On Monday, Carlsen, considered one of the greatest chess players of all time, retired from the game during an online match against Niemann at the Julius Baer Generation Cup tournament. He did it in just one walk. After that, M. Carlsen turned off the camera without saying a word and left.
Carlsen’s default came weeks after Niemann stunned him at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri.
After this defeat, Mr. Carlsen announced on Twitter that he was withdrawing from the tournament. He also linked to a YouTube video of AS Roma manager Jose Mourinho saying at a press conference: “If I speak, I will be in big trouble. And I don’t want to have big problems.”
Many took Carlsen’s tweet to mean that Niemann had cheated during their match, sparking a series of bizarre, unfounded rumors about sex toys being used to wirelessly indicate moves.
Unfounded rumors spread online that Niemann could use wireless anal beads that vibrated to tell him what moves to make.
On Monday, M. Carlsen’s withdrawal was even more significant – the Norwegian grandmaster basically refused to play with the American prodigy.
“It’s a huge mess,” former black chess grandmaster and sports analyst Maurice Ashley told Insider.
Carlsen declined to speak publicly about his loss to Niemann, his tweet or Monday’s shock withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the chess community talked about the fact that H. Niemann could indeed have cheated.
Although Niemann denied cheating at the Sinquefield Cup, he admitted to cheating online twice in the past, once when he was 12 and again when he was 16.
“I cheated in random games on Chess.com [virtualiame šachmatų žaidime], said H. Niemann. – I’ve come across it. I confessed. And this is the biggest mistake of my life. And I am very ashamed.
I am revealing this to the world because I don’t want to be misrepresented and I don’t want rumours. I have never cheated in a live game. And except for when I was 12, I’ve never cheated in a tournament with prize money,” he added.
M. Ashley said that he thinks that most chess players would believe H. Niemann’s word.
“I think there are people who take it a lot more seriously and say, ‘Once a cheater, always a cheater,'” he said. “But I also think that most of the players, as shown by the fact that they continue to play him in this event … I think that most of the players say that what’s in the past is in the past.”
Proving cheating in a distance match can be difficult.
To cheat in a match at the board, a player would have to receive a secret electronic communication from another person watching the game, which feeds the data into artificial intelligence programs that can determine the best move.
“The reality is that any simple computer algorithm plays better than any human,” Ashley said, adding: “If I could somehow communicate that to a player in the room, then I would beat Magnus.” Anyone would beat Magnus.”
However, so far there is no evidence that H. Niemann cheated.
There are statisticians who analyze chess performances to look for deviations: do players suddenly play differently? Do they make significantly different moves than they normally do?
University at Buffalo professor Kenneth Regan, a chess and cheater expert, even said during Chess24’s broadcast of the Julius Baer Generation Cup that he saw nothing in Niemann’s Sinquefield Cup game where he defeated the world champion think he cheated.
“H. Niemann played well. But not too well,” said K. Regan.
M.Ashley also agreed with that: “It was a good game. They both made mistakes, he said. – Hans played well, Magnus played worse. It wasn’t Magnus’s best moment. It looked like maybe he had a certain feeling that prevented him from playing at the highest level.”
Meanwhile, the chess community is left wondering what goes on in the mind of the game’s greatest player.
“Has anyone provided any information that H. Niemann is now a fraud?” That he has been doing this for the past few years? I haven’t seen them, – said M.Ashley – I think the whole world is waiting for this, as well as Magnus’s statement about why he treats Hans differently than everyone else.”
Ms Ashley said it looked bad for the game as a whole: “It’s already hurt the world of chess. That’s not what we want our game to be known for.”