19-year-old Hans Niemann has somehow dominated the world's #1 chess player.
Hans Niemann and Magnus Carlsen have created the biggest chess scandal since...I don't know, a long-ass time. The ultimate battle of wits is usually pretty peaceful in terms of its news cycle, save for a few minor squabbles here and there. But now we got a serious one; Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and even Elon Musk have all talked about it. It involves the most unforgiveable sin across all sports: cheating.
Innnn This Cornerrrr...
We have Magnus Carlsen, World Champion. For those of you who aren't familiar with the world of professional chess, Magnus Carlsen is currently the #1-ranked chess player and has been for over a decade. The 31-year-old has reached peaks no other player has reached, in terms of his FIDE rating, leading many to label him the GOAT, above the likes of Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov. His career is winding down a bit, but he is still the best planet Earth has to offer.
Aaand Innnn This Cornerrrr...
We have Hans Niemann, 19-year-old grandmaster. Niemann is an excellent player. He earned the title of grandmaster early last year. He's won a couple big tournaments, is a hugely popular chess streamer, and is a top-50 junior player in the world.
Aaaand he's got a bit of a rap sheet when it comes to cheating, which leads me to the issue at hand...
Cheater or Magnus Kryptonite?
Hans Niemann owns Magnus Carlsen. No one owns Magnus Carlsen. But Niemann, somehow, does. He's beaten him twice this year, the first time in March in the FTX Crypto Cup. Niemann played black, making it that much more impressive, as Carlsen had the first-move white advantage. Niemann faced Carlsen again in early September in the Sinquefield Cup, and once again, defeated him with black. This ended a 53-game unbeaten streak by Carlsen, who withdrew from the tournament the next day. This was his first withdrawal from an in-progress major tournament in his storied career, which led many to speculate he had a major gripe with Niemann.
Well, he did. Carlsen would again face Niemann in the Julius Baer Generation Cup, an online tournament, on 9/19, but he resigned after one move, likely to display his disapproval of Niemann's suspicious level of play against him. He confirmed this in a statement he released on his social media platforms yesterday, in which he flat-out accuses the 19-year-old grandmaster of cheating on several occasions.
Things are gettin' spicyyyyy.
The Evidence (?)
Hans Niemann has cheated before. While playing high-level online chess. He has admitted as such, and is currently banned from chess.com and all of its associated events. However, he maintains he has never cheated in over-the-board (in-person) chess.
It's also worth noting that, amidst all this controversy, his games over the past few years have been tested by anti-cheating experts, who have not found any evidence of foul play. According to their reports, Hans Niemann simply beat the one and only Magnus Carlsen while playing black. Twice.
Lightning Strikes Twice?
How can this be? It's tough to come up with an apt analogy for what kind of long shot this result is. The best chess player, probably ever, at or near the peak of his powers, defeated by a far inferior player, twice in the same year, while playing black both times. Imagine if Nick Saban's very best Alabama team lost to, I don't know, a middling Missouri team, TWICE. AT HOME BOTH TIMES. IN THE SAME YEAR. This analogy still falls short because of the inherent randomness of team sports. Chess is far more predictable, as shown by Carlsen's 53-game unbeaten streak heading into his second loss against Niemann. For Niemann to pull off one of the greatest upsets in chess history twice in one year is, I'm not sure. The English language doesn't have a word to describe that.
The problem is, if he is cheating, how in the hell is he doing it??? No one, including Magnus Carlsen, has an answer for this. You can imagine how he cheated in online chess; probably with some kind of computer feeding him the optimal moves. Something like that. But over-the-board? How can that be done after a thorough pat down and constant examination by tournament security?
Two Words: Anal Beads
This controversy created a hilarious meme that insinuated Niemann was using anal beads that vibrated in Morse code what his next move should be. This then led to him being offered a cool $1 million by a live chat porn website to play a game butt-ass naked. Who knew chess could be so salacious?
It makes it even stranger that, other than dominating the best player in the world, Hans Niemann has not made some extraordinary leap in performance. Niemann did not win any of the three tournaments in question that featured a matchup against Carlsen (shocker, Carlsen ended up winning the two he did not withdraw from). If he is cheating somehow, why would he only use it to defeat the #1 player in the world and not everyone else with him?
...do his anal beads have limited battery life?
I can't imagine this ending well for Magnus Carlsen. The more he digs his heels in and the more the evidence, or lack thereof, exonerates Hans Niemann, the more he looks like a sore loser. Sometimes a guy just has your number. That kind of concept rarely reveals itself in chess, but it still exists. Something about Hans Niemann seems to throw Magnus Carlsen off his game, as singularly great as the Norwegian champion is. Unless some shocking new evidence comes to light, that's the answer I'm sticking with.
For the sake of Twitter, though, I reallyyyy hope this guy is getting answers out of his asshole. That would be a hilarious day on the bird app.