Chess players, former and current, held varied views on Magnus Carlsen’s unprecedented one-move resignation, obviously in silent protest, against USA’s 19-year-old Hans Moke Niemann in the sixth round of the Julius Baer Generation Cup rapid online tournament on Monday.
Reacting to Carlsen’s act, Dutch Grandmaster Anish Giri said he couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room.
“It looks like he is clearly insinuating something but until you catch someone you cannot do anything. It just looks very odd now. Clearly, it all makes sense if Hans is cheating and he doesn’t want to play him but if he isn’t then it is really very wrong. So I don’t know, we have to see. Everybody is expecting some kind of big rabbit out of the hat with Magnus, but he just doesn’t want to play Hans, it seems.”
Asked if Carlsen had any proof to prove his point, Anish said, “I think it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t have it, because if he had there would be no need to do that. It’s pretty clear to me that he is convinced, or near convinced, that that is the case. Based on the evidence, that is already public, he just made that call. It’s a big problem playing people who have been banned and especially people who have admitted to cheating online before because you lose trust in them and that is a major, major problem. Also, insinuating cheating is a big problem as well, so these things have to be resolved.”
He further added, “It’s crazy, crazy stuff going on and it’s not clear how it will end because as we see now I don’t think Magnus has anything more than what’s there. I mean, there is the repeated cheating online, there is the slightly weird character that Hans is portraying but all that doesn’t mean he cheats online or over the board. So it’s all just very confusing.
R. Praggnanandhaa, who had Carlsen on the run during their eighth-round clash on Monday, said, “I was shocked to see it, but yeah, it was his decision so... I don’t have any opinion to be honest.”
Levon Aronian, who faced Carlsen and lost in the game following this drama, seemed to side with the World champion.
“I understand the frustration of Magnus. I really didn’t know much about a lot of things. Now I am somewhere in the middle. I do believe Hans has not been the cleanest person when it comes to online chess. But he’s a young guy, hopefully, this will be a lesson to him not to do any bad things online. Generally, I think this problem requires a solution and there are solutions.
Former women’s world champion Susan Polgar took to Twitter and reacted to Carlsen’s resignation. “Definitely a protest move! This beef will not die down anytime soon!”
Jon Ludvig Hammer, Carlsen’s teammate and former ‘second’, called for sanctions against his playing partner when they were nine years old.
Speaking on Norwegian TV, Hammers said, “It’s the most unacceptable behaviour to lose on purpose. The most unsportsmanlike Thing you can do.”
Alejandro Ramirez, the Grandmaster who interviewed Niemann after the Sinquefield Cup earlier this month, said, “Something is up. I don’t know that it is, but I do know that this is so strong that Magnus needs to come forward and say something.
“It’s a clear indication that Magnus thinks that something is wrong with Hans. Whether it’s cheating, whether it’s something else that happened, there are other possibilities. The word cheat gets used a lot, but there are a lot of other things that may have happened.
British Grandmaster David Howell said, “This is unprecedented in history I think by any World Champion, by any top player, let alone Magnus, who loves playing any game possible and has great respect for the game of chess and every tournament he plays.
“It’s just bizarre, bizarre times. You can’t just leave it on this note. I don’t know if he can continue the tournament if he leaves it on this note. I just wish we’d seen a game, that’s all I can say.”
In the words of Grandmaster Simon Williams, “One thing that comes out of this is that it needs to be clarified. You can’t make wild accusations. Imagine doing that in a court of law, you’ve got to be innocent until proven guilty, that is just a fact.”
From the commentator’s box, International Master Jovanka Houska held Carlsen responsible for “pouring more fuel on the fire.”
She added, “Actually, I think he needs to do more than just a statement in fact,” she said. “He can’t just say, ‘Yeah, I think you cheated’ and initiate a witch-hunt. He has to say, ‘this is my proof’.”
Meanwhile, Carlsen continues to stay silent on social media after declining post-match interviews during this event.