It felt like this day might never come, but former world champion Magnus Carlsen and grandmaster Hans Niemann have finally put the cheating scandal that rocked the chess world last year, including meme-filled speculation about anal beads, to bed.
Chess.com and Carlsen reached a settlement with Niemann, who had sued them and Twitch streamer Hikaru Nakamura for $100 million over what he alleged was a “civil conspiracy” to defame him. “We are pleased to report that we have reached an agreement with Hans Niemann to put our differences behind us and move forward together without further litigation,” Chess.com wrote in an update on August 28. As a result, Niemann will once again be allowed to compete on the online chess platform, and Carlsen has agreed to play him in the future should they meet in a tournament.
“I acknowledge and understand Chess.com’s report, including its statement that there is no determinative evidence that Niemann cheated in his game against me at the Sinquefield Cup,” Carlsen said in a statement. “I am willing to play Niemann in future events, should we be paired together.”
It was the former world champion’s remarks that initially set the largest cheating scandal in the modern era of the game in motion. After losing to Niemann in a shocking upset during the early stages of the August 2022 Sinquefield Cup, Carlsen resigned from the tournament completely, and tweeted out a Jose Mourinho meme implying Niemann had cheated.
The accusations took chess message boards and Twitch communities by storm, with viewers in the Chessbrah Twitch chat joking that maybe Niemann had used anal beads to communicate with someone sending him the best moves from the outside using an AI chess engine. Anal beads became a running joke, not because there was any evidence they were ever used, but precisely because there was never any evidence that Niemann ever actually cheated, let alone how he would have managed to, given the Sinquefield Cup’s strict security. It even became the basis for an entire episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
It was all fun and games until Carlsen doubled-down on his allegations in September and Chess.com released a 72-page report in October accusing Niemann of cheating in several matches played on the website. Niemann fired back with a $100 million lawsuit accusing Carlsen of leveraging his “media empire” and partnerships with Chess.com to try and get Niemann banned from tournaments and shunned from the professional chess world.
A federal judge tossed out Niemann’s lawsuit in June, but he tried to appeal the decision and now the two sides have settled. While Chess.com said it stands by its previous report, it also admits that there is no “determinative evidence” that Niemann ever cheated in any in-person games.
“I am pleased that my lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen and Chess.com has been resolved in a mutually acceptable manner, and that I am returning to Chess.com,” Niemann said in a statement. “I look forward to competing against Magnus in chess rather than in court.”
Update 8/30/2023 10:36 a.m. ET: Changed “blacklisted” to “banned” in the sixth paragraph.