently been the victim of a false cheating accusation by a junior player at the 2006 American Open. The tournament director, Randy Hough (a well known chess politician in the US) refused to investigate the claim but simply took action against my wife and me. I have forty years of good reputation in chess, and yet when an influential person like Hough acted against me (on no evidence whatsoever) I was able to see first hand the damage to my reputation. A simple look at the game would have cleared matters up, but Hough refused to look at the game, either during the tournament or afterward.

There is in interesting postscript: I wrote commissioned articles both for Chess Life and Jeremysilman.com on these issues, and both articles were killed by the editors, Dan Lucas of Chess Life and Jeremy Silman, for alleged unfairness to Randy Hough – though I was the one who was falsely accused, and all I wrote of Hough was directly seen and heard by myself and my wife.

Note: an extensive article by Tim Taylor appeared in Chess Cafe (it is currently in the Skittles room but will be removed from there in time and must be located in the archives), together with a reply by Randy Hough.

Daniel Sparkes, Newbury, England
I honestly think that if there is an issue regarding a player suspecting of cheating, be it with a blue tooth machine or by some dodgy hand signals from seconds, it should be looked into by senior members of FIDE but not publisized even in chess magazines or this website. Chess is at present suffering a general decline and i think that scandals or potential scandals like this do not benefit chess or professionals who make a living by playing. I have loved chess from an early age and I am only 1900 Elo, so it will never affect me. But I have noticed that memberships in clubs and congresses have had a steady fall and if there is doubt that the top players are doing so by themselves this will hurt chess further.

Sam Beaverton, OR, USA
Though I understand and agree that cheating is a problem that needs to be addressed, the CCA and Bill Goichberg are treading dangerous water by outright banning hearing aids. While hearing is not required to play chess, those who are hearing impaired should be allowed to wear their hearing aids. The use of a hearing aid may prove to be a life saver in the event of an emergency situation. Being able to hear alarms and the directions of authorities is essential to anyone during such a time. By banning hearing aids all together the CCA is risking a situation in which someone has the potential for a serious or life threatening injury. One would hope the CCA would be a little more caring towards the needs of the hearing impaired community. Or I suppose those of us who are hearing impaired could just tank a few games hoping that our low score will allow for the rule waiver.

Charles Hall, Orlando, FL, USA
Typical: the exception punishes the majority. How, then do they expect to deal with reality? If people are bent on cheating, they will. India is reacting like the United States...

Randy Bennett, St. John's, Canada
Bluetooth versus toilet bowl ... the youth of today are getting better at it. I predict a bobby pin will be next item of concern.

Shanker Raman
I think it would be greatly appreciated if you publish names of only people who have actually proven to have cheated. IM D.P. Singh, on the other hand, has not proven to have cheated. It spoils their reputation if unproven charges are published.

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