The world of chess is in the middle of one of its biggest controversies ever.
While many may disregard the game as a simple pastime, for some, the world of professional chess is a highly competitive sphere to be involved in. Chess world champion Magnus Carlsen has accused a teenage opponent - Hans Niemann - of cheating during a match, leaving players and spectators grappling with one of the biggest scandals the game has ever seen.
Now a leading online chess platform has backed up some claims of cheating after they investigated Niemann. Here’s everything we know about the controversy.
Who is Hans Niemann?
Hans Niemann is a 19-year-old chess player from San Francisco, California. Niemann is a grandmaster of the game, and also streams online matches on live-streaming platform Twitch.
He began playing chess at eight-years-old, and as of September 2022, is the sixth highest rated junior player in the world. He is ranked 45th overall.
Who is Magnus Carlsen?
Magnus Carlsen is a 31-year-old chess world champion from Tønsberg, Norway. The accomplished player is often considered to be one of the greatest to have played the game professionally, and is currently the five-time reigning World Chess Champion.
Carlsen began playing chess at the age of five and was encouraged into the game by his father, who was a keen amatuer player. He won his first tournament at the age of 13, and has gone on to produce the highest rating in history at 2882, as well as holding the record for the longest unbeaten streak at the elite level.
What happened during the Carlsen and Niemann match?
Carlsen and Niemann faced off in an over-the-board match on 4 September 2022, as part of the Sinquefield Cup, an annual, invitation-only tournament. Carlsen had previously announced that he would not be defending his world championship, although made an appearance at the tournament as a wildcard competitor.
Niemann eventually won the match, ending a 53-game long unbeaten streak for Carlsen. The following day, Carlsen announced on Twitter that he would be withdrawing from the tournament, although he alluded to the fact that it had something to do with his match with Niemann as he tweeted a video of Jose Mourinho alongside saying “if I speak I am in big trouble”.
Although he did not formally accuse Niemann of cheating, fans and players took this tweet as evidence that Carlsen was alluding to this. Their suspicions were confirmed when Carlsen publicly accused Niemann of cheating on 26 September.
In a statement he said: "I believe that cheating in chess is a big deal and an existential threat to the game. I also believe that chess organisers and all those who care about the sanctity of the game we love should seriously consider increasing security measures and methods of cheat detection for over the board chess.
"I believe that Niemann has cheated more — and more recently — than he has publicly admitted."
Did Hans Niemann cheat against Magnus Carlsen?
The accusations made by Carlsen cause widespread controversy in the chess community. The situation led to online platform Chess.com, which has hosted many online games for Niemann, launching an investigation into the teenager’s playing habits.
In a 72-page investigation into Niemann, Chess.com said that it is “likely” that the 19-year-old cheated in more than 100 online games as recently as 2020. Some of these games allegedly include prize money events.
However, it found “no direct evidence’’ that Niemann had cheated in any over-the-board games, including the Sinquefield Cup game against Carlsen. Carlsen has also not provided any evidence of the alleged cheating.
Niemann has previously admitted to cheating in informal games as a young teenager, but has adamantly denied any wrongdoing in professional competitive games. He has also refuted that he cheated in games he streamed on his Twitch channel.