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.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package ChessBase 17 - Mega package

ChessBase is a personal, stand-alone chess database that has become the standard throughout the world. Everyone uses ChessBase, from the World Champion to the amateur next door. It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it.

More...

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


Read more



Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.

Discuss

Rules for reader comments

 
 

Not registered yet? Register

Daniel Miller Daniel Miller 10/5/2022 05:37
It is disheartening to see the same people defending a known cheater who has cheated multiple times and told us all he only cheated twice. Fide must ban him for life if they are going to save this sport for the following simple reason: Now, knowing Hans cheats when he can, anytime he's in a tournament and wears a baggy hoodie, or has a friend looking at his game, or looks in a particular direction too long, or goes to the bathroom and closes the stall door, or any of a number of things, it will be impossible for his opponent to play a normal game. There will always be suspicions. These are now not paranoia because Hans has shown us all he will cheat. I have no sympathy. He did it to himself. Online or live, it's still cheating at chess, It doesn't matter if he cheated against Carlsen. Carlsen did not want to play against a cheater. No one should have to play against a known cheater.
TRM1361 TRM1361 10/5/2022 05:30
I did some quick ballpark calcs on the perf rating before and after the 15 minute delay was introduced.
Hans had a 368 point drop in performance rating after they implemented the 15 minute delay. From 2 wins and a draw to zero wins, 3 draws and 3 losses. Yes he may have been distracted by the controversy or maybe that is the "fix" for OTB cheating?

To put that in perspective Nepo dropped 200 in his match with Magnus (first 5, last 6) out of a possible 300 drop.

Magnus handled it poorly but by withdrawing before the halfway point the games are nullified and he doesn't lose any rating points to Hans. In the end Magnus has done the chess world a favour by forcing tournament organizers to take cheating way more seriously than they have.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/5/2022 05:01
“If "dozens" of GMs have cheated on chess.com and admitted it, why only publish information on Niemann and Dlugy? What about all the others?”

Because Niemann himself went public - as the report clearly states. Chess.com were silent until then.

To know that would require that you actually read it, of course. Thanks to mc1483 for the link.
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 10/5/2022 04:49
I 100% agree with Buford. While I am not a Niemann fan at all, there is nothing here so far except some sour grape feelings of a world champion and number crunching on his past online games.

Cheating must be taken seriously, I agree. But so must false accusations/implications/suggestions...as this is every bit as damaging to someone's lifelong reputation.
Buford Buford 10/5/2022 04:17
So why have chess.com and Ken Regan come to opposite conclusions. This entire situation is BS. Statistical analysis isn't proof of cheating or anything else for that matter. If there was concrete proof, we'd know it by now. This innuendo is only damaging Niemann. I hope he is suing.
PatChessFan PatChessFan 10/5/2022 04:05
Unconvinced...so far.
1.Lets STOP labeling a 12 year old kid a cheat...its always a 12 yr old kid.
2. Cheating "100 times"-means cheating maybe 10 times at 10 games a time (mostly blitz?).
3. Chess.com have a bias to contend with-if they came out and said no cheating other than that admitted to they could have a 7 figure $ liability. Maybe.
4. How much money...if any...did he gain by these 100 games? Anybody know?
5.NOTHING about OTB. NOTHING.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 10/5/2022 03:58
If "dozens" of GMs have cheated on chess.com and admitted it, why only publish information on Niemann and Dlugy? What about all the others?
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 10/5/2022 03:57
@Science22 - is that all you got? The base of your claim so far is "he [Hans] curiously uses the time to examine the surroundings, not what is happening on the board". Tell me....this is evidence???? You can't be serious. You'd be laughed out of the court room if this is what you claim is your evidence.
tauno tauno 10/5/2022 03:06
I think this OTB Strength Improvement graph is just far fetched bullshit that only serves its own purposes. It appears that Chess.com has set its own agenda to try to achieve its goal.

I'm not saying the graph is false per se. I think the graph is unfair because it doesn't show the fact that Niemann's ELO at age 11 was significantly lower compared to the other players at the same age. Niemann started playing chess seriously when he was a little older than the other players and there could be many reasons for that.

If we were to compare the rating improvement from 2300 to 2700 the graph would look a little different. It should be pretty easy to guess why Chess.com didn't want to show it.

