In a sudden and surprising development for the chess players and a setback for the All India Chess Federation (AICF), the global chess body FIDE on Monday announced the restoration of 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 said in a statement.
“This is big news not only for the affected players, but for all the Indian chess players. It is a big slap on the face of AICF and its officials who had destroyed the chess careers of many players,” Gurpreet Pal Singh, one of the players banned by the AICF years ago, told IANS.
“The AICF officials, who were instrumental in banning us and removing our Elo ratings and who still continue in AICF, should immediately resign owing moral responsibility for spoiling the sporting future of dozens of players,” Karun Duggal, another banned player, told IANS.
British Grandmaster (GM) and FIDE Vice President Nigel Short tweeted: “A hugely positive statement by #FIDE President @advorkovich. #Chess must be for the players & lovers of the game — not for the administrators.”
“It 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 told IANS.
Several Indian chess players erupted in joy hearing the news from FIDE and congratulated Duggal and Singh.
However, the FIDE statement is silent on the procedure to be followed for the reinduction of the dozens of players who were banned by the AICF.
Meanwhile, the AICF faced a setback recently at the Competition Commission of India (CCI). According to Singh and Duggal, the CCI in its order dated May 9, 2019 told the AICF that it has not complied entirely with its order dated July 12, 2018 by keeping in abeyance the rule that prohibits players from playing in unauthorised tournaments and not rescinding it totally.
On May 9, 2019, the CCI directed the AICF to file an undertaking that it will rescind its rule that prohibits players from participating in chess tournaments not authorised by the latter.
The AICF had also said that players seeking re-registration should tender a written apology and give an undertaking that they will henceforth abide by the existing bye-laws/rules.
On July 12, 2018, the 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 said restrictions are likely to have appreciable adverse effect on competition in terms of factors contained in Section 19 (3) of the Act. The Commission is, thus, of the view that AICF has contravened Sections 3(4)(c) and 3(4)(d) of the Act read with Section 3(1) of the Act,” the CCI order said.
The CCI order had also directed the AICF to establish the prejudice caused by a chess player before taking any disciplinary action against him 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.