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Chess’ $100 Million Showdown: Carlsen Moves To Dismiss Niemann Lawsuit Over Cheating Allegations

Forbes 12/2/2022 Nicholas Reimann, Forbes Staff

Topline

Lawyers representing Norwegian World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and online chess platform Chess.com asked a federal judge Friday to toss a $100 million lawsuit filed by chess grandmaster Hans Niemann in October, which marked a dramatic escalation of tensions over cheating allegations levied against the 19-year-old American.

Magnus Carlsen (R) of Norway competes during the 83rd Tata Steel Chess Tournament held in Dorpshuis De Moriaan on January 27, 2021 in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) Getty Images © Provided by Forbes Magnus Carlsen (R) of Norway competes during the 83rd Tata Steel Chess Tournament held in Dorpshuis De Moriaan on January 27, 2021 in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) Getty Images

Key Facts

The motion to dismiss argued the teenager spent years "trying to curate a reputation as the bad boy of chess" and "now wants to cash in by blaming others" after the allegations derailed his chess career.

Niemann acknowledged he cheated during a handful of matches as a young teen but an October report from Chess.com determined he "likely cheated" more than 100 times in online chess matches, after Carlsen released a statement in September saying Niemann "has cheated more - and more recently - than he has publicly admitted."

Niemann stated in his defamation lawsuit the claims are a conspiracy from the chess community's establishment to smear him after he defeated Carlsen—the five-time defending world champion—during a tournament in St. Louis on September 4.

The teen claimed the alleged conspiracy was an attempt to save Carlsen, 32, from reputational damage after Chess.com agreed to purchase his "Play Magnus" app for $83 million in August.

Friday's motion stated all of Niemann's claims are without merit, arguing he has not disproved the cheating allegations or offered evidence to back up his conspiracy assertion.

The lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of Missouri, also named Chess.com executive Daniel Rensch and a website streaming partner, Hikaru Nakamura, as defendants.

Crucial Quote

"Niemann now seeks to shift blame to reigning World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and others, claiming a wholly implausible conspiracy to defame and boycott Niemann that somehow damaged his already dubious reputation to the tune of $100 million," the motion to dismiss states.

Key Background

Cheating rumors surrounding Niemann came to a head on September 19, when Carlsen resigned from a rematch with Niemann after just one move. He later claimed the teen, who was the lowest-ranked player at the St. Louis tournament, "wasn't tense or even fully concentrating on the game" during crucial moments in his win. Carlsen has not said how he thinks Niemann might have cheated in the match. The Chess.com report, which focused on online matches, found Niemann made suspicious moves during games on the website, which happened at the same time new screens opened on his computer. The findings suggest he may have been using a "chess engine" during the games, which is a computer program that analyzes the board to determine the best possible move. Chess.com banned Niemann in 2020 after he privately admitted cheating during games where money was at stake, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Further Reading

Teen Chess Grandmaster Sues Chess.com And World Champion Carlsen For $100 Million Over Cheating Allegations (Forbes)

Grandmaster At Center Of Chess World Scandal Likely Cheated More Than 100 Times, Investigation Finds (Forbes)

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen Resigns From Match After Just One Move Against Player At Center Of ‘Cheating’ Scandal (Forbes)

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