Hans Niemann Rating Table Comparisons V2
https://www.reddit.com/r/chess/comments/xq06ji/hans_niemann_rating_chart_comparsions_v2/
Based Based 10/5/2022 03:04
It makes perfect sense that once Hans stopped cheating, his playing strength drastically imporved because he now had to actually play himself and could learn much better and much more. In 2020 he stopped cheating, let his brain do the chess work from the on, and voila, he improves. Hans is probably kicking his own butt for not stopping cheating earlier. He could be at 2800 by now, or even 2900
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/5/2022 01:46
Chess.com catched Niemann cheating years ago and Niemann publicly admitted it and apologized. Now chess.com claims he has cheated more and he did not publicly admitted it. If that is true, chess.com should have catched him each and every time he did so. Instead, chess.com allowed Niemann play and once Niemann dared to beat chess.com's business partner, Yosha (chess.com employee) released a video, calling it "the most incriminating evidence", so, according to Yosha, whatever else is being presented by the Brazilian analyst and chess.com cannot be as incriminating as her evidence. Now, chess.com releases an analysis (I have not yet read it, but I will do so when time allows me to do it) according to which Niemann cheated more.

Yet, the elephant in the room is ignored. Carlsen accused Niemann of cheating against him, because:

1. Carlsen claimed Niemann cheated more
2. Carlsen cited Niemann not concentrating on the game
3. Carlsen assumed that Niemann was not able to beat Carlsen in the way he did

So, Carlsen accused Niemann of OTB cheating against him in a specific game, seriously damaging his reputation and possibly destroying his career and at the same time Carlsen implicitly accused the organizers of the Sinquefield Cup of allowing Niemann to cheat, either knowingly, or by doing a poor job in preventing cheating. It is not only Niemann's name on the line, but it is also about the honor of everyone working to make the Sinquefield Cup happen.
arzi arzi 10/5/2022 01:41
to bert344, of course the same will be done the other players, too?
bert344 bert344 10/5/2022 01:35
I would say: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating".
So let's invite Hans for Tata next year, have him checked on electronics every day and if he manages a TPR aanywhere near 2700 he probably has made that unusual developement. But if he is slaughtered with a TPR <2500 then every chess player knows for certain that he has cheated.
arzi arzi 10/5/2022 01:34
Page 17
"We have carefully analyzed many other presentations found online that claim to have
found potential evidence of cheating, including asserting that Hans has played more “100%” games, etc.
We have concluded that the methodology and the underlying tools used in those analyses DO NOT MEET our
standard."

"Based on this analysis, and as shown in Figure I, Hans actually has one of the LOWER percentages of “near perfect
games” when compared to similar players."

"In conclusion, while we cannot definitively prove that Hans’ rise in strength is entirely “natural,” we have also found no indications in the game data to suggest otherwise. While some have suggested that a move-
by-move analysis by humans may surface some oddities in move choice or analysis, there is nothing in our statistical investigation to raise any red flags regarding Hans’ OTB play and rise."
arzi arzi 10/5/2022 01:05
In conclusion:
"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. 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."
arzi arzi 10/5/2022 12:58
Before conclusion, page 19:
"In our view, this game and the surrounding behaviors and explanations are bizarre. And, in light of Hans’
past and his record-setting rise, it is understandable that some in the chess community have used this game
as a way to justify additional scrutiny of Hans’ play. However, we are currently unaware of any evidence
that Hans cheated in this game, and we do not advocate for any conclusions regarding cheating being
made based on this one encounter."
mc1483 mc1483 10/5/2022 12:40
BTW, I strongly advise everyone to read the report, particularly pages 8-17, plus the table on page 19. Do not rely on summaries you may read here and there. The report is available at https://www.chess.com/blog/CHESScom/hans-niemann-report
arzi arzi 10/5/2022 12:22
Science22:"Niemann has an unusual personality. He wants to be number one, famous and respected. That is fine with me."

How and where do you get all these wise words? Science22 are you saying that none of the 2700 players WANT to be #1, famous and respected? Really? Is this your scientific conclusion?
Pemoe6 Pemoe6 10/5/2022 12:12
@ ChessSpawnVermont: „Carlsen has made an accusation that Niemann cheated against him in a specific otb game in St. Louis …“

That is simply not true. This was Carlsen’s statement:
“When Niemann was invited last minute to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I strongly considered withdrawing prior to the event. I ultimately chose to play. I believe that Niemann has cheated more — and more recently — than he has publicly admitted.”

[Remark: This is undoubtedly true and note that at this point there is still no explicit mention of his game - even not of OTB in general.]

“His over the board progress has been unusual, … “
[Remark: proved as well meanwhile]

“… and throughout our game in the Sinquefield Cup I had the impression that he wasn’t tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions, while outplaying me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do. This game contributed to changing my perspective.“

[Remark: Only now do we come to the critical game. Magnus simply has an impression, doesn’t make an accusation...]

