It’s been a series of torrential and confusing weeks for the chess community after Magnus Carlsen, reigning five-time World Chess Champion, withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis following a third-round loss to newcomer Hans Niemann on 5th September 2022. This was Carlsen’s first-ever withdrawal in his entire career, which was a historically shocking moment.
On that day, Carlsen released a statement about the withdrawal and added a cryptic video clip, hinting that he couldn’t explain the reason for his actions at the Sinquefield Cup or he'd be in trouble. The community weighed into the withdrawal, with most calling out Niemann for cheating. After multiple weeks, Carlsen released another statement, publicly accusing Niemann of cheating.
World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen Calls Out Hans Niemann
After Carlsen’s initial statement on his withdrawal from the Sinquefield Cup, the community has been in shock and disarray, noting that he’s never backed down from a match, or let alone, a challenge.
His initial Tweet stated, “I've withdrawn from the tournament. I've always enjoyed playing in the Saint Louis Chess Club and hope to be back in the future.” Alongside the Tweet was a clip of the football manager José Mourinho, saying, “‘I prefer not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble; I don’t want to be in big trouble.’’
Since then, the chess community, and world-renowned chess grandmasters like Hikaru Nakamura, have weighed into the allegations of Niemann cheating, some stating that he had an “an*l bead” that sent vibrations in morse code to help him win the game against Carlsen.
Following many weeks of turmoil and uncertainty, Carlsen released an official statement on 26th September 2022, publicly accusing Niemann of cheating.
In this Tweet, he stated Niemann “has cheated more, and more recently than he publically admitted.” Carlsen also revealed that he’d no longer play against Niemann because he doesn’t want “to play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past.”
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Carlsen stated, “At the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I made the unprecedented professional decision to withdraw from the tournament after my round three game against Hans Niemann. A week later during the Champions Chess Tour, I resigned against Hans Niemann after playing only one move.”
“I believe that cheating in chess is a big deal and an existential threat to the game. I also believe that chess organizers and all those that care 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.” Carlsen added.
Within this statement, Carlsen apologized for his actions of withdrawing from major chess tournaments but heavily noted it was always because he went against Niemann, who allegedly cheated during their games.
In his following statement, he publicly accused Niemann of cheating and stated he’d never play with someone who’s “cheated repeatedly.”
Carlsen stated, “I believe that Niemann has cheated more, and more recently than he’s publicly admitted. 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...”
“We must do something about cheating, and for my part going forward, I don’t want to play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past, because I don’t know what they are capable of doing in the future. [...] I am not willing to play chess with Niemann.”
My statement regarding the last few weeks. pic.twitter.com/KY34DbcjLo— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 26, 2022
As of yet, Niemann was banned from Chess.com following an investigation showing him cheating online in the past. Despite publicly admitting he'd cheated when younger, some presume there might be more to uncover.
Until Niemann responds with a public statement and further investigations are conducted, it's hard to tell how the competitive chess climate will change, especially knowing the gravity of these accusations and their impact on the spirit and professional nature of the game and those included.
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Featured image courtesy of Instagram via Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann.