‘If you want, I can play naked’, says chess player accused of cheating


The chess world is in an uproar. All because a 19-year-old American named Hans Niemann defeated the best player in the world and was accused of cheating – but since no one can say how he cheated, bizarre explanations for the feat began to emerge.

Weird indeed. One of the theories is that he used an anal device – wirelessly, of course – to receive, in Morse code vibrations, the feedback of the moves he should make at each moment of the confrontation.

The hypothesis made noise because, among other reasons, billionaire Elon Musk had fun on Twitter supporting the supposition (later the post was deleted).

And, perhaps, the words used by Niemann to defend himself reinforced the joke: “If they want me to play completely naked, I will. I don’t care. I know I’m clean”, he told the official channel of the tournament, organized by the Club. Louis Chess, USA.

Jokes aside, the fact is that Niemann’s victory on Sunday (4) was strange. Number 49 in the rankings before the match, he defeated none other than Magnus Carlsen, 31, world champion since 2013 and one of the greatest in history.

Not that it’s impossible. Zebras do happen in chess, although they are much rarer than in sports like football or tennis.

However, after the duel, when asked to comment on the feat, Niemann got tangled up. In the first response, he couldn’t quite explain why he chose a certain combination of moves.

He said that he had studied just that sequence on Sunday morning, even though it is quite rare – for that reason, by the way, he said it had been a kind of miracle.

After all, there is no evidence that Niemann violated fair play codes. In his favor, he also has an incredible rise in the world ranking, faster than that of any other chess player.

Still, Magnus Carlsen, after the defeat, decided to withdraw from the competition, hinting that there was something wrong in the air.

To reinforce the climate of suspicion, when he announced on Twitter that he was abandoning ship, he posted a video of Portuguese coach José Mourinho saying: “I prefer not to speak. If I speak, I will have a big problem.”

Some great players soon came out in support of the world champion, maintaining that Niemann would never have won the contest under normal conditions. Others, however, criticized Carlsen’s stance, saying that you have to know how to lose.

Niemann was thrilled to address the allegations. “Seeing my biggest hero try to ruin my chess career is very disappointing,” said the American. “Defeating him was a dream come true.”

His dream, however, came with consequences. The biggest online chess platform, the website Chess.com, decided to ban Niemann’s account because of Carlsen’s suspicion.

Then the American confessed to having cheated in online games in the past, when he was 16 years old, but said that the episode had already been forgiven by the site and that he had never cheated in face-to-face games, such as the tournament in Saint Louis.

In addition, the championship organization decided to strengthen security measures. In Niemann’s next game, they used a metal detector to identify electronic devices. Nothing was found – and he repeated the good performance.

The case draws attention not for its originality, but for the implications it may have for chess, a sport that has lived with secret plots for decades.

In the 1950s and 1960s, players from the Soviet Union acted in collusion, arranging results with each other. For the next two decades, they used the KGB to spy on and even threaten adversaries.

In the 1990s, when cases of players using computers to cheat began to emerge, chess tournament organizers began to take additional protective measures.

With one or two exceptions, the initiatives had been successful in the most important championships. If Niemann did in fact circumvent security – which has not been proven so far – he will have taken the cheating to the next notch.

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