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Chess cheating scandal — what’s in the 72-page report?

The Chess.com analysis reveals the Hans Niemann cheated ‘much more than his public statements suggest’

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ChessUp employees demonstrate their company’s chessboard with a built-in chess instructor before the CES tech show in Las Vegas.

ChessUp employees demonstrate their company’s chessboard with a built-in chess instructor before the CES tech show, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in Las Vegas. When players touch a piece, the board lights up potential moves.

Ellen Schmidt, Associated Press

Chess.com, one of the largest governing bodies within the sport, has developed some of the most advanced anti-cheating detection methods in modern chess. The organization released a 72-page report outlining the evidence against 19-year-old grandmaster Hans Niemann in his online chess matches, and an analysis of his over-the-board gameplay to provide more clarity on the recent controversy.

What are the conclusions of the report?

One of the bombshells, echoing the belief of Magnus Carlsen, is that there is significant evidence that “Hans likely cheated online much more than his public statements suggest.”

He has stated previously “Other than when I was 12 years old, I have never, ever, ever — and I would never do that, that is the worst thing that I could ever do — cheat in a tournament with prize money.”

He also claimed that when he was 16 years old, he cheated in random games to help his rating, but never cheated while streaming

The report found that “Hans has likely cheated in more than 100 online chess games, including several prize money events. He was already 17 when he likely cheated in some of these matches and games. He was also streaming in 25 of these games.”

In 2020, the CCO of Chess.com Danny Rensch had a private call with Niemann, where the young player confessed to these offenses.

Has Niemann cheated in over-the-board games?

The report states that “Hans is the fastest rising top player in Classical OTB chess in modern history.”

Using statistical analysis, they organization compared his two-year increase in rating to other chess prodigies, attempting to find anomalous patterns. Chess.com found none, though it does not have access to the same quality of data that it typically uses in online game analysis, namely the time between each player’s moves.

The report admitted “while we cannot definitively prove that Hans’ rise in strength is entirely ‘natural,’ we have also found no indications in the game data to suggest otherwise. saying “there is nothing in our statistical investigation to raise any red flags regarding Hans’ (over-the-board) play and rise.”

There are notable “overperformances” that have been suggested as deserving of further manual investigation.

Did Hans Niemann cheat in his game against Magnus Carlsen?

The report says “there is no direct evidence that proves Hans cheated at the September 4, 2022 game with Magnus, or proves that he has cheated in other OTB games in the past.”

Carlsen previously commented on a number of strange occurrences during the game, noting that Niemann seemed to play effortlessly, while in the past his opponents had to exert a great deal of energy and focus to perform well. Additionally, in after-game interviews, Niemann spoke as if he did not fully understand the strategic positions throughout the game.

Still, no hard evidence was found and Chess.com said “we are currently unaware of any evidence that Hans cheated in this game, and we do not advocate for any conclusions regarding cheating being made based on this one encounter.”

Has Niemann played an unusually high number of ‘near-perfect’ games?

A great deal of amateur statistical analysis was used by the chess community to dig into Niemann’s past games this last month. One of the most prominent conclusions was that Niemann played a significant number of games that correlated almost perfectly with computer algorithms.

The tool used was not meant to detect cheating, and Chess.com said “We have concluded that the methodology and the underlying tools used in those analyses do not meet our standard.”

Niemann responds to the allegations

Wednesday, after defeating 15-year-old Christopher Yoo in the first round of the U.S. Chess Championships, he addressed the controversy without admitting any wrongdoing: “I think this game spoke for itself and showed the chess player that I am. It also showed that I’m not going to back down, and I’m going to play my best chess here, regardless of the pressure that I’m under.”