One may quite rightly make up much more (and certainly that is true), but only the above he has written, and only this should count in court.
In this sense, Dlugy's announcement to sue Carlsen for defamation against him is simply ridiculous. Carlsen made one sentence, he has congratulated him on his good work ...

I can't for the life of me imagine a businessman who is about to do an 80 million deal putting any compromising word out to the public without a bunch of lawyers signing off on it first. (Carlsen for sure will have some money left over for lawyers.)
tauno tauno 10/5/2022 11:56
Some thoughts:

1) If Niemann has has cheated on over 100 online games and even admitted it privately, why didn't Chess.com react earlier?

2) The report describes Niemann's quick ascent in OTB chess as "statistically extraordinary", but the same is true of many other top players as well.

3) We already knew that Carlsen's behavior at the Sinquefield Cup was the direct cause of Niemann's ban, so Chess.com doesn't need to explain that.

4) The fact that the report was first published in the Wall Street Journal can be used as evidence that it has nothing to do with business.
Aighearach Aighearach 10/5/2022 11:19
People are still making these ignorant assertions about the transposition, when actually anybody playing against Carlsen has to be ready for that position from at least 3 move orders. People who don't even understand the basics of opening preparation and transpositions are putting themselves forwards as experts.

Then we have the people *still* claiming that Neimann had some sort of unusual rating rise, when it gets pointed out every time that Giri rose faster. In this thread, various Indian prodigies are named as not having risen as fast, when some of them rose faster. It is just nutty.

We even have people are convinced, because they watched youtube videos that presented arguments designed to get them to agree. Well, golly gee. If you're not going to engage in critical thinking... it really doesn't matter what anybody says, you're not thinking about anything anyway, and you already adopted a narrative so... it's done, there is no reaching you.
Aighearach Aighearach 10/5/2022 11:11
"linear extrapolation where needed"

translation: fake chart
rokko rokko 10/5/2022 10:51
@ Jack Nayer: this has nothing to do with being American. Chess.com is American and accuses Niemann. I am not American and I do not like the social media tribunal that Carlsen started on the basis of a hunch.
@ Science22: Carlsen did not play the exact line but a similar idea against So before. Gustafsson (a second of Carlsen) did not find it strange that Carlsen's moves could have been anticipated in preparation. And Niemann lost his advantages several times in the endgame but Carlsen (maybe stressed by his hunch) played poorly.
In general: Chess.com lists a number of games THEY find suspicious. It is good that they accusations are now more specific but they are still accusations not proof. And Titled Tuesday are not really money tournaments...
As for his rating rise, none of the other players played nearly 300 rated games in two years. So you have to divide the rise by activity (not just time) and the numbers will look very differently.
I do not give a final judgement. I just want to say that up to now I have not seen anything convincing.
Science22 Science22 10/5/2022 10:01
@Magic_Knight : It is not correct that the Carlsen - Niemann match in the Sinquefield Cup is without evidence of cheating. Carlsen plays a very rare variant, and Nieman responds with great precision to all the challenges while he curiously uses the time to examine the surroundings, not what is happening on the board. He never play a bad move in the complicated endgame.
After the game, Niemann told the press that by a miracle he had this position on the board in the morning, and therefore knew the variants particularly well. It was an earlier game played by Carlsen with the same variation. Later checks showed that Carlsen had never played this variant. My impression, before I started to study his statistics was that something was completely wrong here.

Niemann has an unusual personality. He wants to be number one, famous and respected. That is fine with me. However his methods of achieving this goal are immaterial. That is not OK. Trumpism is never OK.
Science22 Science22 10/5/2022 09:55
@calvinamari
I completely agree with you. No organizer outside of the US would spend huge sums of money on extra security just because a single player has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has no problem lying to our faces about his cheating. Nor will any sponsor of tournaments risk having his name linked to such a person.

