Teen chess grandmaster “not going to back down” amid cheating allegations
Hans Niemann, a teenage chess grandmaster, said he is “not going to back down,” as he faces allegations of cheating.
Speaking after winning a game against 15-year-old grandmaster Christopher Yoo on Wednesday, Niemann was asked about “the elephant in the room,” and said his victory in the game was “a message to everyone.”
“This entire thing started with me saying ‘chess speaks for itself’ and I think this game spoke for itself and showed the chess player that I am,” he said. “It also showed that I’m not going to back down and I’m going to play my best chess here regardless of the pressure that I’m under.”
This week, a report by Chess.com said the 19-year-old American “likely cheated” in more than 100 online chess games — “much more than his public statements suggest.” An investigation by the popular competitive chess site found he has cheated “in many prize events, at least 25 streamed games, and 100+ rated games on Chess.com, as recently as when he was 17 years old.”
The report came after controversy surrounded the young player last month. Norwegian world chess champion Magnus Carlsen said he pulled out of a recent tournament after losing to Niemann and also quit during a match against him — after just one move — because he believed Niemann had been cheating.
“I believe that Niemann has cheated more — and more recently -— than he has publicly admitted,” Carlsen wrote on Twitter last month.
But while the Chess.com report said Niemann “likely cheated online much more than his public statements suggest … there is a lack of concrete statistical evidence that he cheated in his game with Magnus or in any other over-the-board (“OTB”)—i.e., in-person—games.”
Niemann previously said he had not played fairly in games on Chess.com when he was younger but has denied cheating while playing streaming games or games in person.
Niemann did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.
Chess.com’s investigation explored Niemann’s behavior in online tournaments from 2015 to 2020, analyzing his game statistics over that time.
“While his performance in some of these matches may seem to be within the realm of some statistical possibility, the probability of any single player performing this well across this many games is incredibly low,” Chess.com wrote in its report.
The report also revealed details about Niemann’s first removal from Chess.com in 2020. When Niemann was informed of his suspension from the site that year, he admitted to cheating, according to the report. He was eventually granted the opportunity to return to the site to compete, but his account was closed again last month after Carlsen lost against Niemann in the Sinquefield Cup and withdrew from the tournament.
While the site said there is “no direct evidence” proving Niemann cheated in the Sept. 4 game with Magnus or in any other over-the-board games in the past, some aspects of the game were “suspicious” – just one factor that led to the site removing Niemann again and revoking his invitation to the Chess.com Global Championship.
“We uninvited Hans from our upcoming major online event and revoked his access to our site based on our experience with him in the past, growing suspicions among top players and our team about his rapid rise of play, the strange circumstances and explanations of his win over Magnus, as well as Magnus’ unprecedented withdrawal,” Chess.com said.
The website privately informed Niemann of his revoked status, which he publicly shared himself.
“We believe Hans is an incredibly strong player and a talented individual. That said, given his history on our site, we did not believe we could ensure that he would play fairly in our online events until we could re-evaluate the evidence and our protocols,” it said.
“Nevertheless, and to be clear, it is not our position that Hans should be limited or banned from OTB chess. Hans’ online and OTB behaviors may be completely different, and that should be taken into consideration.”
The site said it believes cheating in chess is rare.
“We estimate that fewer than 0.14% of players on Chess.com ever cheat, and that our events are by and large free from cheating,” the report stated. “We firmly believe that cheating in chess is rare, preventable, and much less pervasive than is currently being portrayed in the media.”