The modern-day world of championship chess isn’t just long games and arcane openings. There’s Twitch drama, robots that break kids’ fingers, and now: anal beads. Last week, World Champion Magnus Carlsen lost to Grandmaster Hans Niemann in a stunning upset. Accusations of cheating began to fill the air. But how would the alleged cheating have been accomplished? That’s when the hero we all needed on Reddit rushed to fill the void and suggest Niemann may have used a sex toy to recieve a coded message that would lead him to victory.
It doesn’t matter that the Reddit post was clearly a joke by someone extremely committed to the bit. The theory is too irresistible to ignore. It’s bonkers, but just on the cusp of feasibility. Maybe that’s why, a week after Niemann’s unlikely win, people can’t help but fixate on the fact that he vowed to play matches naked if that’s what people needed to see to convince themselves he wasn’t cheating. But if you haven’t been following the chess world’s latest drama, let me back up and break it all down.
This was the question on everyone’s mind when the 19-year-old managed to knock out the five-time World Champion at the $500,000 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri last week. The two had never played before, and Niemann was clearly the weaker and less experienced player. Plus he was playing as black.
The two faced-off three days into the tournament on September 5, with Carlsen making an early mistake and Niemann managing to force him into a difficult end game. Grandchesstour reports that a counter with his bishop on turn 13 turned out to be an especially devastating reply. Things continued downhill until Carlsen eventually lost on time.
It might have just been left at that—an ingenious streak of creative play by Niemann and some unfortunate lapses by Carlsen, with both continuing on in the tournament as normal—but the World Champion instead took to Twitter to cast a shadow of potential foul play over the entire affair. “I’ve withdrawn from the tournament,” he wrote to the shock of everyone. A notorious YouTube clip of European soccer coach and professional messy boy, José Mourinho, saying “If I speak I am in big trouble,” was attached. For his part, Niemann said he was prepared for the champion’s line of play because he had fortuitously previewed a version of it used in a 2018 match earlier that day in preparation for the match.
Allegations of cheating started to make their way around the Chess subreddit and social media, but streamer Hikaru “GMHikaru” Nakamura was one of the biggest names to start discussing the possibility on his platform. He primarily focused on a past instance of Niemann cheating on Chess.com, something the 19-year old admitted to.
But he stopped short of saying anything nefarious ever happened “over the board,” meaning while Niemann was face-to-face with an opponent. He certainly didn’t downplay the accusations, and the drama made for great clout fuel on Twitch and YouTube. At some point, even Félix “xQc” Lengyel tried to briefly get in on the action.
Niemann later fired back in his September 6 exit interview from the tournament, criticizing Nakamura and denying anything nefarious occurred. “I have never cheated in an over-the-board game,” he said. “If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it,” he added later in the interview.
He reserved his harshest words for Nakamura on Twitter. “Hikaru plays the victim but seems to forget dedicating hours of his stream to criticize all of my interviews with frivolous insinuations,” he wrote the next day. “Perhaps he deserves some blame and should take accountability for what he said. At least he has 42% more subs now.”
While there’s no evidence Niemann cheated, that didn’t stop tons of people from speculating about how he might have. Tournaments are rigourous in their security, and it’s not like you can start consulting a chess program (what Niemann had done in the past) while everyone is watching and your opponent is just a few feet away.
During a Chessbrah Twitch stream after Niemann’s match, the chat offered anal beads as one solution. Canadian grandmasters Eric Hansen and Aman Hambleton started riffing on it, and a German outlet wrote the whole thing up. But one Reddit user took things much further and theorized that maybe anal beads were at play. How exactly? “The real answer is actually elementary,” the post began. Actually, it’s quite complicated. The shitpost actually accuses Carlsen of using anal beads to cheat during his entire chess career (except for those few times he was too drunk to feel them properly).
The design for the anal bead supercomputer was eventually stolen, and used against Carlsen by Niemann. In fact, Niemann didn’t even know how to use them properly, but the signals of his anal beads interfered with the signals of Carlsen’s anal beads which is why the latter played so poorly. In the end, however, Carlsen couldn’t reveal how Niemann cheated without implicating himself. Not quite the perfect chess crime, but all the makings of a top comment on r/Chess. The user was showered with Reddit gold. Mods removed the post. But it was too late.
“Currently obsessed with the notion that Hans Niemann has been cheating at the Sinquefield Cup chess tournament using wireless anal beads that vibrate him the correct moves,” wrote a Twitter user called Babble__ in a September 7 tweet linking to Niemann’s post-tournament interview that immediately blew up.
To reiterate, there is still no evidence Niemann cheated, though an announcement on September 8 that he would be removed from Chess.com did nothing to dispel suspicions. And there is certainly no evidence any anal beads were used in Carlsen’s stunning defeat. But what if the theory behind the anal beads could actually work?The truth is out there for those brave enough to uncover it. One thing that is true: all eyes will be on Niemann’s next match if he does decide to play it naked. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of a new Twitch meta brewing. God forgive us.