After Magnus Carlsen accused 19-year-old American Hans Niemann of cheating a month ago, Niemann denied allegations that he cheated against the world No. 1 at the board and offered a partial admission: Yes, he did but only cheated twice online , only when he was a related child, and only once in a real tournament. However, Chess.com conducted an investigation into Niemann’s online chess record – an investigation that the Wall Street Journal received a copy of Tuesday – and reportedly concluded the scope of his cheating was dramatically larger than he was admitting. While Chess.com cannot cheat across the board, they also raised eyebrows at Niemann’s success through in-person tournaments, identifying “many notable signals and unusual patterns in Hans’ path as a player”.
Niemann claimed the only time he cheated for money in a tournament was on a Titled Tuesday when he was 12 years old. But the report states that Niemann cheated on at least three other Titled Tuesdays, as well as PRO Chess League matches and games against several prominent grandmasters. They identified more than 100 of Niemann’s games, a quarter of which took place on stream. Crucially, Niemann committed most of this alleged cheating in 2020, a full year after he said he had quit cheating and a full five years after he said he last cheated at a tournament. Several games that Niemann played against top players like Ian Nepomniachtchi, specifically to boost his online rating, were singled out for “apparent cheating”. So they banned him. Chess.com usually keeps its bans secret, although some people clearly knew that Niemann had been banned at some point, and in this case they said they “felt compelled to share the basis” of their decisions because of Niemann’s false denial.
The report states that Chess.com Chief Chess Officer Danny Rensch confronted Niemann with evidence that he had cheated in 2020 and that Niemann had confessed to get his account back online. When Niemann was banned from a $1 million tournament on Chess.com this summer, Rensch sent him a letter stating that he would not allow Niemann to play for such a large chunk of money if “it Concerns have always remained serious about how pervasive your cheating at awards events was.” Rensch also presented very ominous evidence: “We are prepared to present strong statistical evidence confirming each of the above cases, as well as clear evidence of ‘switching’. vs. ‘non-switching’ where you do much better switching to another screen while moving.”
Chess.com’s method of catching cheaters involves engine analysis, consulting the expertise of grandmaster “fair play analysts,” and monitoring whether players have other windows open on their computers during play. The last bit is the “toggle” mentioned by Rensch. A player who performs significantly better when opening another window on their computer—even if Chess.com’s software can’t tell what’s in the window—is extremely suspicious. Doing other things on your computer should hinder a player’s performance in a mentally intense game like chess, especially in smaller time control formats like rapid and blitz. If you only have 180 seconds to perform the moves of an entire game of chess, you shouldn’t do any better in games where you spend 20 seconds doing it anything in another window. We should note here that Chess.com is not a neutral entity as they are about to buy Magnus Carlsen’s app for $83 million.
“Outside of his online play, Hans is the fastest rising top classical chess player in modern history,” reads the report. “In terms of rating alone, Hans belongs in this group of young top players. While we have no doubt that Hans is a talented player, we find that his results are statistically exceptional.” Indeed, their data showed that Hans Niemann’s ELO rating increased between the ages of 11 and 19.25 increased than any other player in history. “Our view of the data is that Hans, however, had an uncharacteristic erratic growing season interspersed with persistent plateaus,” the report states. They also repeated what Carlsen said when he pointed out Niemann’s inconsistent behavior throughout their game. In particular, they found that Niemann’s explanations of his own (incredibly complex) moves in his Sinquefield Cup games made no sense to the top players they consulted. While they have no jurisdiction over over-the-board cheating, FIDE is conducting its own investigation, so I suppose we’ll know more soon.
https://defector.com/report-hans-niemann-cheated-more-often-more-recently-than-he-admitted/ Report: Hans Niemann has cheated more often and more recently than he has admitted