Image: Saint Louis Chess Club
A cheating controversy rocking the chess world just won’t let up. One conspiracy theory promoted by Elon Musk without evidence is that young chess wiz Hans Niemannn defeated world chess champion Magnus Carlsen in early September with the aid of a vibrating set of anal beads.
It’s an intriguing idea, but is such a thing even possible? Ron Sijm, a software engineer in the Netherlands, wants to find out and has developed software to test the theory. He’s posted the code to open-source coding platform GitHub, and all he needs now is the right sex toy. “I’m not sure if anyone actually tried to test it in practice,” he told Motherboard. “That’s why I built the library, to actually test this.”For those who haven’t been briefed on all of this, 19-year-old Niemann beat Carlsen in a match at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis on Sept. 4, 2022. It was an upset so historic that some people assumed Niemann had cheated. Carlsen has implied as much without directly saying he lost the September 4 match because of it. In a digital match between the two on the 19th, Carlsen resigned after one move and shut off his webcam. Niemann has admitted to cheating in the past and Chess.com banned him from playing on the site. He said he was ashamed of this, however, and denied cheating in other matches. That hasn’t stopped people from theorizing how the buzzing anal bead theory—which, again, has no evidence to support it—may have worked in practice, though. The chess matches and board state are broadcast live, so a team could watch the board, feed it into an AI chess player, and communicate the AI’s moves back to Niemann. In the anal bead theory, Niemann’s team would vibrate the anal beads in a certain way that would tell the 31-year-old player how to move. A cam site has even offered Niemann $1 million to play nude and prove he’s not using an AI-powered sex toy.
Computers have been better at chess than humans since Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov in 1997. Finding a computer system that can watch a board and tell a human player exactly how to move isn’t hard, but communicating that information to a player who is sitting in front of cameras and playing a live match with a human opponent is harder. Enter ButtFish, the brainchild of Ron Sijm, a software architect in the Netherlands. “This project is mostly a meme,” Sijm said on ButtFish’s GitHub. Meme or not, he’s pretty far along. Sijm adapted Sockfish, a program that uses a chess engine and vibrations to communicate to internet of things devices. Sockfish was designed to vibrate a motor in someone’s shoe, but Sijm’s system would have a team watching the board, running the chess AI, and sending morse code vibrations to a device up someone’s butt. He’s still trying to figure out which sex toy would be best.
Sijm told Motherboard he’s not a huge chess person, but that he does play. “I play a couple of games a week on chess.com for fun, but I’m very low level. But it gets recommended to me in my YouTube algorithm,” he said. When the cheating scandal happened, his feed was flooded with talk of Niemann’s victory. “I’ve been following it pretty much the whole journey.”
The biggest knock against the vibrating anal beads theory is that it would be incredibly hard to translate a series of vibrations felt in the ass into a workable chess move. “I’m sending morse code. I’m not sure if that’s the leading theory. You can set any kind of code, of course, but I’m not sure how easy it is to recognize those kinds of codes,” Sijm said.Sijm’s system sends long and short pulses to a device. A chess board is an 8-by-8 grid where every square corresponds to an alphanumeric coordinate. If you want to move the pawn in A2 to A4, you’d vibrate the morse code for A2, wait briefly, then vibrate the morse code for A4.
Sijm was already familiar with the internet of things and tested the system using lights in his house. “I actually have a lot of internet of things myself. Like, I have lamps and curtains I can control,” he said. “I just didn’t have any butt plug-related stuff.”With the code built, Sijm started hunting for a butt plug or set of anal beads to test his theory. He’s turned to a community that knows the systems best, the butt plug sex toy control project Buttplug.io. Sijm has been talking with the folks on Buttplug.io Discord server in an effort to find someone who already has a device and is willing to test the software.Sijm said coding out the basic software took about four hours and that, hypothetically, it would be easy for someone like Niemann or his team to put together. The list of compatible anal vibrating devices is long. “There theory is that he used anal beads,” he said. “That might make it easier to send signals. Let’s say you have eight of those. The board is eight by eight. That might make it easier to communicate…I’m not sure if you can individually determine the beads.” He’s still not sure Niemannn cheated, though. “It is of course suspicious,” he said. “But it could be luck or it could be that Magnus had a bad day… maybe it’s not even possible to do this. That’s why I thought to make this program. Let people try. Maybe if people figure out it doesn’t even work at all, then this whole theory of butt plugs was just a waste of time.”
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