Magnus Carlsen breaks his silence on chess cheating scandal

World chess champion Magnus Carlsen on Monday formally accused 19-year-old American Hans Niemann of cheating. (Photo: AFP)
World chess champion Magnus Carlsen on Monday formally accused 19-year-old American Hans Niemann of cheating. (Photo: AFP)


After weeks of innuendo, the world champion on Monday accused 19-year-old American grandmaster Hans Niemann of cheating

World champion Magnus Carlsen on Monday broke his silence on the scandal that has shaken the chess world, explicitly accusing 19-year-old American grandmaster Hans Moke Niemann of cheating for the first time since their controversial meeting at the Sinquefield Cup this month.

In a statement posted to his social media accounts, Carlsen cited Niemann’s unusual progress through the chess ranks and his surprisingly relaxed behavior when they played in St. Louis.

“I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted," Carlsen wrote. “His over the board progress has been unusual, and throughout our game in the Sinquefield Cup I had the impression that he wasn’t tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions, while outplaying as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do."

Niemann didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Carlsen’s statement. He had earlier denied any allegations of impropriety in over-the-board chess, though he confessed to cheating on two occasions in online games. Niemann chalked those up as youthful errors, but saw fit to ban him from the platform. this month also indicated Niemann wasn’t being forthright about the breadth of his cheating, saying in a statement that it had shared evidence with Niemann about his ban that “contradicts his statement regarding the amount and seriousness of his cheating on"

In Carlsen’s statement, he said he considered withdrawing from the Sinquefield Cup when Niemann was invited to participate, but he chose to play anyway. Carlsen later resigned a game against Niemann in another event after making just a single move. “So far I have only been able to speak with my actions, and those actions have stated clearly that I am not willing to play chess with Niemann," he said.

The controversy first exploded at the Sinquefield Cup, a tournament where Niemann beat Carlsen—to which the Norwegian responded by abruptly withdrawing from the event entirely. It was an unprecedented decision by Carlsen, and it quickly ignited breathless speculation that gripped the highest level of the game. Theories on how a player might attempt to cheat—and get away with it—soon raised talk of hidden transmitters and far-flung accomplices operating widely-accessible chess software.

Carlsen didn’t give a reason at the time, but it was widely understood that he believed Niemann was a cheater. Instead of saying as much, Carlsen shared a clip of the famously crotchety soccer manager Jose Mourinho saying, “If I speak, I am in big trouble."

As the scandal continued to rage inside the chess community, Carlsen and Niemann met again at a different tournament played online. This time, Niemann didn’t have to do much work to beat the five-time world champion: Carlsen resigned on the game’s second move and clicked off his camera.

Carlsen then gave a brief interview in which he avoided addressing the scandal directly while continuing to wink at it. He said “people can draw their own conclusions" from his decision to not play Niemann.

“We must do something about cheating, and for my part going forward, I don’t want to play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past," Carlsen wrote, “because I don’t know what they are capable of doing in the future."

Now Carlsen has spoken. And he recovered brilliantly after his recent resignation to Niemann. While Niemann lost in the quarterfinals of the tournament, Carlsen won the whole thing.


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