With Hans Moke Niemann deciding to sue some of the biggest names and stakeholders of the game of chess, the drama surrounding the sport does not appear to be waning anytime soon.
Niemann has filed a whopping $100million lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, the Play Magnus group, Chess.com, and the website’s chief chess officer Daniel Rensch.
Niemann, through his attorneys Oved & Oved LLP, has targeted Magnus, saying, “Notorious for his inability to cope with defeat, Carlsen snapped. Enraged that the young Niemann, fully 12 years his junior, dared to disrespect the ‘King of Chess,’ and fearful that the young prodigy would further blemish his multi-million dollar brand by beating him again.”
It all began with Miami’s FTX Crypto Cup - an online event - in August, which took place immediately after the Chess Olympiad in Mahabalipuram, India. Magnus, the current world champion and several other elite players, including Levon Aronian, Anish Giri, Alireza Firouzja, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, R. Praggnanandhaa, and Le Quang Liem, were invited to the south Florida city to help promote the game as an e-sport.
Niemann had received a wildcard entry into this competition.
In the second round, Niemann faced Carlsen and defeated him in the first game. He then refused to speak in an interview, saying, “the chess will speak for itself.” However, the world champion got his revenge as he beat him in the next three games to win the round 3-1.
It was nothing short of a disaster for Niemann as he lost all the rounds and ended in the last position with zero points despite playing some good games. However, Niemann remained the talk of the town and was dubbed ‘ the new bad boy of chess’ due to his eerie demeanour in interviews.
Niemann got another wildcard entry, this time in the Sinquefield Cup, which has been part of the reputed Grand Chess Tour since 2015. He won the game against Magnus with black pieces in the third round after playing a beautiful Nimzo-Indian opening in 57-moves. The 19-year-old from San Francisco stated in the post-match interview that he was well-prepared for this line, and fortunately, Magnus played the same line against him.
Then, in a subsequent tweet, he expressed his gratitude for being allowed to compete at the highest level of the game.
Things went haywire pretty quickly. Magnus did not turn up in the next round of the tournament against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Instead, to the tweet announcing his withdrawal, he linked a snippet of the famous March 2014 interview of then Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho saying, “If I talk, I’m in big trouble,” after a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa.
Given the manner in which Magnus dropped the bombshell, many invested fans and even some players saw his withdrawal as a subliminal accusation that Niemann had cheated during the game.
Nakamura, the five-time US national champion and World Blitz number one player, stated openly on his streams that Niemann may have cheated and that this is the only explanation for Magnus’ sudden withdrawal from the tournament. Nakamura also pointed out that Chess.com, a popular online chess-playing platform, had banned Niemann in the past based on a conjecture that he had been cheating.
Amid all the speculation, Niemann gave an emotional, raw, and a very open interview to GM Alejandro Ramirez following the fifth round of the Sinquefield Cup, in which he addressed all the questions surrounding the scandal, denying all allegations.
Niemann confronted, “I’m not going to let Chess.com, I’m not going to let Magnus Carlsen, I’m not going to let Hikaru Nakamura, the three arguably biggest entities in chess, simply slander my reputation.” He did, however, admit to cheating in online games when he was 12 and 16 years old.
For the next few weeks, the situation surrounding this controversy remained at a stalemate as Magnus refused to speak about it, leaving room for speculation.
The next big turn of events came in September when Magnus and Niemann were clubbed together in the Julius Bear Generation Cup, the seventh event of the 2022 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour by chess24.
All eyes were on Magnus and Niemann’s game in round 6, which began with Niemann playing 1.d4 and ended abruptly with Magnus resigning after Niemann decided to go for c3 in his second move.
He again refrained from commenting during the competition, stating that he might address and talk much more about the ongoing drama only after the tournament.
On September 27, Magnus tweeted his views in an official statement. The 31-year-old accused Niemann of cheating in much more volume than he publicly admitted and suggested his rise to prominence in the chess world had been too rapid to be believable.
In the official statement, he also expressed his unwillingness to play against Niemann, pleading with chess organisers to take more stringent security measures. However, neither Magnus nor his team provided any concrete proof which would prove Niemann has been cheating..
In a new development, Chess.com published a 72-page report claiming Niemann cheated in over 100 online games, justifying their decision to ban Niemann from their platform.