And it’s a chess ethics controversy that I don’t understand, despite a relatively secure knowledge of chess. Here’s what happened:
World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen quit the annual, invite-only Sinquefield Cup chess tournament in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, a stop on the Grand Chess Tour, mid-match. His unprecedented exit sparked speculation that he was engaged in a silent protest after losing to Hans Niemann, regarded as an inferior player. Niemann was accused of cheating earlier in his career.
Opined WorldChess.com, “Carlsen likely walked out because he felt that the organizers could not ensure fair play procedures.” This was the consensus of many chess fans and commentators as well. Chess Grand Master Hikaru Nakamura also theorized that Carlsen withdrew because he suspected Niemann of cheating in their game, saying: “I think that Magnus believes that Hans probably is cheating.”
Above is the position on the board when Carlson resigned in his game against Nieman; he had lost all right. (You can play through the entire game here if you’re a chess sleuth and see if you find anything suspicious. I can’t.) When he walked out of the tournament, Carlsen’s clock had been started against Grand Master Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but Carlsen never showed up to play and was forfeited after the 10-minute limit expired.
Apparently chess players at this level never quit tournaments unless there is a health issue involved, and Carlson wasn’t sick. This is first time that Carlsen has withdrawn from a major event for any reason; the closest thing to a precedent occured in the 1967 Sousse Interzonal, when Bobby Fischer withdrew after arguing with the officials. As a chess player, you never want to inspire comparisons with the infamous chess wacko Fischer if it’s not based on your brilliant play.
The World Champion left with this mysterious tweet:
“If I speak I’m in big trouble?” What’s that supposed to mean?
1. The manner of Carlson’s exit, especially with that tweet, have thrown suspicion on Niemann, and, by extension, the tournament organizers for inviting him. Carlson has an obligation to either allege cheating or clarify his withdrawal to take Niemann out from the shadow, unless placing Neimann’s honesty in question is his objective.
2. If it is, this is an unfair way to do it.
3. The other explanation I can see is that this is a snit by a player who isn’t used to losing, speaking of Bobby Fischer, though Magnus has never shown such proclivities before.
4. Cheating at the Grand Master level in chess is not only unheard of, it’s hard to imagine. How do you cheat at chess? If a player has evidence that a player is cheating, the response is to flag it to officials. The tournament tightened up its anti-cheating protocols after Carlson walked out:
RFID means “radio-frequency identification.”
Thanks to the suggestive walk-out, Neimann is under unusual scrutiny. In an interview after the game, Niemann mentioned that he prepared for his match by studying Carlsen’s use of the Nimzo-Indian opening in a game in London in 2018. However, chess.com states pointedly, this game does not exist. (I know I always got my Nimzo-Indian games mixed-up, but that’s me.)
What’s going on here?
Your guess is as good as mine, but something’s rotten somewhere.