On Monday night, world chess champion Magnus Carlsen broke his silence about his recent resignation after one move against American Hans Niemann, with this unambiguous allegation: Niemann had cheated. He also said that cheating posed an existential threat to the sport.
"I believe that [Hans] Niemann has cheated more, and more recently, than he has publicly admitted," Carlsen said in his statement. The statement came days after their match at the online Champions Chess Cup tournament ended abruptly; Carlsen played one move, resigned, and turned off his camera.
This followed a similarly controversial meeting at the Sinquefield Cup earlier this month, which Niemann (19) won. Carlsen then withdrew from the tournament, an unprecedented move that rocked the relatively staid chess world.
- Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 5, 2022
What caused Carlsen's resignation at the Champions Chess Cup?
After resigning, Carlsen issued a statement saying Niemann's over-the-board progress was unusual and that the American had outplayed him with black pieces in a way that only a handful of players do. He said he'd even considered withdrawing from the Sinquefield Cup when Niemann was invited at the last minute.
My statement regarding the last few weeks. pic.twitter.com/KY34DbcjLo
- Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 26, 2022
What does Niemann say?
Niemann's rise in the last 18 months has been meteoric, his Elo rating shot up from 2484 in January 2021 to his current rating of 2688. He recently admitted that he had cheated in matches on Chess.com at the ages of 12 and 16, but denied accusations of cheating against Carlsen in the Sinquefield Cup.
He also offered to play naked to prove that there was no outside interference through any device attached to his body.
Chess.com issued a statement on September 9, saying they had suspended Niemann's account on their platform. They also stated they have provided the American with evidence to prove that his cheating on the platform was more in number and more serious than he had admitted it to be.
- Chess.com (@chesscom) September 8, 2022
American GM Hikaru Nakamura added to the swirling debate when he said, on his YouTube channel, that Niemann was not able to participate for over six months in any prize money tournaments on Chess.com, which was unusual.
How did Niemann "cheat"?
Well, there is no evidence to prove that Niemann did indeed cheat over the board against Carlsen. Carlsen's statement only points to circumstantial evidence such as Niemann's body language, concentration levels, and his shock at being outplayed by a young player playing with black pieces.
However, in a Twitch live stream, Canadian grandmasters Eric Hansen and Aman Hambleton accused Niemann of manipulating "anal beads" to send him signals about his moves.
Yes, anal beads. The accusation is that Niemann could have inserted a sex toy and - possibly from an assistant - received vibrations via remote control, according to German publication Bild.
Niemann, however, has defended himself against these allegations, saying that he has never cheated over the board.
What next for the sport?
This is the big question that lies ahead for FIDE, chess' governing body. An allegation of cheating, coming from the reigning world champion and arguably the greatest to play the sport, cannot be brushed under the carpet.
Chess.com publicising their evidence to support the fact that Niemann had been cheating more recently than he's willing to admit could be a potential first step towards a solution.