The Hans Niemann case: Numbers – what they reveal and what they do not reveal

by Andrea Carta
10/24/2022 – There is love at first sight, as everyone knows, and there are, somewhat surprisingly, "statistics at first sight". What is that? In the infamous matter labelled by now as "the Hans Niemann cheating case" (a title that S.S. Van Dine would have greatly appreciated, as well as the mystery surrounding the case) such "statistics at first sight" have attracted the undisputed attention of every party involved – and above all the attention of the ones not involved. | Picture: The rating development of Hans Niemann

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Such a thing has happened because (until now) nobody has ever caught Hans Niemann cheating, at least not over the board (aka OTB, a new acronym that got immensely popular in a matter of days). Not because of lack of fantasy on the part of the audience: after the "anal beads" mentioned by no less than Elon Musk, all sort of devices have been suggested, up the hilarious "transmission-of-signals-directly-into-the-ear" (described at https://www.ll.mit.edu/news/laser-can-deliver-messages-directly-your-ear-across-room), a technique that would require a complex laser equipment placed close to the player, not to mention the enormous cost of such a device.

That’s why statistics have been widely used to determine if Hans Niemann has really cheated over the board in the past (as Carlsen played so badly against him at the Sinquefield Cup that it looks unlikely cheating occurred in that circumstance). At first, Professor Ken Regan, known to be the world’s greatest expert on cheating detection, studied the matter, and found no reason to suspect Hans Niemann of cheating. His findings are discussed in an interview he gave to Albert Silver on the 20th of September: https://en.chessbase.com/post/is-hans-niemann-cheating-world-renowned-expert-ken-regan-analyzes, but that did not put an end to the matter.

The general idea, at least for people convinced that Hans Niemann is indeed a compulsive cheater, is that "Ken Regan’s tool" is obsolete, as it only "relies on centipawn losses" (differences between a player’s moves and the engines’ best ones), and because it’s well known worldwide, thus allowing "careful cheaters" to avoid detection. "Ken Regan’s tool" is much more than simply evaluating the average centipawn losses (aka ACPL – another brand-new acronym – but that does not bother the new experts, as new statistics and new tools have surfaced. The most known is probably the one depicted by "Gambit-man", a Chess.com user, self-defined expert on the matter. This user made use of the "Let’s Check" tool provided by ChessBase in order to evaluate the games played by Hans Niemann during the last 3 years, a time frame during which he played - almost frantically - more than 400 games. The "Let’s Check" tool, as Albert Silver explained in a subsequent article (https://en.chessbase.com/post/let-s-check-the-elite-are-better-than-you-know#discuss) "will give you a summary called Engine Correlation at the top, showing the percentage of times a player's moves matched the top choice of an engine". As FM Nate Solon also explained in an article published in his own blog on the 4th of October (https://zwischenzug.substack.com/p/did-hans-niemann-cheat?r=av0j7&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web), the more a game is analysed by means of an engine, the higher the correlation will be, and also will possibly increase every time a new engine is employed: furthermore, no comparison could ever be made between different games (not to mention different players) for the same reason, the different engines involved in the analyses. That’s why ChessBase says the tool shouldn't be used for cheat detection (or to be accurate: "the correlation isn’t a sign of computer cheating, because strong players can reach high values in tactically simple games. Only low values say anything, because these are sufficient to disprove the illegal use of computers in a game").

Despite that, streamer and FM Yosha Iglesias published a video called "The most incriminating evidence against Hans Niemann" (https://youtu.be/jfPzUgzrOcQ), promoting Gambit-Man’s research and highlighting 10 games with a perfect 100% correlation (not to mention other 23 at 90% or more). According to Iglesias, no other player in the world, not even Carlsen, boasts so many 100% games; also, Hans Niemann’s average correlation throughout all the tournaments (65%) compares with "super GMs" (players rated at least 2700 ELO points), despite Niemann never achieving super GM-status. Hikaru Nakamura also relaunched the video and Gambit-Man findings.

But this is "statistics at first sight". Even discounting Nate Solon’s strong objections, it is not possible to ignore Albert Silver’s findings when analysing the Sinquefield Cup’s games with the "Let’s Check" tool, findings presented in the article mentioned above. Not only is Hans Niemann’s correlation in the infamous game against the World Champion just "a modest 68%", but the player with the best correlation at the Sinquefield Cup (3 games over 90% and 2 more over 80%) is… Levon Aronian. He’s one of the three players who sub-performed at the Sinquefield Cup, and he currently seems to go through a crisis and lost a lot of rating in the last tournaments he played (Olympiad, Sinquefield Cup and now US Championship) and has by now reverted to his 2005 rating.

