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2022 Hans Niemann Chess Cheating Controversy refers to accusations of foul play levied against Hans Niemann, a 19-year-old chess grandmaster, after winning a match against world champion Magnus Carlsen in the Sinquefield Cup on September 4th, 2022. Soon after his defeat, Carlsen took to Twitter to announce his withdrawal from the tournament and post a cryptic meme featuring football coach Jose Mourinho saying, "If I speak, I am in big trouble." Conspiracy theories about how Niemann allegedly cheated began to be discussed online, with a bizarre explanation involving vibrating anal beads becoming a prominent topic amid the accusations in the following weeks. The controversy also came on the heels of Niemann saying "the chess speaks for itself" when asked about his strategy in a previous match against Carlsen.
The Chess Speaks For Itself
On August 16th, 2022, Hans Niemann played against Magnus Carlsen as part of the 2022 Crypto Cup in a best-of-three chess match. After beating Carlsen in the first game, Niemann was approached by an interviewer asking about his strategy for the game, to which he responded, "The chess speaks for itself." A reupload of the brief interview was posted to YouTube by David Mays on August 16th, gathering nearly 40,000 views in two weeks (seen below).
The statement from Niemann received mixed reviews from chess fans online, with some commending him on his initial, but short-lived, victory against Carlsen, while others criticized what they perceived to be arrogance from the young chess grandmaster. On August 22nd, Redditor LosTerminators posted an image of the Crypto Cup leaderboard alongside the title, "The Chess Spoke for Itself." The post gathered over 2,000 upvotes in nearly 20 days (seen below).
2022 Sinquefield Cup Cheating Allegations
On September 4th, 2022, Niemann and Carleson went head-to-head again in the third round of the Sinquefield Cup, where, in a surprising turn of events, Niemann beat Carlsen in an upset.
Following the defeat, Carlsen withdrew from the tournament and posted a tweet on September 5th that many felt implied he sensed something foul was going on at the event, linking to a clip of Jose Mourinho saying that if he said what he wanted to say, he'd be in "big trouble." The tweet gathered over 16,000 likes and 1,000 retweets in nearly 10 days (seen below).
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 5, 2022
The cheating allegations against Niemann following the 2022 Sinquefield Cup were further stoked by prominent streamer and grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, who discussed the match during a livestream on September 4th, reuploaded to YouTube on September 5th, 2022. The upload gathered over 1 million views in nearly 10 days (seen below).
In the video, Nakamura brings up Niemann having cheated in the past, Niemann's post-game analysis supposedly not reflecting the standard of his play and Niemann's unusual choice of an opening line.
AI-Powered Vibrating Anal Beads Theory
On September 6th, 2022, Redditer Xitro posted a conspiracy theory about how both Carlsen and Niemann were supposedly using vibrating anal beads to cheat, feeding chess moves to an AI that then predicted the best next move via coded vibrations. The comment received over 200 upvotes in nine days (seen below).
The theory quickly gathered traction with internet users ironically expressing their belief that Niemann did actually win due to the supposed AI anal bead technology. For example, on September 7th, Twitter user @Babble____ posted a video about the rumors, gathering over 12,000 likes and approximately 2,000 retweets in eight days (seen below).
Currently obsessed with the notion that Hans Niemann has been cheating at the Sinquefield Cup chess tournament using wireless anal beads that vibrate him the correct moves. pic.twitter.com/F48BXjtBlN
— Babble (@Babble____) September 7, 2022
Ban From Chess.com
On September 8th, 2022, Chess.com took to Twitter to announce that it decided to ban Niemann from the website following his admitting to having cheated in past tournaments at ages 12 and 16. The tweet gathered nearly 6,000 likes and 400 retweets in five days (seen below).
Carlsen's Instant Resignation
On September 19th, 2022, Niemann and Carlsen were scheduled to play in a preliminary for the Julius Baer Generation Cup, an online tournament. Carlsen, playing black, played one move and resigned in apparent protest to the disbelief of commentators and viewers.
On August 28th, 2023, Chess.com announced that itself, Niemann and Carlsen had resolved their differences. Carlsen and Niemann both agreed they would play each other should they have to in the future without issue, while Niemann would be allowed to return to Chess.com.
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