After the 19-year-old American grandmaster Hans Niemann defeated the World Chess Champion in the third round of the Sinquefield Cup 2022, Magnus Carlsen decided to withdraw from the event. The chess world was overwhelmed with the rumors (scroll down for full timeline) that Carlsen suspected Niemann was cheating in the tournament, and only two weeks later, Magnus refused to play against Hans resigning his game in the second move at the Julius Baer Generation Cup. After chess.com confirmed that Niemann was banned from the platform for cheating, Hans Niemann confessed he was cheating in random games online, but never over-the-board. And while the top grandmasters seem to show support for Magnus, the International Chess Federation FIDE reacted to the Carlsen – Niemann case, stating that the World Champion has a moral responsibility attached to his status and that his actions impact the reputation of his colleagues and can be damaging to chess.
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Legendary grandmaster and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov was one of the fist to publicly react on Carlsen’s withdrawal without explanation, asking for the official statement by the World Champion: “World chess champion Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the world’s premier tournament in St. Louis, an act with no precedent in the past 50 years, and his explanation is required. Carlsen’s withdrawal was a blow to chess fans, his colleagues at the tournament, the organizers, and, as the rumors and negative publicity swirl in a vacuum, to the game”. He later added “unless the chess world is to be dragged down into endless pathetic rumors, clear statements must be made“.
A number of grandmasters and chess journalists asked FIDE to react on the case explaining that spreading of rumors and unconfirmed allegations is unacceptable. Hikaru Nakamura and Daniel Naroditsky concluded on the stream that it’s very tricky that online chess platforms for playing don’t have any agreements with FIDE, and that there should be clear communication between the main online servers and FIDE on the matter of cheating. English chess master Leonard Barden, The Guardian’s chess columnist, asked FIDE to step in and create an investigatory commission headed by professor Kenneth Regan.
The fair-play specialist Kenneth Regan meanwhile said after analysis of Hans Niemann’s games that he doesn’t find anything suspicious and that: “Niemann played well. But not too well“.
GM Nigel Davies stated that that the FIDE Ethics Commission should act if Carlsen doesn’t give a public statement on the case: “there were just hints that cheating might have taken place, allowing damaging rumours to continue should be interpreted as a clear indication of what was meant. In the absence of hard evidence that cheating took place it should be counted as a ‘false accusation’“.
And while the top grandmasters seem to show support for Magnus, the International Chess Federation FIDE reacted to the Carlsen – Niemann case, stating that the World Champion has a moral responsibility attached to his status and that his actions impact the reputation of his colleagues and can be damaging to chess. The presumption of innocence* must be followed.
*The presumption of innocence, is sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies). It is the principle that one is considered innocent unless proven guilty.
The timetable of events related to Carlsen – Niemann case: