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Umakant Sharma banned for 10 years

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The All India Chess Federation has slapped a ten-year ban on Umakant Sharma, a chess player from Southern Railway, for using a Bluetooth device during a FIDE-rated tournament in Delhi and gaining unfair advantage through it.

At its central council meeting here on Tuesday, the Federation viewed Sharma's act in the Air Marshal Subroto FIDE tournament with serious concern and decided on a strong punishment. At the meeting, the AICF Treasurer, Bharat Singh Chauhan, exhibited the device to the members. This is the first time that the Federation has taken such a severe action against a player in the country.

The Federation Secretary, D.V. Sundar, said Sharma and another player D.P. Singh, an International Master have been under the scanner ever since it was noticed that the two had risen phenomenally in their Elo rating — from 1930 to 2484 in the case of Sharma and from 2350 to 2500 for Singh — in the space of just one and half years.

"Not even Viswanathan Anand has progressed with such speed," said Mr. Sundar.

Raising suspicion

The doubts about them had arisen at the National `A' championship held recently in Vishakapatnam but it was in the Delhi tournament that Sharma act came to light after a few players sensed something wrong and complained.

"We found he had hidden this device under a woollen cap," he said. A committee was been formed with R.M. Dongre, Vice President, as chairman to look into the alleged external help that Singh might have received.

The Council also decided that donor entries — those who do not go as part of the Indian team for World and Asian age group championships — would also be merit-based in future. "This is to ensure that all and sundry do not send entries merely for the sake of getting participation certificates," Mr. Sundar said.

The AICF also decided that complaints and protests regarding over-aged players in national championships would be entertained only until the end of the third round.

The Federation allotted the National `B' championship for 2007 to Tamil Nadu and the 2008 edition to Goa.

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