Chess has seen its highest level of controversy since the Cold War. This occurred following Magnus Carlsen, the five-time World chess champion, losing to Hans Niemann, a 19-year-old rising star, in the Sinquefield Cup on September 4. Following his loss, Magnus withdrew from the tournament, while making a tweet alluding to cheating within the tournament. This paired with questionable and suspicious interviews following his win, including comments such as “The chess speaks for itself” and “I don’t even need to show variations, just look at the position”, made many suspicious of the young star. This paired with previous cheating scandals Hans faced online made the 49th ranked player in the world very suspicious.
This led to an investigation by the tournament organizers which in time found no evidence of cheating. With the two meeting on September 19 at the Julius Baer Generation Cup, many were questioning what was to occur next, however, what happened next surprised everyone included. There were only three total moves in the game, and then Magnus resigned! With the tournament being held online, the broadcast shows Magnus slowly getting up from his chair and turning off his camera, with Hans sitting there questioning the result of the game.
No one who followed these top chess players knew what happened. This paired with the limited communication of Niemann or Carlsen on the situation left many questions unanswered. This was until another statement from Carlsen in which he states “I believe that Niemann has cheated more — and more recently — than he has 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, while outplaying me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do. This game contributed to changing my perspective.” This comment along with his statement saying “So far I have only been able to speak with my actions, and those actions have stated clearly that I am not willing to play chess with Niemann” has left many viewers wondering about the future of chess. With Hans Niemann losing multiple tournament invitations amid these allegations, his future is questionable despite no official ruling of cheating being found by the governing body FIDE at the Sinquefield Cup.
Chess.com did a private investigation and in their statement, they claimed “Our investigation has concluded that he did, however, cheat much more than he has publicly admitted to, including in many prize events, at least 25 streamed games, and 100+ rated games on Chess.com, as recently as when he was 17 years old”. Despite not being found cheating over the board Hans’ history online as a cheater does not help his image. Only time will tell whether Hans is innocent or his rise into the chess elites was engine assisted.
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