Elon Musk weighs in

by Frederic Friedel
9/9/2022 – Now, jumping on the bandwagon, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the richest and arguably most successful innovator on the surface of the planet, has weighed on the conspiracy theory surrounding the cheating allegations in Saint Louis. In a recent interview, Hans Niemann said that in order to prove himself innocent, he was prepared to play naked. The ever provocative Elon had a comment on that as well. It is quite embarrassing to describe. | Photo of Musk by Andrew Kelly / REUTERS

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In his extensive and animated interview with Alejandro Ramirez the soaring US grandmaster assured his innocence offered to prove it. How?

"This absolutely fuels me and this makes me want to win the tournament even more. I can come to the game and completely strip. You can do any fair play check to me you want, I don't care, because I know that I'm clean. If they want me to strip fully naked, I'll do it. I don't care because I know that I'm clean... You want me to play in a closed box with zero electric transmission, I don't care. Name whatever you guys want."

Play chess games completely naked? Sounds convincing (and interesting). But then the world's most successful billionaire took time of his Space X program and his Tesla electric car production to weigh in on the situation. He did this by retweeting a chess meme:

Before I comment on the subject I would like to say I believe that Hans Niemann is innocent. It is of course not easy to pass judgement from 7,500 kms away. Right now I can only study pictures of the venue, listen to him in video interviews, and look at the "Weighted Error Value" provided in ChessBase's Live Game service:

The Weighted Error Value is calculated by our software when it machine-annotates games. It doesn't consider the opening and ignores "obvious" moves (recaptures, forced replies). It compares the results with the choice of moves proposed by different engines. The lower the value it comes up with, the lower the error quotient in the game.

This is what I found for Niemann:

  • Round 1: 0.09 (flawless)
  • Round 2: 0.06 (flawless)
  • Round 3: 0.09 (flawless)
  • Round 4: 0.11 (very precise)
  • Round 5: 0.06 (flawless) 
  • Round 6: 0.61
It certainly looked suspicious, but further checking put the results into perspective: Wesley So, who is currently leading in the event, had the following error values:
  • Round 1: 0.03 (flawless)
  • Round 2: 0.07 (flawless)
  • Round 3: 0.23 (precise)
  • Round 4: 0.01 (flawless)
  • Round 5: 0.07 (flawless)
  • Round 6: 0.08 (flawless)

This makes one realize that the level of play in top GM events (compare it to other lower-level games) is generally close to perfection.

And then I checked Magnus. After 0.04 (flawless) in round one, and 0.01 (!) in round two (flawless), in round three the World Champion had an 0.42 accuracy. The software ranks this as below 2700 level of play.

I also and listened to the very intense interviews that Hans Niemann has given. Based on two decades of experience in the field it has led to my purely subjective initial conclusion: he is innocent.

Regarding undetectable cheating devices: that is a subject I brought up in my proposal to FIDE over a decade ago. But I will leave a discussion of this subject to a future article.


Later this evening GM Eric Hansen revealed on his Youtube channel Chessbrah that it was he who unleashed the anal bead meme on the world – as a joke in one of his chats.

Musk apparently also tweeted:

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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Eine-Welt-Staat Eine-Welt-Staat 9/12/2022 06:58
The world's a stage. The New World Order is coming. That's why such strange things are happening and the whole world is upside down in godless lies and increasing chaos.
And the love of the truth? It's gone, like the Bible says (2 Thessalonians 2). You better wake up now, folks!
shivasundar shivasundar 9/12/2022 04:17
To me, more than all "purported evidence", "analysis", etc. presented (in various fora), what has been shocking is the absolutely shoddy, unprofessional and shocking handling of the whole situation, by all actors concerned: Hans himself, a certain (abdicated?) world champ, FIDE, the arbiter team and chess.com.

This does not augur well for the future of chess.

