Amazing move shakes up the chess world – NPR

Amazing move shakes up the chess world - NPR

Magnus Carlsen (left) and Hans Niemann face off at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis on Sept. 4. The two had a rematch on Monday, but Carlsen only played one move before retiring from the game.

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Magnus Carlsen (left) and Hans Niemann face off at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis on Sept. 4. The two had a rematch on Monday, but Carlsen only played one move before retiring from the game.

Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour

The cheating controversy that has gripped the world of elite chess was already puzzling – but it deepened on Monday when world champion Magnus Carlsen suddenly quit after making a single move in his highly anticipated rematch with Hans Niemann.

Carlsen, 31, and Niemann, 19, faced off in the Julius Baer Generation Cup about two weeks after Niemann defeated Carlsen – a victory that was immediately thrown into question by a cryptic tweet from Carlsen that seemed to suggest that Niemann had cheated.

The drama threw chess into a tizzy, and fueled anticipation for Monday’s match between Carlsen and Niemann in the online tournament. But after Niemann made his first move as white, Carlsen responded with a single move as black and then folded.

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“What?!” many commentators said in unison on video streams as they struggled to make sense of what had just happened. Carlsen offered no explanation as he promptly turned off his video camera. But his resignation was quickly seen as a protest and refusal to play Niemann, of the United States

Many involved in chess are now calling for Carlsen, the Norwegian who has dominated world chess for the past decade, to give a full account of his actions. Some also say the International Chess Federation should review the case, both to uncover any cheating and to address the damage done when one of the greatest players of all time refuses to play in a tournament he entered.

“The implications of this are dire,” grandmaster Maurice Ashley told NPR. “It’s terrible.”

Ashley said the fallout ranges from distorting the results of one tournament to raising questions about the legitimacy of other players as well as the future of the sport.

First, some context

Hans Niemann, seen here, defeated world champion Magnus Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, but questions of cheating then arose.

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Hans Niemann, seen here, defeated world champion Magnus Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, but questions of cheating then arose.

Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

September 5, Carlsen suddenly withdrew of the Sinquefield Cup in San Luis after losing to Niemann. Rather than make a direct comment at the time, the world champion released a video of a football manager saying: “I prefer not to talk. If I talk, I’m in big trouble.”

Chess.com then banned Niemann and disinvited him from the Global Championship, an event that will be decided in November, with a $1 million prize on the line.

The plot deepened on September 6, when Niemann publicly recognized he has used electronic devices to cheat in the past — but only in online games, and only when he was 12 and 16 years old.

In the first case, Niemann said, he was “just a kid.” He called the second “absolutely ridiculous mistake” that happened when he was trying to build his ranking and support his career in online streaming.

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“I was confronted; I confessed,” said Niemann, adding that he was punished with an initial ban and has since devoted himself to proving his skills.

But two days after that interview, Chess.com issued a statement on its recent decision to ban Niemann, saying it shared “detailed evidence” with him “that contradicts his statements regarding the amount and seriousness of his cheating at Chess.com.”

Monday’s one-move game stunned chess commentators

“What do we say now?” Grandmaster David Howell asked at the end of Carlsen’s one-move game.

In Maurice Ashley’s opinion, the next move is Carlsen’s. After two weeks of innuendo, he said, it’s time for clarity. Even more confusing, he says, is that Carlsen continues in the Generation Cup after resigning against Niemann.

Grandmaster Maurice Ashley during an interview at the Chess Forum in New York on April 12, 2016.

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Grandmaster Maurice Ashley during an interview at the Chess Forum in New York on April 12, 2016.

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“It’s not a good look for Magnus to just keep quiet and let thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people pile on a 19-year-old who has admitted wrongdoing in the past and now says, ‘I just want to.’ play chess,'” Ashely said.

“I think that as the main ambassador for the sport, Magnus has to say something. He has to give some kind of explanation, because otherwise everyone ends up looking bad.”

Detailing how the situation affects other players, organizers and sponsors, Ashely notes that when Carlsen stopped, he gifted Niemann with three points. That could be crucial in a tournament where only the top half of the 16-player field will advance to the next round.

“There is money on the line in this event, real dollars,” Ashley said. “And Hans getting three full points may end up having him qualify maybe over another entrant that Magnus didn’t resign against.”

Chess has to find the right move

Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, seen here in a 2011 file photo as he played 30 school-aged children in Washington, D.C., says reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen should clear the air over his recent matches with Hans Niemann.

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Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, seen here in a 2011 file photo as he played 30 school-aged children in Washington, D.C., says reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen should clear the air over his recent matches with Hans Niemann.

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Ashley watched Monday’s match as a fan. To put the experience in perspective for fans of other sports, he suggests thinking about LeBron James and the LA Lakers jogging to half court for the opening kickoff of a big game — only to let the ball roll out of bounds and then get out of the. arena

“This is literally the best player in the world playing in a tournament and just dropping out” without explanation, Ashley said.

“That’s not what sports are about. We just can’t go on like this.”

The cheating allegations emerged after Niemann’s player evaluation Chess.com has enjoyed “a really significant, almost unprecedented increase” since the start of 2021, Caleb Wetherell, who runs Pawnalyze, a chess analysis website, told NPR last weekend.

Niemann’s rise could be interpreted as meaning he was undervalued by the system. But Ashley and others worry that cheating suspicions could now tarnish any rapidly improving young prodigy in a field long renowned for its prodigies.

Due to the extent of the questions raised by Carlsen’s actions, there are growing calls for the International Chess Federation to investigate – an idea with which Ashley agrees.

“Someone has to step in and figure out what’s going on and give us some kind of process to move forward,” he said.

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