Tuesday, Dec 26, 2023

‘Organisers made fun, police said they can’t do much’: Indian chess players lose valuables in 3 separate break-ins in Spain

The list of players who were affected by three separate incidents of robberies includes GM Sankalp Gupta, IM Dushyant Sharma, WGM Srija Seshadri, WIM Mounika Akshaya, WIM Arpita Mukherjee and WFM Vishwa Shah

Screengrab from a video posted on social media by woman international master Mounika Akshaya showing her handbag and her passport dumped in the balcony of her apartment in Sitges in Spain.Screengrab from a video posted on social media by woman international master Mounika Akshaya showing her handbag and her passport dumped in the balcony of her apartment in Sitges in Spain.

As many as six chess players from India lost valuable possessions, including laptops, cash, electronics and even a passport, when they were in the Spanish coastal town of Sitges to compete in the Sunway Sitges Chess tournament.

The list of players who were affected by three separate incidents of break-ins into their apartments includes grandmaster Sankalp Gupta, international master Dushyant Sharma, woman grandmaster Srija Seshadri, woman international master Mounika Akshaya, woman international master Arpita Mukherjee and woman FIDE master Vishwa Shah. There was a sizeable contingent of over 70 Indian players competing at the event.

The first incident happened in the room shared by GM Sankalp Gupta and international master Dushyant Sharma on the 19th of this month. Three days later, two separate apartments were hit on the same day in the space of a few hours: in the first one, an apartment shared by five players including WIM Mounika Akshaya was hit and in the second, the apartment that had WIM Arpita Mukherjee and WFM Vishwa Shah was burgled.


All three apartments were in the official accommodation buildings identified for the Indian players by the tournament organisers, located within two kilometres from where the event was happening. So far no players of any other nationality have complained of their apartments being broken into or their possessions going missing.

“I lost my laptop, laptop charger and airpods. My roommate Dushyant lost his passport and had to drop out of the tournament to go to the Indian Consulate the next day to get documentation made to travel back to India,” GM Sankalp Gupta told The Indian Express.

Festive offer

While Sankalp and Dushyant were playing matches when their room was broken into, the second incident happened when the five players had gone for a 45-minute walk. In the third incident, players had allowed themselves just a short window of three hours of sleep when the incident happened.

“It was very bizarre. They took my airpods, but left my roommate’s behind. They stole my roommate’s passport, but left mine behind after rummaging through the bag it was in. I can still track the location of my airpods, they’re at the same location for the last three days. I know exactly where they are in Barcelona: an area called La Mina. I told the police that and asked if I should go myself to retrieve them. They told us that it was one of the most dangerous areas of Barcelona and dissuaded us from going there,” Sankalp added.


In a statement, even as the organisers tried to empathise with the players, they made a veiled attempt to shift the blame on the affected players. “…It is speculated that an unfortunate oversight in locking doors or windows may have been a contributing factor,” the organisers said. The statement also said that they had hired a security guard to patrol the area after the first incident and that the apartment where the third incident had happened was under CCTV surveillance and that it had not caught anyone breaking into the apartment.

“Because we had heard of the incident with Sankalp, we were already very cautious. So we went for a walk, but not before ensuring every door and window was properly locked. Besides, one person was sleeping in the apartment. If that person was not there, all five of us would have lost our belongings. When we came back, my laptop, my purse and my roommate Srija Seshadri’s phone were missing. But when we went to the balcony, my purse and my passport were thrown there. They took money and silver ornaments, but my passport was luckily left behind,” Mounika recollected.

“The organisers helped us file a complaint but the police told us on our face that it’s going to be no use.”


Sankalp also dismissed the claim from the organisers that the players had been careless in locking doors and windows. He said that after the second incident, many of the Indian players were on high alert.

“Players in Arpita and Vishwa’s apartment went to sleep at 3:00 am. When they woke up at 6.30 am, their mobile phones which were in the same room as they were, kept beside them as they slept, had been flicked. In this third incident, things could have been a lot worse as the women were present in the house,” said Sankalp before adding: “The thing I am most angry about is that later we found reviews for the apartments on the internet which said there had been similar incidents in the past. So this was not a one-off or isolated incident. And still, they did not have any preventative measures in place.”

The players claimed that there was just the one security guard to patrol the almost 2-kilometre-wide area and that there were minimal CCTV cameras present.

“When we asked the organisers for compensation for things we had lost because this was their official apartment, they made fun of us. They said they will compensate by providing dinner,” said Mounika.

First published on: 25-12-2023 at 21:59 IST
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