Magnus Carlsen resigned from a chess tournament that was already underway after his shock defeat to Hans Niemann with the White pieces in round three. Although no specific allegations have been made, the chess world is roiled with questions over whether the young American grandmaster cheated against him in the game.
In this round, the prestigious tournaments games were broadcast with a fifteen-minute delay, and Niemann was specifically examined by the arbitrators before the start of the matches.
Both Niemanns' past online conduct and recent post-match interviews have been examined by curious chess detectives.
The situation is quite clear-cut: this is either the greatest scandal or the biggest witch hunt in recent chess history.
Niemanns Nimzo shook the world
Hans Niemann, world #40, defeated Magnus Carlsen with the Black pieces in Round 3 of the Sinquefield Cup, ending his 56-game unfavorable run.
The outcome was nothing short of spectacular, but it was quickly overshadowed by what followed the next day.
A 15-minute broadcast delay for today's round was requested by anti-cheating arbitrator David Sedgwick, as well as enhanced RFID checks. #SinquefieldCup
The fourth round of the tournament and its broadcast were postponed due to an enhanced security check. Soon, it became clear the world champion would not be attending his game. Using football manager Jose Mourinhos famous if I speak, Im in big trouble press conference as the video snippet for the tweet.
He also updated his Instagram feed, revealing that defeating someone once is not retaliation.
I have withdrawn from the tournament. I've always loved participating in the @STLChessClub and expect to return in the future https://t.co/yFSpl8er3u
This unprecedented move immediately shook the chess world.
Emil Sutovsky, FIDEs Director General, has weighed in on Twitter, stating that Magnus has never resigned from a tournament before and that while he would not speculate on the matter, he did refer to the tournament's commentators as "the] musicians on the Titanic, trying to keep the program going as if nothing spectacular has occurred.
In an interesting echo, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov left an over-the-board event midway through in 2009. Magnuss would have been a formidable opponent if he had the chance.
@MagnusCarlsen never resigned for whatever reason, no matter how his tournaments went. He must have had a compelling reason, or at least he believes he has it. Don't label him a sore loser or disrespectful. I will not speculate on the reasons for his retirement, but I'd expect TD to release them.
Yaz, Peter, and Alejandro remind me of those musicians who played the Titanic.
After his game with GM Kurnosov (RIP) at the Aeroflot Open, Mamedyarov was the last top player to withdraw from the major OTB tournament in a similar situation. Curiously Shah was about to face Magnus today.
The results against Hans Niemann will not count in the final standings because they happened before the halfway point of the event. He has now had a fairly harsh spotlight on him as everyone examines his previous games, performances, and interviews.
A scandal or a witch hunt?
Players and analysts from across the chess world have commented on the matter. First and foremost, the other players who attended the event were asked questions about the Carlsen controversy.
Ian Nepomniachtchi, who finished third in the world championship, was eliminated from Carlsen in a straightforward manner in the opening round.
Levon Aronian, a newly naturalized American, called his opponents a mania.
In the post-match interview, Niemann offered strange and incoherent explanations about his thought process, excluding specific lines after sacrificing a piece, and highlighting flat-out losing moves as possible continuations, while describing his pieces as practically perfect in the emerging position in his post-game analysis.
In light of this incredible emerging situation, the player has played the crucial 19. Qg3 after just a minute, a move his opponent has labeled as insane and something he hasnt even considered over the board.
Niemanns previous performances and conduct have also been investigated.
Hikaru Nakamura and Ian Nepomniachtchi have both referred to Niemann's previous violations in online play, referring to a six-month absence of competitive online tournaments, although without concrete proof.
Niemanns classical rating climbed by far the most since Jan. 2021 among the world's 2500+-rated players, increasing from 2484 to 2688 as of Sept. 1, outperforming his rating to a near-impossible level. (On the other hand, using his current rating as a baseline, he is somewhat underperforming).
Niemanns post-match conversation regarding the Carlsen game also had its flaws, according to the American. He miraculously saw the exact board line just on the morning of play.
When someone plays directly into his preparation at the highest levels of play, he spent a decent amount of time playing out the moves (because gaining an advantage on the clock is your primary advantage, even if you do wish to deceive this fact).
Niemann refers to Carlsen as a competitor in the London Chess Classic in 2018 against Wesley So. Not only did So not participate in that event, but a game Carlsen did play in that tournament had a completely different move order.
In a 2019 blitz game in India, the champion played this opening game once against So.
Niemann's recent performance against elite opposition is worth considering, although with quicker time limits: at the FTX Crypto Cup, he finished dead last with zero points, including a match defeat against Carlsen.
After winning the opening game, he dropped a one-liner interview, declaring that the chess speaks for itself before continuing to lose the next three games.
The majority of the other games in Round 4 of the Sinquefield Cup were quite quiet, with the Aronian-Dominguez and Nepomniachtchi-So games coming to an end in quick draws. However, the matchup between Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave went a long way to demonstrate the lasting beauty of chess.
The Frenchman went into a queen endgame that was a known tablebase loss, but actually securing the victory was so complex that none of the top-level analysts who assisted with computer analysis could explain certain subtleties or why Caruana erred on certain moves. In the end, the American won the round, securing the only decisive outcome.