The fact that Aronian performed so well – according to the Let’s Check tool - in five games (out of 8), yet his real performance was mediocre at best, should ring a bell. Another player – Wesley So – had a perfect game with a 100% correlation, but this happened because only 8 moves (out of 28) were considered worth of analysis (the others, being pure theory, were discarded by the tool). With this in mind, let’s check (for real) the 10 "100% games" played by Hans Niemann, on the original Gambit-Man table (found at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/127lwTsR-2Daz0JqN1TbZ8FgITX9Df9TyXT1gtjlZ5nk/edit#gid=0)

  • -World Youth Open U16, 10/2019, 8th round (out of 11): against FM Miguel Angel Soto (2283), won in 27 moves.
  • -Marshall GM Norm, 2/2020, 7th round (out of 9): against IM Christopher Woojin Yoo (2430), won in 22 moves.
  • -CCCSA Fall Invitational, 10/2020, 6th round (out of 9): against IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (2427), won in 28 moves.
  • -7th Sunway Sitges, 12/2020, 6th round (out of 10): against GM Matthieu Cornette (2558), won in 36 moves.
  • -1st GM Mix Bassano, 3/2021, 5th round (out of 9): against IM Jesus Martin Duque (2454), won in 28 moves.
  • -14th Philadelphia International, 6/2021, 1st round (out of 9): against Eddy Tian (2204), won in 31 moves.
  • -US Junior Closed, 7/2021, 6th round (out of 9): against IM Ben Li (2376), won in 34 moves.
  • -2nd Tras-Os-Montes, 8/2021, 7th round (out of 9): against FM Isak Storme )2398), won in 38 moves.
  • -4th Sharjah Masters, 9/2021, 2nd round (out of 9): against GM Cristhian Camilo Rios (2466), won in 45 moves.
  • -Kvika Reykjavik Open, 4/2022, 5th round (out of 9): against GM Steinn Gretarsson Hjorvar (2542), won in 37 moves.

What is there behind all these "perfect" games? One possible explanation is, of course, cheating. But there also alternative explanations. The most obvious is the length of these games: half of them lasted less than 32 moves, and we already know – from So’s game at the Sinquefield Cup – that in such a case only few not theoretical moves remain, making the occurrence of a 100% correlation much more likely. Furthermore, only one game lasted more than 40 moves – the 45 moves’ victory against Rios – and the analyses show this game to be all but perfect: for example, both Stockfish and the well-known Chess.com utility (in the picture below) point out a lot of moves that in no way may be deemed "the engines’ best", even including some inaccuracies: which engines suggested to the Let’s Check tool that this game was perfect remains a mystery, and if cheating cannot yet be discounted, possible foul play also cannot (something that has first been highlighted by Nate Solon). But above all such analyses strongly hint that the ways the Let’s Check tool works are difficult to fully understand, thus the tool itself cannot be regarded as reliable, at least not for cheating detection. Why not simply trust ChessBase itself, that clearly states just that?

But even if these "perfect" games were evidence of cheating, what logic could possibly be behind it? As the "perfect" games are sporadic, there should be some criteria that prompted Hans Niemann to select them for cheating. Maybe one could speculate these games were the tournaments’ last ones, in order for him to achieve the best possible placement without raising suspicion, but this is not the case: none of these games was played in the last, or second to last, round. Or maybe one could imagine Hans Niemann only cheated against the strongest opponents, trusting his own skills in any other case: but this is also not true, as his best "perfect" victory occurred in 2020 against GM Matthieu Cornette (2558), while in the whole year 2022 he played at least 70 stronger players, without achieving a "perfect" game against any of them.

While the mystery of the "perfect" games is unlikely to be solved soon, other "statistics at first sight" are still to be discussed. On the 6th of October Chess.com published a report intended to explain why Hans Niemann was banned from their site and their online tournaments. This long-awaited report, while explaining – even emphasizing – that Niemann cheated online a lot, also admitted, just as Ken Regan did before, that there is no evidence of him cheating "on the board". Not satisfied with its own conclusion, Chess.com added some small statistics that nonetheless rise again strong suspicions: at page 12 it is shown that no other player improved as much as Niemann between the age of 11 to 19 (a comparison has been made with many other famous young players), as shown in the picture below. But not only this finding rests on the mysterious "Strength Score" (a parameter only Chess.com uses, whose working principles nobody knows, and whose main purpose is to detect online, not on the board cheating), it also is a good example of "cherrypicking", as the same comparison could be done making use of the ELO ratings over any other lifespan, with completely different results: for example, Hans Niemann gained no ELO points in the year 2019, at 16, while Firouzja, same age, same year, gained 105. Keymer, same age, following year, gained 64 points. And so on.

At page 15 another impressive statistic is shown: Hans Niemann gained his GM title at the age of 17, while all other so-called "youngsters" (Firouzja, Keymer and many others) did it before, some even at the age of 12 (Gukesh). Again, this is cherry-picking: if the comparison is made, not with the "youngsters", but with other players of similar strength (of today) instead, the outcome is completely different. For example, both Tomashevsky (rated 2696 ELO points) and Wojtaszek (2693) won the title at the age of 18 – later than Niemann – and even a younger player such as Alekseenko (2691) gained the title at the age of 18. Maybe Niemann won’t become as strong as Firouzja or Keymer, but right now there’s nothing strange in him becoming a GM title at the age of 17.

