2022 Chess Drama

TL;DR Current world chess champion withdrew from a chess tournament after losing a game in front of a young and up-and-coming player that has been cheating in the past in online chess.

Magnus Carlsen is the current chess number one player in the world according to FIDE (International Chess Federation). At the time of writing this post, he has a rating of 2861.

Magnus Carlsen's stats according to FIDE

Magnus played along with other top GMs (grand masters) in the Sinquefield Cup 2022 tournament.

The game Carlsen vs Niemann (PGN notation), in which Carlsen lost, is the one that sparked all the "drama". See this analysis from the article "Is Hans Niemann Cheating?". The article also explains the timeline so make sure you read it.

Normally I wouldn't have found out about this, but the event was covered live via Twitch by GM Hikaru Nakamura. I loved Hikaru's comments, jokes and analysis so I got hooked and kept watching most of his streams from the tournament.

Here are my take-aways:

  1. Carlsen quit the tournament, hence his matches and points don't count in the overall tournament. He also posted a short tweet implying some sort of wrong doing. In doing so he allowed speculation, trolling and harassment over the game and Hans Niemann as a chess player.

Carlsen is a well balanced person but is very ambitious and he wants to reach 2900 rating and can be very affected by losing a high stakes game. Still, he demonstrated grit and equilibrium to become no 1.

Keep in mind that chess is also a psychological game.

Magnus tweets after the withdrawal

2. Carlsen played a weird game with white and was punished by Hans with very precise moves. If you haven't read the article liked above you can also analyze the game via https://www.chess.com/analysis using the PGN notation link from above. Imho, Carlsen played as if he wanted to surprise Niemann.

3. Hans Niemann's post-game retrospectives and interviews were weird and imprecise. I used to play competitive chess in the high-school and I reckon my brain was fried after a 5h match but I could still analyze the game. I was 1800 in ratings and Hans is 2700! This sparked comments from GM Hikaru on Twitch.

Make sure to also check other's GM reviews on their own games, eg Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, etc.

I really enjoyed watching Alejandro Ramirez leading the post-game analysis with the GMs.

4. Although there have been voices that said Hikaru made accusations of Hans cheating OTP at STL Chess Cup, after watching most of the live streams I can tell you that he only speculated based on both Magnus and Hans's actions during those days. Nobody has proof of any cheating going on.

Because Hikaru's Twitch audience is very young and can easily jump to conclusions I believe the subject has to be clarified multiple times in order to educate and avoid emotional stress on the players part.

5. Hans admitted to cheating in online chess and was previously banned from chess.com. How his account was removed from chess.com and they demanded him an explanation.

Note that chess.com is a private profitable business which partnered with Magnus website

6. Another reason why you might suspect Hans Niemann might be cheating is his inconsistent track record but also the fast ascension to the 2700 rating.

Previous to Sinquefield Cup he played in FTX Crypto Cup (15-21.08.2022) and scored 0 points.

FTX Crypto Cup 2022 standings

Firouzja Alireza ratings from 2018 - 2022 (starting from 2550 ELO)
* Alireza won the Sinquefield Cup

Hans Niemann's ratings from 2021 - 2022 (starting from 2500 ELO)
* Hans scored 3.5 points in the Sinquefield Cup 2022

Sinquefield Cup 2002 final standings
* notice Magnus Carlsen has 0 points due to his withdrawal
** Firouzja won the playoff against Nepo

7. This story is great for chess, it brought a lot of eyeballs to the streams and chess matches are being the central subject in many social media forums.

Still, we should not allow harassment and unfunded accusation creep towards players since this can only lead to toxicity which is easily fueled online by trolls.

After all, this made me go back to the chess board, look-up games and made me want to play chess again even more! Don't forget, chess speaks for itself.

Update: 26 sept 2022 - "Magnus Carlsen won the Julius Baer Cup" and also announced a statement regarding the situation created during the cup.

During this tournament he resigned after one move against Hans Niemann.

Update: 27 sept 2022 - "Magnus Carlsen statement" - he asked explicit permission from Niemann to release some personal details.