The scandal in the world of chess involving the American Hans Niemann, 19 years old, gained a new chapter. The newspaper “The Wall Street Journal” had access to the report of an investigation carried out by the platform Chess.com that showed signs of cheating in more than 100 Niemann online matches until 2020.
Last month, the American was accused of cheating in his surprise victory against five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen in the Sinquefield Cup, a tournament in the United States. The defeat ended the Norwegian’s two-year unbeaten run. There were 53 matches without losing.
After the match, some theories were created to accuse the American of cheating. The most unusual one appeared on Reddit and says that Niemann cheated using electronic butt plugs connected to a computer that would allow him to receive the movements to be performed through vibrations in Morse code.
After the defeat, Carlsen withdrew from the competition and later accused his rival of having cheated more times than he admitted.
In the past, the 19-year-old has acknowledged that he cheated in online chess games when he was younger, aged 12 and 16. Now, The Wall Street Journal has analyzed the report of the investigation by Chess.com, which found that the cheating is greater than he has publicly admitted.
The investigation found that Niemann likely received help in 112 matches, many of which took place in tournaments that distributed cash prizes.
The site uses a variety of cheat detection tools, including analysis that compares moves to those recommended by computers capable of beating even the biggest players every time.
According to the newspaper, Niemann confessed to the allegations and was subsequently banned from the site for a while.
The 72-page report also highlighted “many notable signs and unusual patterns in Hans’ path as a player” throughout his career, but did not come to a conclusion whether he cheated in face-to-face matches.
How to spot cheats in chess
According to The Wall Street Journal, identifying cheating in face-to-face games remains a major challenge. The main reason is that chess grandmasters who cheat require very little help.
A few subtle moves can be enough to beat a world champion. This makes it difficult to prove cheating unless a player is caught red-handed, such as using a phone in the bathroom, wearing an electronic point to the ear, or receiving signals from someone in the audience.
The report also addresses Niemann’s analysis of the plays he made against Carlsen. Some of the top players said the American showed a lack of understanding of the plays he made.
Also according to the report, Carlsen said the match against Niemann was unlike any game he’s ever played, which the American seemed to play without effort.
Finally, the document addresses the relationship between Carlsen and Chess.com, which is buying Norwegian’s “Play Magnus” app for nearly US$83 million.
The report says that Carlsen’s actions after the Sinquefield Cup led them to re-evaluate Niemann’s behavior, but that the Norwegian “did not directly talk to, ask for, or influence decisions on Chess.com”.