Strategy to win illegally or a witch hunt? World chess champion Magnus Carlsen unleashed a storm of suspicion by accusing one of his rivals of having cheated during a game.
France’s Alireza Firouzja won the Sinquefield Cup in the United States on Sunday, but the spotlight was not on him.
In a message on Twitter, the Norwegian Carlsen had shaken the chess world. “I am retiring from the tournament, I have always enjoyed playing for the St. Louis club and look forward to returning,” the five-time world champion wrote after his upset third-round loss on September 5 to 19-year-old American Hans Niemann, 43rd. world player and last minute guest to the test.
Now, the accusations would focus on an unusual method: anal beads.
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Did anal beads make him lose?
Carlsen added a video from 2014 showing Portuguese coach José Mourinho, then in charge of Chelsea: “I prefer not to speak, if I speak I will have serious problems,” he said in a post-match interview after his team lost and he was expelled. The accusation is sibylline, but it had consequences: the organization of the tournament then decided to delay the broadcast of the games by 15 minutes and made an examination of the players with a radio frequency scanner.
American gamer Hikaru Nakamura, widely followed on the live video platform Twitch, accused Niemann of cheating.
And the world’s first online chess platform, Chess-com, banned Niemann’s account. This player has had a blazing acceleration, becoming one of the highest points earners in the world ranking since 2021.
Accusations of cheating have historically tainted chess.
In the legendary game between the American Bobby Fischer and the Soviet Boris Spassky in 1972, the two delegations accused each other of illegal behavior, examining the chairs, the lighting and even the air in the room.
In front of the chessboard, the main means to cheat has been to have help from the public and establish a strategy to communicate. But ever since the computing power of computers began to outpace players, the chances of cheating have multiplied, especially at the highest level.
A Georgian grandmaster, Gaioz Nigalidze, was hunted down in 2015 because his visits to the bathroom were too frequent.
More discreetly, a microchip allows an accomplice to help a player from a distance, especially while the games are broadcast live.
The craziest of rumours, that Niemann stuck a microchip up his ass, drew the attention of Tesla owner, billionaire Elon Musk, who adapted a quote attributed to philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer into a tweet. “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one can see (because it’s on your ass)”wrote.
In this regard, the Spanish portal ‘La Razón’ explains: “The mechanics of the cheat would be simple: an accomplice who was watching the match live (as it was actually being broadcast), could simulate the real game on a computer and see the movements of this. Subsequently, through vibrations, it could “warn” the alleged cheater what the suggested movements would be. Anal beads would easily pass any security check.
Reactions of those involved
Another hypothesis was a possible leak of Carlsen’s strategy, prepared by his team, which had come into the hands of Niemann. Since he wrote his controversial tweet, Carlsen has remained silent and there is no proof of possible cheating.
Several participants in the tournament have supported Niemann, such as Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, lamenting the ‘witch hunt’ effect, or “paranoia”, according to American Levon Aronian.
Chess legend Gary Kasparov came to the aid of the young American grandmaster and asked Carlsen to change his mind after his retirement, “an unprecedented act for 50 years,” he stressed on Twitter.
“I know I’m clean, if you want me to undress completely I’ll do it, I don’t care”Niemann said in a post-game interview on television with the Saint-Louis chess club, which organizes the tournament.
The American finished seventh out of nine in the tournament, starting with the lowest world ranking. He only got one win, with two losses and five draws.
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