Hans Niemann cheated in more than a hundred online games between the ages of 12 and 17, according to the platform Chess.com, which has leaked a 72-page report to the newspaper Wall Street Journal a month after Niemann beat world champion Magnus Carlsen in a live game. Chess.com, which claims to have more than 90 million users, is in the process of buying Play Magnus, an online portal group whose main shareholder is Carlsen, for $83 million.
Carlsen withdrew from the tournament, the Sinquefield Cup in San Luis (USA) that same night and hinted at the accusation without evidence – he later confirmed it in a statement – that Niemann had cheated on him. A few days later, in a very emotional interview with Chess24 (one of the Play Magnus companies), the American admitted that he had cheated at the age of 12 and 16, without specifying the number of games, all friendly according to him. Chess.com now retorts that there were more than a hundred, some of them in prize money tournaments, and adds a table detailing the name of each of the tournaments where the infractions were committed. He also says that Niemann was 17 years old the last time he cheated, consulting on a second screen of his computer a chess program that calculates millions of moves per second.
Chess.com claims that its lengthy list of cheaters includes dozens of grandmasters “and four of the top 100 in the world who have come clean.” His policy on a cheating discovery has always been one of total discretion, even in 2020 with Niemann. Now, as a result of Carlsen’s accusation, he has totally changed his mind, arguing that Niemann published a few weeks ago part of the correspondence that both parties had when the platform expelled him for repeated cheating.
Carlsen claimed in his statement that Niemann “has cheated more and more recently than he says,” without revealing how he knew that. Chess.com claims in his report that he has not shared with Carlsen “any list of cheaters or the algorithm used to detect them.” However, today’s report is not the only thing Chess.com has leaked regarding the Niemann case. A few days ago it was published that the grandmaster Max Dlugy, whose academy Niemann was a student at, had also cheated on the platform.
No elite grandmaster has provided a single solid indication that Niemann did anything illegal in his game with Carlsen, who had not lost in his previous 53 games. On the contrary, several, such as the American Fabiano Caruana, world runner-up in 2018, agree that “there is nothing strange” in it or in the entire tournament, beyond the fact that Niemann surprised the world champion at the start with a very detailed preparation. The only argument that the Norwegian has given for his accusation is very subjective: that Niemann was too relaxed at such a critical moment.
Since that day, the networks have been filled with analysis, speculation and opinions about all the known games of Niemann’s career, highlighting that some are “too brilliant”, that he has risen a lot in the world list in a short time or that a huge percentage of his movements coincides with those preferred by the machines in the same position. Although Chess.com’s business interests are limited to internet chess, the report leaked today also contains a chart indicating that Niemann’s progress in face-to-face games between the ages of 11 and 19 is the greatest of history, although he emphasizes that he does not accuse the young American of cheating in face-to-face games as well.
Actually, what is very striking in Niemann’s career is in the last three years, when he went from the 2,500 barrier to around 2,700 today. Gifted child and very bright in chess since his adolescence, Niemann needed two years to go from 2,300 to 2,400, and another two to reach 2,500, which can be considered worse than normal in a wonder. The world’s foremost expert on chess cheating, the mathematician Ken Reagan, has found no trace of cheating in his career. The same happens with two prestigious grandmasters who have analyzed it in depth, Jonathan Rowson and Jacob Aagard (who also trained Niemann for two years). Both consider that the defendant has a lot of talent, but is very irregular. The International Chess Federation (FIDE) has opened an investigation into the case, in which it will analyze the accusation against Niemann, but also the behavior of Carlsen, who gave up after making only one move in the following game, quickly played online, against to Niemann.
Niemann is expected to play a very tough tournament starting this Thursday, the United States Championship. His silence has been total since the day he admitted to cheating online, but he claimed he never cheated in live games. “I learned the lesson from the biggest mistake of my life,” he said.
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Source: EL PAIS