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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Chess prodigy responds to cheating accusations with $100M defamation lawsuit

The allegations against Hans Niemann made by world chess champion Magnus Carlsen spurred an online conspiracy theory shared by Elon Musk that Niemann used vibrating sex toys to cheat during a match.

ST. LOUIS (CN) — A chess prodigy has responded to cheating allegations that recently rocked the chess world, including that he used anal beads during a match to gain an advantage, with a $100 million defamation lawsuit filed Thursday in Missouri.

Hans Moke Niemann, a self-described 19-year-old self-taught chess prodigy, claims in St. Louis federal court that Sven Magnus Øen Carlsen aka Magnus Carlsen, a five-time reigning world chess champion and the highest-ranked player in chess history, defamed him and unlawfully colluded with others “to blacklist him from the profession to which he has dedicated his life.”

The complaint states that those false statements led to numerous widespread conspiracy theories on how Niemann could have cheated in a live match, including one that Elon Musk shared on Twitter suggesting he used anal beads – vibrating sex toys – that would give a certain pulse to indicate what move needed to be made. Musk is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit and has since deleted his tweet.

Along with Carlsen, Niemann sued Play Magnus Group - an online chess company created by Carlsen - as well as Chess.com LLC, Danny Rensch and Hikaru Nakamura.

Play Magnus did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. The other defendants were unable to be reached.

Niemann says in the lawsuit that he “soundly” defeated Carlsen during an in-person game last month at the Sinquefield Cup chess tournament in St. Louis.

“Notably, this was not the first time that Niemann beat Carlsen at chess, just the first time he did so at a FIDE-sanctioned event,” the lawsuit states. “Niemann’s upset victory effectively dashed Carlsen’s two remaining statistical ambitions, namely: achieving a 2900 FIDE performance rating for the first time in history; and breaking his own world-record unbeaten streak in FIDE-sanctioned events. These accomplishments, if achieved, would have solidified Carlsen as arguably the greatest chess player of all time and made his burgeoning chess empire even more valuable.”

Niemann also admits to embarrassing Carlsen by “playfully” taunting him in a postgame interview.

The lawsuit says Carlsen, who is “notorious for his inability to cope with defeat,” responded by falsely accusing Niemann of cheating without any evidence and demanding tournament organizers immediately disqualify him.

When tournament officials refused to disqualify Niemann, Carlsen allegedly responded by boycotting the remainder of the tournament.

“Carlsen then confirmed his defamatory accusations against Niemann with a provocative post on Twitter, which had the intended effect of disseminating Carlsen’s false accusations that Niemann had cheated against him across the globe,” the lawsuit states.

Days later, Carlsen forfeited a rematch against Niemann and issued a press release repeating the cheating allegations.

Even though numerous independent sources in the chess community have found no evidence of cheating, according to the complaint, Carlsen “unleashed his media empire to fan the flames” of his allegations.

Niemann claims Chess.com, in collusion with Play Magnus banned Niemann from all future events. Chess.com’s most influential streaming partner, Nakamura, allegedly published hours of streaming content backing up the false claims and Rensch, a Chess.com executive, issued a press release and leaked false statements to prominent chess media regarding Niemann's use of a so-called "chess engine” while participating in online games as a child.

Niemann gave an interview denying the allegations.

“During that interview, Niemann, hoping to set the record straight, also responded to Nakamura’s accusations of online cheating in recreational games by candidly admitting that when he was 12 and 16 years old, he had regrettably used a ‘chess engine’—a computer program designed to calculate the optimal chess move in any given situation—in a handful of non-FIDE-sanctioned recreational chess matches he played online on Chess.com,” the lawsuit states. “Niemann expressed deep remorse for using a chess engine in these Chess.com games, calling it the worst mistake of his life.”

Niemann claims Chess.com had resolved his use of a chess engine years earlier.

Niemann said the defendants responded by piling on with more false allegations to depict him as a serial cheater, including the anal beads theory.

“Despite the falsity of Defendants’ accusations, Defendants’ malicious defamation and unlawful collusion has, by design, destroyed Niemann’s remarkable career in its prime and ruined his life,” the complaint states. “As a result of Play Magnus and Chess.com’s collusion to blacklist him from chess, Niemann can no longer compete in any online Chess.com or Play Magnus tournaments, and will not receive invitations to in-person events sponsored by Chess.com or Play Magnus, which collectively comprise the majority of FIDE-sanctioned chess tournaments.”

Niemann is represented by Terrence Oved of Oved & Oved in New York City and Mark Gartner of St. Peters, Missouri. He seeks at least $100 million total in compensatory and punitive damages.

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