Wall Street Journal: “Niemann ‘likely cheated’ more than 100 times”

by ChessBase
10/5/2022 – A few hours ago, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy article sharing the findings emerging from an investigation conducted by chess.com. According to the piece, chess.com asserts that Hans Niemann “likely received illegal assistance in more than 100 online games, as recently as 2020”, including in many tournaments with prize money on the line. Niemann did not respond to requests for comments.

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Chess.com shares its investigation

A bombshell article by the Wall Street Journal sheds more light into the controversy that took over the chess world during the last month. Following the scandal at the Sinquefield Cup, where Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the tournament after losing to Hans Niemann, the US grandmaster was banned from chess.com’s Global Chess Championship.

In an impassioned interview a day later, Niemann questioned the platform’s decision, which compelled chess.com to “share the basis for its decisions” despite historically handling its bans privately.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed the 72-page report, asked Niemann to comment (he refused to do so) and shared the results. The salient points are the following:

  • Chess.com’s report alleges that Niemann likely received illegal assistance in more than 100 online games, as recently as 2020, including in tournaments with prize money on the line, in some of which Niemann was streaming live.
  • Niemann privately confessed to the allegations.
  • The report describes Niemann’s quick ascent in over-the-board chess as “statistically extraordinary”, and states that it “merits further investigation based on the data”.
  • Chess.com informs that although Carlsen’s actions at the Sinquefield Cup prompted them to reassess Niemann’s behavior, Carlsen “didn’t talk with, ask for, or directly influence chess.com’s decisions at all”.

Read the article in full at wsj.com

Read Chess.com’s full report

Hans Niemann, chess.com

Photo: chess.com

Hans Niemann, chess.com

Photo: chess.com

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tauno tauno 10/10/2022 11:56
There's a juicy article from Norway about Chess.com's inconsistent behavior:

“Chess.com has received criticism that world-class chess players who have been caught cheating have been promised anonymity in return for their confessions. But the chess giant meets the criticism with silence.”
tauno tauno 10/10/2022 12:38
@lajosarpad. I hope you are right and let's hope there are enough people in the decision making bodies who see the big picture. And if they do, it shouldn't be too hard to act.

But in a situation like this, it's easy to turn a blind eye because it simplifies dealing with the problem and you avoid offending your friends, which can create an awkward atmosphere.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/9/2022 10:45

Credibility of any entity originates from the strength of its statements and the level of trust people are according to it. However high chess.com's status is currently in the chess world as a FIDE partner, its questionable approach to Niemann's case is difficult to explain or defend in purely logical sense, as the people have reasons to doubt the credibility of chess.com over this specific case and this strain on their credibility remains accessible on the internet for the foreseeable future.

Yet, I sense some irony in your words, maybe I'm not entirely wrong when I detect that ;)

"Of course, some lower rated readers here and there may question the credibility of Chess.com, but I think its overall credibility remains intact."

The problem is that there are strong arguments against chess.com's credibility and the strength of those arguments does not vanish by the lack of a high rating.

"even if Niemann is proven to be a cheater and a liar, he must be guaranteed justice, but there is no authority or organization he could turn to to defend his rights."

I think that Niemann, the accused deserves two things:

- a fair and unbiased trial
- the avoidance of assuming his guilt before it's proven

I find it very strange that the world champion allows himself to make unfounded accusations and that a large part of the chess world even takes heed of it. I wonder how ardent or large would be the mob if it was the allegation of the average Joe rather than the world champion.
tauno tauno 10/9/2022 10:04
@lajosarpad. Since Chess.com is an official partner of FIDE and also organizes FIDE tournaments, its credibility must be very high. If there is anything suspicious or unethical about the way Chess.com handled the ban against Niemann, it should be investigated by the FIDE Ethics and Disciplinary Committee. I believe a bit more is needed before FIDE would even bother to comment.

Of course, some lower rated readers here and there may question the credibility of Chess.com, but I think its overall credibility remains intact. This storm will soon blow over and after a few months it will be forgotten.

