Is the cheating lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen legit?
Norway’s superstar chess champion under fire
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
Is Hans Niemann a reformed cheater and is it worth $100 million?
On Sept. 4, Norwegian and world chessmaster Magnus Carlsen lost to the 19-year-old American in the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. The following day, the 31-year-old Carlsen posts on Twitter his withdrawal from the Sinquefield Cup that includes a video of football manager José Mourinho saying: “If I say something, I’m in trouble,” Carlsen implying that Niemann cheated.
On Oct. 11, Niemann’s mentor Maxim Dlugy says Carlsen’s accusations are “defamatory,” and sues Carlsen on Oct. 13.
On Oct. 20, Niemann announces a $100 million lawsuit against Carlsen, fellow players Daniel Rensch and Hikaru Nakamura and companies Play Magnus Group and Chess.com for “tort and injury.” Niemann’s lawyers state to TV2, “With this lawsuit, Niemann will put the cupboard in place…his life is ruined… Carlsen is a coward…someone who is notoriously unable to cope with losses.” Niemann tweets, “The lawsuit speaks for itself.”
Much transpired before the lawsuit’s announcement—and after. First, Niemann has admitted cheating on the website Chess.com when he was 12 and 16 years old, though he denies cheating in the game against Carlsen. On Sept. 9, almost six weeks before the suit, Chess.com reveals Niemann allegedly cheated more than 100 times in online games. He was banned from the website.
On Sept. 29, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) announced it was investigating Niemann for “possible cheating,” Carlsen for “possible false accusations.”
Then, on Sept. 10, the head judge of the Sinquefield Cup says they could find no evidence of cheating at the tournament.
Facing Niemann again on Sept. 19 at the seventh Champions Chess Tour tournament, Carlsen concedes after two moves. Two days later, Carlsen says he “will not confirm nor deny the rumors.”
On Sept. 23, player Jan Nepomnjasjtsjij says in a podcast he warned Niemann before the Sinquefield Cup, and the IFC “criticizes Carlsen’s behavior in recent weeks.”
In a written statement on Sept. 26, Carlsen accuses Niemann of “having cheated more times and more recently than he has admitted. I do not want to play against Niemann again.”
The news makes the Oct. 5 Wall Street Journal and the paper reports Chess.com’s investigation revealing Niemann cheating over 100 times online as well as “alleging that Niemann cheated for the Norwegian chess team Norway Gnomes in the Pro Chess League in 2020.” The following day, Niemann responds that his chess “speaks for itself,” implying he has not cheated.
The same day Norway’s chess president, Joachim Birger Nilsen, admits to NRK that he “also cheated for Norway Gnomes during the Pro Chess League in the 2016–2017 season.” He resigns the next day.
The reaction to the suit was one of surprise. On Oct. 24, Carlsen says he wants “to focus on chess before the Fischer Random Chess World Cup” in Reykjavík, Iceland.
Play Magnus—which Carlsen owns 8.5% through his Magnus Chess AS—reacts in a press release:
“The company is surprised by this lawsuit and finds no merit in the allegations.” Play Magnus Group wrote. “Play Magnus is conferring with legal counsel regarding potential actions.”
“I focus on the chess regardless, and this will not be used as an excuse no matter how it goes,” Carlsen told NRK in Reykjavík.
“Hans Niemann has an admitted history of cheating, and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to shift the blame onto others,” says Carlsen’s lawyer Craig Reiser to the Wall Street Journal according to TV 2. “His legal demands are without justification.”
The scandal has already resulted in venues instituting more security measures to prevent cheating, beginning with the Fischer tournament.
“When Magnus withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup, that woke up the whole chess community,” World Fischer Random Chess organizer and vice president of ICF Joran Aulin-Jansson told DW.com. “Every organizer has been forced to start to think about what to do against cheating. We used to check the players rather randomly … [it was] more symbolic than anything. We thought that cheating was something that was an online problem and not viewed as that serious [in face-to-face games], although it’s morally just the same.”
Carlsen captured the bronze at Reykjavík, beating 18-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov from Uzbekistan 3-1. “Third is better than fourth, but it’s a shame in a way not to sit at the final table,” Carlsen told NRK. “An afterthought that the others are sitting in the room next to it. It has been like that in the Champions Chess tournament that I have taken the bronze when I have not won. It is something I have involuntarily become an expert on.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.