Tuesday, 4 Oct 2022

Chess champ Magnus Carlsen resigns after one move against Niemann

Bold move! Dramatic moment chess World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen RESIGNS after one move in rematch against US teen – whose earlier unexpected victory inspired bizarre theories that he used anal beads to cheat

  • Magnus Carlsen, 31, resigned in spectacular fashion at tournament on Monday
  • He withdrew after making a single move against 19-year-old Hans Niemann
  • Announcers at the Julius Baer Generation Cup were left speechless
  • By withdrawing, Carlsen made clear that he refuses to play against Niemann
  • The teen defeated Carlson, the top ranked player in the world, earlier this month
  • The victory was so unexpected that it sparked bizarre cheating allegations 

The biggest controversy in the chess world took a dramatic new turn on Monday, when the world’s top ranked player resigned from a rematch against a teen opponent who unexpectedly beat him earlier this month.

Magnus Carlsen, 31, stunned spectators at the Julius Baer Generation Cup, held virtually on the online chess platform Chess24, by withdrawing after a single move against 19-year-old Hans Niemann.

Announcers at the event were left speechless at the unheard-of resignation, which signaled that Carlsen intended to play in the tournament, but refused to play a match against Niemann.

It comes weeks after Carlsen, the reigning world champion, spectacularly withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis after losing to Niemann, who was playing black.

The upset win inspired unsubstantiated theories that the teen was using vibrating anal beads to receive tips from a confederate — a claim that Niemann furiously denies. 

Chess world champion Magnus Carlsen, 31, (seen in August) stunned spectators of the Julius Baer Generation Cup on Monday by withdrawing after a single move

Chess prodigy Hans Niemann, 19, (above) has been dogged by cheating allegations following his stunning defeat of Carlsen earlier this month

On Monday, during a preliminary round in the online tournament, Carlsen caught announcers by surprise when he made a single move with black, and then conceded defeat and logged out of the match.

‘And what?,’ said announcer Peter Leko, visibly shocked. ‘No. No. What happened? That’s it?’ 

‘What?’ said the match’s other announcer, Tania Sachdev. ‘Magnus Carlsen just resigned. Got up, and left. Switched off his camera, and that’s all we know right now,’ she continued.

‘Wow. Speechless, yeah?’ Leko responded. ‘What to say, what to say? And the story continues.’

‘This is unprecedented. I just, I can’t believe it,’ Sachdev said. ‘Did that just happen, Peter? Magnus just refusing to play against Hans. He will play the tournament, but he is saying I will not play the game against him. That’s making a very big statement.’

It follows San Francisco-native Niemann’s victory over the Norwegian Carlsen – while the teen was playing black – at the Sinquefield Cup on September 4. 

Carlson (top right) made a single move with his king’s knight before resigning from the match, stunning announcer Peter Leko (center bottom), who said ‘No. No. What happened? That’s it?’

‘This is unprecedented. I just, I can’t believe it,’ said the match’s other announcer, Tania Sachdev, after Carlsen resigned and logged out of the match

The win was so unexpected that it inspired a slew of theories that Niemann cheated, including rumors that he somehow gained early access to Carlsen’s strategy, to more fanciful theories that the teen received instructions through a device in his shoe, or even a sex toy.

The latter theory, stemming from a post on Reddit, posits that Niemann used remotely activated anal beads to receive instructions from a co-conspirator analyzing the match with a chess computer program. 

Niemann has vehemently denied cheating at the tournament, saying: ‘I have never cheated in an over-the-board game.’

‘If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it,’ he added. 

‘I don’t care. Because I know I am clean. You want me to play in a closed box with zero electronic transmission, I don’t care. I’m here to win and that is my goal regardless.’

But critics note that his Elo rating, which gauges the strength of chess players, shot to 2701 after his victory over Carlsen, up from just 2484 in January 2021, a staggering rise that some find unlikely.

Carlsen (left) and Niemann are seen at the September 4 match at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, where Niemann’s victory with black spurred wild cheating theories

Niemann has vehemently denied cheating at the St. Louis tournament, saying: ‘I have never cheated in an over-the-board game’

And Niemann has admitted to cheating in online chess tournaments when he was a child, saying that he deeply regrets it. 

In one online match when he was 12, he says one of his friends brought over an iPad loaded with a ‘chess engine’ program that offered the most likely route to a win. The person Niemann was playing couldn’t see him, and so was unaware of what was unfolding. 

The September 4 match sparked a torrent of wild speculation, with one fan tweeting: ‘Currently obsessed with the notion that Hans Niemann has been cheating at the Sinquefield Cup chess tournament using wireless anal beads that vibrate him the correct moves.’

Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk chimed in and shared a video on Twitter of an influencer discussing the rumor that Niemann used anal beads during the chess competition.

