Has a rook defeated a king? – North Star
There has been an obscene amount of drama in the chess community since September 4 due to the wrath of the highest rated player of all time and current World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen.
19-year-old grandmaster Hans Niemann, the lowest-rated player in this year’s Sinquefield Cup, crushed the world champion with his black pieces – ending Carlsen’s 53-game winning streak in classical chess over the board. Instead of celebrating Niemann’s historic victory, the chess world raised eyebrows. The very next day, Carlsen took of of the tournament without much formal explanation. Then, a few hours later, on Twitter, he subtly hinted that he suspected Niemann of cheating. That’s when the drama turned into gossip.
While event organizers denounced all accusations of foul play, validating Niemann’s victory, chess enthusiasts did not let go. Several chess’ biggest celebrities called out Niemann for suspicious behavior, causing a tsunami of their fans to jump on the “Niemann cheating” bandwagon, despite there being no evidence of foul play.
Niemann denied cheating. “The chess speaks for itself,” Niemann said post-game. interview.
Cheating during excessive chess is extremely difficult and rare, although it has happened in the past. The tinfoil hat conspiracy is that Niemann had a Raspberry Pi computer hidden somewhere on his person that communicated moves calculated by a chess engine computer via vibrations. Although technically possible, there is no evidence to support this theory and not enough evidence to charge Niemann with foul play.
Freshman accounting major and president of NIU’s chess club, Jacob Jovanovich, came to Niemann’s defense.
“I’m not a grandmaster, but I believe Hans Niemann is innocent. I think Hans played the best game of his life on a day when Magnus was struggling,” Jovanovich said. “The problem with outright cheating is that it’s almost impossible to prove. The fact that Hans is a grandmaster makes the claims even harder to prove. He would theoretically only need to cheat in one or two moves to win a game.
Touted as a “cheating scandal” by many big-name publications, the only scandal is to call Niemann guilty before proving his innocence because Carlesen was not a good player to lose to a teenager.
There is no valid reason why the chess community should react aggressively against a promising young chess player. Lifetime achievement has been eclipsed, made bittersweet. This standoff, she says, had a negative impact on Niemann’s professional career. Chess.com deprived his account and disinvited him from future events, many of his peers ostracized him and now his every move is scrutinized, literally.
Playing chess at the highest level is notoriously intense and is Niemann’s livelihood. He would need nerves of steel to perform at his best given the stress he is under to prove his innocence, which is essentially an impossible task.
Unfortunately for Niemann, proving his innocence will be more difficult than acquitting him of his alleged cheating.
Choosing to be completely transparent about his past in hopes of building trust, Niemann bravely admitted of cheating online once when he was 12 and again when he was 16 in casual games, although he adamantly defends that he never cheated in a game at upside down. Note, the interview in which this was admitted took place after Carlsen implicit foul play after withdrawing from the tournament.
No one has uncovered evidence indicating foul play, not the event’s security measures, chess analysts or computer algorithms.
Suspicious or not, Niemann is entitled to due process. Unless there is evidence to prove he is guilty, it is troubling to delegate consequences for unconfirmed allegations. He is innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Let the man enjoy his victory. Let the failures speak for themselves.