Niemann's $100 million lawsuit (with video)

by Albert Silver
6/28/2023 – Readers will recall the scandal that shook the chess world, when Magnus Carlsen stated he thought US GM Hans Niemann had cheated against him. In spite of endless amounts of speculation and hand-waving, no evidence was ever produced, and Niemann struck back with an eye-watering $100 million-dollar lawsuit. The verdict is in. Updated with video.

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When Magnus Carlsen up and left the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, explaining later that he felt his opponent Hans Niemann had cheated against him, it rocked the chess world. There is no question it was the chess story of the year, gravitating to mass media all over and no publication failed to bring it up in one context or another. The author of these lines was even asked to speak to an English-spoken radio channel in Dubai to explain what it was about. Yes, really.

Lines were drawn and some spoke in his favor, 'innocent until proven guilty', and others against, 'once a cheat, always a cheat', based on past misdeeds online in his teens. While no end of statistical data was produced by experts on all ends of the spectrum, such as famed anti-cheat expert Ken Regan, or reams of charts published by, in the end that was all it was. Statistics and circumstantial evidence. Nothing remotely concrete was ever produced. This is not to side with any point of view, these are simply the facts.

Then, months later, on October 20th, 2022, Hans Niemann struck back with the astounding lawsuit for $100 million against, Magnus Carlsen, the Play Magnus group, and ... Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura's name in the lawsuit was really the strangest, since while he has the largest following of any chess streamer bar none, and felt that Niemann likely cheated, it was no more damning than the rest of the world at large giving their opinions. He was not the one who had accused Niemann, nor one who went out of his way to bring up reports and data to condemn him. A high profile pundit for sure, but just a pundit nonetheless. 

The accusation: "...unlawfully colluding to blacklist him from the profession to which he has dedicated his life." and sought $100 million in damages from each and every party cited. A lot of proverbial ink has been spilled on this topic by now, and you can find links to numerous articles posted here at ChessBase News, or read the original suit filed here.

If one takes the time to read the full decision by the court on the dismissal, one will be quite surprised on the deciding factors that led to the dismissal. One might expect lack of proof, proper evidence and more, and certainly these are mentioned, but one of the deciding factors was the complaint claiming 'antitrust injury'. The court explains that on this point, it all falls apart.

Here are the material points and comments, which even a non-lawyer can readily understand:

“As the Supreme Court has noted repeatedly, Congress enacted the antitrust laws to protect competition, not competitors.” Thus, to recover damages under the Clayton Act for a  violation of either § 1 or § 2 of the Sherman Act, “a plaintiff must prove the existence of antitrust injury, which is to say injury of the type the antitrust laws were intended to prevent and that flows from that which makes defendants’ acts unlawful.” This requires that the plaintiff “be the target of the anticompetitive activity, not one who has merely suffered indirect, secondary, or remote injury.” (p.22)


"Niemann fails to plausibly allege an antitrust injury. Again, Niemann defines the Competitive Chess Market as “professional chess tournaments and online recreational chess platforms.” SAC at ¶ 47. But Niemann’s alleged injuries are not connected to any harm to competition in this market. Indeed, Niemann does not even compete in this market as he operates neither a professional chess tournament nor an online recreational chess platform." (p.23)

It is clear. Even had all the parties accused truthfully colluded, as he claimed, to cut him out of the chess competing world, it would not count as an antitrust injury. Antitrust is where he is competing against as an event organizer or potential rival as a recreational chess platform. This is not the court's interpretation only, it is the result of Niemann's definition of the Competitive Chess market in which he has suffered an antitrust injury as “professional chess tournaments and online recreational chess platforms.” Since he competes as neither, he cannot have suffered an antitrust injury.

There was also the question of whether Hans Niemann had suffered injury as a result of his ban from, and simply put: "can they do that with impunity?" Again the claim of monopolization looms to defeat his own complaint.

"The parties devote much of their briefs to debating whether the alleged group boycott of Niemann on the platform should be considered a per se, or presumptively unreasonable, restraint or whether it should instead be analyzed under the so-called “rule of reason,” under which the Court must consider the actual effect of the restraint on the relevant market.

The Court agrees with Defendants that Niemann’s ban from for alleged cheating is likely subject to the rule of reason. And as facially neutral rules that prohibit cheating are essential to promote fair competition and to preserve the integrity of the game,”’s enforcement of its anti-cheating rule would not constitute an illegal boycott." (p.26)


"As noted above in the discussion of antitrust injury, Niemann has not plausibly alleged that’s enforcement of its rules—whether fair or not as applied to Niemann—adversely affected competition among the professional chess tournaments and online recreational chess platforms that comprise the Competitive Chess Market.

Niemann has not plausibly alleged that the ban was intended to or did result in anticompetitive effects in the Competitive Chess Market." (p.27)

The federal court claimed points 3 and 4 of the original complaint were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they can never be retried, but other points fell out of its jurisdiction and can be refiled under state law. According to the WSJ, that is exactly what is happening, and Niemann's lawyers have stated their intention to refile the suit for slander and libel under state law.



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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