Rising chess star Hans Niemann has admitted to cheating in online chess in the past as he rejected any suggestions he had used computer assistance in a major tournament.
The American made an impassioned statement during an interview with St Louis Chess Club commentator Alejandro Ramírez after allegations swirled on social media.
World champion Magnus Carlsen stunned the chess world yesterday by suddenly withdrawing from the Sinquefield Cup following his shock defeat to Niemann with the white pieces.
Niemann had come armed with engine preparation for an offbeat line played by Carlsen and crushed him in an endgame, a rare feat for any player, especially one rated in the 2600s.
Carlsen did not explain the reason for his withdrawal, the first of his career, apart from a cryptic message on Twitter, “I’ve withdrawn from the tournament. I’ve always enjoyed playing in the @STLChessClub, and hope to be back in the future.”
He posted a clip of José Mourinho saying, “If I speak I’ll be in big trouble.”
The post led to rampant speculation, including from American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura – who covered the tournament live on his Twitch channel.
Nakamura stated that it was his belief that Carlsen was referring to cheating by Niemann in the tweet.
There have also been suggestions on social media that someone from Carlsen’s camp had been leaking his closely-guarded opening preparation.
Carlsen, who stunned the chess community this year by announcing he would not defend his crown, has not directly made any allegations or commented on the speculation.
Niemann admits to cheating online
Niemann, 19, today came out firing in a post-game interview after social media caught fire.
Addressing the swirling drama, Niemann said he cheated in an online tournament when he was 12 years old after a friend brought over an iPad with a chess engine and told him what moves to play.
“I was just a child,” Niemann said. “I have never ever in my life cheated in an over-the-board game. I am proud of myself that I learned from my mistake.
“I have given everything to chess.”
He also admitted to cheating at other times on the chess.com website.
“I wanted to gain some rating so I could play stronger players, so I cheated in random games in chess.com.
“I was confronted, and I confessed. It was the single biggest mistake of my life and I am completely ashamed.”
He reiterated he had never cheated in over-the-board chess and never cheated in a tournament with prize money, apart from when he was 12.
Niemann said there were “some insinuations” in the tweet by Carlsen and “everyone started to pile [on]”.
Niemann said he had seen thousands of tweets and that “everyone is attacking me”.
“I’m the only person who knows what happens and I’m telling you guys, this is the truth,” he said.
He also addressed Nakamura, saying he had never cheated against him in an online game.
Niemann said he had received an email from chess.com notifying him that he had been completely removed from the website.
He later wrote on Twitter, “Hikaru has thoroughly enjoyed watching all of my interviews and enjoyed criticizing every single detail…. I’d like to see him watch my entire interview today and see what he has to say.”
In the interview, he also addressed comments about his American accent being “strange”, noting that he has lived out of a suitcase for years and had many acquaintances who do not speak English as a first language.