Sports

Chess grandmaster Hans Niemann sues champion Magnus Carlsen, others for $100 million over cheating claim

Key Points
  • Chess grandmaster Hans Niemann filed a $100 million lawsuit against world champion Magnus Carlsen and others for claims that Niemann cheated in competition.
  • The suit claims that the defendants, including Chess.com, inflicted "devastating damages" against Niemann by "egregiously defaming him."
  • It also claims collusion between Chess.com, Carlsen and popular streamer Hikaru Nakamura in barring Niemann from the professional chess world.
Chess grandmaster sues current world champion for defaming him
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Chess grandmaster sues current world champion for defaming him

Chess grandmaster Hans Niemann filed a $100 million lawsuit against world champion Magnus Carlsen and others for alleged defamatory statements claiming that Niemann cheated in competition.

The suit claims that the defendants, including Chess.com, inflicted "devastating damages" against Niemann by "egregiously defaming him" and "unlawfully colluding" to bar him from the professional chess world.

"My lawsuit speaks for itself," Niemann said Thursday in a Twitter post.

Niemann, 19, has admitted to cheating on two occasions, once when he was 12 years old and a second time when he was 16. But he denied claims that he cheated in an over-the-board match against Magnus Carlsen this year.

Carlsen withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup in September after losing to Niemann, and eventually came forward with concerns that Niemann had cheated in the match in which he defeated Carlsen.

"When Niemann was invited last minute to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I strongly considered withdrawing prior to the event. I ultimately chose to play," Carlsen, 31, said in a statement posted to Twitter in late September. "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."

The suit claims that Carlsen's comments were a retaliatory attempt to keep Niemann from damaging his reputation.

"Enraged that the young Niemann, fully 12 years his junior, dared to disrespect the 'King of Chess,' and fearful that the young prodigy would further blemish his multi-million dollar brand by beating him again Carlsen viciously and maliciously retaliated against Niemann," the suit, filed in the Eastern District of Missouri where the match took place, alleges.

World chess champion Norway's Magnus Carlsen poses with the FIDE world chess championship trophy after beating challenger.
TOLGA AKMEN | AFP | Getty Images

Chess.com subsequently banned Niemann after reporting that an internal investigation revealed evidence of more cheating than Niemann's public statements had expressed.

"We have shared detailed evidence with him concerning our decision, including information that contradicts his statements regarding the amount and seriousness of his cheating on Chess.com," representatives from the Chess website wrote in the "Hans Niemann Report" published in early October. "We have invited Hans to provide an explanation and response with the hope of finding a resolution where Hans can participate on Chess.com."

Niemann's lawsuit alleges a conspiracy between the defendants, including Chess.com, popular Chess.com streamer Hikaru Nakamura and Carlsen, whose "Play Magnus" platform is set to be bought by Chess.com. In the "Hans Niemann Report," the website denies that Carlsen asked or influenced the decision to shut down Niemann's account. Carlen's own legal counsel also denies the allegations.

"Hans Niemann has an admitted history of cheating and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to deflect blame onto others," Carlsen's lawyer, Craig Reiser, said in a statement to CNBC. "His legal claims are without merit and we will vigorously defend against them."

The report from Chess.com did not find evidence of cheating in Niemann's over-the-board matches, including the match against Carlsen, though the website notes that its cheating detection is primarily used for online matches.

The report does, however, allege that Niemann likely cheated in over 100 online chess games, including several prize money events. It also shows that Niemann's Chess.com "Strength Score" sits in the range of over a dozen anonymous grandmasters who have admitted to cheating. The report also notes that Niemann is by far the fastest-rising player by yearly gain in classical over-the-board chess.

Niemann's defamation and collusion suit calls him an "American chess prodigy," but Chess.com throws doubt on that claim. The report states that, of the 13 grandmasters under the age of 25, Niemann is the only one who became a grandmaster after the age of 16. In general they call him "statistically extraordinary."

The report notes Chess.com's "best-in-class" cheat detection, which has elicited cheating confessions from four players in the global top 100. The report says that Niemann himself called it "the best cheat detection in the world."