Chess grandmaster Hans Niemann sues rival Magnus Carlsen and others for $100m over cheating allegations

 (chess24.com/Getty)
(chess24.com/Getty)

Hans Moke Niemann, a 19-year-old chess grandmaster who has become the focus of an alleged cheating scandal, is suing world champion Magnus Carlsen and others for $100m in damages.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a lawsuit was filed by Mr Niemann in the Eastern Missouri District Court claiming that Mr Carlsen, Chess.com, and others including chess grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura are colluding to "blacklist" him from the chess world.

The lawsuit also claims the defendants have made defamatory statements by accusing him of cheating and that the claims have resulted in him being ostracised.

“This is not a game,” Mr Niemann’s lawyer, Terrence Oved, said in a statement. “Defendants have destroyed Niemann’s life simply because he had the talent, dedication and audacity to defeat the so-called ‘King of Chess.’ We will hold defendants fully accountable and expose the truth.”

The lawsuit claims that Chess.com was colluding with Mr Carlsen as it is purchasing the world champion’s “Play Magnus” app for $83m. Mr Niemann claims the merger will “monopolise the chess world.”

Mr Niemann has accused the defendants, including the Play Magnus app and Danny Rensch, the chief chess officer at Chess.com, of slander, libel, and unlawful boycott and tortious interference with his business.

The vitriol between Mr Neimann and Mr Carlsen began during a chess tournament in St Louis earlier this year. Mr Neimann beat Mr Carlsen in an upset during their first game. Mr Carlsen withdrew from the tournament after the loss. During a second game at a later tournament, Mr Carlsen made a single move and then resigned from the game. Mr Carlsen’s controversial moves were fueled by allegations that Mr Neimann was a cheater.

“Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted,” Mr Carlsen said after the tournaments.

Mr Neimann later admitted to cheating in limited online chess games when he was 12 and 16 years old, and said they were the worst mistakes of his life. However he denied cheating in any recent games.

Chess.com then released an analysis, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, suggesting Mr Neimann had vastly understated the extent of his cheating. The report claimed that Mr Neimann had likely cheated in more than 100 games including those that had monetary prizes. It also claimed that Mr Neimann privately admitted that he had violated the site’s rules after her was banned in 2020.

Mr Neimann claims in the lawsuit that Chess.com intentionally and maliciously leaked the report to the Wall Street Journal to drum up cheating allegations against him prior to the US Chess Championship. He denies Chess.com’s claims that he admitted to cheating.

The lawsuit names Mr Nakamura, claiming Chess.com used his platform to amplify the claims against Mr Neimann. Mr Nakamura, a grandmaster, gained popularity by streaming his chess matches. The lawsuit claims that Mr Nakamura is "Chess.com’s most influential streaming partner" and alleged he was “acting in collusion with Carlsen and Chess.com, published hours of video content amplifying and attempting to bolster Carlsen’s false cheating allegations against Niemann.”

According to Mr Neimann, the cheating allegations have resulted in him being rejected from at least two tournaments — including Chess.com’s Global Championship — a scheduled match with another grandmaster, and he claimes he cannot find work teaching at a reputable chess school.