But it must be pointed out that there is a dilemma here: even if Niemann is proven to be a cheater and a liar, he must be guaranteed justice, but there is no authority or organization he could turn to to defend his rights.
tauno tauno 10/9/2022 05:40
@lajosarpad. Premature is the word. When Niemann revealed that Chess.com had banned him, it came as a bolt from the blue and must have been an embarrassing moment for Chess.com. They were caught with their pants down, and now it was public. They were badly forced to defend their premature decision by any means available.

Fortunately, when Niemann came out with his private correspondence with Chess.com and also lied in the connection of the disclosure, Chess.com could use that as an excuse to come out publicly with the reason for the ban - what a relief!

But that wasn't enough, the scandal was already too big. Chess.com was now suspected of banning Niemann for fishy reasons, so they had to make a heroic effort to save their skinn by finding more "evidence". That was the background to the Report.

While the Report could easily be seen as "A Madman's Defence", it has by no means undermined Chess.com's credibility – quite the opposite. But it has undermined all credibility of Niemann - completely.

Much could be said about the behavior of Chess.com, but we must at least admit that the Report has had a huge worldwide impact and has served its purpose brilliantly. Hats off to the great success!
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/9/2022 05:29
@tauno "While the Report could easily be seen as "A Madman's Defence", it has in no way undermined Chess.com's credibility – quite the opposite."

I think it undermined chess.com's credibility. Even if the majority of the chess world believes everything Carlsen or chess.com claims about this issue, the quick compliance to Carlsen's desire (even if they did not communicate with their boss) is pointing out that they are biased and their stance is mostly political, rather than scientific. Many are seeing through it and there will be many who will take a pen and point out the issue, so, while chess.com may be successful in framing Niemann, in the long run I think they will be worse off after the scandal than before it.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/9/2022 02:03
@Tauno that's a good point. Indeed, chess.com banned him and after that Niemann made those claims, so they cannot be in causal effect, due to being at invert order in the timeline. So, chess.com's ban on Niemann seems to be premature and one might think the aim was to please their viking boss, but this does not necessarily mean that he said the truth. Yet, it undermines the credibility of chess.com in this issue, as they appear to be biased. However, I must emphasize that this does not mean that Niemann is not a cheater, but the allegations were not backed by convincing proof as far as I know.
tauno tauno 10/8/2022 09:12
@mc1483 and @lajosarpad. Whether or not Niemann lied about how old he was when he cheated the last time and about the number of games he has cheated in, has absolutely nothing to do with the ban, since Chess.com banned him before (!) he made those statements.
mc1483 mc1483 10/8/2022 07:54
february 2020, april 2020, then june, july, august. No idea abot the restrictions in USA. In Europe restrictions started in March/April.
Science22 Science22 10/8/2022 07:52
@Jack Nayer : I get it. Niemann is a genius and everybody does some shit before he is 35, but Carlsen is a cheater and he is drugged on ethanol. What happened to the world?!

Well said. But a group of trolls here will do anything to drown out a factual debate. At first glance, you think it is the Russian security service that wants to protect their dummy Hans Niemann and a new listening system. But then you read the admissions more thoroughly and discover that they have exceeded even the minimum limit for this service. Just ignore them and read for example

https://www.reddit.com/user/Chemical-Ad- 8202/comments/x77ga7/is_hans_niemann_a_psychopath/

Then you understand why he, as Trump is able to ignore reality completely.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/8/2022 05:28
You have got to know if it was before or after covid set in.?
mc1483 mc1483 10/8/2022 05:22
I suppose if we ask him now he'll say that indeed he got confused with his own age, 16, 17, almost the same. Because the first games played in 2020 occurred in february, so he was not 17 at the time.
tauno tauno 10/8/2022 04:33
@lajosarpad (Quote4). Niemann was born June 20, 2003, and the last time he was caught cheating (according to Chess.com) was August 11, 2020.

