A 19-year-old American chess grandmaster ‘probably cheated’ in more than 100 online games, including several prize money events, according to a survey by an online platform where many top players go clash.
Chess.com published the 72-page report on Tuesday, a month after the world’s highest-rated chess player withdrew from a tournament after grandmaster Hans Niemann defeated him.
World chess champion Magnus Carlsen, 31, has withdrawn from the event after outlining the young player’s progress as “unusual” and suggesting he wasn’t “fully focused on the game” when Niemann beat him on September 4 at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis.
Tuesday’s report said that while there were “many remarkable signals and unusual patterns” in Niemann’s play, there was no evidence that he cheated in the game against Carlsen and no “direct evidence proving that he had cheated in other over-the-board, or in-person, games in the past.
But the report concluded that Niemann likely cheated in more than 100 online games, saying that while his performance in some of the matches “may appear to be within the realm of certain statistical possibilities, the likelihood of a single player doing as well in as many matches. games is incredibly low.
“I won’t back down”
Niemann did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
After beating Christopher Yoo in the first round of the U.S. Championship in St. Louis, Niemann was asked Wednesday to address the “elephant in the room” during a post-match interview with the Saint Louis Chess Club.
“This game is a message for everyone,” he said in his first public comments since the Chess.com report was published. “It all started with me saying, ‘Chess speaks for itself,’ and I think this game speaks for itself and showed the chess player that I am.”
Niemann said the game “also showed that I won’t back down and play my best chess here no matter how much pressure I’m under and that’s all I have to say about this game. And you know, “chess speaks for itself. That’s all I can say.”
When the interviewer tried to ask another question, Niemann cut him off.
“I’m sorry, that’s all,” he said. “You can leave that to your own interpretation, but thank you. That’s it. That’s all I’d like to say, because it was such a beautiful game that I don’t even need to describe it.
Niemann admitted to cheating in the past
Chess.com’s findings were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The site’s cheat detection system tracks player performance and time usage, and it compares the moves a player makes to the moves a chess engine would make, among other things, according to the report.
The day after the game against Carlsen, the site informed Niemann that his invitation to the Chess.com World Championship had been revoked, as had his access to the site, according to the report.
The report said the decision was made “based on our experience with him in the past, growing suspicions among top players and our team as to his rapid rise in the game, the bizarre circumstances and explanations for his victory over Magnus, as well as Magnus’ unprecedented experience. Withdrawal.”
In an interview last month with the Saint Louis Chess Club, Niemann admitted to cheating in an online tournament when he was 12 and in an unranked game when he was 16 which he described as an “absolutely ridiculous mistake”.
“After that, other than when I was 12, I never, ever in my life cheated in an overboard game, in an online tournament,” he said. “I tell my truth because I don’t want any misrepresentation. I am proud of myself to have learned from this mistake.
“Now I’ve given everything to chess,” he added.
Last week, the International Chess Federation said its Fair Play Committee had formed a panel to investigate Carlsen’s claims that Niemann had cheated, and Niemann’s own statement about online cheating.
A prior ban
The Chess.com report pointed out that the site banned Niemann two years ago after suspecting him of cheating at events and matches. In a phone call with the site’s chess director, Niemann reportedly confessed to cheating and told his followers on the Twitch streaming platform that he was closing his account.
In screenshots of messages from November 2020 included in the report, Niemann appears to ask the official, Danny Rensch, if he could make an exception to the ban and allow him to play in the upcoming US Chess Qualifiers.
Rensch refuses, saying the site can’t risk it participating in such a high-profile event. He would be allowed to resume some games in January 2021, Rensch says, according to the screenshot.
“It’s more than fair and I really appreciate you trusting me and giving me this chance,” Niemann appears to say in the posts. “I also agree and I don’t think I should play.”
In last month’s Saint Louis Chess Club interview, Niemann said he was grateful to Rensch for handling the previous ban privately and giving him a chance to redeem himself. But he said Chess.com was now jumping on Carlsen’s innuendo after their match.
“I think it’s completely unfair, it’s a targeted attack, and if you look at my games, it has nothing to do with my games,” he said in the interview. “They only did this because of what Magnus said.”