PUNE: Magnus Carlsen‘s reasons why he feels that Hans Niemann cheats: “unusual” progress in over-the-board chess, the 19-year-old world No. 49 American “wasn’t tense or concentrating on the game at critical points” during his classical win over the Norwegian earlier this month.
Carlsen’s statement on twitter on Monday night puts a spotlight on his two other beliefs: “that Niemann cheated more (than what he has confessed) and more recently”, and only a handful of players can outplay him with black pieces the way Niemann did at St Louis.
My statement regarding the last few weeks. https://t.co/KY34DbcjLo
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) 1664220901000
It’s over to Niemann now to respond. If he sues the world champion, it will be a long-drawn battle. And if he attacks Carlsen verbally, there will be mud thrown at each other by various powerful parties including online leaks and private data.
Plus, the teenager needs invitations to private tournaments to keep his career financially sustainable. The world No. 1 also knows that he is walking on thin ice. Hence he stated: “Hope that the truth of the matter comes out whatever that may be.”
The statement, expectedly, is full of zugzwang. Carlsen says he doesn’t want to play against players who cheated repeatedly “and don’t know what they are capable of doing in the future”. He specifically states he is not willing to play against Niemann. And at the same time, he says “without explicit permission of Niemann”, there is a limit to what he can say.
The Carlsen-induced cheating saga also puts the spotlight on the parallel power centres (online platforms). The world champion’s over-confidence and his one-sided inferences are also apparent.
Niemann developing high-quality endgame skills during the pandemic break and beating Carlsen in St Louis based on his preparation (hence not needing great concentration) can’t be ruled out.
Carlsen has been accused of trying to clip the wings of a young player with his unsubstantiated allegations and thereby getting rid of a threat. However, Carlsen himself has vacated the throne by opting out of the World Championship match. Plus his equation and behaviour with players like Ding Liren, Alireza Firouzja, Erigaisi Arjun and R Praagnanadnhaa has been quite good. And he was on good terms with Niemann too before something went wrong.
Carlsen appreciates Iranian turned French GM Alireza Firouza so much that he had said if the youngster qualifies for the World title match, he may reconsider his thoughts of forfeiting the crown. For the Norwegian, there is nothing suspicious about Firouzja adding 175 points in just 22 months and from 227 games. But Niemann’s similar progress in 20 months is startling. Of course, the big question is how did the American manage to play about 350 over-the-board classical games in that phase.
Carlsen is not short of fans and many have rallied behind him, including premier Indian coach RB Ramesh who trains R Praggnanandhaa. Ramesh tweeted: “Immense respect for the world champion for taking a principled stand on an important issue, forcing the world to pay attention to it at a huge personal cost. Ideally, the chess world and FIDE should have devised a good practical solution to the cheating problem years ago.”
Modern sport is about LIVE telecast (without delays). And if the chess boom is to be sustained, varied formats have to thrive together without taking regressive, self-destructive steps. And credibility is vital.