Niemann said he was 16 at the time, but if we want to be strict, he was actually already 17, by a small margin. But was it a deliberate lie? I’m not so sure.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/8/2022 03:58
@tauno "A top US chess player accused of cheating after Magnus Carlsen quit a prestigious tournament has admitted to doing so as 12 and 16-year-old – but insisted that he was now “clean” and was even prepared to play naked to prove his innocence." https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/sep/07/top-chess-player-hans-niemann-admits-cheating-in-past-but-says-he-is-now-clean
"Our investigation has concluded that he did, however, cheat much more than
he has publicly admitted to, including in many prize events, at least 25 streamed games, and 100+ rated
games on Chess.com, as recently as when he was 17 years old." chess.com

So, Niemann publicly said that he was 16 the last time he has cheated online. chess.com stated he cheated even when he was already 17. If chess.com is correct, then Niemann's statement is factually false.
tauno tauno 10/8/2022 03:22
@lajosarpad. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I understand it, Niemann “lied” only after the ban - see the timeline at p.2 in the Report.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/8/2022 01:38
1. chess.com actively supports caught GMs' lies by keeping their cheating quiet "to save face", as we can see emphasized several times in chess.com's report, so, chess.com should either share their findings related to cheating public and then there is no place for lying, or, the other possibility is to accept the fact that people will lie about their faults and keep a close eye on people who cheated before. If Niemann's lying is a reason for banning him, then chess.com emphasizes how much it wanted to support the false picture of Niemann never having cheated online (with keeping things private, as emphasized many times), while punishing the former offender for acting upon the false picture that chess.com also supported.
2. Lying is not a good reason to ban people from chess.com in my opinion. It is difficult to find a chess player who never lied and if chess.com will start banning "liars" and will do that consistently, then it will quickly lose almost all its users (the remaining users being either very honest, or very good at lying) and it will go bankrupt

Bottom line:

I would not claim that Niemann has cheated. Maybe he did. But, in my opinion, if we condemn him for his game with Carlsen, without having proof of his cheating, then we open the door for condemning players for loosely founded allegations. So, even if Niemann is cheating, condemning him would create a precedent that will allow the condemnation of innocent players in the future. And, if Niemann did not cheat over the board, and specifically in his game against Carlsen, then it is all the worse.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/8/2022 01:38

"Our investigation has concluded that he did, however, cheat much more than
he has publicly admitted to, including in many prize events, at least 25 streamed games, and 100+ rated
games on Chess.com, as recently as when he was 17 years old."

While I'm in no position to judge the validity of the statement above, this certainly sounds plausible. Niemann was caught red-handed, committing a serious offence. So, even though he admitted the offence, he was in a desperate situation at that point. So, it is quite possible that he lied when he was 17 in order to minimalize damage. If that's true, then his more recent claim during the Sinquefield tournament (where he claimed he had "only" done it twice) is also a lie, but that's also easy-to-understand when one is already in trouble. Again, I'm in no position to determine whether this scenario is actually correct, I use chess.com's statement as a premise for a thought experiment only. But, if chess.com's reason for banning him was that, according to chess.com's opinion he lied, then there are several problems:
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/8/2022 01:38

"Chess.com is unaware of any concrete evidence proving that Hans is cheating over the board or has ever cheated over the board."

This means that chess.com terminated Niemann's account without a reason. They do not have anything against him since August 2022 and nothing against him in OTB chess ever. So, Carlsen's strong suspicion against Niemann is something chess.com didn't validate before terminating Niemann's account. While chess.com is free to decide who it lets to play, according to the terms of service and I do not challenge their right to do so, but, my personal opinion is that this is not very elegant, even if chess.com has the right to ban anyone. If chess.com bans people without very well justified reasons, then people may become insecure in using chess.com. So, chess.com's move might have undermined the success of chess.com, we will see whether that's the case, but it would be unwise from chess.com if it acted like this more often in the future.


