Shortly after making his first move, world champion Magnus Carlsen withdrew from an online chess match against fellow grandmaster Hans Niemann on Monday.
The pair were playing in the Julius Baer Generation Cup when Carlsen switched off his screen and left the match without explanation – the latest twist in an apparent feud between the two players.
“We’ll try to get an update on that,” commentator Tania Sachdev said in a live broadcast of the match on chess24. “Magnus Carlsen just resigned – got up and left, turned off his camera and that’s what we know now.”
CNN reached out to Carlsen’s representatives for comment but did not receive a response.
Earlier this month, the Norwegian withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis after his surprise defeat to American star Niemann – the first time he has withdrawn from a tournament in his career, according to chess24.
Carlsen confirmed his retirement on Twitter, posting: “I withdrew from the tournament. I’ve always enjoyed playing in the @STLCessClub, and hope to return in the future.” Carlsen’s tweet also included a well-known video of football manager Jose Mourinho saying: “If I talk, I’m in big trouble.”
Another grandmaster, Hikaru Nakamura, said Carlsen is “suspicious” of Niemann’s behavior, and days after the Sinquefield Cup match, Niemann publicly responded to allegations that he had cheated earlier in his chess career.
The 19-year-old admitted to cheating at ages 12 and 16 but said in an interview with the Chess Club of St. Louis that he never cheated in rigged games.
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“I tell my truth because I don’t want any misrepresentation,” Niemann said. “I’m proud of myself that I learned from that mistake, and now I gave everything to chess. I sacrificed everything for chess.”
The tension between Niemann and Carlsen shook the chess community. Niemann said he was removed from popular website Chess.com after Carlsen’s tweet and that “the whole social media and chess world is completely attacking me and undermining me.”
“To see my absolute hero (Carlsen) try to target, try to ruin my reputation, ruin my chess career and do it in such a frivolous way is really, really disappointing,” he added.
Neither Niemann nor Chess.com responded to CNN’s request for comment.
In statement on September 8, Chess.com’s Chief Chess Officer Danny Rensch said that the site had “shared detailed evidence with [Niemann] of our decision, including information that contradicts his statements about the amount and seriousness of his cheating.”
Rensch continued: “We have invited Hans to provide an explanation and answer in the hope of finding a resolution where Hans can once again participate in Chess.com.”
Carlsen and Niemann played two more games against other opponents after the sudden resignation of the former on Monday. Carlsen is two points behind leader Arjun Erigaisi in the tournament standings after eight rounds, while Niemann is four points back.
“It seems he (Carlsen) is clearly hinting at something, but until you catch someone, you can’t do anything,” Anish Giri, who also competes at the Julius Baer Generation Cup, said. chess24.
“It just looks very strange now. Of course, it all makes sense if, supposedly, Hans is cheating and he doesn’t want to play him, but if he doesn’t (cheat), then it’s really, really wrong.
“So I don’t know, we have to see. Again, everyone is expecting some big rabbit out of the hat with Magnus, but he just doesn’t want to play Hans, it seems.”
Levon Aronian, who is also competing in the tournament, said Niemann “wasn’t the cleanest person when it comes to online chess,” but added that “this is a problem that requires a solution.”