Everything points to a case of digital lynching without evidence. A week after withdrawing from the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, USA, after losing to 19-year-old Hans Niemann, Magnus Carlsen has provided no evidence to support his suggestion that the American cheated on him. He has also not apologized or given explanations, despite requests from former world champion Gari Kasparov. And that, after a very detailed analysis of the game, Miguel Illescas, eighth champion of Spain, concludes that Niemann is innocent.
The scandal has been fueled by thousands of people on the networks, and among them the tycoon Elon Musk stands out. The creator of Tesla and other very important companies assures that Niemann received outside help during Carlsen’s game by means of vibrating devices installed in his anus, to which breaths of the best movements would come from someone who witnessed the game live online and analyzed it with the help of computer programs that calculate millions of moves per second. Musk already said something very grating in March: “Chess is a very simple game”, apparently ignoring that the number of possible different games is a one followed by 123 zeros, greater than the number of atoms in the known universe (a one followed by of eighty zeros).
In a much more serious tone, Kasparov asks Carlsen for explanations on Twitter, after stressing that his behavior is unprecedented in the last 50 years: “Carlsen’s withdrawal is a blow to the fans, his fellow tournament participants, the organizers and, while rumors and negative publicity swirl in the void, to chess. After criticizing the largest chess platform on the internet, chess.com (whose number of users is probably close to one hundred million after buying Carlsen’s company, Play Magnus, a couple of weeks ago) for expelling Niemann as a user after Carlsen’s withdrawal, Kasparov concludes: “Create tendencies and factions based on of rumors and cryptic bullshit is hurting chess. these players [los que intervienen activamente en la controversia], and especially the world champion must understand that. Sponsors and organizers don’t enjoy a toxic environment like social media users do.”
In a long and insightful interview for Chess24, Niemann acknowledges that he cheated during his adolescence, between the ages of 12 and 16, when he played online, but he says: “I learned my lesson, and I have never cheated in a live game.” To explain his meteoric rise up the world rankings over the last three years, Niemann claims that he trains “about twelve hours a day.”
After an analysis of the game and a thorough investigation of its details, Illescas contributes in a YouTube video a fact that seems definitive: that same morning someone registered in the cloud from Chess Base an in-depth analysis of a position that occurred in the first phase of the Carlsen-Niemann game. Based on logic, Illescas deduces that this someone must be Niemann. And he rules out the possibility that he was someone from Carlsen’s team, and that Niemann saw him: “When I worked as an analyst for Vladimir Kramnik [campeón del mundo en 2000 tras destronar a Kaspárov] it was strictly forbidden for our analyzes to be done on computers connected to the internet. And we can almost certainly assume that the current world champion’s team works in the same way”. In other words, Niemann found himself on the board in the afternoon in a position that he had analyzed in depth in the morning, and therefore he did not cheat. “He is innocent,” concludes Illescas.
All this has not been enough for Musk to rectify his squeaks, but it has been enough for Hikaru Nakamura, the grandmaster who earns the most money with his live programs on the internet, to qualify his initial statements, in which he was inclined to the theory of cheating: “I don’t think Magnus will withdraw from a tournament if he’s not very sure he has a serious reason to do so,” was his first reaction. But now he clarifies that the possibility that Niemann had very well prepared the first phase of the game is “definitely plausible”. And he joins Kasparov in asking Carlsen for explanations and chess.com.
The world champion announced his retirement with a very cryptic tweet in which he inserted a video of soccer coach José Mourinho and his famous phrase: “If I speak, I can have serious problems.” But it is likely that now, two months after announcing that he is giving up defending his title in April 2023 because he is tired of preparing to play against the Russian Ian Niepómniashi (winner of the Candidates Tournament), whom he clearly defeated at the World Cup in Dubai last December, Carlsen was in serious danger of losing a lot of prestige if he did not speak out.
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