It was a heated, high-profile match as five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand took on a Bollywood actor, two celebrity singers, a cricketer, a film producer and a billionaire all at once in an online charity chess tournament for COVID-19 relief on Sunday.
While Anand, the first Asian to ever bag a world chess title, was slated to win, the chess community was shook when it was Nikhil Kamath, India’s youngest billionaire and the co-founder of stock brokerage tech firm Zerodha, who emerged as the winner.
That was until Monday, when 34-year-old Kamath tweeted that it was “ridiculous” that people thought he actually beat Anand, admitting that he had help from people analysing the game and a computer engine to predict his moves.
While Kamath’s public apology suggested that Anand was in on him tricking the system, Anand responded to his tweet by saying that everyone was expected to uphold the ethics of the game.
“When I watched a replay of the tournament, I was suspicious because his moves were exactly what a computer engine would play,” Srinath Narayanan, an Indian chess grandmaster and coach, told VICE World News.
Narayanan, who regularly livestreams his analyses of chess moves, explained that the use of plugins or computer engines that predict the moves for the player in order to help them win have become more common with the community’s shift to online platforms.
“We see a lot of kids do it, but when someone in such a high position, who has the ability to inspire people, does it, it’s a huge problem.”
Narayanan isn’t the only one upset with Kamath. Chess players around the world have condemned Kamath for using a computer engine to game the system.
Some even pointed out that his apology was a weak defense, and that he had no real reason to cheat since it was a charity event.
Others are upset that he not only embarrassed Anand during the tournament but also suggested he was involved.
Kamath - who dropped out of school at 14 and co-founded India’s largest stock brokerage firm when he was 23 - has spoken about how playing chess in his childhood shaped his success as a stock trader by making him mentally disciplined.
Chess.com, which hosted the event on its platform, initially blocked accounts associated with the charity event including Kamath’s, but clarified in a statement to VICE World News that they had been re-opened.
“Vishy Anand wants to forgive and forget. Chess.com has no reason to uphold anything given its rules and guidelines toward UNrated games and exhibition events,” Laura Nystorm, the public relations manager at Chess.com, told VICE World News in an email.
The website is an internet chess server that hosts ten million chess games every day and supports more than 50 world class chess players. It also regularly hosts charity matches. Earlier this year, Hikaru Nakamaru, an American chess prodigy, raised more than $358,000 for humanitarian aid through a livestream on the site.
So far, the COVID-19 relief fundraiser hosted on Chess.com has only raised $11,673. The billionaire Kamath’s brokerage firm has an estimated daily turnover of $10 billion. According to Forbes, Kamath and his brother, who he co-owns the brokerage firm with, have a net worth of $1.55 billion.