Carlsen about Niemann's lawsuit: "I focus on chess"

by André Schulz
10/26/2022 – The Fischer Random World Championship, which started yesterday in Reykjavik, is overshadowed by the Niemann lawsuit, in which Niemann sued Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Daniel Rensch, chess.com and the Play Magnus Group for 100 million USD. Carlsen and Nakamura are playing in the World Championship, but did not want to comment on the lawsuit. However, the Icelandic Grandmaster Hjörvar Gretarsson, who is a lawyer by profession and who also takes part in the Championship, commented the lawsuit and a game he had played against Niemann. | Photo: David Llada

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When Magnus Carlsen landed in Reykjavik on Monday to compete in the second official Fischer Random World Championship, journalists from the Norwegian TV station NRK asked him about Hans Niemann's lawsuit.

"I still focus on chess," Carlsen said, "And that won't be used as an excuse, no matter how things go."

Hikaru Nakamura was also asked about the lawsuit by NRK journalists, but would not comment. "I can't comment on an ongoing case, sorry," Nakamura only said.

The controversy surrounding Hans Niemann has made waves, is occupying the chess world and has been fuelled once again by Niemann's lawsuit.

At the Sinquefield Cup in September Carlsen had left the tournament after his loss against Niemann in round three. The World Champion made no official statement but a tweet by Carlsen fuelled speculation that Niemann might have cheated at the Sinquefield Cup.

At the Sinquefield Cup the winner is obliged to give an interview after the game and in his interviews after the first games Niemann had seemed confused and had given the impression that he had not understood his own games properly.

In the interview after his fifth-round draw against Leinier Dominguez Niemann also admitted that he had cheated in online games when he was twelve and sixteen.

A few days after the Sinquefield Cup Carlsen and Niemann met again in the Julius Bär Generation Cup, a Play Magnus Group online tournament. Carlsen refused to play against Niemann and resigned after one 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4. After the tournament he made a statement, in which he claimed that Niemann had been cheating in online games more often than Niemann had admitted. Carlsen also brought up the name of Max Dlugy, a US grandmaster and coach.

Chess.com then published a long statement with many statistics that showed that Niemann had indeed cheated in over 100 online games, including games played in money tournaments. The document also included statistics that indicated that Niemann's development and his successes in over-the-board play are also unusual.

In October, after the end of the US Championships, in which Niemann took part, Niemann sued Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Chess.com CEO Daniel Rensch and the companies Chess.com and Play Magnus Group for slander, libel, an unlawful boycott and tortious interference with Niemann’s business for at least USD 100 million.

Magnus Carlsen's lawyer Craig Reiser, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, said about Niemann's accusations: "Hans Niemann has an admitted history of cheating and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to deflect blame onto others. His legal claims are without merit and we will vigorously defend against them.”

The Icelandic Grandmaster Hjörvar Gretarsson, who is a lawyer by profession, plays in the Fischer Random World Championship as a representative of the organiser and he described Niemann's lawsuit to NRK as "stupid": "This high demand makes no sense. It is typical of lawyers in the USA that they like to call for large sums of money. Niemann wants compensation, which makes sense. But it makes no sense that he claims to have lost 100 million USD," Gretarsson told NRK.

Gretarsson does not believe Niemann can win the case, but says: "It will be interesting. I hope it will be resolved soon."

Interestingly, at the Reykjavik Open 2022 in April, Gretarsson had played against Niemann in round 5 and lost a game, in which Niemann apparently made no mistakes.

 

"I had the same feeling as Carlsen. I thought he was unfocused and opened the position. When it got complicated, he also played fast. At first I thought he was extremely talented. But I thought of cheating when I looked at the game afterwards. But I still assumed he hadn't cheated because I had no proof. For a lawyer, it's not fair to accuse someone of cheating without evidence."

There will be special security measures at the Fischer Random World Championship. The games will be broadcast live on Norwegian television, but the signal will be sent with a delay.

"It's crazy," said Wesley So, who is playing in the Fischer Random World Championship as the defending champion. "We all know each other very well here. Cheating comes with a high risk. Because then your reputation is ruined and your career is over. Niemann has just turned 19, nobody knew him before. Carlsen saw at the Sinquefield Cup that something was wrong and withdrew from the tournament. I have a lot of respect for that."

