Chess grandmaster Hans Niemann cheated 'more than 100 times,' new report alleges

American chess grandmaster Hans Niemann admitted to cheating two times in his career after World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen publicly accused him last week. But an investigation conducted by Chess.com found that Niemann has cheated more than 100 times.

An internal report obtained by The Wall Street Journal says Niemann, 19, was banned from the online chess platform for an unidentified period of time after he confessed to receiving illegal assistance in more than 100 online games, including chess matches for prize money, as recently as 2020.

Niemann, ranked No. 40 in the world, is in the midst of a meteoric rise. His Elo rating, which measures the strength of a chess player relative to his peers, has increased by 350 points in a span of four years.

The Chess.com report, however, concluded there are "unusual patterns in Hans’ path as a player." Although Chess.com doesn't typically track cheating in over-the-board games, referring to in-person chess matches, the online platform said Niemann’s performance at certain events "merit further investigation based on the data.”

Chess World Champion Magnus Carlsen, left, from Norway during a game against Russia's Nikolai Vlassov during the World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia on Dec. 26, 2018.
Chess World Champion Magnus Carlsen, left, from Norway during a game against Russia's Nikolai Vlassov during the World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia on Dec. 26, 2018.

WHAT WE KNOW: How a cheating scandal has rocked the world of chess

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The cheating scandal sparked last month at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis after  Niemann defeated Carlsen, the five-time defending world champion, with black pieces, which is a distinct disadvantage in competitive chess. In a unprecedented move, Carlsen abruptly withdrew from the tournament afterwards.

Two weeks later, when Carlsen and Niemann met again in competition at a separate online tournament, Carlsen played just one move before resigning in protest.

Carlsen directly accused Niemann of cheating on Sept. 26, writing on Twitter: "I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted."

Niemann admitted to cheating on two separate occasions earlier in his career. During an interview with the St. Louis Chess Club, he said his friend used a chess computer, more commonly referred to as an engine, to feed him the best moves in an Chess.com online tournament for prize money when he was 12. Then, when he was 16, Niemann said he cheated in lower-level games to improve his rating, because he wanted to play tougher opponents.

Niemann claimed he's "never cheated in an over-the-board game," like the one he played against Carlsen in St. Louis. But the report says Niemann's postgame commentary of his moves against Carlsen appeared "to be at odds with the level of preparation that Hans claimed was at play in the game and the level of analysis needed to defeat the World Chess Champion."

The Chess.com report accuses Niemann of "blatant cheating" to improve his rating, most recently at age 17, which led to his account being closed down. Niemann confessed to the widespread cheating in a 2020 call with Danny Rensch, the online platform’s chief chess officer, the report adds, and he was subsequently banned from the Chess.com Global Championship's million-dollar prize event.

"We are prepared to present strong statistical evidence that confirm each of those cases above, as well as clear ‘toggling’ vs ‘non-toggling’ evidence, where you perform much better while toggling to a different screen during your moves," Rensch wrote.

Although Chess.com typically handles all bans privately, the report says the platform felt "compelled to share" after Niemann publicly questioned his ban from its Global Championship. It's worth noting that Chess.com is buying Carlsen’s Play Magnus app.

Contributing: Tom Schad

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hans Niemann cheated at chess more than 100 times, new report alleges