India’s youngest billionaire beat the former world chess champion by cheating in the Checkmate Covid charity event. His chess.com account was closed soon thereafter for violating the site’s fair play policy, and he offered an apology for receiving external assistance.
What is Checkmate Covid?
The charity event’s goal was to raise funds for Covid relief in India, featuring a livestreamed simultaneous exhibition given by former world chess champion Viswanathan Anand and other Grandmasters from India, with all proceeds going to RedCross India and the Checkmate COVID initiative of the All India Chess Federation (AICF).
Prospective participants had to have a rating below 2000 and make a donation when registering for the event (minimum $25 and $150 to specifically play against Anand). The matches were played with 30+30 time control, meaning players had 30 minutes plus 30 seconds for each move to play out the game, with the grandmasters giving the simuls given an added 15 minutes to work with.
Nikhil Kamath was the only player to beat the five-time world champion during the event. Just a few days before, he fell for the Scholar’s Mate.
Who is Nikhil Kamath?
Nikhil Kamath is India’s youngest billionaire and the CIO and co-founder of financial services company Zerodha. He played chess fairly seriously until his teenage years when he swapped over to the much more lucrative world of stock markets instead.
He joined the exhibition not having played chess in a serious capacity for fifteen years and proceeded to blunder a pawn (or if you want to be generous, played a speculative gambit) in the very first move.
Did Nikhil Kamath win by cheating in the chess exhibition?
By his own admission, yes. The monstrous jump in skill exhibited between his small selection of blitz games played on chess.com (where he made elementary blunders) and his performance in the simul is a red flag by itself, and the website’s automated cheat-checking algorithms seem to have also picked up on his performances.
Maybe the whole plan was wrong. You know you just feel like you have an extra pawn and matters would take care of themselves. But then at some point I could not detect a single mistake in his moves. They were just all perfect, tactically also perfect, everything worked. After 28…Bg4 Bxg4 Nxg4 is nice but also Qxh2, I didn’t see what to do. But by then it’s just too late. I don’t think it matters what I do at that point.Anand in his post-match interview
Nikhil-Kamath’s account was closed less than a day later.
The billionaire admitted to using external assistance in a tweet but that was also not without controversy as he involved the former world champion in a way he seems to have explicitly requested not to be:
ChessBase India reached out to Anand’s wife for a statement and this was what she had to say:
Well, Nikhil contacted Anand today and explained this tweet. Anand replied to say that he can’t deny the algorithm and personally wouldn’t comment on the issue. He requested Mr. Kamath not to involve Anand’s name in his tweets or in his course of action. That he went ahead and did it and allege something is disrespectful.Aruna Anand on the controversy
Checkmate Covid ultimately raised over $50 000 for India.
Header image courtesy of chess.com
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