The responses were unbecoming for the sport's top-of-the-line (and *only* Category 22) tournament currently... Fans and the game deserve much better accountability and transparency.
soulblazer soulblazer 9/11/2022 11:42
Accuracy is not synonym of human-like move. My 2 cents.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 9/11/2022 05:28
Similar discussion in bridge fora, like bridgewinners.com . Is on-line bridge really bridge? Seriously? Not everybody seems to think so, treating it like a game of solitaire where you are free to behave as you please - especially during the isolation during the pandemic. It just doesn’t feel “real”, and perhaps nothing much did.

Until the hammer comes down ...
Aighearach Aighearach 9/11/2022 12:00
A baseless accusation is, by definition, a false accusation.

And if Carlsen went to the tournament staff with a false accusation, that itself is an attempt to cheat.

Furthermore, withdrawing from a tournament without a reason is against FIDE ethics rules.

A public statement designed to harm a person's reputation, based on secret evidence, is slander or libel. Chess dot com should make a public apology, admit that none of what they said was true, and restore Hans' account and tournament participation. Because character assassination in public, where they claim they have evidence, and where they don't share that evidence with the public, is unlawful. They can only be in the wrong, because they claimed secret evidence.

And a cheating accusation done indirectly, by inference, is still a cheating accusation. If it was not so, Carlsen would have corrected the record. So it is inaccurate to say he didn't accuse cheating. He did, he just did the public part in a smarmy way out the side of his mouth. But it appears he probably did make a cheating accusation to the tournament staff.
Thomas Richter Thomas Richter 9/11/2022 10:17
Which values would be considered suspicious, if even 0.01 for Wesley So isn't suspicious (well, this was a - probably home-prepared - quick draw)? Can this test ever prove guilt? Nor can it prove innocence, as people will argue that a cheater used engine assistance selectively, not for every single move. I am not saying that Niemann is guilty, and I disagree with Nepomniachtchi that he should prove his innocence - mission impossible and not needed. But the only remarkable data point in this article might be quantitative evidence that Carlsen played poorly against Niemann.
shivasundar shivasundar 9/11/2022 08:37
I would like to applaud Frederic for turning on comments again. It certainly improves transparency and democracy. Hopefully, it indicates that articles/authors are open to criticism, and honest feedback. I also hope sincere engagement - with questions answered - without ad hominem attacks would result henceforth in comments.

On the whole Hans Neimann affair, I worry about OTB chess and the chess world in general. Either way it plays out, it looks bad - it looks as if chess would be the loser at this point :-(...
TwoZero TwoZero 9/10/2022 10:45
Signal jammers would stop any potential 'wireless' cheating methods. But they are illegal to use in the US!

The next best solution is wand/detector that detects wireless signals going to or coming from players...
Isledoc Isledoc 9/10/2022 05:18
Perhaps this sorry business points out the perils of cheating. Whether or not Niemann cheated on this occasion he has done so previously and this unfortunately taints his reputation. Once one has gone down this path it is hard to rewind the clock. Of course he has every right to defend his reputation but must understand that his past actions have to some extent created this mess.
Frederic Frederic 9/10/2022 03:54
Derek880: we switched comments off because a very few deeply frustrated individuals kept coming in and disrupting the feedback section, often posting off-topic vile attacks full of personal animosity. The company said we don't need that. I'm being brave and switching on the feedback for my articles. So far so good. Will have to switch it off again if the disruption resumes.
EdithS EdithS 9/10/2022 11:09
Why is the opinion of this ghoul relevant? What does he know about chess?
SKAcz SKAcz 9/10/2022 09:27
To the conspiracy: It seems that someone has found a way to advertise chess with the help of such a media-observed personality as Elon Musk :) Who?

Anyway, now there are only 2 possibilities: either the cheater will be exposed or there will soon be a match for the world champion under the auspices of a new professional chess organization similar to what happened when Kasparov left FIDE.

