Magnus Carlsen has broken his silence on the scandal that has rocked chess by accusing Hans Niemann of cheating more – and more recently – than he has publicly admitted.
The world champion also questioned Niemann’s stellar rise over the past year calling it “unusual”, and admitted he was also suspicious of the 19-year-old American’s mannerisms when he lost to him with the black pieces at the Sinquefield Cup early this month.
Carlsen said this led him to pull out of a tournament for the first time in his career – and last week the Norwegian stunned the sport again by resigning an online game after just one move against the same opponent.
Until Monday evening, Carlsen had commented only cryptically on the situation. But in a tweeted statement, the Norwegian made his feelings clear.
“When Niemann was invited last minute to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I strongly considered withdrawing prior to the event,” he revealed. “I ultimately chose to play. I believe that Niemann has cheated more – and more recently – than he has publicly admitted.
“His over-the-board progress has been unusual, and throughout our game in the Sinquefield Cup I had the impression that he wasn’t tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions, while outplaying me as black in a way I only think a handful of players can do. This game contributed to changing my perspective.”
After Niemann’s victory against Carlsen, he had said that “by some ridiculous miracle” he had guessed what his opponent’s unusual opening would be and prepared for it. “It must be embarrassing for the world champion to lose to me,” Niemann said. “I feel bad for him.”
While Niemann has admitted cheating in online events, as a 12- and 16-year-old, he has vociferously denied the recent allegations and insisted he is now “clean”. He has accused those making claims against him of trying to ruin his career and said he was even prepared to play naked to prove his innocence.
Chess.com has since said it believes Niemann had cheated online more frequently, however, and had shown him evidence to support that conclusion. Niemann has been banned from the site and Chess.com events.
Carlsen, for his part, suggested on Monday evening that he would not play against Niemann, or any player he believes to have cheated, again. “We must do something about cheating, and for my part going forward I don’t want to play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past, because I don’t know what they are capable of doing in the future,” he said.
“I believe that cheating in chess is a big deal and an existential threat to the game. I also believe that chess organisers and those who care about the sanctity of the game we love should seriously consider increasing security measures and methods of cheat detection for over-the-board chess.”
The Norwegian insisted there was more he wanted to say but was limited in what he could do without explicit permission from Niemann to speak openly. “So far I have only been able to speak with my actions, and those actions have stated clearly that I am not willing to play chess with Niemann.”
Carlsen added: “I hope the truth on this matter comes out, whatever it may be. I know that my actions have frustrated many in the chess community. I’m frustrated. I want to play chess at the highest level in the best events.”
The Guardian has contacted Niemann’s representatives for comment.