"Our investigation has revealed that while there has been some noteworthy online play that has caught our
attention as suspicious since August 2020, we are unaware of any evidence that Hans has engaged in
online cheating since then."

chess.com has further suspicions about online cheating since then, but chess.com does not have enough evidence yet to make a proper case, they are probably investigating it. That's fair and I applau the honesty of chess.com about this.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/8/2022 01:37
chess.com admits that Carlsen's accusation of Niemann is in causal relation with Niemann's recent ban. Chess.com clarifies that they did not discuss this with Carlsen and acted independently. Even if we believe that they didn't consult (which is hard to imagine), the fact that an unproven accusation of cheating can lead to a ban without an unfair trial is very strange. Either chess.com will ban anyone who has cheated earlier and now is accused, in which case they ban people based on potentially unfounded allegations, or, if they do not do this in general, but they did this for Niemann, then they operate with double-standards, disfavoring Niemann, favoring Carlsen (for some reason). Since chess.com has given him a second chess (which chess.com was not forced to do, but has chosen to do) after the original cheating incident, it is invalid to take back that second chance based on an unfounded suspicion casted by a business partner. This surely sounds like a conspiracy between Carlsen and chess.com against Niemann, but even if there is no such conspiracy, acting instantly upon an unfounded allegation is a biased approach to the problem.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/8/2022 01:37
page 19 - 20 (excerpts)


"After Hans beat Magnus and Magnus withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup, we removed Hans
from Chess.com’s upcoming GCC and withdrew his access to the site until we could conduct further
review. And while Magnus’ actions prompted us to reassess the situation, Magnus did not talk with us in
advance about our decisions or ask for, or directly influence, those decisions at all. Magnus was, and is,
operating entirely under his own direction, as is Chess.com. However, given the circumstances, which
included a player who had a significant and admitted history of cheating, the World Chess Champion
making the loudest statement in chess history, and an invitational event starting in a matter of days, we
felt we had to act. We communicated privately with Hans via email. We never wanted or intended to
have a public discussion about these decisions, and, frankly, we believe we could have resolved things
Science22 Science22 10/8/2022 06:44
Much more important to me are the many analyzes of Niemann's games played in live tournaments. Here I can state with my own analysis that he plays far too many moves which are identical to the best chess computers. Since there are almost always several options in a position that is almost identical, the probability of choosing exactly the same as the computers is very small.

The possibility of receiving information during the game without wearing listening equipment is well established in physics. The ear hears with the help of variations in air pressure, and these variations can today be established with enormous precision by affecting water vapor in the air. Since cheating demands variations created via infrared radiation, it can only de detected if the control equipment can handle infrared radiation during the game.

Niemann does not send signals about the position, he only receive. Therefore he perform around ELO 2400 in games that are not broadcast live.
Science22 Science22 10/8/2022 06:40
That is a wise observation you have made. Chess.com should not offer players discretion if they admit they cheated. They should just remove them from playing on chess.com.

On the other hand, Hans Niemann can choose to publish chess.com's decision and demand that they document their so-called false accusation. He hasn't, and that's because their methods are surprisingly solid.

I am particularly concerned here that he does not write in his emails that he is innocent, but chooses to admit guilt in order to maintain his access. On the contrary, he writes that he knows he has cheated systematically, but he just wanted to test whether the system worked. This is exactly how a person with a dyssocial personality structure would write. He lies all the time, for personal gain.
Masquer Masquer 10/8/2022 12:02
@Arzi - an impression is no evidence, of course. Magnus also had an impression, leading to a strong suspicion. A lot more is needed to accuse him of cheating OTB.
Science22 Science22 10/7/2022 10:23
The endgame is on. Everything points to Niemann being a professional con man, and we are now only waiting for the inevitable, that also the method he uses in live games will be revealed. But given his personality, the realization of guilt does not come to him.

It is sad for chess, but nonetheless gratifying that no tournament organizers with private sponsors outside the US will invite him again. It is too risky.

It is interesting to see how the opponents in US open after the first round quickly chooses to enter variants without a queen because it limits the supercomputers tactical options. They all know now what they are playing against.
Science22 Science22 10/7/2022 10:20
Niemanns defend team become more and more hysteric.