The last "statistics at first sight" appeared on YouTube on the 2th of October, when the Brazilian streamer Rafael Leite published a video with the impressive title "TOP URGENT! Strong EVIDENCE of CHEATING has been found on NIEMANN's Controversy". The following day another video followed, called "HUGE FINDING: Hans Niemann has 2500 Strength". The day after, eventually, an article of him appeared at https://medium.com/@rafaelvleite82/how-i-found-perfect-correlation-between-chess-player-rating-and-acpl-and-stdcpl-bea9485055de, with further explanations: the conclusion was that "I found out that Chess Player Hans Niemann has a 2500–2550 Strength, even being rated near 2700", immediately followed by the "big question" "What can possibly explain a 2500 strength player achieve 2700 rating?", a question having an answer clearly hinted at: cheating! Even ChessBase gave Rafael Leite the greatest evidence, reprising his findings in an article at https://en.chessbase.com/post/statistical-analysis-of-the-games-of-hans-niemann.

What findings? At first, Rafael Leite found the obvious: the stronger a player is, the less mistakes he makes. Then he analysed a lot of games (many thousands) hoping to correlate the average ACPL with the players’ rating and eventually computed the following table, one that even accounts for STCPL (Standard Deviation CentiPawn Loss). This table looks so impressive you should expect to find a big "42" somewhere inside (unluckily the closer we get to the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is only a "41" on the right).

All the "usual suspects" have been checked: the youngsters (Gukesh, Keymer, Praggnanandha, Erigaisi), plus Carlsen and Caruana: for every one of them the ACPL inferred from their games matches their rating. Niemann is different: his ACPL is "only" 25, meaning his "true" strength is just 2550 ELO points (conveniently rounded to 2500), despite him having just reached the 2700 barrier (2699 just before the US Championship). This is the "strong evidence of cheating" Leite found on October 2. But is it really that? The difference between Niemann’s "true" strength and his ELO rating may be caused by a lot of things, but cheating cannot be one of them, as it implies making "engine moves", something that would obviously decrease the ACPL.

The answer to the "big question" "What can possibly explain a 2500 strength player achieve 2700 rating?" is not difficult to find. We must keep in mind how the ELO system works: the rating is not a fixed, immutable value, but may vary a lot depending on the player’s condition, even after full maturity is reached. Caruana’s ELO, for example, in the last 10 years fluctuated between 2763 and 2844, staying most of the time at 2810-2820 (likely his "true" strength). So, first of all there’s nothing inherently strange in a difference (even a big one) between ELO rating and "true" strength. Of course, a difference of 150 points may look excessive, but there is a well-known problem, in the ELO system, that may be the reason. Let’s say, for example, that a player’s ELO is 2000 points of today, and that the player retires, studies a lot and eventually comes back, having improved to a "true" strength of 2200. If he plays in a tournament against opponents rated, on average, 2000 points, his expected score will be 4.5 (assuming he would play the usual 9 games); but as he will likely perform at 2200, his score will be 7, with a gain of 50 Elo points. After the tournament his ELO rating will become 2050, still far away from his "true" strength, and he will need many other tournaments until eventually achieving 2200. That’s why the notorious K-factor is worth 40 for young players (until 2300) and 20 for everyone else until 2400 (thus it’s worth 10 only for strong players, that presumably are close to their "true" strength): a high K factor boosts the rise of young players, reducing the effect of the problem mentioned above. However, everyone knows that’s not enough, and usually strong young players are underrated (albeit by not much).

Let’s now go back to Gambit-Man’s table, trying to compute the average ELO rating of Niemann’s opponents. To simplify matters, the first eight tournaments may be left out (Niemann played not so well, losing many ELO points, and some links at the games are missing), as well as the last ones (Sinquefield Cup and US Championships), when the cheating allegations may have disrupted his (and his opponents’) concentration. 42 tournaments remain, accounting for 369 games. Let’s split these 42 tournaments in 3 equal groups and see what was expected from Niemann:

  • -First group, since 103rd Marshall Chess Club Championship (11/2019) to 1st Spring Weekend Bassano (3/2021). 118 games, average opponents’ ELO was 2391. Niemann’s ELO was usually at 2460-2480, so he was expected to score about 61%, but scored 68,22% instead (+67 =27 -24).
  • -Second group, since First GM Mix Bassano (3/2021) to Serbian Premier League (9/2021). 128 games, average opponents’ ELO was 2423. Niemann’s ELO varied from 2520 to 2630, so he was expected to score about 70%, but scored 74,22% instead (+77 =36 -15).
  • -Third group, since 4th Sharjah Masters (9/2021) to Turkish Super League (8/2022). 123 games, average opponents’ ELO was 2560. Niemann’s ELO varied from 2630 to 2690, so he was expected to score about 64%, but scored 66,26% instead (+59 =45 -19).

