A 19-year-old American grandmaster in the eye of a cheating storm is accusing two players and Chess.com of “colluding to blacklist” him.
Hans Moke Niemann filed a federal lawsuit on Oct. 20 in the Eastern Missouri District Court against world champion Magnus Carlsen and his company Play Magnus, Chess.com—the world’s largest Chess platform—and one of his executives Daniel Rensch, and grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura.
He is seeking damages of no less than $100 million for “libel, an unlawful boycott, and tortious interference.”
“This is not a game,” Niemann’s lawyers, Terrence Oved and Darren Oved, said in a statement quoted in the Wall Street Journal. “Defendants have destroyed Niemann’s life simply because he had the talent, dedication, and audacity to defeat the so-called ‘King of Chess.’ We will hold defendants fully accountable and expose the truth.”
Brief history of the chess cheating scandal
Sept. 4: Niemann beats over five-time world champion Carlsen, the 31-year-old who is the highest-rank chess player in history, at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. Niemann’s victory ends Carlsen’s 53-match unbeaten streak.
Sept. 5: Carlsen withdraws from the Sinquefield tournament. In a tweet, he implies Niemann cheated.
Sept. 6: Niemann admits that he’d cheated twice as a young kid in online recreational games, but never in over-the-board (in-person) chess.
Sept. 9: Chess.com gives a public explanation for privately de-platforming Niemann over multiple instances of cheating in online games and ongoing scrutiny
Sept. 19: Niemann and Carlsen meet in an online tournament, where Carlsen resigns after one move in protest.
Sept. 27: Carlsen issues a statement doubling down on his belief that Niemann cheated, without offering evidence.
Sept. 29: The International Chess Federation opens an investigation into the Niemann-Carlsen feud.
Oct. 4: Chess.com releases a “The Hans Niemann report” that alleges the American teen “likely cheated” in more than 100 games. It offers no specific evidence of cheating in the Niemann-Carlsen game but observes Niemann’s rise in chess is “statistically extraordinary.”
Did Niemann cheat this time?
An off-the-cuff remark about the use of anal beads as a tool to cheat in the game by Canadian grandmaster Eric Hansen during a Twitch livestream took a life of its own when it was propagated by Elon Musk in a since-deleted tweet.
Yet several unbiased and independent sources, including tournament organizers and arbiters as well as world experts, found no evidence of Niemann cheating in the game.
Ken Regan, the leading expert on chess cheating detection, gave him a clean chit, too.
And still, retaliatory actions were initiated against the American, which “destroyed Niemann’s remarkable career in its prime and ruined his life,” his lawyers argue.
Niemann can no longer compete in any online Chess.com or Play Magnus tournaments, and will not receive invitations to in-person events sponsored by Chess.com or Play Magnus, which collectively comprise the majority of FIDE-sanctioned chess tournaments.
According to Niemann’s lawsuit, it’s in the duos’ business interest to paint him as a cheater. The complaint points to Chess.com buying Carlsen’s “Play Magnus” app for nearly $83 million in a merger that will “monopolize the chess world.”
Person of interest: Maxim Dlugy
Dlugy, Niemann’s childhood mentor, has come out to defend the prodigy, calling the allegations against him “reprehensible, ridiculous, and slanderous.” Ironically, Dlugy’s career is tainted by cheating accusations, too. He admitted to cheating in 2017 and 2020 tournaments.
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