The Chess World Isn’t Ready for a Cheating Scandal
Magnus Carlsen, the World Chess Championship winner, withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup after losing to Hans Niemann.
By Greg Keener
Sept. 13, 2022Updated 2:05 p.m. ET
When Hans Niemann beat Magnus Carlsen, the world chess champion, in the Sinquefield Cup on Sept. 4, he ended Carlsen’s 53-game unbeaten streak in classical over the board tournaments, and set into motion a debacle that has turned into one of the biggest chess scandals in years.
The next day, Mr. Carlsen withdrew from the tournament, which is an exceedingly rare move, especially among top players in elite events. He also tweeted a cryptic video of José Mourinho, the Portuguese soccer manager, saying, “I prefer really not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.” In the video, Mourinho is speaking at a news conference after a game in which his team might have lost because of questionable officiating, so online observers interpreted Mr. Carlsen’s post as insinuating that Mr. Niemann cheated in some way during the game. A representative for Mr. Carlsen did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Irina Krush, a grandmaster who has played against both Mr. Niemann and Mr. Carlsen, said, “I did play against Hans at the Marshall Championship at the end of 2019, where he made his second GM norm and tied for first in the tournament. So from that point on, I knew he was a very strong and up-and-coming player.” She added, “I think it would be good if Magnus also gave his side of things because it’s just a bad situation for the chess world to have this hanging without a resolution.”
The above is from an article in the New York Times. The question in the Chess World is, “Why has Magnus nutted-up?”
If you are wondering who is Greg Keener he informs readers a few paragraphs later in this paragraph:
In addition to these past cheating incidents, Mr. Niemann is notorious in the chess community for his abrasive personality. As an arbiter in FIDE, or Fédération Internationale des Échecs, the governing body of professional chess, I have known Mr. Niemann since he was a talented scholastic player, and have had to navigate his difficult behavior on more than one occasion. Just a few years ago, Mr. Niemann was not yet a grandmaster and would play regularly at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City, where I work as an assistant manager.
Say what? Where do I begin? How about this dude is working in New York City and has the audacity to call anyone from outside the city “abrasive”?! Give me a break… This poor dude has had to “navigate his difficult behavior on more than one occasion.” Do tell… GIVE ME A BREAK! What kind of work does this guy do in New York City? I worked at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center and part of the job description was “navigate difficult behavior!” Out of all the Chess players, and parents, you have encountered in NEW YORK CITY, you chose to single out Hans Niemann for having “difficult behavior”?! What does any of what is contained in the paragraph have to do with anything other than being an attempt to disparage Hans Niemann. I’ve been to New York City and this is the kinda crap one reads in a tabloid…in NEW YORK CITY!
Hatchet job Keener continues in that vein when writing: “Statistical analysis by Pawnalyze, a chess analysis blog, showed that Mr. Niemann had consistently outperformed his rating strength to an astonishing degree.”
Give me a break. The same could be said about most, if not all, top rated Grandmasters on their climb to the top. Fortunately, there is one New Yorker who speaks for most of the Chess world, Grandmaster Michael Rohde.
Michael Rohde, a grandmaster, worked with Mr. Niemann as a student at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School. “Hans was the captain of the C.G.P.S. chess team,” Mr. Rohde said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I was his coach. He was autonomous and very hard-working.” He added, “It makes perfect sense to me that he is 2700 now.”
Regarding the most recent allegations of cheating, Mr. Rohde said, “I don’t understand exactly what the allegation is. I haven’t seen any evidence or anything specific. It’s just accusations based on his results.”
The article concludes with these two paragraphs:
“Nonetheless, Mr. Niemann’s meteoric rise raises important questions for professional chess. FIDE and the organizers of large tournaments owe the community of players and fans clear guidelines and procedures for how to handle what is likely to be an increasingly common phenomenon.”
“When asked if Mr. Niemann would be invited back to the St. Louis Chess Club, Mr. Rich, its executive director, said, “Yes, Hans has already accepted an invitation to play in the fall classic, so I already have him signed up for the next tournament at the club.”