In other words, Niemann constantly overperformed during the last 3 years, gaining a lot of points until reaching the 2700 barrier. His progress since 11/2019 to 8/2022 may be found on the Fide website:

 

Let’s now go back to the "big question": "What can possibly explain a 2500 strength player achieve 2700 rating?". The answer, as we already know, cannot be "cheating". Instead, it’s now obvious that in the last 3 years Niemann was constantly underrated, because he was – and still is – a young player quickly improving, and his K factor, being always worth 10 (his ELO rating was already more than 2400 in November 2019), wasn’t high enough to avoid the problem that has been explained before. During the last 3 years Niemann’s "true" strength has likely risen from 2500 to 2700, slowly reducing the gap from his ELO rating, as hinted by the difference between his expected performance and his real one becoming smaller with time. By now the gap has likely become zero, and Niemann could really be worth 2700 Elo points; but his average "true" strength over these three years has likely been 2600, not that far from the 2550 estimated by Rafael Leite according to his ACPL. Furthermore, Nate Solon (as we can read in his article mentioned above) has found that "the thing that struck me when looking over Niemann’s games is his aggression. Most of the top grandmasters like to avoid risks when possible. Niemann seems more willing to take the game into murky territory, and especially to sacrifice material". Other chess experts have even compared Niemann’s style of play to Tal’s. In any case, such a risky style is of course prone to inaccuracies and mistakes and, even when successful – as it clearly is in Niemann’s case – would by all means increase the player’s ACPL. So we have now the answer to the "big question": Niemann gained many ELO points because in the last three years he became a better player and his "true" strength, at the moment, is 2700 for real, the same as his ELO rating. The difference between his past average "true strength", 2600, and the 2550 estimated by Rafael Leite is due to his risky style of play.

In the end we have found that "statistics at first sight", all of them, look like strong evidence of Hans Niemann cheating, and cheating a lot. But at second sight, all the statistics show instead a picture typical of a young player rising fast, with no evidence of cheating whatsoever. Ken Regan was right.

Does this mean that Hans Niemann never cheated on the board? It’s still difficult to say. Opinions of strong players cannot be discounted, nor cannot be the ones of expert commentators like Alejandro Ramirez (his opinion can be read at https://en.chessbase.com/post/alejandro-ramirez-it-does-seem-very-likely-that-hans-cheated-over-the-board, with a link to a podcast in which the matter is fully discussed). But it’s extremely unlikely that statistics alone will ever provide evidence on the matter, and unless some clever Philo Vance will ever be able to deduce his method and trap him "on the spot", the mystery will never be solved. Chess, already diminished because of the overwhelming engines’ dominance, is on the verge of completely losing its charisma. Hysteria is spreading fast: already people are not permitted to watch important tournaments in person, and live broadcast is quickly disappearing. Will the "old times" ever come back?

 


Born in Italy, IT engineer, he's written some GO software, published several papers about reconstructing GO games from videos by means of AI tecniques and has joined two scientific conferences (Liberec 2015 and Pisa 2018) during the corresponding European Go Congresses. Like Ingo Althoefer - who arranged such conferences - he's above all a chess fan since the Spassky-Fischer match and has even attended many World Championships since then. He considers himself a good amateur, depite not even reaching the 2000 barrier (that will forever remain his forbidden dream).
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shivasundar shivasundar 11/17/2022 10:55
Here we go again.... I have thought of this more.

I understand ChessBase is a database/chess software company, and a news portal. But I do not believe it is a forum for serious scientific judgement. One important thing we may all be missing: the true test of scientific papers are in the realm of scientific peer review: this is where there will be both scientific rigor and vigorous debate of experts. I hope any such 'papers' or 'articles' (claims essentially) anybody wants to publish be sent to important internationally reputed journals (at least conferences) on AI, machine learning, statistics, data science.

I think even Dr. Regan would agree with me, I mean even he is changing some of the methods constantly. There is no 'smoking gun' at present for any sophisticated cheating (still on the fence with Niemann)!! Even if, as Deputy President Anand just said, there may not be enough for this case; even then, for the love of God (just an expression for the unbelievers), and for the good of chess... people please do this; or ensure it gets done!!
mc1483 mc1483 11/2/2022 01:16
@Sid: you got it right, all players show a relatively flat STDCPL. I also found on github, along with the 7568 games' database, two other ones, with 10000+ games, that were put online 3-4 days after. They're likely the results of further researches on the matter, but I focalized on the 7568 games' database as this is the one he explicitly writes about.