Lajosarpad says that he is a very highly educated person who previously played active chess, but is now passive. But even passive chess players retain their ELO numbers and a check on the list shows that he does not exist at all. His unintelligent personal attacks on people who think Niemann is a fraud hurt Niemann more than the attacked person. . Because everyone now associates Niemann with low-comic harassment.

lajosarpad says his time is scarce in one of his 40 daily posts on chessbase.com ! It's hilarious. The overwhelming majority of sane users here would all very much like him to just leave chessbase.com and thus give this Noble site a break.
airman airman 10/7/2022 10:19
Wildkid, Thx .. I did go read it. there are a lot of issues with that document. Fist and foremost is they seem to indicate that they can have no false positives with their analysis ... only false negatives .... so , "If we call you a cheater you re a cheater ... if we don't call you a cheater ... you may be a cheater.
Of course if you admit to being a cheater we will give you multiple chances to not be a cheater. If you don't admit to being a cheater we do not give you any recourse to prove your re not a cheater you will be banned ... because ... point 1. we are infallible and have no false positives.

That sums it up.
Let me know when they release something that I can take and test the results to see if they agree when others use it and are under scrutiny. I am guessing never .... if they have to go to court the will settle before then because it can't hold up.
tauno tauno 10/7/2022 08:25
@mc1483. I apologize for my mistake.

And thank you very much for pointing out that part on page 3. It explains everything.
mc1483 mc1483 10/7/2022 06:30
"Notably, we initially closed Hans’ account in 2020 due to suspected fair play violations. In 2020, during a private call with Danny Rensch, CCO at Chess.com, Hans was informed of his account closure for suspected cheating in these events and matches." (page 5).
"On later dates... Hans discussed with Danny over Slack the possibility of lifting his ban and allowing him to compete in prize events... and further understood Chess.com’s decision to deny him opportunities again in the future." (page 6)
"Chess.com later granted Hans a chance to return, as we do for all players who have acknowledged their
cheating and want a second chance." (page 7)

Also, in page 3 they explain that after this accident they again had suspicions concerning HN for a series of reasons (meteoric rise, for example), and that the last straw was the game in the Sinquefield Cup, a game they deem suspicious ("certain aspects were") although not proven ("there is no direct evidence"). All this prompted them to ban HN again.

Of course, you are free to disbelieve what you read in the report (and there are indeed some things I don't believe myself). Just don't ask yourself something that is fully explained.
Jack Nayer Jack Nayer 10/7/2022 05:48
I get it. Niemann is a genius and everybody does some shit before he is 35, but Carlsen is a cheater and he is drugged on ethanol. What happened to the world?!
tauno tauno 10/7/2022 05:42
@mc1483. - Sorry, but I think you missed this on page 2 of the Report:

Timeline of Events

September 4, 2022

• Magnus Carlsen (white pieces) and Hans Niemann (black pieces) play a game at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis in which Hans wins.
• Hans gives a post-game interview.

September 5, 2022

• Magnus tweets his withdrawal from the event, linking to a video clip in which a soccer manager can be heard saying, “I prefer really not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.”
• Chess.com emails Hans privately to let him know that his account had been discreetly closed and his invitation to the CGC had been withdrawn.

- And this on page 3:

• If Chess.com was not certain that Hans cheated at the Sinquefield Cup, why did we take steps to revoke his invitation to the CGC and close his Chess.com account in the wake of his match with Magnus?
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/7/2022 05:20
@Science22 Today I do not have much time for you, so I will be very brief and ignore most of the abuse and insults will be left unanswered today.

You argued that Tal played differently from Niemann, because

- Tal was a kind person
- Tal played objectively incorrect complicated chess

I answered to your first point, because it was an absurdly ridiculous thing to compare the playing styles of players in terms of human kindness. I did not have problems with the second argument, hence I did not addressed that. You believe that me addressing only the first point is invalid. But, actually your first point was invalid and it is perfectly logical and expectable that someone would point that out.

