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Embattled chess grandmaster Hans Niemann sues Magnus Carlsen, others for $100 million over cheating allegations

Yahoo Sports US 10/20/2022 Jack Baer

The bizarre chess cheating drama surrounding world champion Magnus Carlsen and American grandmaster Hans Niemann has officially reached the U.S. court system.

Niemann, under fire since Carlsen claimed he cheated in a game between the two in the prestigious Sinquefield Cup last month, has filed a lawsuit against Carlsen as well as Carlsen's company Play Magnus, the internet chess giant Chess.com, Chess.com's chief chess officer Daniel Rensch and Chess.com's top streaming partner Hikaru Nakamura.

Niemann announced the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Missouri, on Twitter.

The lawsuit is seeking damages of $100 million, citing claims of slander, libel, unlawful group boycott, tortious interference and civil conspiracy.

Why Hans Niemann is suing Magnus Carlsen

Niemann filing a lawsuit against Carlsen is the culmination of two months of high drama among chess grandmasters. In one corner is Carlsen, the highest-rated player in the world. In the other is Niemann, a 19-year-old up-and-comer who recently broke into the world's top 50.

The clash began on Sept. 4, when Niemann surprised many by defeating Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup despite the handicap of black pieces (it is much easier to win a chess game at the elite level with white pieces, which allow you to make the first move). 

The result set off a chain of events in which (deep breath) Carlsen withdrew from the tournament while cryptically implying something was amiss, Nakamura speculating Carlsen to have suspected Niemann of cheating, Niemann admitting to have cheated in two inconsequential games on Chess.com, Carlsen forfeiting another game against Niemann after one move in an apparent protest, Carlsen finally accusing Niemann of cheating outright and Chess.com releasing a report saying Niemann had likely cheated in more than 100 games on its platform.

Throughout all this, Niemann has denied cheating against Carlsen and any other over-the-board match (i.e. an in-person match with a physical board and pieces). Carlsen has provided no evidence of Niemann's cheating, though he and Chess.com both noted Niemann has recently risen through the international rankings at an improbably rapid pace.

Hans Niemann wants to take Magnus Carlsen and Chess.com to court. (Photo by Tim Vizer / AFP) (Photo by TIM VIZER/AFP via Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo Sports US Hans Niemann wants to take Magnus Carlsen and Chess.com to court. (Photo by Tim Vizer / AFP) (Photo by TIM VIZER/AFP via Getty Images)

Now Niemann has provided his own side of the story with his lawsuit, which paints a picture often bordering on hyperbole. Niemann claims a single loss, which snapped a 53-game unbeaten streak, enraged Carlsen to the point that he leveraged his business interests in an attempt to destroy the player who beat him.

That supposedly included Chess.com, which announced in August is was acquiring Carlsen's Play Magnus for $83 million, further establishing Chess.com as the internet's predominant chess website and enriching Carlsen. Or, as Niemann put it:

Carlsen, having solidified his position as the “King of Chess,” believes that when it comes to chess, he can do whatever he wants and get away with it.

Here is how Niemann painted Carlsen's reaction to the loss:

Notorious for his inability to cope with defeat, Carlsen snapped. Enraged that the young Niemann, fully 12 years his junior, dared to disrespect the “King of Chess,” and fearful that the young prodigy would further blemish his multi-million dollar brand by beating him again, Carlsen viciously and maliciously retaliated against Niemann by falsely accusing Niemann, without any evidence, of somehow cheating during their in-person game and demanding that the organizers of the Sinquefield Cup immediately disqualify Niemann from the tournament. 

While Niemann claims everything Carlsen has alleged to have done was in response to the Sinquefield loss, Carlsen said in his statement he suspected Niemann to be cheating before the game and considered withdrawing from the event after Niemann was added to the field.

Due to the cheating allegations, Niemann claims to have suffered a number of financial repercussions due to Carlsen and Chess.com's alleged conspiracy (he has also received quite a bit of mockery due to a specious theory). Those repercussions allegedly include the revocation of his invitation to the Chess.com Global Championship, the cancellation of a game against 17-year-old German grandmaster Vincent Keymer (currently ranked No. 39 in the world), losing an invite to the prestigious Tata Steel Chess Tournament and an inability to find employment as a chess teacher at a reputable school.

Carlsen's accusations have undoubtedly sullied Niemann's reputation, but the question is whether or not the accusations are accurate. That will be the challenge of Niemann's lawsuit, proving to the court he is, in fact, not a chess cheat, though that assumes his suit will even reach a courtroom in the first place.

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