Top juniors in 2022: Hans Niemann

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/9/2023 – The new generation of chess stars is here, with no fewer than nine players aged 19 or younger rated above 2650 at the time. In a 7-part series, we will look at the performances of the top juniors in 2022. In fifth place is US grandmaster Hans Niemann. Chess blew up in mainstream media after Magnus Carlsen implicitly accused Niemann of cheating. But that did not prevent the Californian from continuing his rapid ascent in classical chess, as he broke the 2700-barrier for the first time (in an official FIDE ratings list) just this month! | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Saint Louis Chess Club

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In the eye of the storm

Hans NiemannHans Niemann played no fewer than 132 classical rated games in 2022, 47 of which took place after the infamous third-round win over Magnus Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup. After losing that game, the Norwegian withdrew from the tournament (a first in his illustrious career) implying that his young opponent had cheated in that encounter. The whole quarrel continues to unfold, with Niemann suing Carlsen — besides Hikaru Nakamura, among others — seeking damages that amount to “no less than one hundred million dollars”.

But we are here for the chess. And, as mentioned above, Niemann continued to perform at a close-to-2700 level until the end of the year, despite the altercation.

In the first semester of the year, Niemann played eight classical-chess events, not including the Bundesliga. Plenty of travelling was involved, of course, with the US grandmaster visiting Cattolica (Italy), Saint Louis (USA), Reykjavík (Iceland), Havana (Cuba), Malmö (Sweden), Sharjah (UAE), Prague (Czechia) and Jermuk (Armenia).

An irreverent individual, Niemann announced on Twitter: “I’ll play a marathon of 7 strong tournaments! The push to 2700 continues”. After succeeding in most of his outings, he climbed to third spot in the juniors’ live ratings list with 2685.4 points, which prompted him to write: “Is it safe to say that I’m not a streamer anymore?”

This tweet came shortly after scoring 6½/9 points at the Reykjavik Open (a performance he deemed as pathetic) and getting back-to-back tournament victories at the Capablanca Memorial and the TePe Sigeman & Co. single round-robin events.

Niemann had one more strong performance before reaching the year’s halfway point. At the Prague Challengers, he fought for tournament victory with fellow rising stars Vincent Keymer and Nodirbek Abdusattorov. He and Keymer tied for first place with 6½/9 points each, but it was the German prodigy who prevailed in the blitz playoffs.

The marathon continued with trips to Germany and Turkey, where he had committed to represent SK Doppelbauer Turm Kiel and Bayegan Pendik in club events, respectively. Then, out of the blue, he received an invitation to make his way back to the US to replace Richard Rapport at the Sinquefield Cup. And all hell broke loose after his strong start in Saint Louis, which saw him missing winning chances against Levon Aronian and beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov — besides, of course, Carlsen. 

If we look back on Niemann’s progress rating graph, we note that exactly after beating Carlsen he had achieved a 2701.3 rating. Since then, he has continued his ascent, as he currently stands at 2706 Elo points. Since September 5 (after the infamous Carlsen game), Niemann has played 47 classical games in four tournaments: the US Championship, the Saint Louis Fall Classic, the El Llobregat Open and the Sunway Sitges Tournament.

Niemann has already confessed to having cheated online in the past. But it seems increasingly unlikely for him to have reached a 2700+ rating in classical chess mainly by defrauding the system. The burden of proof is on the accusers. Meanwhile, as long as strong anti-cheating measures are in place in top events, there is no doubting Niemann’s chess talent.

Hans Niemann

Full information at ratings.fide.com

Niemann vs. Lenderman - Saint Louis Spring Classic 2022

 

Annotated by Spyridon Kapnisis for ChessBase Magazine

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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