A top chess player accused of cheating insisted he was “not going to back down” after making his first comments about the scandal in almost a month.
On Tuesday, a Chess.com investigation found that Hans Niemann “probably” cheated in more than 100 online games. The 19-year-old American starlet has been accused of cheating by world champion Magnus Carlsen.
After his victory at the US Championships, Niemann said on Wednesday that his win was “a message to everyone.”
In a press conference following his convincing win over 15-year-old grandmaster Christopher Yeo, Niemann was asked about the “elephant in the room” – a reference to the cheating scandal that gripped the chess world.
Without going straight into the accusations, Niemann said: “This game is a message to everyone. It all started with me saying ‘chess speaks for itself’ and I think this game speaks for itself and shows chess players who I am.
“It also shows that I will not back down and will play my best chess here despite the pressure.”
Niemann then stopped the interview after less than 60 seconds.
“You can leave it to your own interpretation, but thanks, that’s all,” he said as the interviewer tried to ask more questions.
“That’s all I can say because it was such a beautiful game, I don’t even need to describe it.”
Niemann, who played in the first round of the US Championships at St. Louis, then walked out of the interview, making commentator Yasser Seirawan laugh and say, “What? That’s him? OK.”
Until the interview, Niemann had not spoken about the September 7 scandal, when he admitted to cheating in unofficial games at a young age but vehemently denied it in competitive play.
Niemann added that he was willing to play goal to prove his innocence and accused Carlsen and Chess.com of trying to ruin his career.
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- The scandal began last month after 31-year-old Carlsen, considered by many to be the greatest player of all time, was beaten by Niemann in the Sinquefield Cup.
The Norwegian then made veiled accusations of fraud against Niemann before publicly accusing him last week.
Then, on Tuesday, a Chess.com investigation found that Niemann likely cheated “more times” than he admits, including in cash prize events and against “famous” figures who are highly regarded in the game.
Chess.com also noted “anomalies” in Niemann’s rate of improvement, which took him from around 800 in the world to the top 50 in classical chess in less than two years.
The website said this rise was the fastest in “modern recorded history” and occurred “much later than its peers”.
But he found no evidence that he cheated in his game against Carlsen or in any other off-board game.
Separate statistical analysis of Niemann’s off-board play by Prof. Kenneth Regan, widely regarded as the world’s leading chess expert, also found no evidence that he cheated.
Short presentation gray line
Chess hasn’t seen a cheating scandal at the elite level since Toiletgate in 2006.
Then World Championship rivals Veselin Topalov accused world champion Vladimir Kramnik of cheating on his “weird, if not suspicious” trip to the toilet.
Prof Regan also found no evidence that Kramnik cheated.