After nearly a month of anal bead memes and chess drama, world champion Magnus Carlsen has finally opened up about his stunning defeat to 19-year-old grandmaster Hans Niemann and his shocking stunts that followed in the aftermath. Long story short: He thinks Niemann is a cheater, over the board and online, and he refuses to ever compete against him again.
“I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted,” Carlsen wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. “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 me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do.”
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The drama all started earlier this month when Carlsen lost to Niemann in an unusual match in their first-ever meeting at the in-person Sinquefield Cup. Niemann should have been outclassed, but instead Carlsen made some mistakes and the 19-year old capitalized on them with stunning precision. Rather than move on to his next opponent, Carlsen resigned from the entire tournament following the defeat, and tweeted out a provocative YouTube clip that heavily implied he thought foul play was involved.
The chess world spent the following week abuzz in heated debate and speculation about whether Niemann was in fact a cheater and if so, how he may have accomplished it. On Twitch and Reddit, chess shitposters joked that maybe Niemann used supercomputers inside anal beads to communicate the best moves to him via vibration. There was no evidence that he did, but the outlandish meme captured everyone’s imagination in part because it reflected the fact that there was no evidence for Carlsen’s insinuation in the first place.
Fast-forward to last week and Carlsen and Niemann met in an online match in the Julius Baer Generation Cup. The latter only played two moves before the chess champion resigned, leaving the announcers shocked and escalating the whole controversy to an even higher level. Niemann lost in the knockout stage before the two could face each other again, while Carlsen ended up going on to win the tournament, but not before once again heavily implying the 19-year old was a cheater and should never have been allowed to attend in the first place.
Even now, however, Carlsen has still stopped short of providing any actual evidence for the claims. While Niemann admitted to cheating once when he was younger on Chess.com, the biggest online chess website which has since banned him, Carlsen is back to alleging that Niemann specifically cheated against him in the Sinquefield Cup. He even goes so far as to blame the tournament organizers for not being vigilant enough.
“I also believe that chess organizers and all those who care about the sanctity of the game we love should seriously consider increasing security measures and methods of cheat detection for over-the-board chess,” he wrote. “When Niemann was invited last-minute to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I strongly considered withdrawing prior to the event. I ultimately chose to play.”
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As The Guardian reports, the chess police tasked with identifying cheating use a mix of tools, including computer programs that analyze players’ behavior and look for anomalies. Basically, if someone plays too well, the software will flag it and the experts investigate further. Computer scientist Ken Regan, who developed the program used by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), checked Carlsen’s now-infamous loss to Niemann and found nothing.
Danny Rensch, a chess master and executive at Chess.com, told the Guardian his platform has better anti-cheating models finely tuned to each grandmaster’s player profile. “Once in a while anomalies do happen,” he said. “But if you have a lot of smoke, a lot of evidence, and a lot of reason to believe in the DNA of who someone is, and you walk into the room and they just say, ‘I just lifted that fridge with one arm,’ you’re like, ‘Fucking bullshit, motherfucker.’” Is there a lot of smoke in the Niemann case? Rensch isn’t saying. At least not yet.
Niemann has continued to deny the allegations, although he hasn’t yet responded to Carlsen’s latest salvo. But the 19-year-old has broken at least one promise. When the drama first started, he promised to play his next match naked to prove he wasn’t hiding anything. To everyone’s relief, he did not make good on that threat.