A chess investigation is alleging the U.S. grandmaster "likely cheated" more than 100 times online, apparently referencing "infallible" chess computer simulations while playing online as recently as 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Chess.com's internal investigation alleges more than 100 games of suspicion by grandmaster Hans Moke Niemann, 19, after world chess champion Magnus Carlsen retired early in recent games, suspecting foul play.
Niemann had claimed he only cheated back when he was 12 and 16 years old, but Chess.com cheater investigation suspected his play far more often, highlighting "many remarkable signals and unusual patterns in Hans' path as a player" and "statistically extraordinary" improvement of his quality of play in a short period of time, according to the 72-page report.
"Outside his online play, Hans is the fastest-rising top player in Classical [over-the-board] chess in modern history," according to the report. "Looking purely at rating, Hans should be classified as a member of this group of top young players. While we don't doubt that Hans is a talented player, we note that his results are statistically extraordinary."
Notably, Chess.com is moving to buy Carlsen's Play Magnus platform, which has 90 million members and holds competitive games for big-dollar prize money.
Niemann's score over time increased at an alarming rate among Chess.com's players aged 11-19.
Niemann beat Carlsen in the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis by playing with the black pieces, which puts players at a disadvantage. Carlsen withdrew from that tournament and quit another game between them weeks later after just one, a sign of a protest by the world champ.
"I believe that Niemann has cheated more — and more recently — than he has publicly admitted," Carlsen wrote in a Sept. 26 statement. "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."
While Niemann admitted to having cheated in the past he called those instances the biggest mistakes of his life and vowed to never cheat in a live-streamed game.
"I would never, couldn't even fathom doing it in a real game," Niemann claimed, according to the Journal.
Chess.com found his suspicious play, including in games for prize money — which included tracking his movements off his browser potentially to consult a "nearly infallible tactical" chess engine that can routinely beat the world's top players. Niemann was also banned from playing on the site for a period of time amid suspicions, including the million-dollar Chess.com Global Championship.
"There always remained serious concerns about how rampant your cheating was in prize events," Chess.com chief chess officer Danny Rensch wrote to Niemann, the Journal reported. "We are prepared to present strong statistical evidence that confirm each of those cases above, as well as clear 'toggling' vs. 'non-toggling' evidence, where you perform much better while toggling to a different screen during your moves."
Chess.com usually keeps its allegations of suspected cheating private, but was "compelled to share the basis" for its past bans on Niemann amid the public allegations, according to the Journal.
"Our view of the data is that Hans, however, has had an uncharacteristically erratic growth period mired by consistent plateaus," according to the Chess.com report.
The report only noted Niemann's postgame analysis seemed to show a lack of world-class understanding of the moves he had made, noting his statements were "at odds with the level of preparation that Hans claimed was at play in the game and the level of analysis needed to defeat the World chess champion."
Despite the ties between Chess.com and Carlsen, the latter "didn't talk with, ask for, or directly influence Chess.com's decisions at all."
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