The 19-year-old was seen in a line of others being checked with a handheld scanner ahead of a game in the US Chess Championships. The tournament is hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club and has a prize fund of $262,000.
Mr Niemann was accused of cheating by Norweigan champion Magnus Carlsen, believed by many to be the best player in the world. The teen beat Mr Carlsen in a game last month, prompting the 31-year-old to leave the Sinquefield Cup, also hosted by the St Louis Chess Club, despite not having been eliminated.
This week, Chess.com issued a report stating that Mr Niemann had “likely” cheated in more than a hundred online games. He has previously admitted to cheating on two occasions at the ages of 12 and 16.
The report also said there was no evidence that Mr Niemann had cheated in over-the-board games, such as the one in which he defeated Mr Carlsen.
Speculation spurred on by online rumours suggested that Mr Niemann had used Bluetooth-connected anal beads to receive messages via morse code, prompting Mr Niemann to say that he would play naked to prove he wasn’t cheating.
“Do any fair play checking you want, I don’t care because I know that I’m clean,” he said in an interview with the St Louis Chess Club after his win over Mr Carlsen. “They want me to strip fully naked? I’ll do it. I don’t care because I know I know that I’m clean and I’m willing to subject myself to what you want me to play.”
Unlike other contestants, the official scanning the players requested that Mr Niemann turn around to allow for a backside scan, leading to chuckles from some of the commentators.
Mr Niemann beat his 15-year-old opponent in the first round and took part in an interview after the game.
“This game is a message to everyone. This entire thing started with me saying ‘chess speaks for itself’ and I think this game spoke for itself and showed the chess player I am,” he told the interviewer on the Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube channel.
“It also showed I’m not going to back down and I’m going to play my best chess here regardless of the pressure,” he added.
Mr Niemann appeared frustrated and left the interview early.
“You can leave it to your own interpretation but thank you, that’s it,” he said.
While there was no evidence of cheating in the over-the-board games by Mr Niemann cited in the Chess.com report, it stated that he’s likely to have cheated in online tournaments up until at least 2020.
The report revealed that Mr Niemann admitted to several instances of cheating to Chess.com in private and that he had been barred from the site.
“Overall, we have found that Hans has likely cheated in more than 100 online chess games, including several prize money events. He was already 17 when he likely cheated in some of these matches and games. He was also streaming in 25 of these games,” the Chess.com report states. “While his performance in some of these matches may seem to be within the realm of some statistical possibility, the probability of any single player performing this well across this many games is incredibly low. In addition to this, the manual review conducted by a team of trained analysts was, in our eyes, conclusive enough to strongly suggest Hans was cheating.”
“We initially closed Hans’ account in 2020 due to suspected fair play violations,” the site said. “In 2020, during a private call with Danny Rensch, CCO at Chess.com, Hans was informed of his account closure for suspected cheating in these events and matches. During this call, Hans confessed to the cheating offenses.
“Following the call, Hans and Danny communicated over Slack ... where Hans asked how to acknowledge the cheating offense and how to affirm that it would not ever happen again. In that call, Danny agreed to support Hans’ desire to save face and announce publicly that he was voluntarily closing his account to start fresh.
“Hans confirmed with Danny that he had ‘made the announcement’ to close his own account. (Hans was also asked to email his admission to our team, but he did not. Given that Danny was trying to be helpful and see the best in Hans as a young rising player, the lack of email was ignored),” the report states.