Reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen loses at Saint Louis Chess Club, apparently accuses his opponent of cheating

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A huge upset at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis – and allegations of nefarious play – are causing unprecedented chaos in the global chess community.

Chaos began September 4 at the Saint Louis Chess Club when Norwegian chess grandmaster and reigning five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen was upset by 19-year-old prodigy Hans Niemann, the tournament’s lowest-rated player.

The loss was Carlsen’s first in 53 regular games. As the most famous chess player in the world, he shocked the chess community when he withdrew from the tournament the day after the match.

A chess player who withdraws from a tournament, especially one of Carlsen’s stature, is incredibly rare. The five-time world champion then made a cryptic tweet that many interpreted as cheating allegations against Niemann.

“I withdrew from the tournament. Always loved playing in the @STLChessClub and hope to be back in the future,” the tweet said. The cryptic part, however, was an attached Youtube clip of former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after a loss, saying: “If I talk, I’m in big trouble.”

While Mourinho referenced referees who he said were making the game unfair with their officiating, many saw Carlsen’s reference to the quote as an allegation that his match with the 19-year-old was unfair, or in other words, that Niemann had cheated.

The tweet shook the chess world. Accompanying the accusations leveled at Niemann are additional questions about his player rating, which has skyrocketed over the past year. His ranking has increased so much that many chess experts cannot understand how he has surpassed his ranking in so many cases.

Player ratings are considered particularly reliable because they are based on a wealth of knowledge about players’ past performance and any applicable background information about their skill level.

Niemann’s defense against the allegations is not helped by the fact that he has admitted to playing unethically in the past. Twice Niemann said that while playing chess matches online, a friend was simultaneously running a chess program analyzing the best move to take. The friend would then inform Niemann of the move.

The admission adds more fuel to the fire, but chess experts point out there’s a big difference between cheating online and cheating against the reigning world champion on the 2022 Chess Grand Tour.

So, therein lies the crux of the matter: how does someone who plays chess live in front of tens of people and hundreds of thousands of people watching online, does he successfully cheat?

One theory that’s garnering the most attention is that Niemann used a wireless vibrating device in his shoe, watch, or anal cavity. It is theorized that the device, much like the one Niemann had admitted to using in the past, analyzes the chessboard and advises the player on the next move through a pattern of vibrations.

While the theory may seem far-fetched, Japanese grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura nevertheless agrees that Niemann was “probably cheating”, saying he thought Carlsen would never do something like this without a good reason. Grandmaster Andrew Tang agreed with Nakamura.

Notably, tournament officials checked Niemann for personal devices on the day of Carlsen’s withdrawal and found nothing. Niemann also categorically denied any cheating or wrongdoing.

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