Hans Niemann Just Wants To Have Fun

I have found it extremely difficult to not like Hans Niemann. His effusive personality has been a welcome change from the usually staid personalities of most Grandmasters. Even with all the strife and dissension The Week In Chess showed Hans with a 2775 performance rating for the 2022 Sinquefield Cup. No one would have been surprised if Hans had collapsed, but he held firm and showed he belongs with the best human players on the planet. This hat is off the Grandmaster Hans Niemann.

To Chess players that’s “What The Fork?”

GM Jacob Aagaard

wrote this about Hans:

“First of all, my personal relationship with Hans Niemann: I met him at a camp in St Louis in 2019. He was about 2450 and clearly a socially awkward character that had a feeling that all eyes were on him all the time. But he was smart, funny, and likeable. It was a good camp and we had some laughs. At the time he was talking about quitting chess a lot, but it was clear that the issue was he cared so much and had not found a mental position that worked for him.

We were sort of in contact on and off over the next two years. He was 2500 18 months ago and playing all the time. His attitude had changed. Instead of being scared of admitting that he wanted to be great, he now gave it his all. Traveling from event to event. Playing good games, bad games. Uncompromising. His rating increased a lot over the summer. Over 100 points. He reached 2630 or so by the autumn when he came to visit in Glasgow. At that time, he had also joined our academy, although I doubt he ever got around to using it much (and did not renew in 2022).

Our training session was a week. It was meant to be a camp, but no one else could make it. Hans was difficult to train. I tried to do calculation and endgame training with him (he had requested endgame training). At first, I showed exercises from recent games (last 18 months) that I really liked. He knew them ALL. I was astonished by his memory. I was astonished by his intuition. Both were off the charts for what I have seen training Shankland, Gelfand, and other 2600+ and a few 2700s.”

There were obvious big holes in his chess, but to be honest, I see big holes in the game of Giri, Aronian, Mamedyarov, Firouzja, and other top players. When I get a 2650 student, I usually try to find out what part of their game is at a much lower level. There is always some area of chess where they are just blank. Maybe they cannot really visualise. They don’t know how to make simple decisions. They cannot calculate a line till the end. All three examples of real 2650 players I have worked with.

Hans’s confidence in his own intuition and his surprise when it was wrong was a recurring theme of the week he was here. Another was that whenever I came to his room, he was looking at chess. Playing through ALL games from all tournaments on Follow chess.

I have seen nothing out of the ordinary in the last two days. Hans playing reasonably well against opponents that are not playing that well. His big confidence. His awkwardness in front of the camera. His highly intuitive way of thinking. His lack of accuracy in variations. Him blundering when suggesting things, he thinks he might have looked at. (https://forum.killerchesstraining.com/t/paranoia-and-insanity-by-jacob-aagaard/856)


Hans Niemann wrote this about former United States Chess Champion John Grefe:


For the end of the interview, Hans Niemann spoke about his childhood coach: “Now with all this attention, I’d like to highlight something very important. When I was nine years old, I went to a coffee shop. My dad was taking me there and I was playing blitz with these guys from there. They were like average age 60 and I was nine years old. (…) And one of the guys there knew John Grefe and wanted him to be my coach, but my family couldn’t afford working with him. So these guys sponsored the lessons. And I was actually the last person to work with him before he passed away. And he had no family, so I was one of the only people to see him before he passed away. A lot of my inspiration and chess passion came from him. (…) I would just like to shot some light on his amazing impact on my career and his legacy, because I don’t want that to be forgotten.”

Dr. Anthony Saidy

IM Anthony Saidy Lecture – 2014 Las Vegas International Chess Festival

told CLO, “ When Grefe won the US Championship in 1973, he did it before computers. He analyzed deeply the Najdorf Variation, and brilliantly defeated its No. 1 student in the western world, Browne.”

