In a blatant violation of Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) order against the All India Chess Federation (AICF), the Sara Bangla Daba Sangstha (SBDS) has publicly announced that players should not play in tournaments not recognised by it.

In a notice on its website SBDS has categorically declared: “It should be remembered that players should take part only in tournaments which are approved and recognised by Sara Bangla Daba Sangstha.”

The SBDS is trying to sabotage the rapid tournament organised by Bhogirath Halder, a chess coach and father of Commonwealth Under 16 Gold Medalist Sneha Halder on 16.6.2024 in Kolkata.

“This is for the knowledge of all concerned that one Bhogirath Halder has published a brochure regarding a tournament supposed to be held on 16th June, 2024 which will be conductrd (conducted) by "Halder Chess Academy" which is not a recognised or approved organization,” the notice states.

Interestingly, the SBDS notice is dated July 24.

The stipulation that tournaments should be compulsorily recognized by AICF has been held illegal and anti-competitive by CCI in 2018.

On July 12, 2018, the CCI passed an order under Section 27 of the Competition Act imposing a penalty of about Rs.6.92 lakh on AICF for contravention of provisions of Section 3 and 4 of the Competition Act and for its anti-competitive conduct.

The CCI had received information from four chess players who were subjected to disciplinary action by AICF for participation in a chess event not authorised by it. The case concerned several stipulations of AICF on chess players, organisation of chess tournaments, discretionary nomination of players and others.

In its order the CCI observed that AICF’s restriction on chess players to participate in unauthorised events and attendant punitive consequences restricted the movement of chess players and placed them and potential organisers of chess tournaments in a disproportional disadvantage.

Hence, such stipulation was held as an unreasonable restriction on chess players and denial of market access to organisers of chess events/ tournaments, in contravention of the provisions of Section 4(1) read with 4(2)(b)(1) and Section 4(2)(c) of the Act.

The restrictions on chess players were further held to be in the nature of exclusive distribution and refusal to deal, in contravention of Section 3(4)(c) and Section 3(4)(d) of the Act, the CCI said.

The order which is applicable to AICF is also equally applicable for its state affiliates like SBDS.

Speaking to IANS Halder said: “We have received about 140 entries for the June 16 tournament. The minimum break even point is 200 entries. However the tournament will be held as scheduled.”

On the charge by SBDS that he was not able to hold the tournament on March 24, 2024 and failed to refund the entry fees Halder said: “I had paid SBDS Rs.4,000 as tournament recognition fee. As per the norm, SBDS would provide the chess boards, clocks and other items. The March 24 tournament had attracted about 300 entries and was supposed to start at 10.30 am. However SBDS had sent the chess boards, clocks to the tournament venue only at 9 am. It was not possible to arrange the boards for 300 players in a short time.”

Alleging that SBDS had sabotaged his March tournament, Halder in a complaint to AICF said: “I approached Sara Bangla Daba for permission to organize a chess tournament in Kolkata. The Secretary of SBDS, Debasish Barua insisted that he and the Treasurer of SBDS Asit Baran Choudhury would be the Arbiters of the tournament and I had to pay them a hefty amount for their service. When I refused, because I have my own team of Arbiters, they sabotaged my tournament by not providing me the equipment after promising to provide chess boards and clocks. I could not start the tournament on time because of their evil design. The tournament was eventually cancelled and I had to incur a huge financial loss.”

Queried about the refund of entry fees Halder said: “The entry fees were returned to many. Many others asked me to adjust that amount towards the entry fee for future tournaments.”

“On the other hand the SBDS has not refunded the fee of Rs.4,000 paid for recognition,” Halder added.

According to Halder, the AICF has not responded to his complaint till date, and that is not surprising.

Even after the CCI’s landmark order against AICF banning chess players – irrespective of their age- for playing in private tournaments, the practice still continues particularly in Tamil Nadu.

Organisers of chess tournaments are also put to immense difficulty by vested interests that contact even the payment gateways and urge them to stop accepting the entry fee saying that the event is an unauthorised one.

“After accepting the entry fees online for a tournament, the payment gateway abruptly stopped it. An official of the payment gateway said they had received several phone calls saying that our tournament was not authorised and their future business would be affected if they continue to receive entry fee,” retired army official J.Jeevan Kumar, Secretary, Evans Chess Club told IANS over phone from Nagercoil.

According to him, such an incident has happened to him earlier as well.

Last year three players - M.Karunakaran, 68, V.Palanikumar, 58, and Merryston David Scanny, 48- were not allowed to play in the Tirunelveli District Selection tournament at the last moment.

The reason? According to Scanny, the Tirunelveli District Chess Development Association Secretary B.Paulkumar did not allow them to play as they had played in a private tournament in Tenkasi district earlier.

In 2019, Paulkumar had barred then 11-year-old Karthik Rahul from playing in a tournament midway on the grounds that he had played in a private tournament.

However no action has been taken by AICF on these issues despite complaints being lodged with it.

(Except for the headline, this story, from a syndicated feed, has not been edited by Odishatv.in staff)

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