After losing to Hans Niemann in the third round of the Sinquefield Cup 2022, Magnus Carlsen decided to withdraw from the event. Two weeks later he refused to play against Niemann and resigned his game in the Julius Baer Generation Cup after only two played moves. The controversy over the Carlsen – Niemann case was developing day after day (scroll down for full timeline), and the International Chess Federation reacted with an official statement announced that FIDE is prepared to task its Fair Play commission with a thorough investigation of the incident. The chess world got polarized into two groups, one supporting Magnus, and one supporting Hans. However, it seems that the top grandmasters are on Carlsen’s side.
Hikaru Nakamura was one of the first top grandmasters to comment on Carlsen’s withdrawal, saying that Niemann has done “unallowed things” at tournaments: “Magnus would never do this in a million years….if he really didn’t strongly believe it. I think he thinks that Hans is cheating“
Only a few days later, Alexander Grischuk stated for championat.com that he got the impression Carlsen was sure that Niemann was somehow cheating. He added that he waits for Carlsens’s statement and that World Chess Champion should provide some facts.
The legendary grandmaster Alexei Shirov set the chess community on fire after posting that Niemann’s last GM norm looks suspicious and that “After learning more facts, Niemann’s case gets worse and worse”.
Fabiano Caruana gave comments on the case on several occasions. He first described Carlsen’s withdrawal as unprecedented adding that he doesn’t think that Niemann cheated in the Sinquefield Cup. After Magnus resigned his game against Niemann at the Julius Baer Generation Cup, Caruana extensively spoke about the whole case in the C-squared podcast: “I feel like Magnus’s decision to leave the tournament was somewhat emotional and probably wasn’t the right decision. But he felt uncomfortable, that’s very clear. He felt uncomfortable before the tournament, and maybe the first three games exacerbated that and that just gave him the impulse to leave the tournament“. Fabiano said that the allegations are not that important as that Hans already showed a willingness to cheat: “What is relevant is that Hans has shown a willingness to cheat. If he is willing to do it once, you can speculate that he is willing to do it again. That shows a facet of his personality“.
One of the first world top players to comment on Carlsen’s resignation against Niemann was Levon Aronian who gave a short interview after his games at the Julius Baer Generation Cup. He said that he understands Magnus’s frustration, and that he believes Niemann wasn’t the cleanest person when it comes to online chess. A few days later, after getting defeated by Hans Niemann in only 21 moves, Aronian said that Hans played very strange moves. This was a statement that deviated from what Levon Aronian said after Carlsen’s withdrawal from the Sinquefield Cup – that he believes his colleagues are paranoid whenever a young player shows a good performance. However, in his second interview, Levon showed support for Magnus explaining that he “didn’t know much about a lot of things“.
The same day, Anish Giri gave his post-games interview during the Julius Baer Generation Cup, saying that the show must go on and that the top players knew about Hans Niemann’s cheating online. He added that they also know about online cheating by multiple other chess players.
Daniel Naroditsky was one of the many to share his insights on the controversy saying that he is pretty confident that Magnus believes Niemann has cheated over the board before Saint Louis and that Hans Niemann discredited himself after cheating online.
Right after Magnus said that many players have shown support to him more privately than publicly, the World Chess Champion Challenger in 2021 Ian Nepomniachtchi published a video on his official youtube account where he spoke about the tournaments in Saint Louis, the recent happenings related to Carlsen – Niemann case, and cheating in chess. Nepo disclosed that he was unhappy to hear Niemann will replace Rapport in the Sinquefield Cup and that he asked the organizers to take extra measures in order to make the tournament more safe and clean. He added that none of these were done until “the sad case of Magnus withdrawal“. Nepo said that he played many games against Niemann online and that some of the games were strange, adding that he finds Niemann’s improvement and latest games kind of weird.
And though the mentioned players criticized Magnus for withdrawing from the tournament calling it a “wrong decision”, none of the players seemed to blame Carlsen for his belief. Most of them showed understanding and tried to explain Carlsen’s decisions to the public.
The timetable of events related to Carlsen – Niemann case: