- Jason Chen and Shiv Sibal
Chess Scandal: Grandmaster Takes an “L”
On September 4th, the chess world was shocked when Hans Niemann, an American Grandmaster, was accused of cheating. These accusations came from an important match between Niemann and Magnus Carlsen, the reigning world champion, in the Sinquefield Cup. Niemann defeated Carlsen handily, leading to some questions about the integrity of the match.
In an interview, Niemann was asked about the game and said his performance speaks for itself. After the embarrassing loss, Magnus Carlsen thought that Niemann cheated in the game. The reigning world champion said that Niemann looked like he wasn’t even trying during their game. After the defeat, Carlsen withdrew from the tournament, which he had not done in his entire career. When they played in an online tournament soon after, Carlsen resigned on the 2nd move of the game, refusing to play Niemann.
This accusation caused an explosion in the chess community, and people rallied for their “side.” However, Carlsen soon broke the silence and exposed Niemann's coach, American Grandmaster Maxim Dlugy, who has a past of cheating in chess.
Niemann is a strong chess player who has had an abnormal increase in FIDE rating during the last few years. He confessed that he previously cheated multiple times online in 2015 and 2017, respectively. During these times, Chess.com, the most popular online chess platform, launched an investigation.
Despite his defense, the Chess.com investigation reported that Niemann has cheated over 100 times online as recently as 2020. According to the report, not only has he cheated against other grandmasters, but he cheated in multiple cash tournaments called Titled Tuesday. Many other content creators brought up a spreadsheet of Niemann's games and compared them to computers’ moves. They found that he has played many games with above 90% accuracy.
Following the accusations, many prestigious chess tournaments banned Niemann from entering. But, there has been no solid evidence that Niemann had cheated in a live match. On October 19th, Niemann was playing in the 2022 US Championships against grandmaster Sam Sevian. In the middle of the game, Sevian abruptly picked up Niemann's king, and a part of the piece broke off. Niemann was furious, but later described it as a misunderstanding.
In over-the-board/live tournaments, players can cheat in a variety of ways. Examples of this include hiding devices in bathrooms and remote signals. A meme soon arose that Niemann beat Carlsen with the help of beads. Since the accusation of Niemann’s cheating, anti-cheating measures have become more robust. Players are now being scanned for cheating devices more often.
At this point, Niemann's career is pretty much finished. With almost nothing left to do, he filed a 100 million dollar lawsuit against Carlsen, Hikaru (who supported Carlsen), Chess.com, and Danny Rensch for defamation. The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of breaking antitrust laws.
“I’m skeptical of Hans because of his past of cheating, but assumptions are being made left and right on social media without solid evidence of Hans cheating."
Albert Li (‘23), a member of the Edgemont chess team said, “I’m skeptical of Hans because of his past of cheating, but assumptions are being made left and right on social media without solid evidence of Hans cheating. This situation became way bigger than it should have, and I'm not sure how to feel about that.”
"I think that the chess world has a right to be suspicious of Hans; however, they shouldn't make strong accusations without solid evidence."
Ethan Kurian, also part of the Edgemont chess community said. "I think that the chess world has a right to be suspicious of Hans; however, they shouldn't make strong accusations without solid evidence. I think Magnus has a strong case but has taken it a bit too far. He doesn't have any evidence to prove that Hans was cheating over the board."
Although there isn’t any solid evidence that Hans Niemann cheated in his game against Magnus Carlsen, the fact that he cheated more frequently than he originally admitted brings up some doubts. Since Niemann was not thoroughly checked in the Sinquefield Cup, there is a possibility that he used some mysterious beads to blow away the competition.