United States chess grandmaster Hans Niemann upset Magnus Carlsen, No. 1-ranked player in the world and world chess champion, in the Sinquefield Cup on September 4th in the third round. Niemann ended Carlsen’s 53-game unbeaten streak in classical over the board tournaments, and there are rumors that the young American cheated.
According to reports, online chatter has circulated saying the 19-year-old Niemann, a relative newcomer and ranked 98th at the time, inserted wireless vibrating anal beads into his body before his match against Carlsen, and with the aide of artificial intelligence he was alerted as to what moves to make.
The theory is that an accomplice watching the match at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis used a chess program to determine the perfect move, and then sent encoded instructions via the anal beads.
Carlsen withdrew from the tournament after the loss and posted a cryptic tweet, which certainly fanned the flames of Niemann cheating.
I’ve withdrawn from the tournament. I’ve always enjoyed playing in the @STLChessCluband hope to be back in the future https://t.co/YFSpl8er3u
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 5, 2022
Niemann has denied cheating Carlsen in this instance, but did admit to cheating in the past.
“If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it,” said Niemann. “I don’t care. Because I know I am clean. You want me to play in a closed box with zero electronic transmission, I don’t care. I’m here to win and that is my goal regardless.”
“I cheated on random games on Chess.com. I was confronted. I confessed. And this is the single biggest mistake of my life. And I am completely ashamed. I am telling the world because I don’t want misrepresentations and I don’t want rumours. I have never cheated in an over-the-board game. And other than when I was 12 years old I have never cheated in a tournament with prize money.”
In many ways this was the perfect storm and in the social media/online age when a rumor spreads, true or not, it’s hard to dispel.
Carlsen is the older, 31, and a superior player. He was on a 53-game unbeaten streak. Chess has order and rules, it’s rare for the number one player in the world to get upset by a player barely in the top 100, even if that player is a grandmaster.
Carlsen was playing with the white pieces, which meant he played first and set the opening tone. It is commonly believed that the player moving first has the clear advantage in chess. Being that Carlsen is the number one ranked player, this is another reason the rumors of Niemann somehow cheating carry weight in the online chatter.
While commenters on Twitch or Chess.com might think Niemann cheated, the organizers of the Sinquefield Cup do not.
Chris Bird, the chief arbiter of the Sinquefield Cup, released a statement which in part read there was no indication that any competitor was “playing unfairly.”
— Grand Chess Tour (@GrandChessTour) September 10, 2022
Despite the popularity of the Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit,” competitive chess is still very much a niche sport. This type of scandal will certainly bring chess more into the mainstream at least for a time. Human beings like scandal. It’s been proven throughout history.
A cheating scandal in a game like chess where players are presumed by the mainstream to be geeky or nerdy, involving anal beads and AI? There will at least be a bit of seven day wonder.
The Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or FIDE, is the governing body of professional chess and is aware of the situation. It bears paying attention to what, if any, official statement or comment on the matter is released.
Whether he won fairly or not, Niemann has gained notoriety and will be someone to watch, and fans will get to see him play again as soon as Sept. 18 in the Julius Baer Generation Cup, a tournament in which he’s scheduled to play Carlsen again in the sixth round on Monday, Sept. 19.