World champion Magnus Carlsen rocked the chess world by accusing Hans Niemann of cheating. The chess player at the centre of a cheating row has now been found to have likely cheated in more than 100 games online, according to an investigation.
The investigation by Chess.com says it is likely Niemann has cheated much more often than he has acknowledged. But it found no evidence he had cheated in his game against Carlsen nor in any over-the-board games.
The American has admitted to cheating in informal games when he was younger but denies having done so in competitive games. The player in question has previously accused Carlsen and Chess.com of trying to ruin his career.
The website denied it had been pressured by Carlsen, who has dominated chess for more than a decade, to remove Niemann.
The scandal began last month, after Carlsen, considered by many to be the greatest player of all time, was defeated by Niemann at the Sinquefield Cup in a major upset. The Norwegian made veiled accusations of cheating against Niemann at the time before openly accusing him last week.
Now Chess.com has produced a 72-page investigation into Niemann’s games on the site, which most of the world’s top players compete on, earning cash prizes.
The site, which has banned Niemann for alleged cheating, claims it is likely he cheated as recently as 2020, including in prize money events as well as against highly-rated well known figures in the game.
The analysis was done by comparing Niemann’s moves to those suggested by chess computers, which are far better at making optimal plays than even the best players while taking into account the probability of his results and many other factors.
His results are “statistically extraordinary”, though Chess.com said that there was no direct evidence Niemann had cheated in his win against Carlsen or in other over-the-board games in the past.
Niemann previously admitted that he had cheated, but only in informal games on the site when he was 12 and 16, but never in competitive games or when he was streaming on gaming platforms.
In his statement last week, Carlsen suggested Niemann had cheated in their game at the Sinquefield Cup in the US state of Missouri, saying he “wasn’t tense or even fully concentrating” while outplaying him using the black pieces “in a way I think only a handful of players can do”.
He also said he had become suspicious of Niemann because he had made “unusual” progress in recent years. Others have argued that Niemann’s progress, while fast, is comparable to other top junior players.
Chess.com said there were certain aspects of the game that were suspicious, noting Niemann’s meteoric rise in rankings from around 800 in the world to the top 50 in less than two years, the fastest rise in modern recorded history, where unlike his peers, it came about much later in his life.
Carlsen has insisted he will not play Niemann, and earlier this month resigned in protest after just one move when they re-matched each other in an online tournament.
When the controversy erupted earlier this month, Niemann issued a strenuous denial, even saying he is willing to play naked to prove he was not concealing electronic devices that could allow him to cheat.
A statistical analysis of Niemann’s over-the-board games by Prof Kenneth Regan, widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on cheating in chess, found no evidence of his cheating.