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Chess Controversy: Hans Niemann Responds to St. Louis ‘Cheating’ Controversy

The 19-year-old grandmaster claims there is an organised effort to discredit him after his victory over the reigning world champion forced Magnus Carlsen to pull out of a tournament for the first time in his career.

Numerous Accusations of “cheating” Have Been Made After Magnus Carlsen

chess controversy

Numerous accusations of “cheating” have been made after Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the $350,000 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis after losing in the third round to an unknown player, Hans Niemann. This case has the potential to be the most severe for international chess since the Toiletgate scandal during the 2005 world championship match, in which Veselin Topalov accused Vlad Kramnik of analysing games while using the restroom.

Carlsen’s withdrawal against Niemann, 19, was the first in the Norwegian’s career and his first loss in recent years when playing White against an opponent with a far lower rating. A video recording of football manager José Mourinho declaring “If I talk I am in serious trouble” at a press conference about referees was all he offered as an explanation.

Some people saw this as further evidence of cheating and took it seriously. Security was tightened, the broadcast of Niemann’s game in the fourth round was delayed by 15 minutes, and he was subjected to a thorough pat down, but nothing was discovered.

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The Most Popular Chess Livestream

chess controversy

GM Hikaru Nakamura, the most popular chess Livestream, chimed in, explaining that Niemann had been banned from Chess.com for using a computer during an online tournament many years before. Niemann had thoroughly studied Carlsen’s 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 g3 opening.

After defeating the world champion in an online competition in Miami a month prior, the California kid made headlines with a one-sentence victory interview in which he said, ” Chess speaks for itself,” and then walked away. During his time in St. Louis, he was essentially a social outcast.

Finally, a response emerged. As the game progressed, the world champion looked to try too hard, making poor decisions on moves 22, 40, and 42, despite the fact that the position out of the opening was nearly even, a modest 0.3 plus for Black. The game showed no signs of computer assistance, despite the fact that Niemann also committed mistakes.

Danish-Scottish grandmaster and best-selling author Jacob Aagaard backed the teen. Aagaard won the British championship in 2007. St. Louis competitor Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France commented, “The scandal has become a witch hunt.”

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Niemann Defended Himself After a Disappointing

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Afterwards, in an interview following the fifth round, Niemann defended himself after a disappointing draw with Leinier Dominguez, in which his opponent let him off the hook in a hopeless position. I Half an hour later, he had addressed the allegations against him and issued a defiant message: “I’m not going to let Chess.com, I’m not going to let Magnus Carlsen, I’m not going to let Hikaru Nakamura, the three arguably biggest entities in chess, simply slander my reputation because the question is – why are they going to remove me from Chess.com right after I beat Magnus?”

Chess.Com Global Championship

He has been disinvited from the Chess.com Global Championship, a $1 million event featuring online qualifications and an eight-player final in Toronto, and banned from the most popular chess site.

Online comments, which had been mostly negative before this interview, have since swung to a 60-40 split in his favour, and there have been mounting requests for Carlsen to release a broader statement.

It appears the main point of contention is whether Carlsen thinks his pre-game study of his planned surprise 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 g3 was disclosed by a mole in his camp or a computer hack.

A more benign reason for the “leak” is possible. In a famous 2006 game, Carlsen faced off against England’s Michael Adams, and the same pawn structure occurred, with plausible transpositions into Carlsen vs. Niemann. After asking himself what ideas Carlsen may come up with to derail him from his planned Catalan with… Bb4+, Niemann decided to test out 5 Nc3, an unusual transposition to the Nimzo-Indian. As an additional example, in Niemann’s own recent game versus Le Quang Liem in Miami, a move sequence of 5 g3 (instead of 5 e3 d5 as played) d5 6 a3 might easily be transposed into Carlsen v Niemann.

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Carlsen Got Off To A Strong Start in St. Louis

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Carlsen got off to a strong start in St. Louis, beating his 2021 title challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi in the first round with a characteristic Carlsen grind from an ostensibly even opening. This gave Carlsen a six-point lead over his competitor in their last seven meetings.

After Sunday’s deciding third round, it’s easy to see why the world champion was so displeased. Carlsen’s loss to Niemann will lose him seven rating points and wipe out whatever progress he made in the tournament, which would be a major blow as he tries to climb from 2865 to 2900. His hopes of reaching a high enough rating have been pushed more out of reach.

In contrast, Niemann stands alone, as the upstart who dares to take on the established armies. Older American chess aficionados will relate to him, as they have been hoping for a new Bobby Fischer since at least the 1970s. Back then, it was Mikhail Botvinnik, Tigran Petrosian, and the Soviet chess empire who were considered the elite. It’s down to Carlsen, Nakamura, and Chess.com now.

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Fischer Won the 1962 Stockholm Interzonal at The Age of 19

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The analogy is clearly flawed. Fischer won the 1962 Stockholm interzonal at the age of 19, making him a strong favourite for the Candidates. Despite his remarkable climb, Niemann, at 19, has only recently cracked 2700 and is currently ranked no. 40 in the world. Hans has the “Fischer look” and the drive to be number one, but his legend is built on a single victory over the reigning world champion.

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