World chess champion Magnus Carlsen made a statement on Monday explicitly stating that he believes his opponent, Hans Niemann, cheated during tournament play. He did not provide any concrete proof to support his claims. This is Carlsen’s first formal statement on the ongoing chess scandal, and the first to include an explicit accusation. The furor over the scandal has dominated the online conversation for weeks.
“I believe that Niemann has cheated more — and more recently — than he has publicly admitted,” the statement reads. Carlsen goes on to explain his reasoning: “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 think only a handful of players can do. This game contributed to changing my perspective.”
This chess drama began earlier this month, and has only continued to snowball in recent days. It began when Niemann, a much lower-ranked competitor, beat Carlsen in a match during the 2022 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. Then, on Sept. 19, Carlsen forfeited a game after just one move in a match against Niemann, this time during round 6 of the Julius Baer Generation Cup. Social media platforms subsequently lit up with conversation, as chess fans — and even those outside the game’s normal audience — debated the significance of these events.
“I believe that cheating in chess is a big deal and an existential threat to the game,” Carlsen’s statement reads. “I also believe that chess organizers and all 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.” (It is notoriously difficult to detect cheating in high-level chess games. AI software is powerful enough to guide even inexperienced players toward advantageous moves, while seasoned players might only need to resort to such tools during a small handful of inflection points in a game.)
Carlsen does not offer proof of Niemann’s cheating, nor state whether he has any. (Niemann was not previously caught cheating in an over-the-board match. Nevertheless, on Sept. 8 Chess.com banned Niemann from the platform, and shared its reasoning on Twitter.) Carlsen closes the statement by noting that he is “limited in what I can say without explicit permission from Niemann to speak openly.”
Polygon has reached out to Hans Niemann for comment.