Updated Nov 15 2023: British YouTubers Josh & Archie tested the conspiracy theory that Hans Niemann could have deceive and use a “adult toy” to beat Magnus Carlsen.
The answer appears to be yes, as Kotaku’s Ethan Gach pointed out.
The video “show[s] what can happen when a novice sits down to play a grandmaster with the help of a chess computer that feeds him instructions through a smartphone-controlled vibrator in his buttocks.”
Co-hosts Josh Pieters and Archie Manners designed a code that could be used to tell the person playing what moves to make, Gach wrote. Manners would watch a chess computer simulation and communicate what to do to Pieters who would sit in a mock studio and play against grandmaster Daniel Fernandez, 481 in the world.
This chess drama is the gift that keeps on giving. Maybe it’s because there is never any drama in the chess community. How could there be in a game literally rooted in skill? If you lose, chances are your opponent was just better than you. I know I thought it was impossible to cheat with over-the-board chess, but here we are, writing about this drama again.
To make a long story short, the world’s best player Magnus Carlsen on Monday officially accused fellow Grandmaster Hans Niemann of cheating during a match they played a few weeks ago at the Sinquefield Cup in St. There had long been speculation that Carlsen believed Niemann had cheated, but two days ago Carlsen came forward with an official statement on the matter.
While several big names in the chess community came to Carlsen’s defense, claiming that Niemann was playing out of character and acting strangely after the match, there was never any hard evidence that Niemann used a chess engine to feed him moves during his match . I’m not sure there ever will be. I doubt if anyone ever the wire, electronic device, or anal beads that Niemann was in the sleeve (or some other area) during that match against Carlsen. All anyone could really do to further the investigation was analyze the game. Well, someone actually took the time to do it, and suddenly the fraud allegations against Niemann look a lot more credible.
on sunday, Yosha Iglesiasan up and coming chess YouTuber, has a video using online software called ChessBase to review Niemann’s match against Carlsen. ChessBase also helps determine the engine score for specific moves. For those who don’t know, an engine score basically determines how good a move was based on how a chess engine designed to play perfectly would have played. For context, most world champions play at around a 70-75 percent engine count. According to Iglesias, at the peak of Carlsen’s career, Carlsen played at around 70 percent. During Bobby Fischer’s famous 20-game winning streak, he played at 72 percent.
And according to Iglesias’ research, Niemann did indeed play engine perfectly in this much-discussed match with Carlsen.
It’s not terribly unusual to play a single game at 100 percent, but on multiple occasions? Now things are getting suspicious. The only time anyone has consistently hit close to 100 percent in recent history was Sébastien Feller, who achieved 98 percent optimal play at a tournament around 2010. Later the French Chess Federation determined that Feller had cheated by communicating with two other players. Basically, international master Cyril Marzolo stayed home and Feller’s movements were guided by grandmaster Arnaud Hauchard. Marzolo would then put those moves into a chess engine and send coded messages to Hauchard to let him know what Feller’s best move would be. Then Hauchard, who was sitting in the same hall where Feller was playing, sat down at a table in Feller’s line of sight. Based on which table Hauchard was sitting at, Feller would know what moves to make. It sounds complicated, and it was. The ruse was not discovered immediately, but eventually chess officials caught on and banned Feller from competing for more than two years.
The point of that story is to show how improbable a string of nearly 100 percent games is in over-the-board chess. However, Niemann has more than a few such games, including one against Cristhian Camilo Rios in the second round of the Sharjah Masters on 18 September 2021, where Niemann played engine perfectly for 45 consecutive moves. If that’s not evidence of fraud, I don’t know what is.
Like Feller, Niemann has strongly denied any allegations made against him. However, as more evidence like this comes out, it becomes harder and harder to defend him. How can he explain such perfect play? Is he the greatest player of all time? No. He is admitted to cheating in the past, and as many other grandmasters have explained, Niemann’s attitude after his match against Carlsen was suspiciously aloof. The ball is in Niemann’s court. While the smoking gun has yet to be found, the data against Niemann is already pretty damning. He must make a statement explaining these insane events. If not, all we can do is speculate, and the community’s speculation does not lean in Niemann’s favor.