For those who think the high stakes world of professional chess is about as exciting as watching paint dry, think again.
Allegations of cheating have shaken up the upper echelons of the intellectual game, including one player being frisked for a device that might have helped him analyze moves.
The controversy surrounds the withdrawal of World Champion Magus Carlsen from the $35src,srcsrcsrc Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis on Monday after he was beaten by a 19-year-old grand master—a step above rookie level in the chess world—who was once kicked off an online gaming site for using a computer to analyze his moves.
Hans Niemann, the upstart, beat the Norwegian champ in the third round, prompting Carlsen to leave the tournament, after which he posted a cryptic message on his social media in the form of a video of soccer manager José Morinho, who referred to a cheating scandal among referees with: “If I speak I am in big trouble.”
The cheating suggestion quickly went viral, causing Niemann to deny allegations.
“It must be embarrassing for the world champion to lose to me,” Niemann, who was seeded last in the tournament said. “I feel bad for him.”
Niemann was once removed from an online competition after it was discovered he was using a computer to analyze moves, but he insisted he has never cheated in a live, in-person competition. “I’m telling the world because I do not want any misrepresentation, and I do not want rumors,” he said this week. “I have never cheated in an over-the-board game.”
Nevertheless, he was “thoroughly frisked” during the next round round of play for a computing device that could have helped him analyze his moves in the competition, which carries a $35src,srcsrcsrc purse. No device was found, but the competition was delayed by 15 minutes, causing at least some embarrassment to the newcomer, according to The Guardian.
The scandal reminded many of the 2srcsrc6 “Toiletgate” debacle in which Veselin Topalov accused opponent Vlad Kramnik of having planted a device in the toilet to help analyze moves.
Several players in this week’s St. Louis tournament told the Wall Street Journal that they were unable to concentrate over the scandal.
Top contender Ian Nepomniachtchi, said that the only way to ensure secret buzzers or devices were not being used could come down to competing “naked in a locked room” to keep the game clean.
“I don’t see this happening,” the Russian—who lost to Carlsen for the World Chess Championship, told the Journal, but said he was shocked that the younger Niemann beat Carlsen, calling it “more than impressive.”