@rkpuia
I completely agree with you. The statistics are not on Niemann's side.
Tom Box Tom Box 10/5/2022 09:50
"Likely received illegal assistance" is not good enough. Especially coming from one of Carlsen's business partners. Who is next if likelihood is sufficient criteria for destroying someone's reputation and career?
Supergm79 Supergm79 10/5/2022 09:33
Hi,

Have been going through the several youtube videos on alleged cheating...for me, it seems it is pretty obvious that it is almost impossible to believe that Hans has not been cheating over and over again...
It is very difficult to show real evidence for past games eg. the Magnus game as many would like to see. This weeks poker game and cheating has again demonstrated this. You can easily work with sensors and hide in your body/special case or so, so that it is not easy to track unless a full body scan is done...
The only way forward is a thorough investigation and let Hans give his argumentations for his perfect computer play in quite some games...
Matthias Ruf Matthias Ruf 10/5/2022 09:31
Somebody may like this update of two jokes:

Nobody is caught from chess.com and needs to be punished.
Nobody is a multiple cheater, none mentor and trainer.
Nobody has the highest rating win in a short period of time.
Nobody didn't seem stressed or even paying close attention during the match.
Nobody can not explain his moves properly in analyses.
Nobody plays better online than in delayed OTB games.
Nobody is the most accurate player according to chess programs.
Nobody is lying in explanations of several body language experts.
Nobody blames his youth and a strange accent for everything.
Nobody has a questionable personality in screaming on his stream.
Nobody has a criminal as role model on Netflix.
Nobody is perfect.

Nobody, None and Jackass are playing poker. A fist fight arises after cheating. A police officer is called. “What happened?” “Nobody has beaten me and None has seen it!” “And what is your name?” “Jakeass!” “All right, no more questions.”
arzi arzi 10/5/2022 08:38
Yes, with this system, the player is first judged guilty and only after this test is either even more guilty or innocent. Great system.
Zagliveri_chess Zagliveri_chess 10/5/2022 07:51
Relying on inferences instead of proof of unlawful activities, degrades ourselves to casino pit boss mentality. Casino cannot prove a customer is counting cards in blackjack, a tactic that improves winning chances, and is losing a bit of money. BTW, counting cards is not illegal. Hence the casinos heavily lobby state officials to permit denial of entry to the casino to anyone believed (Carlsen's term) to be reversing the odds favoring the casino.

Improbable does not mean impossible. Against all (remote) odds, Greece won the European Nations Football (soccer) Cup in 2004. Previously it had qualified to the tournament only once (and lost all games). In 2004 he beat a bunch a football powerhouses in a row, including Portugal (with Ronaldo in the roaster), the host of the tournament, twice. Its only loss was against the weakest opponent (Russia), another statistical oddity. There were no star players in the team. Many wins were 1-0 with winners scored near the end of regulation, or in overtime. There was meteoric improvement in team performance, similar to Niemann’s.

Officials from European football associations made open claims that the Greeks must have cheated, as many here believe Niemann did, because the game results were highly improbable. Extreme statistical outliers. A couple of associations paid consultant firms to track, using the broadcast stream, the distance run by each Greek player. The hope was the results would show the Greek players were indefatigable, run a lot, and thus they must be getting performance enhancing drugs. Actual tests for doping showed nothing. Others pointed out that there have been no prior cases of the Greek players making accurate 50-yard passes in their clubs, yet they did that systematically in Euro 2004. According to the belief of many here, the numbers do not lie and therefore the Euro 2004 winners must have cheated.

To claim that someone is cheating you must have irrefutable proof. Unless you are a pit boss.
LLeow LLeow 10/5/2022 07:43
here is a way for niemann to redeem himself.

1. the chess world creates a chess engine that plays classical chess at a playing strength of 2700.

2. someone organizes a 10 game classical match between the engine and niemann. given the current interest in niemann, i would hope that there are many potential organizers eager to stream such a match.

3. for each game, niemann would be searched and scanned to ensure that there are no electronics on his clothes or body. he would be in an environment where he would not be able to contact any human or external electronic brain during the game.

4. as an incentive, a prize fund of US$10,000 or more would be raised. i would be delighted to send a check for the first $100. with many strong opinions, i would hope that crowdfunding would not be too difficult.

5. if niemann scores 5 points(or more), he achieves a 2700 performance rating and deserves the entire $10,000. he demonstrates that he is a very strong player indeed.

6. if he scores 2.5 points his performance rating is roughly 2500. suspicions of cheating will greatly increase. he deserves no prize money.

7. between 2.5 and 5 points, niemann is awarded a proportional amount between zero and $10,000.

8. any prize money remaining is given to FIDE for its fair play efforts.

will this exercise prove that niemann cheated against carlsen? no, but it will give the chess world an idea how strong a player he is, and whether he has a decent shot at winning honestly against the strongest opposition.

if niemann's rating is largely based on cheating, he might well find some excuse to decline such a match.
arzi arzi 10/5/2022 07:09
WillScarlett:"Waterboard him."

