Explore holding Nationals online, Chess Players Forum urges AICF

The newly formed Chess Players Forum (CPF) has urged the All India Chess Federation (AICF) to explore the possibility of holding the National Championships and rated tournaments online with players at their designated centres.

In a letter to AICF President P.R. Venketrama Raja and Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan, the CPF President and International Master (IM) Varugeese Koshy has requested the formation of a task force and chalking out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for holding such tournaments.

Koshy said the task force could comprise players, arbiters, organisers and officials from the AICF and the state chess bodies so that the National Championships and other chess activities could restart in India.

The major problem with conducting online chess tournaments is the possibility of cheating with unscrupulous players using chess engines to make their moves.

“We will be happy to be a part of such a task force, if required, for the benefit of the players and all the stakeholders,” Koshy wrote.

Koshy also cited a recent webinar where former World Champion and Grandmaster (GM) Viswanathan Anand advocated for online chess.

“Grandmaster Emil Sutovsky, Director General, FIDE, suggested even the Chess Olympiad may be organised online with participants placed in designated centres in their own countries respectively in the presence of arbiters,” Koshy said.

According to Koshy, it was also said at the webinar to explore the possibilities of organising the Nationals in the same fashion after identifying such centers across the country.

Pointing out the several examination centres where various tests are held, Chauhan said at the webinar that online state/national championships could be held with players coming to such test centres located in their cities to play where arbiters would be present to prevent cheating.

Speaking to IANS, an Indian chess GM said preferring anonymity: “Pure online chess right now is playing from home without any monitoring. Hence online chess is having the biggest problem, i.e., cheating and players getting logged off. That is why FIDE hasn’t allowed any rated online tournament.”

He said if the players play under observation of an arbiter, which happens in traditional tournaments, then rated tournaments could be held even when Covid-19 pandemic is not there, resulting in cost savings for the organisers which may in turn increase the prize kitty.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put a stop to traditional/physical chess tournaments and paved way for online chess tournaments, but only in the blitz or speed chess category.

“Physical tournaments may not be held for nearly one year owing to Covid-19. And for holding rated online championships, lots of caution has to be taken like whether the designated centres have decent facilities and who should provide the laptops/desktops,” Koshy told IANS.

Queried about addressing the letter to Raja as AICF President and Chauhan as AICF Secretary when there is a power struggle going on between them with each one not recognising the other, Koshy said: “As far as the players are concerned, they continue to hold office. The Central government continue to recognise them as the AICF President and Secretary. We do not take sides with anybody.”