The chess world does not come to rest: After the allegations against Hans Niemann hinted at on Twitter, superstar Magnus Carlsen delivers another wordless statement. The 31-year-old gives up a game against the young American without comment.
The chess world has been in turmoil for weeks. And that is mainly due to Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann. It is an uproar that splits the scene into two camps. Now the irreconcilable opponents met at the Julius Baer Generations Cup - but Carlsen caused the next excitement. The Norwegian resigned after just one move without commenting. With that, Niemann moves one lap further. Experts are stunned. Grandmaster David Howell says, "These are just bizarre, bizarre times."
Carlsen's withdrawal is another clear indication that he is accusing his opponent of cheating. He had recently done so on Twitter without having presented any evidence at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis after losing the game against the world number 49. had lost. Since then, the unspoken allegations have been the number one topic among chess experts around the world. Carlsen dropped out of the tournament after just three of nine rounds and then quoted the legendary words of football coach José Mourinho: "I prefer not to talk. If I say something, I'm in big trouble."
Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura was among those who sided with Carlsen and pinned the suspicion on Niemann. In his twitch stream, Nakamura analyzed some of Niemann's moves and what he said after the game. His result: something doesn't fit together. What Nakamura found particularly odd: Niemann said he was preparing for certain moves Carlsen made in the past, but the chess databases proved that Carlsen had never played said moves. This did not necessarily substantiate the suspicion of fraud, but raised a few questions.
Ukrainian FIDE Master Andrii Punin was also among those who scrutinized old games by Niemann. In the past few days, he has presented his results in two detailed YouTube videos. His astonishing result: In "normal" games, the American mostly played according to his ranking, in particularly important games Niemann played almost unbelievably precisely and above his means. Norwegian pro Atle Grønn (International Master) is more explicit in his assessment of the Punin results. He simply cannot believe that Niemann played "computer moves" in a row in some analyzed games and didn't allow himself any mistakes - especially since these were important games in which the pressure on the youngster was particularly great .
Particularly spicy: It is not the first time allegations of fraud against Hans Niemann have been made. According to rumors, the American has been banned from the "chess.com" platform twice in the past for allegedly using a chess computer during his games - an absolute no-go and strictly forbidden. According to a well-known Twitter account that posts chess content, word of this has already gotten around among top players.
The 19-year-old Niemann himself took a stand last Wednesday after he had been exposed to numerous allegations, especially on social media. "A lot of people who I used to respect and who were my role models have decided to agree with the allegations (editor's note: by Carlsen). There was a lot of speculation and a lot of things were said. But I think I'm the only one who knows the truth," he said in a video released by the organizer. He described the allegations as unfounded. The American admitted in an interview during the Sinquefield Cup that he had cheated twice in online games as a teenager, aged twelve and 16, but never in person at the chessboard.
After his statement, Carlsen is now under great pressure: quite a few are demanding that what is undoubtedly the biggest name in chess must finally provide evidence for his implied allegations. Some grandmasters had previously publicly supported Hans Niemann and expressed doubts about the allegations. "Maybe he knows something that we don't know. But then he has to say it now," commented chess player Alejandro Ramirez, who was added for the game: "It's an even stronger statement than withdrawing from the Sinquefield Cup."
The reactions of other experts were also very clear. Hungarian grandmaster Peter Leko was "speechless", Maurice Ashley, US grandmaster, tweeted: "This is shocking and disturbing. Nobody can be happy that this is happening in the chess world. Unbelievable!" According to champion Jovanka Houska, commentator at the tournament, Carlsen "threw more fuel on the fire. He can't just say, 'I think you cheated' and provoke a witch hunt. He has to say, 'Here's my proof '."
Meanwhile, Carlsen's behavior also caused a stir in his native Norway, where he is one of the country's greatest sports personalities. Jon-Ludvig Hammer said on the sidelines of the TV broadcast on "TV2": "It's completely unacceptable to lose on purpose. It's the most unsportsmanlike behavior ever." In the run-up to the Generation Cup game, the organizers had taken measures to prevent any attempts at fraud. The tournament is held online, so the players are in their own four walls. Carlsen cut his video connection against Niemann, later he continued the rapid chess tournament against his other opponents.
(This article was first published on Tuesday, September 20, 2022.)