A teen chess grandmaster admitted he cheated to get more people to 'follow and subscribe' to his livestreams, major chess site reveals

Hans Niemann, in a black sports jacket on a chess backdrop, speaks during an interview.
Hans Niemann.via Saint Louis Chess Club/YouTube
  • A Chess.com investigation found that Hans Niemann cheated online in more than 100 matches, as recently as 2020, according to The Wall Street Journal.

  • Niemann had been accused of cheating by world champion Magnus Carlsen, though there hasn't been proof.

  • The investigation found that Niemann appeared to be consulting a computer engine on moves during online matches.

Hans Niemann, the 19-year-old American chess player embroiled in a cheating scandal, likely cheated online far more than he has publicly admitted, according to an investigation by major chess website Chess.com.

The investigation found that Niemann "likely received illegal assistance" in more than 100 online games as recently as 2020. Some of the matches were for prize money.

Niemann reportedly privately confessed to cheating to Chess.com and was temporarily banned from the site.

Chess.com's report alleged that in his confession, Niemann — an American prodigy who has shot up the chess rankings — told the site he cheated to increase his views online.

"Having a higher rating would mean people tune in more to my streams when I'm battling [chess grandmasters] Hikaru, Danya or Eric (Hansen)," Niemann reportedly told the site's administrators. "I need people to believe that I'm a worthy rival to follow and subscribe."

Niemann was accused of cheating by world champion Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen in September. Carlsen withdrew from a tournament under vague circumstances after losing to Niemann in a stunning upset. Shortly after, he quit an online match against Niemann after just one move, leaving the chess world to speculate on Carlsen's reasoning.

Carlsen eventually released a statement on September 26, saying he believes Niemann "has cheated more — and more recently — than he has publicly admitted."

Carlsen said Niemann appeared too aloof during their Sinquefield Cup match.

"His over the board progress has been unusual, and throughout our game in the Sinquefield Cup I had the impression that he wasn't tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions, while outplaying me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do," Carlsen said.

Niemann had admitted to cheating in online matches at 12 and 16-years old. He said he had never cheated in an over-the-board match and did not cheat against Carlsen.

Magnus Carlsen looks up from the chess board during a match in 2021.
Magnus Carlsen in 2021.Jon Gambrell/AP Images

According to Chess.com's investigation, however, Niemann opened a different screen on his computer around the same time that he made suspicious moves during online matches, implying he was consulting an engine.

Maurice Ashley, the first Black grandmaster and a chess analyst, told Insider that computer engines are far better tactically than humans and can routinely beat top players.

In addition to screen-monitoring software and cameras, chess officials also monitor players' activity and moves to see if they align with what a computer would recommend. They also consider past data of how players typically play and how quickly they move. Though it's an imperfect science, Chess.com is said to have the most sophisticated anti-cheating measures, according to Ashley.

The investigation also noted Niemann's remarkable improvement in over-the-board games, though it didn't specifically say he has cheated. The investigation found that Niemann's ELO rating — the measure used to rank players — rose more sharply than any other young player once Niemann became a grandmaster at 17. The investigation report called Niemann's improvement, "statistically extraordinary."

Cheating during over-the-board matches is much trickier and harder to prove. There have been rumored methods — like a player receiving communication from a hidden electronic device.

Players are no longer allowed to have cell phones at tournaments, and some tournaments require players go through metal detectors for hidden devices.

Niemann, for instance, offered to play a match naked to prove he wasn't hiding any devices to receive communication.

At tournaments where spectators are allowed, players could also receive visual cues from "accomplices," according to Ashley. Though the grandmaster said this would be "ballsy" to do because of the number of officials present, for experienced players, even a simple gesture could tip them off to a move.

FIDE, chess's governing body, is also conducting its own investigation into the Carlsen-Niemann affair.

Read the original article on Insider