Now Carlsen has a potential challenger who can beat him, so he has something to play for and he is from the next generation! That is exactly what he wanted and we can look forward to the match :) But this time he will be ready...
Derek880 Derek880 9/10/2022 08:45
I hope the comments section stays around this time. I LOVE this site, and I hate the fact that other chess sites have open comments on their forums and we don't.
Ellrond Ellrond 9/10/2022 08:04
weird logic in this article. Flawless is ok for Super GM, yes. And if Niemann cheated, then he became! Super GM because he cheated, so you cannot say what is normal for him in this case. So if he is i.e. <2600 player w/o cheating then flawless would be not ok. So the logic in this article is a circular conclusion and self-referential. Hope the author understands this.
Galuna Galuna 9/10/2022 01:41
They're allowing comments again ?
Jacob woge Jacob woge 9/9/2022 10:50
Déja lu.
reddawg07 reddawg07 9/9/2022 10:39
It looks like some top GM's are becoming Paul Morphy or Robert Fischer clones...paranoid,
according to GM Levon Aronian. Robert Fischer, not playing a match against Karpov because
he fear he might lose and thus their goes away the prestige of being 'undefeated' or 'unbeaten'. And Magnus
is probably working on the same angle.
eric b eric b 9/9/2022 08:07
@hansj - I see that you are quite persistent in reminding everyone that Carlsen has not "literally" called Hans Niemann a cheater, and you are quite correct about that. I myself believe that Niemann probably did not cheat (although I don't care much for his anti-social arrogant personality. Carlsen is anti-social and arrogant as well). However, when it comes to what Carlsen "mostly likely" believes (based on circumstantial evidence of course), it seems extremely likely that Carlsen does indeed think that Hans cheated in their game. It's like the old expression, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck. and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. Yes, yes, you are right that this still proves nothing. However, I think it's still sensible and logical to assume that Carlsen believes Hans cheated, and there is a very strong likelihood that he does. There is nothing wrong with speculating on this situation based on that assumption. In my own view, Carlsen's behavior is entitled and unprofessional. Also, when speculating on what Carlsen most likely thinks (that Hans cheated), I don't think it is necessary to "explicitly" make this distinction every single time we comment.
CpnDunsel CpnDunsel 9/9/2022 07:58
Elon Musk is a grifter and little else.

Innovator? Nagger please. Thief is closer to reality.
lagrigorescu lagrigorescu 9/9/2022 07:49
What I believe is emerging is a new type of player that develops by playing with a computer. That means they play "computer-like". The Romanian Bogdan Deac is an example. He is very difficult to beat as he proved already twice against a similar field of elite players. His games are flat but accurate. The pressure is on their opponents to prove their superiority, and that brings inaccuracies - harder to take advantage of by "traditional" players, but easier for a "computer-like" player like Deac and Niemann. Of course they work hard enough to reach the level they are currently at, and have specific talents (good memory) and discipline. The really talented, creative, pioneering players like Magnus or Caruana will have to develop new ways to be successful against this class of "computer-likes" and accept that the margin is extremly small.
nirvana1963 nirvana1963 9/9/2022 07:44
Is it the 1st of April again??
arzi arzi 9/9/2022 07:29
You should ask that question from Carlsen, hansj. Ask also why he mentioned about Mourinho. Is Carlsen in a paranoid mood? Is there a secret we should know about?
hansj hansj 9/9/2022 07:05
"cheating allegations"?
Who has raised cheating allegations?
Ariovistus Ariovistus 9/9/2022 06:33
Please! No Elon Musk, the greatest conman of the world. One thing though, he proves that you don't need to be intelligent to become the so-called richest man of the world.
ConwyCastle ConwyCastle 9/9/2022 06:29
who wrote this article? "I" is mentioned, but who is this?
arzi arzi 9/9/2022 06:27
"Using wireless anal beads that vibrate the correct moves to Niemann." That explain all! Mystery solved.
ChessSpawnVermont ChessSpawnVermont 9/9/2022 05:29
This says far more about Elon Musk than it does about chess and the people involved with the tournament in St. Louis. Perhaps Musk has found the real reason for Carlsen's success?