A recent investigation by Chess.com, which was first published in The Wall Street Journal, claims that 19-year-old grandmaster Hans Moke Niemann may have been receiving illegal help in more than 100 online chess games. Moreover, some of these frauds were repeatedly recorded two years ago. In addition, the investigation revealed numerous “violations” in Nieman’s personal games.
“We determined that Hans has likely cheated in more than 100 online chess games, including several prize money events,” the investigation said. It reportedly includes a letter sent to Nieman citing examples of “blatant fraud” to improve his ratings.
Niemann allegedly confessed to the fraud allegations to Chess.com Editor-in-Chief Danny Rensch during a 2020 phone call. The investigation notes that Niemann’s suspicious moves were synchronized with the times he opened new screens on his computer, suggesting he may have secretly used an illegal chess engine to obtain information about the best possible moves.
“While we do not doubt that Hans is a talented player, we note that his results are statistically extraordinary,” the statement quoted by The Wall Street Journal said.
The revelations come after weeks of drama and allegations of cheating by world chess champion Magnus Carlsen. He shocked the chess world by withdrawing from the 2022 Sinquefield Cup after losing to Niemann. And also posted a rather cryptic tweet after his rejection, in which he appeared to suggest that Niemann was cheating. A few weeks later, Carlsen faced Niemann again in the Julius Baer Generation Cup online tournament and turned off his stream after the first two moves, presumably in protest. Carlsen continued to silently hint at fraud until he finally made an official statement.
“I believe that Niemann has cheated more – and more recently – than he has publicly admitted. 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,” Carlsen wrote.
A new investigation by Chess.com seems to back up those allegations. Niemann previously admitted to cheating at age 12 and age 16, which he described as “the biggest mistake of his life.” If that’s the case, the new report suggests that Niemann certainly hasn’t learned his lesson.
Chess.com says it uses extensive analytics to determine whether players are accessing chess engines or other illegal applications. The company tracks past results and compares players’ moves with those recommended by chess programs. However, it is much more difficult to substantiate allegations of cheating in a physical board game. Chess.com won’t definitively say whether Niemann cheated personally, but reports that some of his strongest performances “need further investigation based on the data received.”
The findings of the investigation are likely to shock the chess world. One theory about how Niemann could have cheated in offline matches suggests that he received move instructions via anal vibrating beads. However, this version is not officially considered yet.