By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, June 20 (IANS) Indian chess players are hoping that the June 23 annual general meeting (AGM) of the All India Chess Federation (AICF) will deliberate and bring the curtains down on the issue of banned chess players.
Recently the global chess body FIDE announced its decision to restore the Elo ratings of dozens of Indian players in their records.
“Nearly a decade ago, FIDE, at the behest of AICF, removed the Elo ratings of dozens of players and expunged their names from the records. Today we are delighted to welcome back all those players with immediate effect,” FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich had said in a statement on May 27.
“We, as players, expect the FIDE’s decision to restore the rating of several dozens of players will be discussed at the AICF AGM. We hope the issue is finally settled in an amicable manner,” chess Grandmaster (GM) Abhijit Kunte told IANS.
“The key point is that FIDE removed the ratings of these players, and that FIDE has the right to reinstate them,” Grandmaster and FIDE Vice President Nigel Short had told IANS.
“It’s not sudden. The issue has been going on for years. It has been an extraordinary waste of time and resources. It is time to move on. The new FIDE administration’s first priority is to promote and encourage chess, not to control chess,” Short had told IANS.
Come July 12, 2019, it will be one year since the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had held that the undertaking prescribed by the AICF for players regarding non-participation in events not authorised by it amounts to restraints that were in the nature of exclusive distribution and refusal to deal as defined in Section 3(f) and 3(4)(d) of the Competition Act, 2002.
The CCI also imposed a penalty of Rs 6,92,350 on the AICF for infringing on the provisions of Section 4 of the Act.
The CCI said that non-compliance with such an undertaking will result in banning of players and removal of their Elo rating, create entry barriers, foreclose competition and restrict the opportunities available to chess players.
The CCI order had also directed the AICF to establish the prejudice caused by a chess player before taking any disciplinary action against them and the disciplinary actions taken shall be proportional, fair and transparent.
The disciplinary actions against the four players and other similar players shall be reviewed by the AICF on these lines, the CCI had ordered.
The complaint against the AICF was filed by four chess players — Hemant Sharma, Devendra Bajpai, Gurpreet Pal Singh and Karun Duggal — alleging contravention of the provisions of Sections 3 and 4 of the Competition Act.
The players were banned by the AICF from playing in chess tournaments for the past several years and their Elo ratings were also withdrawn. One of the four players who had originally complained to the CCI — Hemant Sharma — was re-registered with the AICF in 2016.
“It is 10 years since the four players were banned by AICF. It is time to settle the issue and move forward,” Kunte said.
Echoing him, India’s second GM Dibyendu Barua told IANS: “Definitively AICF AGM should deliberate the issue after FIDE has decided to restore the Elo rating of the banned players and put an end to this issue.”
Complimenting the AICF for doing many good things for the game, Barua added: “I don’t see any reason why the matter should not be discussed at the ensuing AGM.”
Toning down its earlier conditions, the AICF said players seeking re-registration need not to pay 50 per cent of the prize money they had earned playing in unrecognised tournaments.
The AICF stipulated that the banned players have to tender a written apology and give an undertaking that they will henceforth abide by the existing bye-laws/rules.
The Indian chess body had recently said that its primary focus is not punishment but enforcing discipline and talent promotion.
According to Singh, the AICF had banned him and three other players in 2010 while the rule asking for an undertaking by players on not playing in unrecognised tournaments was introduced in 2011.
“When there was no violation of any rule why should I apologise,” Singh told IANS.
For the smooth functioning of all sports federations and the welfare of the players, Barua said: “Fifty per cent of the office bearers of all sports federations should be former players, current and national champions (male and female). The government should bring in such a rule.”
The two Indian chess GMs – Kunte and Barua – said if the AICF decides to bring the curtains down on the matter then many affected players will be happy.
“This apart, a generally cordial atmosphere would prevail between the AICF and the chess players,” they remarked.