SÃO PAULO, SP (FOLHAPRESS) – The chess world is in turmoil. All because a 19-year-old American named Hans Niemann beat 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.
Strange indeed. One theory is that he used an anal device—wireless, of course—to receive in Morse code vibrations a template of moves to make at each moment of conflict.
The hypothesis caused a stir because, among other things, billionaire Elon Musk had fun on Twitter supporting the assumption (the post was later deleted).
And maybe the words Niemann used to defend himself added to the joke: “If they want me to play completely naked, I will.” I do not care. I know I’m clean,” he told the official channel of the tournament organized by the Saint Louis Chess Club from the USA.
Joking aside, the fact is that Niemann’s victory on Sunday (4) was strange. Number 49 in the ranking before the match, he defeated no less than Magnus Carlsen (31), world champion since 2013 and one of the greatest in history.
It’s not that it’s impossible. Zebras do occur in chess, although they are much less common than in sports like soccer or tennis.
But after the duel, when asked to comment on the feat, Niemann got confused. In the first answer, he could not explain why he chose a particular combination of moves.
He said he studied that very sequence on Sunday morning, even though it’s quite rare – which, by the way, makes it something of a miracle.
After all, there is no evidence that Niemann violated the codes of fair play. In his favor is also an incredible rise in the world ranking, faster than any other chess player.
However, Magnus Carlsen decided to withdraw from the competition after the defeat, hinting that something is not right in the air.
To add to the climate of doubt, when he announced on Twitter that he was abandoning ship, he posted a video of Portuguese coach José Mourinho saying: “I’d rather not talk. If I speak, I will be in big trouble.”
Some big players soon backed the world champion, claiming that Niemann would never have won the competition under normal conditions. Others criticized Carlsen’s stance, saying you have to know how to lose.
Niemann was delighted to respond to the allegations. “To see my biggest hero try to destroy my chess career is very disappointing,” said the American. “Beating him was a dream come true.”
His dream, however, had consequences. The largest online chess platform, the Chess.com website, decided to ban Niemann’s account due to Carlsen’s suspicion.
At the time, the American admitted that he had cheated in online games in the past, when he was 16, but said that the site had already forgiven that episode and that he had never cheated in face-to-face games, such as the tournament in Saint Louis.
In addition, the organization of the championship 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 is attracting attention not because of its originality, but because of the implications it may have for chess, a sport that has lived with secret intrigue for decades.
In the 1950s and 1960s, players from the Soviet Union acted in concert, arranging scores among themselves. For the next two decades, they used the KGB to spy on and even threaten their opponents.
In the 1990s, when cases of players using computers to cheat began to emerge, chess tournament organizers began to take additional safeguards.
With one or two exceptions, the initiatives were successful in the most important championships. If Niemann did indeed bypass security – which has not been proven so far – it would take cheating to the next level.