The scandal erupted in September when Niemann beat Carlsen while playing with the black pieces at the $500,000 (£433,000) Sinquefield Cup in St Louis, ending the current world champion’s 53-game unbeaten streak in classical over-the-board games. The shocking defeat and Carlsen’s withdrawal ignited a maelstrom of comments and allegations that Niemann was cheating including from Hikaru Nakamura, the American grandmaster once ranked No 2 in the world.
Unsatisfied by Niemann’s explanation that he had somehow guessed what opening the Norwegian would play, Carlsen abruptly withdrew from the tournament, a virtually unprecedented decision for a sitting world champion that was interpreted as an act of protest. “If I speak I am in big trouble,” Carlsen tweeted, making a strong allusion to impropriety on his opponent’s side.
The controversy redoubled two weeks later when Carlsen and Niemann met again in the sixth round of the online Julius Baer Generation Cup and the world No 1 sensationally resigned after making just one move. Carlsen finally clarified his cryptic allusions with an official statement one week after, saying he was unwilling to “play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past” and that he believed Niemann had cheated “more than he has admitted”.
“When Niemann was invited last minute to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I strongly considered withdrawing prior to the event,” Carlsen said. “I ultimately chose to play. I believe that Niemann has cheated more – and more recently – than he has publicly admitted. “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 only think a handful of players can do.