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'Costliest mistake of absent-mindedness': Chess prodigy Priyanka vows to bounce back from expulsion

Priyanka Nutakki was expelled from the World Junior Chess Championship for accidentally carrying a pair of earbuds in her jacket. She explains why they were left there, but adds that it is good that rules are as strict as they are.

Costliest mistake of absent-mindedness: Chess prodigy Priyanka vows to bounce back from expulsion

Woman Grandmaster Priyanka Nutakki in action (File Photo)


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 20 Oct 2022 8:34 AM GMT

Priyanka Nutakki was supposed to be India's best bet at a podium finish at the ongoing World Junior Chess Championships in Italy. However, following her expulsion from the tournament for inadvertently carrying a pair of earbuds to her match, the 20-year-old is now taking a few days off to reflect on her mistake.

"I am not an absent-minded person in general. This is definitely the costliest mistake so far. It could happen to any player. Earbuds are not a very heavy object and it's not that we check our jacket pockets regularly. The reason why they were left in my jacket was that I had gone out for a walk in the morning with some others. Even if I had been listening to some music, I would have remembered to take them out," Priyanka told The Bridge over a telephone call from Italy.

A statement from FIDE, the world chess body, said about the incident: "While there is no indication of foul play on her part, earbuds are strictly forbidden at the playing hall. Carrying these devices during a game is a violation of fair play policies and it is penalised with the loss of the game and expulsion from the tournament."

Priyanka's impressive start to the tournament - she had four wins and two draws in her first six matches - was overturned and the point she won in her sixth and final game was awarded to her rival Govhar Beydullayeva, who ironically then went to the top of the leaderboard.

"It was only at the routine check after the match that the earbuds were discovered. I had no idea before that. Once they were found, there was little that could be done. I was allowed to talk to my coaches and we lodged an appeal, but we knew the rules," said Priyanka.

Whether this rule is a fair one was dissected at length on social media soon after. According to some, if a player is accidentally found to be carrying a prohibited object with no intention of cheating, they should be made to forfeit the game only and not be kicked out of the tournament.

But Priyanka, while admitting that she hoped an exception would be made in her case, supported the strict rule.

"There is a lot of noise about cheating in chess nowadays. If the rules are strictly enforced, then people will be scared to cheat. That is good for our sport," she said.

Responding to the biggest logistical question around the incident - why the earbuds were not discovered in her jacket before her match when she was entering the venue - she said, "Perhaps nobody was expecting it. There were routine checks at all stages, but the earbuds were found only at the end of the match."

With an ELO rating of 2326, the seventh seed was expected to make a mark at the World Championships. That was not to be, but there is still a long road ahead for the young Woman Grandmaster. For now, Priyanka is looking ahead to the Asian Continental Chess Championships, starting in New Delhi next week.

"I have been overwhelmed by the support pouring in for me from complete strangers following the earbud incident. I hope to move on and I don't want this one incident to define me," she said.

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