Anyone want to play a game of chess?

If you’re looking for incontrovertible proof that he is cheated, you’re never going to get it unless he confesses - and I don’t see why he would do that.

The problem with Niemann is that he has a very high base capability (no need to doubt that). That makes it much harder to prove whether he is cheating or not (imagine if Magnus Carlsen was cheating… how would anyone know if he was smart about it?) Niemann’s problem is that it is known that he has cheated in the past (which some would say should disqualify him outright), and there is circumstantial evidence that raises suspicions. Some of his games are absolutely astounding - if he is not cheating, we’re talking future WC/#1 player potential (it’s interesting that Regan’s analysis doesn’t trip on those, but a fair amount of chess experts have reacted at this point). Since the pandemic he has gained something like 150 ELO points, which is absolutely insane at this level of the game in such a short time. So … maybe he studied so well during the pandemic that he is now a far superior player than pre-pandemic. Or given that we know he was cheating pre-pandemic (he admitted to cheating when he was 16 - i.e., 2019), he’s just found a more effective way of (almost) getting away with it. There’s just a lot about his career at this point that just doesn’t pass the smell test.

But yes - there is absolutely a possibility that he is innocent of cheating since 2019. Though - TBH - I actually hope not. Regardless of whether he is innocent or not, his career will likely suffer hugely for a long time to come; Carlsen has flat-out said he refuses to play him again, which means that if an organizer wants to hope for Carlsen (undefeated WC, possibly the best player ever) to play in their tournament, they can’t invite Niemann. And there are other top-level GMs who have made supporting noises. Inviting Niemann carries with it the risk of not only a repeat of someone walking out on him, but also that top players simply stay away from your competition. The whole story is tragic, but it is doubly-so if he is in fact innocent.

Seems that chess.com plans to provide more information:

I think I recall this story from somewhere waaaay upthread. Since then, I’ve stumbled across Bobby Fischer’s online games from later in life. He played an even spicier version of the modern bong cloud in those games, deliberately throwing any preparation out the window. He also crushed his opponent, who was a GM.

Bobby Fischer thought so. It’s why he quit, and it’s why he played bong cloud style chess in the few games he played later on. But modern players like Hikaru & Magnus, the kings of fast & slow chess, think it’s unleashed a new era of creativity.

You’re not wrong. That level of chess is now inaccessible if you aren’t willing to work really hard, probably to the point where it’s not very fun. Most competitive pursuits have reached this point in the present day.

But there’s also a thriving beer league scene where winning isn’t even the point. In that sense, casual chess will never be dead. It just won’t be competitively viable in the least.

One perfectly plausible way to cheat under the circumstances: Have your coach signal which piece is the best to move by simple position in the room. Blackjack card counters used to use tricks like that right under casino security scrutiny. Drink on one side, the other player walks up and bets big. Drink on the other side, another player bets small or walks away. The player cashing in literally never counts.

I’m not saying he cheated during those games, but it’s clearly not impossible in many circumstances, even under scrutiny.

Yes.

Furthermore, any analysis providing false negatives for known cheaters is clearly inadequate. Techniques should be vetted against known cheating periods.

I would think they would be using the feature that compares the score of the move against the score for the engines strongest move and seeing the delta. I can’t remember the name of the feature that does that. I need to fire up cb16 and fritz18 I guess and see what they are calling let’s check, because previously it was something that ran against whatever position you had on the board and a pane could show you what other accounts and their engines found in that position. If you let it run long enough or it is a new position you go up on the board with the move your engine recommended.

US chess championships are incoming on October 4. Niemann will be playing. It’ll be interesting to see, how good he will play.

Will it be the genius, brilliant player at 2700+ level or will it be the mediocre 2500 player, who will show up. You never know with those young folks…

I haven’t followed this closely, but I don’t have much sympathy for Niemann. He’s already admitted to cheating in the past. Isn’t that grounds enough for players to refuse to play against him?

Cheating has been a thing in PBEM wargames. The standard advice at the Matrix forum is: don’t play against someone who has cheated. I have always followed that advice.

That seems fair, except that my inclination is to be overly forgiving of a teenager cheating in an online game. If he has cheated since becoming an adult, or if he caused more damage than it seems by cheating in the past, then being blackballed doesn’t seem too harsh.

So, I had the same reaction. “Hey, kids are kids.”

The gotcha is… it was only 3 years ago. He’s 19 now. It’s not that far in the past.

For some reason it is letting me see the content of the article. Haven’t had a chance to really look at it yet though, but looks like WSJ has read chess.com’s report.

Only read a summary of the article (paywalled) but this is devastating for Niemann if true.

<Edit: Duplicate link, same as above>

  • Cheated more than 100 times including in games where there was prize money at stake
  • Cheating documented as recently as 2020 including in a game vs Nepo
  • He has supposedly admitted much of his wrong-doing to Chess.com
  • They’ve also analyzed his development as a player in ordinary (non-online) chess and argue that it is “extraordinary”

Not particularly surprising that chess.com is coming down heavily on Carlsen’s side, but I don’t see how he walks away from such a heavy and persistent pattern of cheating with any chance of continuing his career at the top level.

This is another method, that sounds legit. Comparing of average centipawn loss in hundreds of games against a strong engine.

Tldw: At his 2700 level, Niemann should have 21 or 22 avg. cpl like all his peers, but he is at 27, like a 2500 player.

How unsurprising. And he doesn’t. He’s either going to get banned, or legitimate top players will refuse to play him. He has zero credibility.

And here is the report:

Lol at how many GMs they have busted cheating.

It does make a pretty damning case against his credibility. I still don’t know whether he cheated or not in The Game, but I’m no longer in his corner.

The Chess.com report is about online chess. In that regard it looks pretty convinving to me, at least after the brief look I had.

They explicitly write about the Carlsen game and Niemann’s OTB performance though:

Despite the public speculation on these questions, in our view, 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.

So there’s nothing new about OTB. They compiled a couple of statistics to compare Hans to other rising stars, but that seems like throwing a lot of "could be"s or "does not disprove"s around. Their statistics are chosen cleverky though.

In their chapter about the Magnus game they ignore the opening path to the critical position shown by Gustafsson and Fressinet when coming through the Catalan. This chapter is pretty worthless.

My feeling is if you cheat in a bunch of official online games, then I can’t trust your live playing either. Period.

It’s a crazy reflection of the time we live in when someone is caught cheating dozens of times and the reaction of many is “yes, but”.

He cheated regularly online, because he was not good enough to compete. However, over the board he is good enough?

His rise in rating over the board since 2019 is unprecedented. Without cheating? He already proved that he is a lesser player. This is clear, that Niemann is no peer to his other GM colleagues.

It’s the “winner dividend”. People have a hard time turning against a winner even if it’s proved they won in bad ways. It’s how slimy business money made in shady ways still shines just as bright a couple years later after everyone had forgotten. Humans are just wired to second guess themselves (or give more than the benefit of the doubt) in the face of a “winner”.