The games themselves are far from exhaustive, despite Leite claiming "there is an established correlation between a player Rating and the ACPL (Average Centipawn Loss) and STDCPL (Standard Deviation Centipawn Loss)". For example, almost all 2800+ games are Carlsen's or Caruana's (and just half of what they played); Ding's, just 12 (he played more than 150); Mamedjarov's, also 12 (he played almost 100). And so on. I think that before "establishing" a correlation of sort it should be better to download every available game, not just "some game databases from Chessbase software", as he claims, but maybe I'm just fussy.

I agree that all this should be put in another article but, to tell the truth, I don't like to idea of demeaning the work of a fellow statistician without a discussion beforehand. Maybe there's something I missed, you can never know. A comment of him would be welcome!
Sid2001 Sid2001 11/1/2022 10:03
Thank you, for this information; it helps me understand Ken's conclusions as well. The bottom line is that Leite's results showing a different STDCPL for Neiman are not reproducible in that the STDCPL is similar for all players, including Neiman's, where all players show a relatively flat STDCPL and not unique to Neiman at all. Probably this warrants a separate article where Liette should be invited to comment on it.
mc1483 mc1483 11/1/2022 08:21
I trusted Leite's results (although at first I did not give much importance to Niemann's STDCPL), but now I cannot understand how Leite derived them. The games in his database are indeed 7568, as he claims. But then he claims - for example - that in order to determine 2800 players' ACPL the "number of analysed games" is 412, something clearly not possibile as Carlsen and Caruana together have got almost 700 games (in his database) played when they were 2800+, and the same - "number of analysed games" being less than total games - is true for each rating class, as well for the specific players he mentions.

Despite that, his findings about ACPL are always correct, both for rating classes and specific players. The big surprise concerns STDCPL: it is not steadily decreasing in a linear way, as he claims, it is almost _constant_ among all games! And when I think about that, it makes much more sense. At 2300+ STDCPL is about 16, then slowly decreases to 11 (at 2800+). Niemann's was 14 at 2400+, then 13.5 at 2500+, eventually 13 at 2600+, something fully consistent with the general result.

I even checked many games' STDCPL by hand, and had everything confirmed. Unless "Standard Deviation" means something else in Leite's mind, I cannot understand his findings. By now I'm convinced his database is evidence of Niemann NOT cheating, and understand better Ken Regan's conclusions.
Sid2001 Sid2001 11/1/2022 02:55
mc1483 I appreciate that very much, that is very important work.
mc1483 mc1483 11/1/2022 02:34
OK, I downloaded Leite's "database" of 7568 games (the ones mentioned in his article) and looked into them. What I found is much worse than what I thought, so I need to look again and again into the games, and also I have to re-evaluate ACPL and STDCPL for all the players mentioned. That will require some time.
mc1483 mc1483 11/1/2022 12:23
@Sid: you read neither my article nor Leite's and did not understand what his "mistake" was. Github code has nothing to do with that, the problem is him misrepresenting the results.
BTW, I'll try and see his "database" in order to find out if he did that on purpose or not.
Sid2001 Sid2001 10/31/2022 11:56
Mc1483, the methodologies are open source on github as is the code hence it is reproducible. Unless you have done this, then what you are saying is conjecture.
mc1483 mc1483 10/31/2022 11:14
@Sid: The "big question" is not mine, is Leite's.

"why is Hans Nieman's average Centipawn Loss Standard deviation graph completely different than the group of players that achieved this when climbing from 2500 to 2700?"

Because Leite's graphs are misleading. First he shows a graph concerning STDCPL when Niemann's ELO rose from 2200 to 2600 (and Leite himself writes "these curves seem to be absolutely normal"). Then he shows a second graph, concerning STDCPL "after 2018", when Niemann's ELO rose from 2300 to 2600, and this is the strange one. Problem is, each point looks the same in both elaborations, except for the "2300 point" (in the first one at 55, in the second one at 46), and that's the reason why the second graph looks strange. Had this point stayed at 55 in both elaborations, there would be nothing strange and the second graph would also look normal.

I don't like to say that, but I'm afraid it was done on purpose. There's absolutely no reason to change the "2300 point" from 55 to 46, but it's the only way to change the appearance of an otherwise "abolutely normal" graph.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/31/2022 09:47
I am not sure I know what the cheat sheet is.

But I think it is safe to say that there are numerous paths leading to success in chess. Very strong players come in all shapes and sizes, and they have achieved their skills in very different ways.
Sid2001 Sid2001 10/31/2022 06:58
"The answer to the big question What can possibly explain a 2500-strength player achieving 2700 rating?" That is not the "big question." The "big question" is why is Hans Nieman's average Centipawn Loss Standard deviation graph completely different than the group of players that achieved this when climbing from 2500 to 2700?
Statistically, this is not a credible result, all things being equal. Show me a single counter-example Tal included where this graph is different from all the other players that ever climbed the mountain going from 2500-2700.
tauno tauno 10/30/2022 08:05
@Jacob woge - Or as my teacher used to say: the best way to learn is to memorize the cheat sheet, but you have to cheat a lot before you learn how to do it.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/30/2022 07:56
Frankly, my dear ...