That sent me to the theory book, which in now online at 365Chess.com:

John A Grefe (2200) vs Walter S Browne (2530)
Event: USA-ch
Site: El Paso Date: 09/17/1973
Round: 7
ECO: B96 Sicilian, Najdorf, 7.f4
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Be7 9.Qf3 Nbd7 10.O-O-O Qc7 11.Be2 Rb8 12.Qg3 Rg8 13.Rhf1 g5 14.fxg5 Ne5 15.Nf3 b5 16.Nxe5 b4 17.Nxf7 bxc3 18.gxf6 Rxg3 19.fxe7 Rg5 20.Bxg5 hxg5 21.Nxd6+ 1-0

SF plays 6 h3
SF plays 8…Qb6
SF plays 11…b5

It is difficult to believe Mr. Six-time played that eleventh move. Obviously Dr. Saidy was filled with emotion and not objectivity when making the above statement because Walter tripped and fell onto his sword repeatedly.

I decided to put the best moves, according to Stockfish, into the 365Chess.com database in order to learn what, exactly, is the best play in the venerable Najdorf variation in order to learn what players played the best moves and the result follows:

Matyas Palczert (2321) vs Yair Parkhov (2468)
Event: Serbia Open 2022
Site: Novi Sad SRB Date: 06/29/2022
Round: 2.28
ECO: B98 Sicilian, Najdorf, 7…Be7
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 h6 9.Bh4 Nbd7 10.O-O-O Qc7 11.Be2 b5 12.Bxf6 Nxf6 13.e5 Bb7 14.Qg3 dxe5 15.fxe5 Ne4 16.Nxe6 Qxc3 17.Nxg7+ Kf8 18.Ne6+ Ke8 19.Qxc3 Nxc3 20.Nc7+ Kf8 21.bxc3 Rc8 22.Nd5 Ba3+ 23.Kb1 Bxd5 24.Rxd5 Rg8 25.g3 Rg5 26.Bd3 Rxc3 27.Rf1 Rg4 28.Rf4 Rxf4 29.gxf4 Ke7 30.Rd4 Rc8 31.c4 Bc5 32.Re4 Rd8 33.Kc2 Rd4 34.cxb5 Rxe4 35.Bxe4 axb5 36.Kd3 f6 37.Bc6 b4 38.Ke4 fxe5 39.Kxe5 Be3 40.f5 ½-½

SF plays 25 Bf3

That’s right, these two combatants played TWENTY FOUR moves of Stockfish theory before the inferior 25 g3 was played! Could it be time to assign random openings prior to each round?

Six-time US Champion GM Walter Browne, a friend of and collaborator with Grefe called him: “A person of rare moral fiber whom I will miss. He was my 2nd at the 1976 Manila Interzonal and we exchanged invaluable analysis over the years. In the 1990’s he analyzed dozens of top level international games in Blitz Chess. His help in the analysis of 19 games in my recent book was a wonderful contribution.”


Dr. Steven Dowd remarked, “With Grefe’s passing we have only Stuart Rachels (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2022/06/17/an-ongoing-review-of-the-best-i-saw-in-chess-by-im-stuart-rachels/)


left as an IM that won the US Championship, and it’s interesting that both men also gave up competitive chess at their peaks.” Dowd said he was reminded of Grefe most often through his book, “The Chess Tactician’s Handbook”,


where he quoted Grefe on a win vs. Arnold Denker in Lone Pine.

“I had White and the game began 1. e4 c6 (the tactician’s nemesis) 2. d3 d5 3 . Nd2 Qc7 I had actually been toying with this line in my pre-tournament preparation and couldn’t resist the temptation to play the gambit idea I had come up with. 4. f4?!! It’s probably completely unsound, but not totally ridiculous. After the further 4. .. Qxf4 5. Ngf3 Nf6 6. Nb3 Qc7 7. e5 I won rather easily and was awarded the prize for best-played game of Round One.” (https://www.uschess.org/index.php/December/US-Champion-John-Grefe-Dies-at-66.html)

John A Grefe (2400)

John Grefe & Edmar Mednis, Photo Jerry Bibuild (https://www.uschess.org/index.php/December/US-Champion-John-Grefe-Dies-at-66.html)

vs Arnold Sheldon Denker (2330)

Arnold Denker, Chess Review, August-September 1944, page 16 (https://chesshistory.com/winter/extra/baseball.html)

