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Swati Ghate speaks about the watch incident and suggests possible solutions

by Sagar Shah - 16/02/2020

WGM Swati Ghate was inconsolable and wept for hours after she lost her game due to wearing a wristwatch against Tania Sachdev in the final round of the National Team Championships 2020. A day after the incident, when Swati felt a bit better, she decided to write a post on Facebook about what had transpired. The thoughtful post with a tinge of humour began with the words, "What a coincidence that on a Valentine's day, I find myself in middle of controversy linked to a watch gifted by my husband." Swati not only explains what happened with her, but also gives possible solutions to the watch rule. Also in the article is IM Nisha Mohota's take on this entire episode.

On 13th of February WGM Swati Ghate, playing in the final round of the National Team Championships 2020 against Tania Sachdev, forgot to take off her wrist watch. 10 moves into the game the arbiter spotted her wearing the wrist watch and gave her a loss. Although it was an analog watch, not an electronic or a smart watch, the regulations of the event disallowed players from wearing any kind of wrist watches. Swati Ghate accepted the verdict and left the playing hall. The full story with quotes by Swati, chief arbiter Anantharam and opponent Tania Sachdev, can be read here.

Swati Ghate with her wrist watch in her final round game against Tania Sachdev at the National Teams 2020 | Photo: Gopakumar Sudhakaran

After the tournament ended, Swati Ghate travelled back to her home town Pune and wrote a post on her Facebook profile. We now reproduce it here.

The watch incident and possible solutions

by Swati Ghate


What a coincidence that on a Valentine's day, I find myself in middle of controversy linked to a watch gifted by my husband. It is a beautiful watch, and more importantly it helps me be on time for games and office beating the traffic... And still I lost a very important game because of it on technical ground.

Swati with her husband Amit and son Aryan

Surely it is a silly mistake. But I was totally focusing on the upcoming game and got a little distracted with the photo session and forgot to remove it. I was inconsolable, wept for hours but nothing's gonna change.


Now a day later, little calm, I am thinking how the rules can be improved to avoid these kind of incidents. Well, in the first place watches are banned to ensure that some player should not be able to get help in the game. But an analog unconnected time piece is of no use to anyone. Surely there is no point in burdening the arbitrators to evaluate if the watch is harmless. Rule is rule! But how effective this rule can be? In today's world can any gadget not take form of a (hair) clip or spectacles and still let someone fool the system?

I think this problem created using technology can best be overcome by technology itself. Here is what I think can be done instead.


1. Delay all the games broadcast to outside by 8-9 moves.

2. Use network/signal jammers to block all communication bluetooth/zigbee/4g etc.


3. Force everyone to use organizer provided wifi if at all needed. Track communication over it. And keep turning it off and on randomly.


4. For important tournaments use AI/ML/CV to detect people/players with suspicious behavior and monitor them.


I know it all sounds high tech, but if we need to protect the interest of the game and players, Fide and other associations can join hands with technology biggies like Cisco/Amazon/Google and get some solution to this. May be some technology is already available and can be used. That will be more effective and we can avoid unintended victims of the rules.


And till the time this happens, on lighter note I will advise all chess girls to ask for diamond rings and necklaces as gifts from their Valentine.. and not WATCHES.. :) . Just kidding.. better get a pack of chocolates before a tournament .. you can safely have it during the game and get both energy and love.. Happy Valentine's Day!

Nisha Mohota (centre) who came to meet Swati Ghate after the game along with Kiran Manisha Mohanty. The two of them tried to cheer her up! | Photo: Nisha Mohota

IM Nisha Mohota's thoughts on the incident:

A lot has been discussed since yesterday regarding my good friend Woman Grandmaster Swati Ghate's watch incident. For the people who do not know it, I will narrate what happened-

1. Swati, who was on a fantastic 5.5/6 score going into the last round, goes to the National Women Team Chess Championship wearing her analog watch to ensure she reaches the tournament hall on time.


2. In India any kind of watches are not allowed during the game. This has been done so that a player should not get any kind of help by means of technology. Analog watches are harmless but as it is difficult to distinguish easily between an analog watch and a digital watch, this rule has come up. I recently went on a Europe trip and played 6 tournaments abroad. I could wear my analog watch and play in every tourney, only digital watches were not allowed.


3. As it was the last round, there was group photo session of teams before the start of the game. Everyday Swati would remove her watch and keep it away before the start of the game. That day for some reason it slipped her mind. A human error. (For people shouting how can you forget, I sometimes go to my kitchen for something and then forget why I went there!! We are humans. It's human to forget.)


4. After a few moves of the game, it was spotted that she had forgotten to remove the watch and was declared lost. Swati's opponent IM Tania Sachdev, against whom Swati has a plus score from the past, was ready to play on but the arbiter declared Swati lost.


5. My game was going on at that time. I went to the washroom and when I was returning, I saw Swati with red eyes. I knew something had gone very wrong and Swati was terribly upset. I was curious. I went to her board and realised that the scoresheets had been signed in some 10 moves. I knew humans cannot beat Swati in 10 moves, so the culprit was either a watch or a phone which Swati had carried by mistake. After I finished my game, I went where Swati was. She had cried so much that by the time I finished my game she fell off to sleep sitting. I knew she had been very upset over her mistake. I woke her up as I wanted to cheer her up. In fact, Swati had not worn the watch again. She was very upset with herself. I wanted to see the watch and told her to wear it, so that I could take photo with it. She was reluctant at first but I mentioned how sportingly Adhiban had taken his mistake. Later she sportingly allowed us to take photo with it!

That's what friends do - they convert sadness into smiles! | Photo: Anagha Yardi

Since yesterday, am hearing lots of people, specially who themselves were never a good player, who have no idea what tension a player goes through before the start of every game, who have no idea about how respected a player Swati is, pointing finger at Swati. [Their complain being how dare she forget removing the watch and break the rules??!!!! (Man, she made a human mistake, paid a big price for it...what's your problem in life?)] The strong players do understand that this human mistake made Swati lose her game and it was heartbreaking for her to lose in such fashion, specially when she had been unbeaten till then.

Articles on the watch incident:

Adhiban loses for possessing Analog Watch at the National Teams 2020

What can we learn from Adhiban's watch incident?

Adhiban's watch incident - the arbiter's claification

The watch rule strikes again! WGM Swati Ghate loses her game against IM Tania Sachdev

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