The bizarre chess cheating controversy with speculation over a vibrating sex toy, explained
Welcome to FTW Explains, a guide to catching up on and better understanding stuff going on in the world. Have you seen talk on social media or elsewhere about a controversy in chess that might involve something … er, X-rated? We’re here to help.
That’s right: Poker isn’t the only controversial sports story making the rounds right now.
There’s a ton of buzz in the chess world over a potential cheating scandal involving a top player, and it’s gotten a little weird, to say the least.
So what’s the deal here? Why is this a thing? Let’s break down what’s been reported so far:
Start from the beginning here.
A few weeks ago, Hans Niemann — a chess grandmaster who streams his games — defeated Magnus Carlsen, the current No. 1 player in the world, in person.
That was big news. Carlsen then withdrew from the tournament … and then he tweeted this:
I've withdrawn from the tournament. I've always enjoyed playing in the @STLChessClub, and hope to be back in the future https://t.co/YFSpl8er3u
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 5, 2022
The Jose Mourinho clip? That seemed to be a not-so-subtle suggestion that foul play was afoot.
When the two faced off again online after that, Carlsen resigned almost immediately in protest, bringing more attention to accusations of cheating:
Another shocker as @MagnusCarlsen simply resigns on move 2 vs. @HansMokeNiemann! https://t.co/2fpx8lplTI#ChessChamps #JuliusBaerGenerationCup pic.twitter.com/5PO7kdZFOZ
— chess24.com (@chess24com) September 19, 2022
What happened next?
Carlsen outright accused Niemann of cheating.
My statement regarding the last few weeks. pic.twitter.com/KY34DbcjLo
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 26, 2022
What has Niemann said?
He said he cheated … in the past, specifically at the ages of 12 and 16.
But ... is that true?
Now we get to the part where there’s some uncertainty.
This week, Chess.com released a long report in which an investigation alleges that Niemann cheated more than 100 times.
More from NPR:
Chess.com says its anti-cheating technology found numerous problems when it conducted a deep review of Niemann’s career. It says its system can “detect patterns of influence from engines that amount to a certainty that we can stand behind.”
How could he have cheated?
Online, it could have happened if he used a chess engine, a program that could come up with the best move possible.
But how could he have cheated with a game that takes place in person?
And now, let’s get weird.
There’s a lot of speculation over whether Niemann could have used something vibrating — say, in a shoe or, as some people have speculated, inserted into the body — that would communicate the best moves to play against a much more dominant player.
Niemann, for what it’s worth, had this to say (via Huffpost):
“If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it. I don’t care. Because I know I am clean,” he said in an interview after his win. “You want me to play in a closed box with zero electronic transmission, I don’t care. I’m here to win and that is my goal regardless.”
That really can't be a thing, can it?
Well, at the U.S. Chess Championships, there’s this video of security checking Niemann and others … thoroughly:
Hans Niemann at security checkpoint – US Chess Championships pic.twitter.com/AAdRqeLS63
— DailyClipDose (@DailyClipDose) October 6, 2022
For what it’s worth, he won his first match and had this to say:
We’ll see where it goes from here.