Chess World's Weird Drama Just Escalated

Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen resigns game after one move against foe accused of cheating
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2022 6:37 AM CDT
Chess World's Weird Drama Takes Another Turn
Magnus Carlsen of Norway competes during the FIDE World Championship at Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021.   (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

(Newser) – "Drama" may not be the first word that comes to mind in regard to the world of chess, but it seems to apply these days. On Monday, Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen resigned an online game after one move against 19-year-old foe Hans Moke Niemann, reports the Guardian. The abrupt development left observers of the Chess24 tournament stunned, though it's an escalation of an ongoing controversy in the game involving Niemann and allegations of cheating, per the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this month, Niemann defeated Carlsen at the in-person Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, and Carlsen immediately resigned from the tournament itself.

Carlsen himself has not publicly accused Niemann of cheating, but he posted a cryptic video after the earlier tournament withdrawal that fueled speculation, and others in the game have explicitly called out Niemann. The US teen insists he has never cheated at an in-person event, though he has admitted to it for online matches. Chess.com, a heavyweight in the game, has banned him and suggested that Niemann has cheated more than the two times he has publicly mentioned. Neither he nor Carlsen has publicly commented on Monday's latest twist in the controversy. (Watch the players as it happened.)

“Magnus Carlsen just resigned. Got up and left,” said Chess24 commentator Tania Sachdev as it happened. “Switched off his camera, and that’s all we know right now. We’re going to try to get an update.” Carlsen did, in fact, return for his next match against a different opponent. “Magnus [is] just refusing to play against Hans," said Sachdev later. "He will play the tournament, but he is saying, ‘I will not play the game against him.' That’s making a very big statement.” At Kotaku, Ethan Gach finds it all pretty interesting to watch. "The history of chess is full of petty dramas," writes Gach. "We are so blessed to live through this one." (One odd theory suggests players can cheat using a vibrating sock.)

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