Hans Niemann, accused of cheating by the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, managed to get as much talk about chess in September as when the series Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) it became a tremendous success. There are not even solid indications that the 19-year-old American has cheated in face-to-face games (yes, online, as a minor). But the International Federation (FIDE) has taken very strict preventive measures in the World Cup in Astana (Kazakhstan) where Ian Niepómniashi and Liren Ding signed soporific tables on Monday in the eleventh game. The Russian dominates 6-5 with three to go (next time, on Wednesday), while Niemann plays a tournament at 400 meters.
Chess cheating was extremely rare until the advent of computer programs that calculate millions of moves per second and can run on a mobile phone. More than one chess player (but not an elite one) has been caught by the referees (even with photos) while he consulted his cell phone locked in the bathroom when it was his turn to play his rival. The other method of cheating is that a buddy is following the game live on the internet with the help of those silicon monsters and blows the best moves to the player through a headset. The histrionic tycoon Elon Musk speculated that Niemann might be receiving illegal help from vibrations from an anal device, further multiplying the buzz that Carlsen’s accusation created far and wide.
Niepomniashi and Ding must be (under penalty of a fine) on the World Cup stage ten minutes before each game to be scanned by a machine so powerful it would even detect a micro-earpiece hidden in the ear, making it unnecessary to apply magnets to that part of the ear. body, as they did recently in the tournament in Dusseldorf (Germany). In addition, their dressing rooms (the only place they can go if they are not on the stand) have remote-controlled cameras monitored by the three referees. Spectators are separated from the playing area by opaque glass, in such a way that they have an excellent view of both contestants, but they cannot see them; thus, the transmission of information by gestures is impossible. After the first six minutes of each game, only a couple of official photographers can enter the stage, in addition to the referees (just a few minutes and shooting from afar).
There are additional measures that FIDE does not want to detail in order to make them more effective. In other competitions, wave inhibitors are frequently installed that make any type of electronic transmission impossible for tens of meters around. And the broadcast over the Internet is also usually delayed for fifteen minutes so that the alleged cheater has to spend a lot of time if he wants to receive illegal help; but FIDE feels very secure with the measures adopted, and in this World Cup there is no such delay.
Not even in internet tournaments, very abundant since the pandemic broke out, have there been solid accusations against chess stars. And the suspicions based on face-to-face competitions are even less. Asked by EL PAÍS about it after the tie in the eleventh game (after only 100 minutes of very boring fighting), Ding was categorical: “In no elite face-to-face tournament that I have played in my entire career have I suspected anyone.”
But not a few chess players tend to be very distrustful due to professional deformation (their mind has become accustomed to the permanent state of alert for any hidden threat from the rival). And this tendency can be seen in the answer that Niepómniashi gave: “In the highest-level official tests, like my duel with Carlsen in Dubai  or the Madrid Candidates Tournament [junio de 2022] o In this World Cup I don’t think it’s possible to cheat, due to the serious measures adopted and because I have full confidence in my opponent, whom I know very well”. But then he added: “As for other elite players, you can never be sure, especially in internet tournaments.” And in the face-to-face? “I find it very hard to believe that they cheat, although there is always someone who speculates otherwise. You can never guarantee total security, but I am confident that the risk of being publicly demonized if caught is a great deterrent.”
The FIDE presidency has delegated the Niemann case to its Ethics commission, whose ruling is so imminent that it could be published while Niemann competes in Astana (for now, he has won his first two games) after doing so in the Menorca open with a result normal and without any suspicion founded against him. On the other hand, the American has filed a lawsuit in his country against Carlsen and others involved in the case (such as the Chess.com platform) for hundreds of millions of dollars (it is not easy to know exactly how much due to how badly written the demand); It is unknown when there will be sentencing.
Since he beat Carlsen, on September 4 at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis (USA), Niemann has managed to stay on the world list for several tournaments above 2,700 points, the barrier that is taken as a reference to separate the elite of the rest. This shows that his talent and his strength as a player are enormous. But so are his emotional instability and his rude manners, as the author of this chronicle was able to verify last November, observing him from a few meters away for several days at the World Cup by Nations in Jerusalem. Niemann does not grant interviews at the request of his lawyers and avoids any informal communication with a journalist. The clearest consequence of the scandal about him caused by Carlsen is that, for the organizers of all kinds of tournaments, and especially the open ones with hundreds of participants from many different categories, the prevention of cheating is now a top priority.
subscribe to weekly newsletter ‘Wonderful move’, by Leontxo Garcia
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits