This whole shebang started when Hans Niemann, a rising star in chess, beat Magnus Carlsen, the current highest rated player and World Champion. They were both among the ten players invited to the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, where their third round game was against each other.
The game itself, which you can see above, is nothing to write home about. As far as the play goes it’s notable only for how poorly Magnus Carlsen plays, getting nothing with the White pieces out of the opening before being steadily outplayed by his younger, and almost 200 elo points lower rated opponent.
It’s difficult to even go through the game itself, since it was a fairly long game with no crazy tactical shots or huge blunders by either of them. The final position is seen above, with Carlsen resigning due to Niemann’s connected passed pawns being easily winning, at least for players of this level.
As I said earlier, ignoring the context the game is utterly unremarkable. But in addition to winning Niemann took a fairly tasteful shot at Magnus in his postgame interview.
Even if that were all that happened, there would still be nothing particularly noteworthy about this outside of the world of chess. Niemann is almost certainly underrated, and has been a fantastic blitz player for many years now. His rating going into the game was 2688, but if we assume his true strength to be somewhere around 2750, there’s nothing too unusual for Carlsen to lose to him, especially with him playing so poorly.
But then Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the tournament, with his only public statement being this crypic tweet, which is still the last thing he’s tweeted as of time of writing. Carlsen has never withdrawn from any tournament, at least while it was in progress. Then he does so in this tournament where, even after his loss against Niemann, he had a 2/3 score. And to make it more ridiculous, the first place prize is $100k, with relatively big prizes for the other positions.
Everyone in chess got in on the action, most notably Hikaru Nakamura, a former 2800+ player and the number one chess streamer. A condensed version of Nakamura’s take on the situation can be seen above. Although it should be noted that Carlsen never outright accused Niemann of cheating, but with context we can be 95% sure that’s why he withdrew. Adding to everyone’s suspicion the Sinquefield Cup immediately after announced some new anti-cheating measures, including wanding down Niemann like he had a couple kilos of cocaine up his rectum, or maybe a suicide bomb strapped to his chest.
Somewhat lost in the drama is that Nakamura made a few pretty ridiculous accusations, like Niemann putting on a fake accent. However, there were some more serious comments made against Niemann. For example, Niemann had said in his post game interview after the Carlsen game that he had prepared for the exact line that Carlsen played, what with Carlsen having played it before. However, a quick look into the database of Carlsen games showed that Carlsen had never played the g3 Nimzo before.
Except that he had gotten the exact same position through transposition. This is where you play a different sequence of moves to get to the same resultant position, which in this case made that particular argument against Niemann particularly ridiculous. The reality was that it was almost absurd to think that Niemann cheated in that particular game. Much more likely is just that Carlsen simply played poorly, and Niemann’s moves were relatively simple.
Or it would be, except that Hans Niemann has actually been caught cheating in online chess by Chess.com. In fairness, this was when he was twelve and sixteen respectively, but once caught the next accusations are more credible. We’ll get to that later, but in the meantime Eric Hansen, Canada’s top player, was extremely critical of Niemann’s post game analysis of his game against Alireza, which happened in the next round. Critical may be underselling it.
But when I say the analysis is bad like – legit it’s just like it was incoherent. Not only was it incoherent, he was incoherent in trying to give incoherent lines. And there’s no luck or randomness in these top level games where you’re just like drifting into playing 2800 level chess.
His postgame analysis seemed incoherent even to myself, a ~1700 player. He seemed to be mixing up some lines, and gave some analysis that was outright terrible, hanging some pieces. He also miscalculated some lines that were not gimmies, but fairly easy for a player of his level.
But this all came to a head after Niemann escaped with a draw against Lenier Dominguez-Perez in the fifth round, after having a much worse position for much of the game. Niemann was asked about the game, but then asked about the overarching drama.
I’m not going to bother transcribing a 28 minute interview, especially because he does repeat himself a bit. What I will say is that Niemann’s response to all of this is what prompted me to write this article, because it is so fantastic and relevant to anyone trying to be a public figure, politics or otherwise.
He starts off by dunking on the ridiculous “fake accent,” claim. Then he goes and dunks on the “Magnus never played that opening,” claim, by outright mocking his critics by showing the transposition. He even points out that it’s not a direct transposition, just a very similar position. This is why he had to spend some time calculating side lines, since he had to make sure Carlsen didn’t have a trap set for him. Finally he explained that one of his “poor,” moves against Firouzja was psychological, where he was doing a speculative attack on Firouzja since he had prior success against him with a similar approach.
Niemann then explains that yes, his Chess.com account was banned twice. When he was twelve his friend brought over an ipad and started spitting out moves to him, and when he was sixteen he cheated in non-prize money games to try to get a higher rating to play against better players. Niemann owned up to his mistakes, expressed contrition, and whatever you might think about it, he couldn’t have spoken about this any better.
He then launches into an attack against Chess.com.
After this game against Magnus I get an email from Chess.com telling me that they have privately removed my access to my Chess.com account, and that they have uninvited me from the Global Chess Championship. Now, three days ago I met with someone very high up in Chess.com at the Sinquefield Cup, had amazing words, but because of this game against Magnus, because of what he said, they have decided to completely remove me from the website.
Now this is after I have already fully admitted, and they have the best cheat detection in the world, they know that I am not a cheater. They know that I give everything to chess and I work so hard. Chess is my entire life. Now, if they think that I am going to be silent about what has happened, it is completely ridiculous.
I met with [Chess.com figure] Danny Rensch in Miami, Danny was the person who confronted me [years ago with the cheating] and I was deeply deeply indebted to him for handing the banning privately and giving me the chance to redeem myself. Now, after not playing in Chess.com events I went to over the board tournaments. And I decided to myself was that the only way to make up for my mistake was to prove to myself and to prove to others that I can win myself.
That is my mission. That is why I have lived in a suitcase for two years. That is why I have played 260 games in one year. That is why I am training twelve hours per day, because I have something to prove.
And now Chess.com has suddenly decided to hop on Magnus’ insinuations, Hikaru’s very direct accusations. Now they see the opportunity, I believe this is completely unfair. This is a targeted attack, and if you look at my games it has nothing to do with my games!
Hans Niemann, who is Dutch, not Jew if you were wondering, manages to hit every single note that you should hit when defending yourself. First of all, I think the facts are on his side, which does help things. Yes, he cheated in unimportant online chess games when twelve and sixteen, but that is the only real piece of evidence against him. My read on the situation is that Carlsen is a whiny loser who got totally outplayed by Niemann from start to finish in their game. And the engine even gave multiple ways that Carlsen could have saved the game, which is inexplicable if Niemann was cheating.
But I’m not here to convince you either way, only appreciate this response in an objective sense. Starting off by debunking the most idiotic and spurious accusations was fantastic for building credibility. He then moves on to acknowledging his missteps in the past, while reframing it as a learning experience that drives him forward to be who he is today. He does something that blackmailed people rarely do, but should do more often, which is pull the trigger on himself, thus making his blackmailers look bad. Niemann may not have come out of this smelling perfectly like roses, but Chess.com looks very weaselly and duplicitous.
Finally, his impassioned defense of himself is inspiring. It makes people want to come to his defense, and is something that every goy hauled in front of a Charlottesville style courtroom must take a lesson from. Don’t ever listen to your lawyer if he tells you to shut up, accept guilt, and beg for the lowest sentence. The mindset you must have is that you are the victim of a totally unjustifiable and evil regime, and they need to defend themselves to you.
Where this specific drama goes is unknown to me. I’ll probably write a quick wrap up piece on this whole thing at the end of the tournament.