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.

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eastyz eastyz 10/26/2022 10:22
I am a lawyer. Gretarsson's comments are equally "stupid" (his word) to me as he does not appear to understand what is an ambit claim (local terminology, not US terminology) and its purpose. As to Gretasson's game with Niemann, Niemann hardly made the best engine moves. It was clearly prep that got Gretarsson into a position where he had little idea what he was doing and so drifted into a lost position. That Niemann did not make a mistake is not the point. It was all very forcing until the critical moment when black played 17... e5. Niemann had a single plan and that was to make use of the h file, the well-known point of the early Qg3. His moves were not hard to find as Gretarsson failed to put up the best resistance. As for Carlsen, his lawyers would have told him to keep his mouth shut as he has put himself at risk enough as it is.
drgenial4 drgenial4 10/26/2022 09:26
Consequences arrived it seems.
drgenial4 drgenial4 10/26/2022 09:25
Juri: you have something to say Mr. Carlsen?
Carlsen: "i would rather focus on chess now"
Marin Vukusic Marin Vukusic 10/26/2022 09:14
@A Alekhine -- "I have been reading everything I can find about Niemann and so far I have seen NOTHING that indicates he has cheated in OTB play." This is because you are stupid. There is plenty of evidence, just no proof (look up the difference). Also, Alekhine? You should have used The Turk, Ajeeb or Mephisto as aliases. That would at least show some wit.
Abudabu Abudabu 10/26/2022 09:09
Yes GM Gretarsson, it isn't fair to accuse someone of cheating without evidence, real evidence too and not some statistical analysis. As Mark Twain popularized: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
tauno tauno 10/26/2022 07:48
@A Alekhine - I agree with a lot of what you said, but I still have to say that I really appreciate and respect these article writers who write under their own name - even if it's pure BS. (I'm not implying that you would't do it, I just wanted to state my point of view.)
adbennet adbennet 10/26/2022 07:37
A Alekhine wrote: "Here we have another unfortunate article on chessbase.com that uses innuendo to attack Niemann."
I don't read the article that way. Instead I see reporting on what grandmasters have to say about a hot-button topic. That grandmasters are comfortable with innuendo is a _fact_. The comments by Gretarsson seem quite moderate, as befits a lawyer, and I agree with all the points he made.
Michael Jones Michael Jones 10/26/2022 07:19
He starts focusing on chess... when he's already made a very serious and completely unsubstantiated allegation against another player, who is now suing him for it? A bit late for that now - Pandora's Box is well and truly open. If he has proof that Niemann cheated in their game at the Sinquefeld Cup (and/or any other OTB games), then he can show it in court, convince the jury that his comments can't be defamatory because they're true, then he gets to resume his career and Niemann disappears into oblivion. If he hasn't, he may still be able to argue that the comments weren't defamatory - if Niemann has admitted to cheating sometimes, it doesn't necessarily defame him to suggest he did so at other times, although it might if he succeeds in arguing that OTB cheating is a more serious offence than online - but Carlsen would probably lose the tortious interference element of the case since he would have been baselessly pressuring organisers into revoking invitations made to Niemann. I can't tell which way the case is going to pan out, but I'll follow it with interest.
Green22 Green22 10/26/2022 06:37
Spot on @A Alekhine

@nebqo read Alekhine's post buddy and get up to speed on the actual facts about the case..
tauno tauno 10/26/2022 06:29
@fgkdjlkag

I think your proposal to give OTB bans of different lengths in proportion to the number of online cheating would be very unfair, because Chess.com is very inconsistent with their banning practices: Sometimes they may ban you without valid evidence, sometimes if you've cheated a couple of times, sometimes they let you continue cheating if you have confessed, sometimes they can let you cheat on a dozen or some dozen games. And if they (or some of their business partners) want to get rid of a certain player they don't like, they might let him cheat in over 100 games with the aim of being able to ban him for lifetime.
mc1483 mc1483 10/26/2022 06:16
@drgenial4: if that were the case, I understand why he draws some games (the opponent never blundered). But why does he lose a lot? In the last 3 years he lost 16% of all games played, not bad for a super GM, but strange for a cheater.
A Alekhine A Alekhine 10/26/2022 06:02
I see that Carlsen chooses to "focus only on chess," but it's too late, Mr. Carlsen: you have created this controversy by accusing an opponent of cheating, when EVERYONE KNOWS YOU PLAYED BADLY AND DESERVED TO LOSE. This is the whiny behavior of a no-name patzer, not of a World Champion. Now you are being sued for your unsupported accusations, which you surely deserve.