"As we say in Texas, hang him high! No proves and paper works are needed."
WillScarlett WillScarlett 10/5/2022 05:47
rkpuia states, with some justification, that, "Now Americans will start defending him vehemently." I am an American (through no fault of my own) and I wish to go on record as one who will not defend Niemann even half-heartedly. As an American I will suggest a possible solution to this conundrum that is entirely in keeping with American notions and practices of justice and jurisprudence.

Waterboard him.
rkpuia rkpuia 10/5/2022 05:25
@ajeeboy, magic knight: Niemann is a liar. Now Americans will start defending him vehemently. He claimed that he has cheated in a couple of games in online, this article clearly says otherwise.

His classical rating rise is also ridiculous, better than noted best young players players (Gukesh/Alireza/Pragnnandha/Keymer/ Abdusattarov etc) in the world. YOutube video(Milky chess) where he studied centipawn loss of all top grandmaster clearly suggested that Niemann has been cheating in OTB since 2018! I suggested that you watch that video. Where all top grandmaster are improving their centipawn loss as they increased their rating(from 2400 to 2700,even to 2800). Niemann has been playing at the same centipawn loss(25-27) level since 2018-19. In 2018 he was rated 2300.

Another video from Yosha also indicated that Niemann has played 10 perfect games. (100% engine correlation of moves). Even 2800 rated players have 1-2 100% games(Including Carlsen/Fabiano/Alireza/Levon etc). In all of these games, he simply blew his opponent out of the board, and in the post game interview in one of these games, he simply said that his opponent play bad moves without giving any explanation for his moves. Just like his ridiculous interview after the game with Alireza in Sinquefield cup where many top GM said that his analysis is incoherent with super GM analysis. His analysis of moves was worse than that of GM Ramirez(2600).
Proof is difficult in OTB games because you have to catch the act of cheating. But data can provides evidence of cheating. Numbers don`t lie. Niemann and his coach(Maxim Dlugy) are known cheaters.
Ajeeb007 Ajeeb007 10/5/2022 04:46
Yes, chess.com is obviously biased due to their business dealings with Carlsen. All the talk about online cheating is just a smokescreen. The actual issue is whether Niemann cheated OTB in his game with Carlsen in St. Louis. Carlsen implies he did. Bring on the proof, and do better than chess.com's "likely cheated" hazy opinion.
calvinamari calvinamari 10/5/2022 04:26
Past cheaters and past liars deserve no benefit of doubt. The burden of proof is on him. How any organizer would choose to invite him is beyond me.
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 10/5/2022 03:10
This definitely won't look good for Niemann's reputation. But doesn't change the fact that no evidence has surfaced showing Hans cheated in his win vs Magnus.
freebrittanyzamora freebrittanyzamora 10/5/2022 02:47
ChessSpawnVermont, you are a clown. You gonna sue me now? Come at me bro!
Science22 Science22 10/5/2022 01:10
Yes, yes, we fully understand. The guy who looked directly into the camera and told us all that he has only cheated two times when he was very young ( 12 and 16), has privately confessed that he has actually likely cheated more than 100 times after. Also in tournaments with prize money.

But now the world has to believe him when he say that, ok I lie big time to you , but now I dont lie. I have not continued my unsportsmanlike career in games face to face. Apart from the fact that statistics is against him, who is going to believe that ? tournament organizers ? Sponsors ? Who will take the risk that he destroy an expensive tournamentor and put sponsors for laugh ? One should particular pay attention to how calm and ice cold he sit and tell us that cheating is a long gone story. It ended when he was 16. Very well knowing it was a lie. Amazing for a 19 year old boy Amazing personality.

The world's best chess player with enormous experience in practical chess senses that there was something completely wrong with an opponent's behavior. He reacted to his knowledge, and he was right in that. Because now the experts can take over, and they will eventually reveal exactly how he cheated.
saturn23 saturn23 10/5/2022 01:06
It is clear now that Niemann cheated a lot (more than he admitted) in online chess. But what's interesting is the way he cheated. Apparently, in almost all events (10 out of 11 tournaments and matches) where he cheated, he actually cheated in every single game (for example he cheated in 14 out of 14 games against Naroditsky). This sounds like a really dumb way of cheating. For example the chess.com analysis detected that Niemann opened new windows on his computer during games.

The other important aspect is whether Niemann cheated in over the board chess. It is very clear that if he cheated in over the board chess then he was very smart about it. So Niemann had to adapt from being a very lousy cheater in online chess (where it is relatively easy to cheat) to becoming an extremely smart cheater in over the board chess (where it is much harder to cheat).