Advanced chess it was.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_chess
mc1483 mc1483 10/30/2022 06:04
There's a thing about "chess plateaus" we must remember. Mind games are not "athletic sports". In such sports, when a plateau is reached, further progress, especially sudden progress, is suspicious, and in most cases due to doping. In mind games progress is usually due to learning/understanding the game's subtleties, and fully assimilating every aspect of them; this process requires skills and time, and that's why there are several "barriers" that cannot be overcome at once - or at all. Chess and Go exhibit the same barriers, at similar levels. The last barrier is the one between "master level" and "grandmaster level", at 2550-2600 ELO points (once it was at 2500, then inflation occurred); in Go it's the one between amateurism and professionalism. That's why a lot of chess players stop at 2450-2500, and most of them never surpass the barrier. But when they do, there's nothing strange in many of them fastly rising much further, at 2650-2700 and even higher.

So, the existence of plateaus followed by fast rises is not something unusual; on the contrary it occurs often, although the time spent on the plateaus as well as the subsequent improvement do vary a lot among players. Niemann's rise has nothing strange - at least until today. Tomorrow... after all, tomorrow is another day! (c)
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/30/2022 04:09
“Since you cannot train or play OTB chess during a Covid-19 Lockdown, it must be impossible to improve your rating so quickly after such a plateau.”

Different from most other games or from sports, I would argue you may actually improve from cheating in on-line chess. Because it amounts to consistently being told what the best move(s) is(are), and chess is, to a large extent, about pattern recognition. So, you are being taught a lot of patterns. Working on your own there is the risk of repeating errors without realising.

Assuming, of course, that you pay attention to computer lines, and do not just copy and paste.

But - don’t tell anyone. And don’t try this yourself at home - unless your opponent agrees that this is how we play. What did it use to be called? “Advanced chess”? Or “Active”?
mc1483 mc1483 10/30/2022 02:40
@buffos: "Name me one, not two, players in the history of chess that had just a quick rise AFTER they had reached a plateau. You understand of course, that young talent can rise fast the rating ladder. But once anyone reaches his/hers natural talent potential, then they hit a plateau and the next phase is hard work"

We understand that, and also think is often correct. BUT:

Rapport: plateau from jul 2010 to nov 2011 (16 months), rose from 2534 to 2693 in 20 months (8/month).
Gukesh: plateau from mar 2020 to aug 2021 (17 months, Covid stop), rose from 2578 to 2732 in 14 months (11/month).
Erigaisi: plateau from jan 2019 to jul 2021 (30 months, Covid stop), rose from 2567 to 2725 in 14 months (11/month).
Abdusattarov: plateau from apr 2015 to mar 2017 (23 months), rose from 2429 to 2633 in 32 months (6/month).
Keymer: plateau from sep 2016 to apr 2018 (19 months), rose from 2403 to 2664 in 44 months (6/month, Covid stop).

So we see there are indeed a lot of players, especially "youngsters", with a long plateau (1-2 years, if we account for 6-7 months' Covid stop) followed by a sudden rise (6-11 ELO points/month). Keep also in mind that I've chosen players who rose from 2400-2500 to 2600-2700, just like Niemann did (above 2700 rise is slower).

Niemann had a plateau from jan 2019 to oct 2020 (21 months, Covid stop), then rose from 2465 to 2688 in 21 months (10.5/month). So both his plateau and his subsequent rise are fully consistent with the above players'.

So I'm sorry myself, but I'm not twisting any fact.
tauno tauno 10/30/2022 09:35
@buffos, you are absolutely right. Since you cannot train or play OTB chess during a Covid-19 Lockdown, it must be impossible to improve your rating so quickly after such a plateau.
buffos buffos 10/29/2022 01:16
I am really sorry but you are twisting the facts.

Name me one, not two, players in the history of chess that had just a quick rise AFTER they had reached a plateau.
You understand of course, that young talent can rise fast the rating ladder. But once anyone reaches his/hers natural talent potential, then they hit a plateau and the next phase is hard work.

Progress from hard work is ofcourse possible but the pace cannot be compared to that of the natural talent phase.

Now, let me also mention, that every cheat detection algorithm, if known can be bypassed. Regan's cheating detection is for idiot cheaters. Every position is treated the same. There is no merit in that approach.

We can agree that an engine can beat the best player, even in absolutely lost positions. After that fact, its very simple to cheat. The technology is available and if one is willing to cheat he can cheat.

And what's more, you should take into account what he has shown during post-mortem analysis.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/27/2022 07:43
I'm still waiting for the proof of Carlsen's allegation.
mc1483 mc1483 10/27/2022 07:00
The list of games you are looking for is included in the notorious Chess.com's report, page 5. Most of them are confirmed by Regan.
tauno tauno 10/27/2022 03:43
@davide2015

“Do you have a list of 100 or more games where Niemann has cheated?”