In a since deleted tweet, Musk tweeted an adapted version of a quote by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, writing: ‘Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one can see (cause it’s in ur butt).’ 

In a since deleted tweet, Musk tweeted an adapted version of a quote by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, writing: ‘Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one can see (cause it’s in ur butt)’

When Carlsen dropped out of the tournament without explanation, he posted a cryptic Tweet saying: ‘I’ve withdrawn from the tournament. I’ve always enjoyed playing in the @STLChessClub, and hope to be back in the future.’

Carlsen had played 53 classical matches without a loss and had won the cup twice before in the last decade, but had never withdrawn from an ongoing event. 

Along with the Tweet, he posted a cryptic video of football manager Jose Mourinho saying: ‘If I speak I am in big trouble’.

Mourinho had been speaking at a news conference after a game in which his team is believed to have lost because of some questionable decisions by officials. 

‘It must be embarrassing for the world champion to lose to an idiot like me,’ Niemann said in an interview shortly afterward, according to Vice. ‘I feel bad for him.’ 

Chess.com has declined to invite Niemann from Chesscom Global Championship, a $1million event starting with online qualifiers and culminating in an 8-player final in Toronto, after the controversy.

‘I’ve met with someone very high up in Chesscom at the Sinquefield Cup, had amazing words, but because of this game against Magnus, because of what he said, they have decided to completely remove me from the website,’ he said.

Niemann became a chess grandmaster in 2020.

How technology has driven an explosion of cheating scandals at the highest level of chess 

Aside from bribing opponents or officials, or falsifying tournament results, most cheating scandals in chess involve covertly receiving suggestions on potential moves. 

With the explosion of chess computer programs and devices like cell phones and Bluetooth, tournament officials have had to navigate a minefield of challenges in detecting cheaters in recent years.

At the top levels of competition, players are now routinely scanned with metal detectors before playing in tournaments. But as the defenses against cheating evolve, so do the devious schemes of unethical players. Here are some of the five biggest cheating scandals in recent memory:

2010 FIDE Olympiad Tournament 

In the tournament at Russia’s Khanty-Mansiysk, French players Cyril Marzolo, Arnaud Hauchard and Sébastien Feller were busted colluding in an elaborate cheating scheme.

Sébastien Feller (above) was one of three French players caught colluding in an elaborate cheating scheme in 2010


Team coach Arnaud Hauchard (left) signaled moves after receiving text messages from Cyril Marzolo (right), who was following the tournament from home

While Feller played at the board, Marzolo watched the tournament from home and tracked the game using a chess program.

Selecting ideal moves from the chess engine, Marzolo then texted the moves to Hauchard, the team coach, who would then stand or sit in a certain position to signal the move to Feller.

All three players involved were either a Grandmaster or International Master, and they were all handed lengthy suspensions from the FIDE Ethics Committee.

2014 Iasi Open 

At the tournament in Romania, 2239-rated player Wesley Vermeulen was caught cheating by consulting a mobile phone in the toilet.

According to the tournament minutes, Vermeulen cooperated with officials and admitted his guilt when confronted. 

He was eventually banned for one year by both the Dutch chess federation and FIDE

2015 Dubai Open Chess Tournament  

Georgian grandmaster Gaioz Nigalidze was caught cheating in 2015

Georgian grandmaster Gaioz Nigalidze was banned from the tournament after officials discovered him checking a smartphone with chess software in the bathroom in the middle of a game.

Nigalidze’s opponent grew suspicious when the grandmaster repeatedly bolted for the bathroom after each move during a crucial part of the game, tournament officials said. 

At first, Nigalidze tried to deny the phone was his. But it was logged into a social media account in his name, and had a program running analyzing the moves in his match, officials said.

2016 Moscow Open 

In February 2016, Sergey Aslanov was expelled from the Russian tournament for a consulting a smartphone in the toilet.

The phone was found hidden under a loose tile behind a drainpipe the bathroom. 

Aslanov admitted to making an error in leaving he phone in the bathroom, but insisted that he was not guilty of cheating.

He was suspended for one year.

2019 Strasbourg Open 

Latvian-Czech grandmaster Igors Rausis was caught red-handed (above) cheating during a tournament in 2019 by consulting a smartphone in the bathroom

In July 2019, Latvian-Czech grandmaster Igors Rausis was caught cheating, in another example of using a mobile phone in the bathroom. 

Rausis had long been under suspicion after his rating skyrocketed to nearly 2700 in a precipitous rise.  

He admitted to having cheated, and announced his retirement from chess.

‘I simply lost my mind yesterday,’ he explained to Chess.com. ‘At least what I committed yesterday is a good lesson, not for me—I played my last game of chess already.’ 

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