World champion Magnus Carlsen stuns chess world by resigning on second move in rematch

‘I think that Magnus believes that Hans probably is cheating’: High drama continues to rock the game of chess

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World chess champion Magnus Carlsen withdrew after making just one move against fellow grandmaster Hans Niemann on Monday, following a stunning upset in their last match.

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The two were playing an online tournament, the Julius Baer Generation Cup, when Carlsen’s webcam suddenly switched off while he was on the clock for his second move.

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“What happened? That’s it?” exclaimed Peter Leko, a grandmaster who was providing analysis on the feed.

“We’re going to try to get an update on this,” said fellow analyst and international master Tania Sachdev. “Magnus Carlsen just resigned. Got up and left. Switched off his camera, and that’s all we know right now.”

“Wow—speechless, yeah?” Leko said.

Carlsen, 31, was leading the tournament in the early going at the time. Niemann ranked 16th. The Norwegian grandmaster’s rating is also much higher, which makes it all the more surprising that Niemann has beaten Carlsen twice in as many months.

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Two weeks ago, Niemann beat Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri.

The next day, Carlsen withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup, saying in a tweet that he always enjoyed competing there and hoped to be back in the future.

However, the tweet included a cryptic video of famed soccer manager Jose Murhino: “I really prefer not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.”

The tweet gave the impression that Carlsen was hinting at some nefarious behavior on the part of Niemann, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the sport. Since then, Carlsen’s silence on the matter has only allowed the rumors to fester.

Chess.com subsequently banned Niemann from the Global Chess Championship in November, which has a grand prize of about US$1 million.

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Speculation that Niemann was cheating increased after Hikaru Nakamura, a 34-year-old US grandmaster, who has a massive following for his Twitch streams, offered his take shortly after Carlsen’s withdrawal.

“This is probably something I shouldn’t say, but I will say this anyway, which is: There was a period of over six months where Hans did not play any prize-money tournaments on Chess.com,” said Nakamura. “That is the one thing that I’m going to say, and that is the only thing that I’m going to say on this topic.”

Nakamura added on his Twitch stream: “I think that Magnus believes that Hans probably is cheating. . . He’s withdrawing to make the point without publicly making the point.”

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Analysts who have looked into whether Niemann’s games have been computer-assisted have failed to find anything conclusive.

Niemann has denied the accusation, saying during a post-game interview: “I’m not going to let Chess.com, I’m not going to let Magnus Carlsen, I’m not going to let Hikaru Nakamura, the three arguably biggest entities in chess, simply slander my reputation because the question is — why are they going to remove me from Chess.com right after I beat Magnus?”

Support for Niemmann, which stood around “90 percent against him has changed to around 60-40 in his favor,” according to Leonard Barden, chess master, in the Guardian.

Jacob Aagaard, an author and grandmaster, spoke to the publication in Niemann’s defense, saying simply: “The scandal has become a witch-hunt.”

As previously reported, Niemann admitted to cheating twice before, both times during online matches as a child.

With files from the Washington Post

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