19-year-old Hans Niemann defeated 31-year-old Magnus Carlsen in a Sinquefield Cup match on the 4th of September. Carlsen has spent over a decade as the unchallenged number 1 chess player in the world, yet after his loss has withdrawn from the tournament. With a single Tweet accompanied by a Mourinho meme, chess fans are wondering what prompted such an abrupt ending.
Stating in his Twitter bio that he is “the highest rank chess player in the world”, Carlsen’s unexpected withdrawal has left the chess world confused. Is this a case of knocked pride? Or, as many are suggesting, is there foul play at work?
Who is Hans Niemann?
Hans Niemann is a 19-year-old American chess grandmaster player and a Twitch streamer. The teenager from California doesn’t have a professional coach and, compared to Carlsen, has minimal experience. Not even verified on Twitter, it is astonishing that this player has climbed through the ranks so quickly. This is where the cheating rumors come in.
This is truly a humbling day for me. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to play chess at the highest level and live out my dreams. A few years ago, my chess dreams were quickly dwindling but thankfully they rose from the dead. This is only the beginning…— Hans Niemann (@HansMokeNiemann) September 4, 2022
Leading chess streamer Hikaru Nakamura brought to everyone’s attention the fact that back in his childhood, Niemann had been banned from chess.com for computer use in an online tournament. Was this the case again? Is it possible to cheat in a live game of chess? On the other hand, Niemann had beat Carlsen online earlier in the month. Could it be that his skill level has just developed and improved?
Round 4 of the Sinquefield Cup began 15 minutes later than expected with Niemann’s obvious live broadcasted security check.
After the 9th round of the tournament, Alireza Firouzja secured the Sinquefield Cup.
In a post-match interview, Niemann alluded to the fact that the Carlsen scandal and subsequent cheating allegations threw him off his game. He states, “my sleep was ruined, I was barely sleeping… I was much less calm. I was extremely anxious. When you’re playing chess you need to only be thinking about chess and you simply cannot afford to be thinking about anything else.”
Through it all, Niemann has increased his presence within the chess world. Whether through gaining fans or enemies, one thing that’s for sure is that he’s known.
Magnus Carlsen Withdraws
“If I speak, I am in big trouble”. The simple and iconic Jose Mourinho meme that accompanied Carlsen’s withdrawal.
Saint Louis Chess Club always streams after match days, commenting on the day’s events, and after Carlsen’s withdrawal, this was the team’s reaction. “The withdrawal of Magnus I’m still kind of processing”. The presenters clarified that any other comment would be speculation, which is “absolutely not their place”.
This is just a snippet of the reaction on Twitter:
No problem sir….u r and u will will be always chess’s life. #Undisputed_champ— NAVNEET SINGH JASROTIA (@NAVNEET66703483) September 5, 2022
Tryin to be second bobby fischer?— J.H.Blackburne (@JHBchess) September 5, 2022
All these accusations of foul play flying around, I am curious as to how one can cheat in real life chess? Aren’t players properly scanned ahead of the games?? How does it work??— indecisive (@xovexx_0) September 5, 2022
Now the chess community is left waiting. Will we hear from Magnus Carlsen again? With all this unfolding in only the space of a few days, it is likely that only time will tell how this is going to pan out.
Is Magnus Carlsen Heading down the Same Route as Bobby Fischer?
Bobby Fischer was an American chess grandmaster and the 11th World Chess Champion. At the age of 14, he won his first U.S Championship and went on to win 8 more. He was one of the greats. In fact, in 1964, he won with an 11-0 score, the only perfect score in the tournament’s history.
In world champion matches 1970-71, Fischer lost once and drew three times to former World Champion Tigran Petrosyan of the Soviet Union. Fischer refused to meet another Soviet Union challenger (Anatoly Karapov) in 1975, and subsequently, Karapov was declared champion by default. Fischer withdrew from serious play for 20 years.
Some chess fans are worried that Magnus Carlsen is falling down the same route as Fischer. Has the pressure got to him? Does his reputation as a winner mean that any loss is too much for Carlsen to handle? Is this just a coincidence, or is he destined for the same fate?
With all this drama in the chess world, perhaps we should stick to watching The Queen’s Gambit. All I can say is watch this space; I somehow feel as though this isn’t the end of the Carlsen Vs. Niemann feud.