"I have played blitz with Tal"

Mythomania is a human mental condition, which consists in the patient not finding himself/herself to be interesting-enough, so he/she invents imaginary stories to make himself/herself more interesting to others. I'm not saying you have this condition, but this condition springed to my mind "by accident" when I have read that while being a "scientist" you have also played with Tal.

"So it is time to answer the question: What technique does Niemann use to receive signals that cannot be detected by a scanner "

Since you claim to already know that he cheats, you already know and can prove the exact method he applies, aren't you? I know you have described a theory of how you think he cheats, but you need to factually know that in order to be factually sure.

@Alekhine That was a remarkably awkward statement from Niemann, it is unwise maybe even to the point of being suspicious.

@Arzi you can download chess.com's report from https://www.chess.com/blog/CHESScom/hans-niemann-report

@WildKid I 100% agree with you.
mc1483 mc1483 10/7/2022 04:56
@tauno: he was (in 2020), and he himself asked to be unbanned some months later (unsuccessfully). It was not made public, although some GMs knew that. Read the full report, it's not so long (most of 72 pages are graphs and tables).
tauno tauno 10/7/2022 04:41
@mc1483. If so, why was Niemann banned in September 2022 and not 2020?
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 10/7/2022 04:25
If FIDE takes action against Niemann for the past online cheating, it should also so for the hundreds of other titled players who cheated on chess.com.

I don't blame Niemann for not analysing his games afterward; he wants to give less material for others to criticize like what was called his previous defective analysis, which a number of GMs said they did not find any issue with.
tauno tauno 10/7/2022 04:23
@arzi. The spooky phenomenon of non-locality in the quantum world has of course existed since the beginning of time and is as common as cheating on Chess.com, despite being scientifically proven only 50 years ago.

Incidentally, there is an interesting similarity between the Nobel Prize in Physics and Chess.com: in the same way as the Nobel Committee alone can decide who they want to award their prize to for something discovered years ago, Chess.com can ban whomever they want.

But there is an important difference: in the case of the Nobel Prize in Physics, the evidence is reviewed before the prize is awarded, while in the case of Chess.com, the evidence is found after the ban is issued (see Niemann Report timeline).
mc1483 mc1483 10/7/2022 03:23
@tauno: not correct. HN's cheating on chess.com was detected in August 2020, but it was not made known to the public until now. Page 5-7 of the report clearly state that.
tauno tauno 10/7/2022 01:47
What is serious is that Chess.com did not detect the cheating when it actually happened. It was not discovered until a couple of years later, which is remarkable in itself and raises many questions.

And it wasn't Niemann's behavior that prompted Chess.com to re-examine his old data; it was Carlsen's behavior! That is what led (directly or indirectly) to Niemann being banned from Chess.com.

But it doesn't stop there: when Niemann's data was re-examined a couple of years later, Chess.com found some entirely new methods of proving cheating - some of them highly controversial - that had never been used on other players (and probably never will).

The explanation for Chess.com's behavior is dubious but understandable: since Niemann's ban was extraordinary, the evidence and and reasoning must also be extraordinary.
arzi arzi 10/7/2022 11:15
I do understand now why Carlsen thought he knew about Niemann's scam, which didn't actually happen. Carlsen has participated in the physics test, for which the Nobel Prizes were awarded to three men this week. Quantum measurement. "According to quantum mechanics, two or more particles can exist in what's called an entangled state—what happens to one in an entangled pair determines what happens to the other, no matter their distance." Niemann's non-cheating quantum caused a change in Carlsen, the cheating quantum hit him on the head. Beautiful technique.
arzi arzi 10/7/2022 09:28
WildKid:"Essentially, you can't convict on stats, but only on real world proof."

Yes, even though those stats are on your side or against you, you still need real world proof. Believing and guessing doesn't help, it only makes things more confusing.
WildKid WildKid 10/7/2022 09:22
airman: The Chess.com report is to be found at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23118744-oct-2022-final-h-niemann-report . As mentioned in my previous comment, I found it unpersuasive and even unprofessional in many respects, but that's just my opinion: read it yourself and make up your mind.