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Hans Niemann sues Magnus Carlsen for $100M over cheating claims in St. Louis chess tourney

Chess.com alleges that 19-year-old grandmaster Hans Niemann has cheated in more than 100 games.
Pongkiat Rungrojkarnka/EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm
Chess.com alleges that 19-year-old grandmaster Hans Niemann has cheated in more than 100 online games.

Chess grandmaster Hans Niemann has filed a federal lawsuit against world champion Magnus Carlsen after the Norwegian player accused him of cheating in a St. Louis match earlier this year.

Niemann beat Carlsen at September’s Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. The internet chess server and social media platform Chess.com later barred him from the site and the high-profile tournaments it sponsors, and Carlsen accused Niemann of cheating.

The civil lawsuit, filed in a federal court in St. Louis, alleges Carlsen, Chess.com, chess video streamer Hikaru Nakumura and others committed slander, libel and an unlawful group boycott, among other allegations. It seeks at least $100 million in damages.

“Carlsen, having solidified his position as ‘King of Chess,’ believes that when it comes to chess, he can do whatever he wants and get away with it,” Niemann’s suit says. “Despite the falsity of Defendants’ accusations, Defendants’ malicious defamation and unlawful collusion has, by design, destroyed Niemann’s remarkable career in its prime and ruined his life.”

Carlsen resigned from the St. Louis tournament after losing to the lower-ranked Niemann. In a subsequent online tournament, Carlsen resigned in protest from another match against Niemann after a single move.

Niemann has admitted to cheating in online games when he was younger, but denies cheating in the St. Louis match.

The lawsuit also claims Carlsen, Chess.com executives and others colluded to bar Niemann from competitions. The suit mentions that Chess.com earlier this year announced it will buy Carlsen’s website, Play Magnus, for more than $80 million.

Earlier this month, Chess.com, the world’s most popular chess website, issued a 72-page report that claimed there is evidence Niemann had cheated in more than 100 online games.

The report states Carlsen never pressured the company to remove Niemann from Chess.com. “In fact, Magnus did not even know we were going to remove Hans until Hans went public with our private correspondence,” the report stated.

Niemann said the cheating allegations have destroyed his source of income and his ability to compete in high-profile matches.

“By being excluded from these tournaments, Niemann has lost any opportunity to obtain any appearance fees or cash prizes, as well as the ability to improve his [chess ranking],” the lawsuit claims. “Niemann’s streaming career has also been destroyed. In fact, Niemann cannot even obtain employment as a chess teacher at a reputable school now that his reputation has been destroyed.”

Chess.com denied the allegations in a statement from the company’s lawyers. They said the lawsuit hurts the reputation of chess players and the integrity of the game itself.

“Hans confessed publicly to cheating online in the wake of the Sinquefield Cup, and the resulting fallout is of his own making,” the lawyers wrote. “Chess.com had historically dealt with Hans’ prior cheating privately, and was forced to clarify its position only after he spoke out publicly.”

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @Petit_Smudge

Sarah is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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