The ongoing chess cheating scandal won’t die out, and it’s starting to seem like the rest of us are just pawns being shuffled from one accusation to the next.
Earlier this week, during a preliminary game against chess master Hans Niemann in the ongoing Julius Baer Generation Cup being played through the online Chess24 platform, Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen ditched both the game and the stream after only the second move. It was a sudden shock to both the hosts and the chess community, and it seemed to imply that he was still protesting Niemann’s participation in the tournament.
He didn’t provide any statements then, but on Wednesday he broke his silence to the Chess24 stream. He declined to speak specifically and actually utter any real accusations of cheating, adding “but people can draw their own conclusion and they certainly have. I have to say I’m very impressed by Niemann’s play, and I think his mentor GM Maxim Dlugy must be doing a great job.”
Despite him saying he’s not making a scene with any full accusation, his mention of Dlugy also seems to be a further accusation of cheating. Chess coach and FIDE (the International Chess Federation) master Yosha Iglesias wrote on Twitter that Dlugy had allegedly been caught cheating on Chess.com back in 2017.
It seems the ongoing chess cheating scandal is dependent upon circumstantial evidence that, while giving a bad look to Niemann, does not give any real evidence. Other chess masters have also mentioned how Niemann performs “strange moves” during his game, but it’s still a long way from actually true evidence.
Chess.com’s CEO Erik Allebest reportedly declined to offer a statement, according to their own news bulletin. FIDE Director General Emil Sutofsky told the Julius Baer cup stream Wednesday that their organization plans to connect with Chess.com and put out some sort of statement, saying it’s something they have to “review closely.”
The 19-year-old U.S. chess master Niemann beat Carlsen during the Sinquefield Cup earlier this month. The 31-year-old Swedish grandmaster, one of the most glorified players in the world, then dropped out of the tournament and put out a tweet that seemed to imply there was something untoward about his opponent. It’s caused a firestorm of speculation, even some wild conspiracies that Niemann was using vibrating anal beads to give him clues to his next move.
Niemann had previously admitted to using computer assistance at online chess when he was 12 and 16, which also led to a ban on Chess.com and an end to his streaming career.
In an interview earlier this month, Niemann called his past cheating “the single biggest mistake in my life” and further said that if his critics wanted to strip him naked and force him to play out of a box with “zero electronic transmission, I don’t care. I’m here to win.”
Gizmodo’s past coverage pointed out that the case could be less of a cheating scandal and more of the way that staggering improvements in chess AI have changed the game, forcing a new paradigm where players memorize opening moves and play through repetition and less through calculation.
Chess.com’s cheat detection was developed in part by Kenneth Regan, a chess researcher and professor at the University of Buffalo. He’s written quite a bit on differences between how computers and humans play chess. He recently told the Chess24 stream that, based on what he witnessed, he didn’t find any evidence that Niemann was cheating, though few or any researchers are taking anal beads into account, so who knows.