An investigation into the career of Hans Niemann, the chess grandmaster embroiled in an alleged cheating scandal, has found a disturbingly widespread pattern of suspicious behavior far beyond what the 19-year-old had previously publicly admitted to.
The 72-page report, compiled by online platform Chess.com and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, alleges that Niemann had “likely cheated” in more than 100 online matches, including 25 live-streamed games and several played for prize money. The most recent violations discovered in the report occurred in 2020, when Niemann was 17 years old.
Chess.com quietly closed his account that year, with Niemann admitting to cheating in online matches in a phone call with the company’s chief chess officer, according to the report. The platform was only compelled to publish its findings, it said, after Niemann complained publicly about being barred from the Chess.com Global Championship, a million-dollar prize event, last month.
The report did not accuse Niemann of cheating in any classical, in-person matches, though he noted the “many remarkable signals and unusual patterns in Hans’ path” as an over-the-board competitor. Chess.com acknowledged that its technology, used to scrutinize his online playing style, could not extend to the classical form of the game, which is notoriously hard to monitor for cheating.
The report instead suggested that “further investigation based on the data” was merited.
The chess world’s governing body, FIDE, is conducting its own inquiry into Niemann after Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian player ranked No. 1 in the world, directly accused Niemann of cheating in a game last month.
“I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted,” the five-time world champ wrote in his first public statement on the matter, published Sept. 26. “His over the board progress has been unusual , and throughout our game in the Sinquefield Cup I had the impression that he wasn’t tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions, while outplaying me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do.”
Carlsen was referring to a Sept. 6 match in the Sinquefield Cup, a prestigious tournament in St. Louis. Coming in hot off a 53-game winning streak, Carlsen was upset in 57 moves by Niemann, who was wielding the disadvantageous black pieces.
“It must be embarrassing for the world champion to lose to an idiot like me,” the California teenager said at the time. “I feel bad for him!”
Carlsen then quit the tournament—the first withdrawal of his career—and threw the chess world into pandemonium. At the time, his only public statement was a cryptic reference to a soccer manager who once said, “If I speak, I am in big trouble,” when asked about foul play.
The bedlam only further increased several weeks later, when the pair met for a Sept. 19 virtual match. The Norwegian resigned in protest after making just one move.
Following the scandal, Niemann confessed to having cheated—but only twice, in online instances he chalked up to his age, having been 12 and 16 years old when the incidents supposedly occurred.
“I would never, could even fathom doing it, in a real game,” he added.
Chess.com boasts a membership of more than 90 million, including many elite and ranked players. The platform, the WSJ reported, is in the process of purchasing Carlsen’s chess training app for nearly $83 million.