The chess world is going through a strange phase. Players agree to play naked to demonstrate that they didn’t beat a great chess player by cheating when chess machines aren’t snapping their fingers at them.
Hans Niemann, a 19-year-old, defeated Magnus Carlsen, the world chess champion, on Sunday at the Sinquefield Cup by utilizing black pieces. The victory was unexpected, but the true shock came the next day when the two were scheduled to play. The world champion withdrew from the contest before it could happen. He announced his withdrawal from the contest on Twitter and included a link to a clip of former Chelsea manager José Mourinho saying, “If I speak, I’m in huge danger.”
The cryptic tweet didn’t fully solve the puzzle. Other players, notably grandmaster and chess streamer Hikaru Nakamura, hypothesized that Carlsen withdrew because he thought Niemann was cheating.
The strangest theory surrounding Niemann’s withdrawal was that he had cheated by employing anal beads, which vibrate to communicate moves to the grand master. However, Carlsen has not accused Niemann of cheating himself. Today, it would be difficult to cheat in a chess game, especially with the shockingly thorough security procedures that saw Niemann’s gum being examined by security before the chess equivalent of kickoff. This hasn’t stopped the anal bead idea, which in online chess circles has taken on a life of its own.
Grandmaster and chess streamer Eric “chessbrah” Hansen stated of the hypothesis, “That’s certainly a decent one. An anal bead would probably beat the [security checks],” adding, “I really don’t know. I told you it was a prostate massage, but I’m not an expert on that stuff.”
Elon Musk was interested in the hypothesis, which is unsupported by any evidence, and he tweeted (and later deleted) the following: “Talent strikes a target no one else can hit, brilliance hits a target no one can see (because it’s in ur butt)” (Schopenhauer).
Niemann has experienced great success in the chess world.
According to the chess analytical website Pawnalyze, “He has accumulated the most rating points of any [grand master]-level player since 2021,” and “by a lot.”
They concluded on their blog that Niemann’s record was impressive but not significantly out of the ordinary to offer proof of cheating, adding, “To date, there’s no evidence of Niemann cheating over the board, but we do know that his rise to 2,700+ is so incredible the chess community has collectively raised an eyebrow.”
Niemann acknowledged to cheating in internet games in the past in an interview with Saint Louis Chess Club following the controversy surrounding Carlsen’s withdrawal. However, he claims that this occurred when he was 12 years old and his friend assisted him in online tournaments. He also claims that this occurred later, as he was trying to expand his twitch stream while streaming unrated games online during the pandemic.
He stated, “I realize my acts have repercussions and I suffered those penalties, but what I want people to know about this is that I am sincerely, deeply sorry for my error. I stopped participating in all events, gave up my highly successful streaming profession, and lost a lot of important acquaintances and relationships during that period.
When he “decided the only way to make up for my mistake was to prove that I could win over the board events,” he continued, “I decided the only way to make up for my mistake was to cheat in any over-the-board events, such as those played against Carlsen.” He also said that he had not done so in any over-the-board competitions.
“That’s been my goal. And because I needed to show something, I lived out of a suitcase for a year, played 260 games, and trained for 12 hours a day.
He offered to play nude, which was a little rare for someone outside the strip-chess world, to show his innocence.
Niemann replied, “I will strip completely if they want me to. I could care less. I am clean, I know that… You want me to play in a sealed room with no electronic transmission; I couldn’t care less; my only concern is winning.