World chess champion Magnus Carlsen released a scathing statement addressed to the “chess world” Monday afternoon that said he is “not willing to play chess with [Hans] Niemann,” and that “I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted.” That statement is by far Carlsen’s most extensive in the ongoing cheating saga that has captivated chess and spilled out into the broader consciousness.
Earlier this month, Niemann defeated Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup chess tournament; it was a huge upset because Niemann was ranked far lower than Carlsen and because he was playing as the black pieces (which goes second and has an inherent disadvantage). Carlsen pulled out of the tournament altogether, and implied at the time that he believed Niemann was cheating. A week later, the two played again at another tournament. Carlsen made one move, then resigned.
Carlsen isn’t doing any implying anymore: “I believe that cheating in chess is a big deal and an existential threat to the game,” Carlsen wrote. “I also believe that chess organizers and all those who care about the sanctity of the game we love should seriously consider increasing security measures and methods of cheat detection for over the board chess.”
“I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted,” he added. “His over the board progress has been unusual, 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.”
“We must do something about cheating, and for my part going forward, I don’t want to play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past, because I don’t know what they are capable of doing in the future,” he added. “There is more that I would like to say. Unfortunately, at this time I am limited in what I can say without explicit permission from Niemann to speak openly. So far I have only been able to speak with those actions, and those actions have stated clearly hat I am not willing to play chess with Niemann. I hope that the truth on this matter comes out, whatever it may be.”
While the statement is the first in which Carlsen has explicitly said he believes Niemann is a cheater, there are still no specifics about how Carlsen believes he cheated, or whether he has any explicit proof. Niemann has been caught cheating in online chess before, and was banned from Chess.com after Niemann beat Carlsen earlier this month. Last week, the CEO of Chess.com told Motherboard that it could not yet comment on what it knows, but said that it looks forward to one day providing more specifics.