This top 100 chess player’s cheating admission is unbelievable

A chess player looks at his board while scratching his head.

photo: hudson (Getty Images)

At Tuesday evening, The Wall Street Journal published a high-profile review of a Chess.com-produced report on Hans Niemann, the player suspected of cheating at the Sinquefield Cup against reigning five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen. (Perhaps the internet has repeatedly joked, with the help of anal beads.) The chess website not only defended its decision to ban Niemann from playing online, but also made the shocking claim that the young grandmaster had cheated in over 100 online games. Now the full report is here, and it’s a whopping 72 pages of graphics, appendices, and evidence saying more or less the same thing but in more detail. The report also includes many other scams that don’t make the headlines, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

I’m sure many will debate whether it’s fair to punish Niemann without evidence that he ever cheated in a real-world setting, and why Chess.com saw fit to let Niemann initially keep playing on his site when in fact there are dozens of pages of information suggesting he is a constant and habitual scammer. The evidence is immediately overwhelming and has been for Years, nonetheless, Chess.com insists that its system is world-class in finding cheaters, to the extent that many who fall under the site’s control end up confessing to their wrongdoing. Chess.com, of course, clearly established that Niemann was a cheater, but didn’t consider his story a threat until it became a major controversy. Niemann was temporarily banned from the site in 2020, but not long after was playing in real settings alongside online tournaments where prize money was awarded. Somehow it has taken until now for events to really take a turn, as Niemann was once again banned from the site and also banned from participating in a Chess.com championship with a $1 million prize pool, to which he had previously been invited .

The website’s report literally says, emphasizing our, “…we had suspicions about Hans’ game against Magnus at the Sinquefield Cup, which were reinforced by the public aftermath of the event‘, meaning that public perception played a part in the timing of it all. And with the launch of the document, Chess.com is positioning itself as the custodian of the game, with a responsibility to grow the game’s fan base and keep things fair. With $1 million at stake in Chess.com’s Global Championship, the explosion that is underway cannot be ignored.

To the site’s credit, the document’s introduction also acknowledges that the organization probably could have made better decisions in this situation; after all, it is run by people. But if you’re confused about how or why events unfolded the way they did, I draw your attention to “Exhibit C” of the report. It contains a series of emails that Chess.com cites as an example of an interaction with another top player who appears to have cheated, and I think it’s quite illustrative of how the site works overall.

“This person played in a single event in 2020 with a total of 10 games. Their strength score alone wasn’t necessarily enough to trade, but it did suggest there was potential for cheating,” the report said, referring to the rating system the site uses to catch rogue trades. “Even considering that player’s Elo rating of almost 2700, our team of experts was able to discover the truth that this player was indeed selectively cheating using a chess engine. When confronted with our claims that they had enlisted outside help, they confessed, according to the redacted email exchange attached as Appendix C to this report. This email chain reflects the intent of our process and how we deal with players like Hans who are suspected of cheating on the platform.”

Continue reading: Chess champion breaks silence on ‘Anal Bead’ cheating controversy

While the player initially plays dumb, it eventually becomes clear that they have been caught in the act. But this is where it gets really interesting, as Chess.com doesn’t just ban the cheater outright, but gives them a chance to come clean:

As a titleholder, we want to offer you an opportunity to re-establish yourself in the Chess.com community, and as such we have not made any public statements about the reasons for your account closures or our findings. If you acknowledge any of the behaviors that you believe may have resulted in the closure of your account within the next 72 hours, we may attempt to work with you privately to open a new account that will hold a title and a Diamond -Membership is equipped.

And here’s the player complying (grammatical errors from them):

Hello, I have already written to you in the previous emails that I will fully cooperate. I only needed help in a couple of games, not because I wanted to win an award, but because I was bored and just wanted to see how good your team is. Before that I was sure that everyone would do it, now I see that your team is very serious and good. I want to apologize for my behavior, this will never happen again! I’m sorry for what I did and ashamed of it. Thank you for giving me this chance and not making this public. Actually I was surprised you caught me because I only cheated in 5 games here. I cheated games. I don’t have the others, so I think you’re doing a fantastic job. I apologize again for my behavior.

Sure, this whole thing is mainly for Chess.com to brag about its cheat detection: not only has it caught a lot of players before, some of those players were top notch! You should trust his methodology, when it is said that Niemann cheated extensively is all his babble. Even the scammer gives the detection team props for how good they are. But what I want you to take away from this is that a great deal of trust was placed in the scammer provided he was willing to admit what he did. Consequences were suffered but they let the player continue using the site assuming that as promised they would never transgress again. It didn’t matter that they were in the top 100 players, they still had a chance to redeem themselves.

A top 100 chess player admits to cheating playing online on chess.com, revealed during his'Hans Niemann Report'.

screenshot: Chess.com / Kotaku

Which brings us to Niemann. The website says Exhibit C is an example of how to approach situations like Niemann’s, and something very similar is believed to have happened in 2020 when he was originally caught. Chess.com says in the report that more recently, “Chess.com’s general policy was to handle account bans/closures and invites for title players (like Hans) in a non-public manner.” Obviously it trusted him that he would come back and play and hoped he would keep it clean as the original ban only lasted six months. Perhaps it’s not so much due to random timing, but rather because the people who see themselves as the stewards of chess have always wanted to create a healthy community in which it’s possible to redeem themselves. Niemann might have been a cheater, but they wanted to give him the opportunity to become a better player.

It may seem like Chess.com’s breach to pull this now, but keep that in mind given the allegations Niemann assured the public he had only cheated a few times and that those cases happened quite a while ago when he was younger. If Niemann lied about it, and did so recently, one could argue that this is where he broke the covenant first and therefore could not be trusted to further Chess.com’s overall goal of keeping the game honest.

Of course, many observers will still have doubts, especially considering that the site has made an offer to buy the company from Magnus Carlsen for millions of dollars. The account repeatedly tries to reassure the reader that he does not favor Carlsen in any way, with one of the first major sections devoted to the question of whether or not his decisions were influenced by the grandmaster. Regardless, we still have no evidence that Niemann ever cheated in an over-the-top setting, with theoretical anal beads or not.

Still, I encourage you to spend some time reading Chess.com’s massive 72-page report: whatever you take away from it, it’s a fascinating and unprecedented look at one of the biggest competitive scandals of the year.

https://kotaku.com/chess-com-cheating-scandal-niemann-carlsen-confession-1849617569 This top 100 chess player’s cheating admission is unbelievable

Curtis Crabtree

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