No, unfortunately I don't have it.

“Can Regan produce such list of games for everyone to see?”

I'm not sure if he can do that right now without explicit permission from Chess.com, due to the ongoing lawsuit. But apart from that, I'm almost certain he can and will. But only if someone asked him nicely in person and would pay a compensation commensurate with the effort.
davide2015 davide2015 10/27/2022 01:49
@tanno I don't know how to make it more clear. Please read slowly: do you have a list of 100 or more games where Niemann has cheated? Can Regan produce such list of games for everyone to see? "Beliefs" are great for churches and cults, science is based on experiments one can replicate, and data the scientific community can analyze. Here we have just "beliefs" endless gossip and opinions.
mc1483 mc1483 10/27/2022 10:11
@aleenyc2015: Gukesh played 300 times in the last years, was 2544 back then. Keymer played 144 games, was 2518. Maghsoodloo played 154 games, was already 2684 back then. Youngsters play a lot.
mc1483 mc1483 10/27/2022 10:04
"I know at least one important stone Niemann has overlooked and during the trial Andreas Carta will know it too, if he has time to follow it from his GO programming"
I think this is the first time I'm insulted because of my Go programming. A new frontier for Internet haters?
But unScience22 may feel relieved: I also did some chess programming. I was the first one to write a software capable of solving helpmates (before the Mephisto era only few machines - no software for PC - could solve direct mates). It was of little use, because there was no hardware fast enough back then, but it worked nonetheless.
aleenyc2015 aleenyc2015 10/27/2022 02:56
His rise from 2500 to 2700 in three years is significant. However Neimann has played over 250 games during this period. Can someone provide the number of games for other recent players who have risen from 2500 to 2700.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/26/2022 11:32
“One of the commenters here said Niemann does not analyze his games afterward which is suspicious.

On the contrary, I watched a video after one of the late round U.S. Championship games in which Niemann was quite animated in discussing his game with the interviewer, who was using a demonstration board”

I watched as well, interview with .. Christian Chirila? My impression was that when it comes to actual chess moves, there was very little besides playing thru the game. Going a bit back and forth but not leaving the score sheet. Animated, I can agree to that.

I can do that myself, repeat chess moves, even when woken up in the middle of the night after the game, so someone please prove me wrong. I might re-watch later but right now I can’t be arsed.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/26/2022 11:20
Once more:

"About the opening never having been played by Magnus - GM Short debunked that maybe within a few hours and mentioned the game Niemann referred to."

Short refers to Carlsen-So, Kolkata rapid&blitz 2019. The claim of “debunking” I find preposterous. The games deviate fundamentally at move 5. So counters the g3 Niemzo with c5, Niemann with d5. The games follow different paths from thereon. Go look for yourselves.

https://twitter.com/nigelshortchess/status/1567020771528130561

https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1981206
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=2372960

I can understand why the claim of having had, in preparation, positions around move 15 in game 2, based on remembering game 1, looks far-fetched to a certain percentage of the general public. It looks that way to myself. But then again, I am no GM. Preparation runs deep these days.

The claim may have been stated somewhat differently, or reference might have been to another game. Or the story about Niemann having next to perfect recall could be exaggerated. I am not the one to tell.
tauno tauno 10/26/2022 10:10
@davide2015 - It seems you don't know that Chess.com already uses Regan's tool (among other tools) to detect online cheating. (I don't know if Regan's tool actually works but Regan believes it does.)

From page 5 of the Niemann Report:

“Notably, Ken Regan, an independent expert in the field of cheat detection in chess, has expressed his belief that Hans cheated during the 2015 and 2017 Titled Tuesdays, as well as numerous matches against other professional players in 2020.”
davide2015 davide2015 10/26/2022 07:41
If professor Ken Regan's tool actually work to discover a cheater, there is an experiment we can do to prove it. Niemann's has admitted he cheated online. He just downplayed it, chess.com corrected such statement saying he cheated in over 100 games, 25 of which were in streaming. Can professor Regan provide the list of the games in which Niemann cheated online? If he can, we know his tool works. If he can't evidently a simple experiment proved is tool doesn't work, and we need other methods to detect cheaters. (I ask forgiveness to all Hans Niemann's fans, on being skeptical and actually apply the scientific method through experiments)
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/26/2022 05:05
"About the opening never having been played by Magnus - GM Short debunked that maybe within a few hours and mentioned the game Niemann referred to."

Would anybody happen to know which game is referred to exactly? chessgames.com link or something, I don't recall having seen it and find that a bit odd, if the still ongoing discussion is so easily debunked by direct reference to the actual game, then why doesn't anybody do it. People are usually trigger-happy in that respect.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 10/26/2022 04:37
A lot of what is being said is patently untrue. Eg, Niemann never discussing positions or demonstrating any chess understanding - there are videos of him analysing positions and his former trainer said he had an exceptional memory, maybe the best of anyone he had trained - eg, he had seen all the endgame positions already that he wanted to use for training, which were taken from top games in the prior 2 years.