Here we have another unfortunate article on chessbase.com that uses innuendo to attack Niemann. Then we get the usual parade of comments, also attacking Niemann, that are mostly based on faulty reasoning or already discredited claims. I have been reading everything I can find about Niemann and so far I have seen NOTHING that indicates he has cheated in OTB play. Online, yes, which he has admitted and apologized for--but as we all know, cheating is rampant online and for that reason (among others) no one regards online play as being comparable in seriousness to OTB play.

Cheating in online play is so common, chess.com maintains long lists of players who have cheated (or who have been alleged to cheat). Even MAGNUS CARLSEN HAS CHEATED ONLINE in at least one well-documented example, which indicates how seriously players regard online chess, but for some reason we hear little about that. Carlsen has decided to make an example of Niemann, and I think we all know why: BECAUSE CARLSEN LOST TO HIM, WHICH ENDED CARLSEN'S LONG UNDEFEATED STREAK.

In my opinion the best article I have seen on this topic is also on chessbase.com:

https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-hans-niemann-case-numbers-what-they-reveal-and-what-they-do-not-reveal

This latter article dismantles all the alleged statistical evidence that Niemann has cheated OTB. Niemann's critics should read it.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 10/26/2022 05:14
A proposal - if it is allowed by the initial agreement between chess.com and its players, and on all other chess-playing sites, they should turn over the list of cheaters to FIDE who will give OTB bans (which can be accompanied by online bans if it was not done before, and could be at different times) for varying lengths commensurate with the amount of online cheating. The list of players does not need to be made public. It falls under the purview of FIDE as cheating online brings chess into disrepute (see the Karjakin case eg). This would be a strong deterrent to players in the future.
drgenial4 drgenial4 10/26/2022 04:53
If i was a cheater, i would use a 2004/5 chess engine and would mostly pick up 2nd best moves to keep the position balanced. Then i would consistently use the first rated moves after my opponent has made a big blunder. Why cheaters keep using the most recent engines is beyond me
nbeqo nbeqo 10/26/2022 04:49
He admitted of being a cheater and now he is suing people for telling him the same thing?
Johannes Fischer Johannes Fischer 10/26/2022 04:29
@Queenslander @with_cheats_you_lose
Thanks for writing and indicating the errors. They were corrected.
tauno tauno 10/26/2022 03:58
@with_cheats_. In Armstrong's case, there was at least some indisputable evidence before he was banned. In Niemann's case, they don't seem to be needed. Kudos to FIDE for ignoring it.
with_cheats_you_lose with_cheats_you_lose 10/26/2022 03:26
Lance Armstrong was not cheating, that is news to me. "It is only cheating, if you get caught" and now "It is only cheating, if nobody is doing it".
with_cheats_you_lose with_cheats_you_lose 10/26/2022 03:23
There is another mistake in the article as also pointed by Queenslander. In the seventh paragraph: "In the interview after his fourth-round draw against Leinier Dominguez, Niemann also admitted" instead of fourth-round it should be fifth-round draw.
Based Based 10/26/2022 03:14
@ with_cheats_you_lose: You probably never watched cycling. None of Armstrongs wins looked effortless. Also, Armstrong was not cheating in a classical sense, because all of his competitors did the same as he did, which is why his 7 wins were never awared to somebody else :-))
Please google "Federer effortless" and "Armstrong effortless" to further educate yourself on the comparison ;-)
with_cheats_you_lose with_cheats_you_lose 10/26/2022 03:00
Based, your comparison of Niemann's unfocused and fast play to Federer's mastery is incorrect. Let me correct it for you: "Just imagine people had accused Lance Armstrong of cheating just because he made his Tour de France victories look so effortless."
mc1483 mc1483 10/26/2022 01:37
@with: I said "apples", you answered to "oranges".
@malfa: that's true, but I think that capturing the second pawn was something most players would have done immediately. I reckon Ne2 it's "human" as long as there are GMs involved, but keep in mind many commentators think Niemann is not even of GM's strength; that's why I think the move can be deemed suspicious if what Gretarsson says is true (Niemann unfocused and playing fast).
Queenslander Queenslander 10/26/2022 01:33
Your article has a missing word in the ninth paragraph. It should read "Chess.com then published a long statement with many statistics that showed that Niemann had indeed CHEATED in over 100 online games ..."
Based Based 10/26/2022 01:24
If you have time during a game to determine, whether or not your opponent is focused on the game, then you are not focused on your game yourself. Just imagine people had accused Federer of cheating just because he made his mastery look so effortless.
This whole "he is not acting/behaving like a player should" is deeply rooted in stereotype. As soon as a person is on the edges of the bell-curve and thus doesn't fit the common pattern all kinds of stupid actions towards them may happen. In school they are bullied. In the middle ages they were burnt as witches. And nowadays they are accused of cheating.
It is completely beyond me why anyone thinks they can destroy the life of a teenager without having an evidence backed important reason for it.
On the side: Neither "once a cheater always a cheater" is true nor "who cheats online also cheats OTB". I know for a fact that you can cheat in online games when you are young (and stupid) without ever cheating in OTB games. And I know for a fact that you can cheat when you are young (and stupid) and then stop doing it and never do it again.
malfa malfa 10/26/2022 01:23
@mc1483
IMHO 30.Ne2 looks like a rather human move: the knight lacks scope and, apart from putting pressure on d5, it is White's only piece needing an active function, so it looks logical to reroute it towards the opponent's main weeknesses on the opposite wing, which include the black king itself. Besides, I would not present Black with a chance to exchange the knight in order to seek salvation in an endgame with opposite colour bishops.
with_cheats_you_lose with_cheats_you_lose 10/26/2022 01:10
mc1483, you are mistaken again, I am sorry. One thing is performance based on results and opponent's Elo, another thing is performance based on play, calculated by average centipawn loss, and somewhat engine/game correlation. They are distinct. For example, in the game against Gretarsson, Hans Niemann played like a 3100 Elo player, with average centipawn loss of 5, but because he won against a 2500 Elo player his Elo rating estimation is 2900.

