Tensions in the middle of chess: the world champion accuses his opponents of cheating

“I am retiring from the tournament. I have always enjoyed playing in Saint-Louis and I hope to return”, wrote the five-time world champion after his unexpected loss, in Missouri, in the third round on September 5 against the American Hans Niemann, 19, 43rd player in the world and last minute guest. Carlsen, who often plays with the codes of social networks, then posted an old video on Twitter in which Portuguese football coach José Mourinho answers a journalist in a cryptic way: “I don’t prefer to talk. If I talk, I’m going to be in big trouble.”

The Norwegian’s accusation is sibylline, but the sequel is less so: the organization of the tournament decides in the process to postpone the broadcast of the games by 15 minutes and an examination of the players using a scanner.

Niemann has seen a meteoric acceleration, being one of the players who have earned the most points in the world ranking since 2021, which makes him suspect.

Accusations of cheating have certainly always peppered the history of chess, but since the computing power of computers surpasses any player, the possibilities of cheating are multiplied, even at the highest level. A Georgian Grand Master, Gaioz Nigalidze, was caught in the act in 2015, after going to the toilet a little too often.

More discreetly, a simple vibrating chip would allow an accomplice to help a player remotely, in a way that is all the easier since the games are broadcast live.

Rumors of a chip being inserted into Niemann’s butt even attracted Tesla boss Elon Musk. The whimsical businessman hijacked a quote attributed to Schopenhauer in a since-deleted tweet: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see (because it’s in your heart).”

Another hypothesis mentioned, that of a leak of Carlsen’s strategy, prepared by his team, from which Hans Niemann could have benefited. In any case, no one has published any evidence of cheating.

Several players have also shown their support for Niemann, denouncing a “witch hunt“, even a “paranoia” chess players.

“I know I’m clean. If they want me to strip completely I’ll do it, I don’t care”, he reacted. His next matches will, for sure, be watched very closely.

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