A major scandal is rocking the world of competitive chess after the shocking defeat of the top chess player by an upstart 19-year-old.
There were only 10 players participating in the competition and Niemann was the lowest-rated chess player in the batch, and yet he somehow defeated the best chess player in the world, bringing an end to Carlsen’s 53-game unbeaten streak.
A day after the defeat, Carlsen abruptly and unexpectedly withdrew from the tournament.
He announced the decision on Twitter and shared a cryptic video of José Mourinho, the Portuguese soccer manager, saying, “I prefer really not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.”
Chess fans took the video to mean that Carlsen was insinuating that he had lost because Niemann cheated during the game. Carlsen has not publicly clarified the meaning of the video.
Tony Rich, the executive director of the Saint Louis Chess Club which hosts the Sinquefield Cup, said of the withdrawal, “A player’s decision to withdraw from a tournament is a personal decision, and we respect Magnus’ choice.”
That same day, anti-cheating arbiter David Sedgwick requested that a 15-minute delay be added to the live broadcast of the tournament.
Rumours of cheating spread like wildfire in the chess community, eventually culminating in a theory that Niemann had used vibrating anal beads and chess AI to defeat the world champion. Proponents of the wild theory posited that an accomplice was vibrating the anal beads inside of Niemann to communicate the best statistical moves to make against Carlsen.
Niemann vehemently denies the allegations that he cheated, and even offered to play a game fully nude to prove that he was not using anal beads to feed him moves.
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“If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it,” Niemann reportedly said. “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.”
Though many believe that Niemann cheated in his match against Carlsen, no concrete evidence has been produced. One supporter of Niemann, France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who also competed in St. Louis, called the scandal “a witch hunt.”
Another giant in the chess community, Hikaru Nakamura, an American grandmaster and Twitch streamer who once ranked second in the world, said of the scandal: “There was a period of over six months where Hans did not play any prize-money tournaments on Chess.com. That is the one thing that I’m going to say and that is the only thing I’m going to say on this topic.”
Listeners took that to mean that Niemann had cheated on Chess.com, the largest online chess site in the world.
In fact, Niemann’s account was “privately removed” from Chess.com a few days after the controversial match over evidence that he had cheated on the site — evidence that Chess.com declined to share publicly.
Niemann was also uninvited from the $1-million Chess.com Global Championship, a mostly-online tournament with an eight-person final in Toronto.
On Saturday, six days after Carlsen’s defeat, Chris Bird, the chief arbiter of the Sinquefield Cup published a statement saying there was “no indication that any player has been playing unfairly in the 2022 Sinquefield Cup,” before and after the 15-minute broadcast delay was put in place.
Niemann has been invited to play again at the Saint Louis Chess Club and the New York Times confirmed that he has accepted an invitation to play in its fall classic tournament.
The New York Times found that Niemann’s performance against Carlsen was a “statistical anomaly.”