I think Let's Check correlation is a good idea as a metric, but it can be flawed, because it relies on several engines, without any control. If it were refined and controlled, it could be trustworthy.
mc1483 mc1483 10/26/2022 12:43
Another thing I find a bit hilarious is Yosha emphasizing (around minute 4 of her video) Niemann performing (in average) at a 65% correlation, something found only in super GMs - hence suspicious. It's a bit hilarious because by now Gambit-Man has finished checking Niemann's US Championship's games, and found an average correlation of 54.31%, one of his worst in the last 3 years. According to Yosha, such a correlation is lower than "normal GMs"', so I would imagine Niemann performed well below 2600... while we all know he performed at 2699.
Again, this is evidence the Let's Check correlation can not be trusted when trying to evaluate strength and performance of a player, even along a whole tournament, let alone a single game.
mc1483 mc1483 10/26/2022 12:24
The game against Gretarsson is indeed one of the notorious 10 "perfect" games (also the last one of today). Checking the moves with Stockfish, it becomes clear what happened: Niemann attacked with 11) g4, a risky move (certainly not the best one) and Gretarsson, instead of counterattacking in the center, defended passively making things easy for Niemann who had no problem in finding the best replies. Most of them are so obvious (opening lines, doubling rooks, attacking pieces and pawns) that I myself could have found them in a metter of seconds. Some are less obvious, but the only move I deem suspicious is 30) Ne2, a real engine-like move.
with_cheats_you_lose with_cheats_you_lose 10/26/2022 12:20
Finally, they have increased the security measures of chess tournaments and not relying on waving a wand metal detector at the entrance, which can be easily defeated by someone with a basic knowledge of electronics.

This game between Niemann and Gretarsson is a great example of Hans Niemann very suspicious play. With all the complicated positions, Hans Niemann always chooses the top moves of the chess engine, while playing it fast.
PhishMaster PhishMaster 10/26/2022 11:46
Translation: "Oops".