The world of chess is in turmoil. The theater of a real saga, of an incredible story. That of a cheat that some are convinced, but that no one has managed to prove. After several speckled foil attacks, it was therefore the world chess champion, the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen who decided to take the plunge. On Monday, he openly accused American Hans Niemann of “cheating more, and more recently, than he publicly admitted”. A bomb.
This story, or this duel, has been stirring the chess world for three weeks: after a defeat against the American, the 31-year-old Norwegian made the unusual decision to withdraw from the Sinquefield Cup in the United States on September 4. An act that alone said a lot about what the world champion thought of his opponent.
When Carlsen left a game after a move
To give a little more body to his rare gesture, he had also posted a video from 2014 of José Mourinho, then at the head of the English team Chelsea. “I don’t prefer to talk. If I talk, I’m going to be in big trouble,” said the Portuguese football coach during a post-match interview, when his team had just lost and he himself had been sent off.
Rebelote on September 19: in a new gesture of humor, in front of dumbfounded commentators, the five-time world champion withdrew without warning from a game against the same Niemann. And that’s after playing just one shot in the Julius Baer Generation Cup online tournament.
Astonishing statistics and incredible theories
The 19-year-old Niemann is a player who is enjoying a meteoric rise in the world of chess but has admitted to having cheated in online games in the past. Still, no one has ever known how this much talked about cheat could be implemented. There are many disturbing clues, such as the day when the American, for five consecutive tournaments, played more than 73% of the moves that a computer would have offered, remind our colleagues from L’Équipe. And even nine games during which the champion saw this rate climb to 100%… Enough to raise all the theories on how this cheat could well be set up. All sorts of theories have sprung up, from the undetectable earpiece, to subcutaneous implants to the signal-emitting butt plug.
Magnus Carlsen ended up letting go of what he could no longer hold back. “I believe that Niemann cheated more, and more recently, than he has publicly admitted,” he said in a message posted on his Twitter account on Monday.
“His head-to-head progress is unusual,” he added, later elaborating on the disconcerting ease with which the American had beaten him in the Sinquefield Cup while playing with the black. Affirming that he cannot unpack everything, Carlsen underlines that “his gestures clearly show that (he) does not wish to play chess with Niemann”. AFP tried, unsuccessfully, to contact Niemann for his reaction.
In early September, chess.com, the largest online chess platform, banned Niemann for cheating on the site. If he admits having cheated twice online, when he was 12 and 16 years old, Niemann claims to have never cheated during a face-to-face game, even saying he is ready to play naked to prove his good faith.