About the opening never having been played by Magnus - GM Short debunked that maybe within a few hours and mentioned the game Niemann referred to.

About the body language experts and Niemann talking in the 3rd person - he was talking about opening prep from a computer, so of course its in the third person, and all chess-players speak that way regarding the other words he used like, "I got an attack".

@reddawg07, not true, statistical evidence in the absence of any physical evidence is certainly enough. I'll be interested to see if any statistical evidence of cheating in OTB chess is found. But this stuff about "perfect" games based on top 3 engine moves. Why not perfect games based on the first move of the engine? Or the first 2 moves? Clearly it didn't show Niemann to be cheated, so they had to extend it to the top 3 moves. This sort of nonsense analysis is everywhere. If that is his method, then I'm sure it will come out. But needs to be confirmed broadcast vs. non-broadcast games, were the 3 engines that are being used for the analysis available when Niemann played the games, what does the same analysis show when applied to other players, etc.
mc1483 mc1483 10/26/2022 01:11
That's one of the reasons he's been compared to Fischer.
tauno tauno 10/26/2022 12:23
Hans is an outspoken provocateur who can drive his opponents to the brink of insanity and cause them sleepless nights that can seriously affect their thought processes. It's not just rude, it's cruel. But what could be behind this strange bad behavior? It could be due to social immaturity, a sick sense of humor or even some kind of neurological disorder, who knows? Or is he simply so damn smart that he knows exactly what to do to throw people off balance?

Maybe not something to discuss, but some might think about it before they go to sleep.
with_cheaters_you_lose with_cheaters_you_lose 10/26/2022 10:22
My son was also banned from chess.com for cheating when he wasn't cheating at that time! Although, he told me he had used previously a chess engine in some games with his friends, but they were not ranked games. "If Hans Niemann did it, why can't I do it, too?", he replied. Hans Niemann is such a great role model to these kids, the values he instills, honesty, hard work, determination and integrity, are a true blessing to us parents, that are most of the time away from our sons.
Ellrond Ellrond 10/26/2022 07:39
really good job by dlugy to let the statistics look normal
Adam Seabrook Adam Seabrook 10/26/2022 04:24
My son was banned from chess.com for cheating when he wasn't cheating! A compliment really from chess.com so he moved on to lichess.com
with_cheats_you_lose with_cheats_you_lose 10/26/2022 12:57
Did you watch the post-match interview after he beat Magnus Carlsen? He was so humble in victory, he called himself an idiot and said: "it must be embarrassing for the world champion to lose to such an idiot like me". In that interview he mentioned that he had miraculously prepared for the opening line, which Magnus Carlsen had never played before, and he had it studied beyond the move 13. Be6. He even suggested the strong Qh4 move as a reply to 12. h6. You have to watch that round 3 interview, he was so eloquent and carefully explained the endgame, refusing to believe the computer analysis in drawn positions. I am convinced Hans Niemann is a future world champion and everyone that call him a cheat or a fraud is just jealous.
A Alekhine A Alekhine 10/25/2022 08:25
One of the commenters here said Niemann does not analyze his games afterward which is suspicious.

On the contrary, I watched a video after one of the late round U.S. Championship games in which Niemann was quite animated in discussing his game with the interviewer, who was using a demonstration board. I was fully convinced that Niemann had played his own moves throughout the game, and I was even a little surprised that Niemann gave the interviewer so much time. Furthermore, I was impressed by Niemann's humility and sense of humor.

All in all, I found Niemann a likeable young man. Yes, I understand he may not always behave in a likeable manner, but he is involved in some acrimonious controversies that make that difficult.
mc1483 mc1483 10/25/2022 08:23
@jestey86: "The point is that Neimann's actual strength had already improved to 2600-2700 back in 2020 when his ELO was under 2500. He did not "slowly improve" to 2699 -- he was already playing at this level but his ELO took 3 years to catch up"
The first batch of tournaments I examined were played between 11/2019 and 3/2021, so roughly in the whole 2020. His opponents' average ELO was 2391, he scored 68,22%, that is a 2524 performance. According to Leite, his ACPL was about 25.15 (2545 ELO) when he was rated 2500. I don't know if "rated 2500" includes this time period, when his ELO was 2465-2478 (I think so), but I don't see how he could have possibly had played at 2700 level back then, given both his performance and his ACPL being consistent with a 2525-2545 strength.
His performances during the last 3 years clearly show him slowly improving, something not consistent with cheating. Unless he's so smart he planned a whole career years in advance. But in such a case, I think, he would have let Carlsen win: he would have certainly have forseen the consequences of such a victory.
A Alekhine A Alekhine 10/25/2022 08:16
Excellent article. Thank you, Andrea Carta.