Event: Lone Pine op
Site: Lone Pine Date: ??/??/1979
Round: 1
ECO: B10 Caro-Kann, closed (Breyer) variation
1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Qc7 4.f4 Qxf4 5.Ngf3 Nf6 6.Nb3 Qc7 7.e5 Ng4 8.d4 Bf5 9.Nh4 Bd7 10.Be2 Nh6 11.Bxh6 gxh6 12.O-O Na6 13.Bxa6 bxa6 14.Nc5 e6 15.Qh5 Bc8 16.Rf6 Bxc5 17.dxc5 Rb8 18.Raf1 Rf8 19.Qxh6 Qxe5 20.Qxh7 Rxb2 21.Rxf7 Rxf7 22.Qg8+ 1-0

1.e4 c6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 Qc7 4. Ngf3 Bg4 5. Be2 e6 SF says 6 b3 which is a TN.

Isaac B Sanders (2326) vs Keith C Arkell (2499)
Event: 4NCL 2015-16
Site: Birmingham ENG Date: 01/24/2016
Round: 4.116
ECO: B10 Caro-Kann, closed (Breyer) variation
1.e4 c6 2.d3 e5 3.Qe2 Bc5 4.g3 Nf6 5.Bg2 O-O 6.Nf3 Re8 7.O-O d5 8.h3 Nbd7 9.Nbd2 a5 10.a4 b6 11.b3 Ba6 12.Bb2 dxe4 13.Nxe4 Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Rc8 15.Rfe1 f6 16.Qh4 Be7 17.Qg4 g6 18.Nh4 Bf8 19.d4 Bg7 20.dxe5 f5 21.Qf4 Qe7 22.Nf3 Bb7 23.Ng5 Ba6 24.Nf3 Bb7 25.Rad1 h6 26.e6 Nc5 27.Bxg7 Qxg7 28.Qd6 Qf6 29.e7 Qxd6 30.Rxd6 Kh7 31.Nh4 Ne4 32.Bxe4 Rxe7 33.Nxf5 1-0

SF plays 3 d4

Evgeny Shaposhnikov (2554) vs Roman Ovetchkin (2507)
Event: RUS-Cup 300 years
Site: St Petersburg Date: 10/20/2003
Round: 3
ECO: B10 Caro-Kann, closed (Breyer) variation
1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Qc7 4.Qe2 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Nf6 6.Nxf6+ gxf6 7.g3 h5 8.Nf3 Bg4 9.Bg2 h4 10.Bf4 e5 11.h3 Be6 12.Bd2 hxg3 13.fxg3 c5 14.Nh4 Nc6 15.Qf2 ½-½

SF plays 3 Nf3

Ilia Smirin (2650) vs Maxim Rodshtein (2623)
Event: Richard Riordan GM Rapid
Site: Natanya ISR Date: 07/13/2009
Round: 5
ECO: B10 Caro-Kann, closed (Breyer) variation
1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Qc7 4.Qe2 g6 5.g3 Bg7 6.Bg2 e5 7.Ngf3 Ne7 8.O-O O-O 9.b4 a5 10.bxa5 dxe4 11.dxe4 Rxa5 12.Nc4 Ra4 13.Ncxe5 Nd7 14.Nxd7 Bxd7 15.Bf4 Qa5 16.Rab1 Bc8 17.Bd6 Re8 18.Qd3 Rxa2 19.Qb3 h6 20.Rfd1 b5 21.Bb4 Qa7 22.Bc5 Qxc5 23.Qxa2 Be6 24.Qa5 Qxc2 25.Rbc1 Qa4 26.Qc7 Qa3 27.Rb1 Rc8 28.Qb7 Bg4 29.h3 Qxf3 30.Qxe7 Bf8 31.Qd7 Ra8 32.Qxc6 Ra2 33.Rf1 b4 34.Qd5 Rc2 35.Rb3 Qf6 36.e5 Qe7 37.Re1 Qa7 38.Rf3 Bc5 39.e6 Bxf2+ 40.Kh1 Bxe1 41.exf7+ 1-0

SF plays 3…e5


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