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:

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:

What happened next?

Carlsen outright accused Niemann of cheating.

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, released a long report in which an investigation alleges that Niemann cheated more than 100 times.

More from NPR: 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:

For what it’s worth, he won his first match and had this to say:

We’ll see where it goes from here.

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Story originally appeared on For The Win