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Chess.com bans Hans Niemann following cheating accusations

In a cheating scandal that has shaken the world for good, Chess.com, the world’s largest online chess platform, has removed Grand Master Hans Niemann from the site after publicly providing proof of him having cheated in over 100 online games, some of which involved prize money as well. 

It all started when Chess world champion Magnus Carlsen lost to Neimann at an in-person game the duo played at the Sinquefield Cup. While Niemann was supposed to be outclassed, at least on paper, Carlsen made mistakes in his game that Niemann used to his advantage with uncanny precision. 

Carlsen resigned from the tournament instead of playing the next opponent. The duo met again in an online match at the Julius Baer Generation Cup, where Carlsen only played two moves before resigning from the match. He later went on to win the tournament but later issued a statement on Twitter implying that Niemann was a cheater and even raised questions about the vigilance of the tournament organizers. 

Carlsen’s resignation from the two tournaments left organisers and fans frustrated alike. Rumours around Niemann even went as far as to suggest that he used anal beads to communicate with his coach, who was feeding him moves by vibrating them in a certain pattern.

While Carlsen is yet to provide any actual proof of his allegations, Niemann went on to accept that he has in fact cheated twice before when he was younger — at the age of 12 and 16. Chess.com ended up publishing a 72-page report explaining why the 19-year-old was removed from the Global Chess Championship, the extent to which he cheated on the site and what can be said further about his spectacular rise in over-the-board (OTB) chess. 

Chess.com bans Hans Niemann following cheating accusations
Online games where Niemann likely cheated | Source: Chess.com

According to Chess.com’s report, Niemann has likely cheated in over 100 online games, including several prize money events, games that he was streaming and other ranked games on the platform. The platform also provided data between July 2015 and August 2020 as evidence of the games Niemann likely cheated his way through. 

Ken Regan, an independent chess cheat detection expert agrees with the platform’s finding, and so does Grand Master David Smerdon who appreciated the platform in a long twitter thread suggesting that the young chess master cheated in online games, but also stating that there was no evidence of him cheating in the Sinquefield Cup or that his OTB rise is suspicious. 

Regan, who also developed the program used by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) to detect cheaters also analysed the game between Carlsen and Niemann and found no evidence of cheating. 

This leaves the chess world in a split decision where Niemann’s cheating accusations basically put the situation in a stalemate, so to speak with the situation not seeing a likely resolution. Niemann will likely continue playing under suspicion, with organisers being faced with an invitational dilemma to maintain the integrity of their tournaments. 

The entire debacle isn’t a good outcome for worldwide chess, but it has put significant light on the issue of cheating in the game and major chess organisations around the world seem willing to work out a solution. 

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