The number one chess player in the world made a stunning move on Monday against a player who was widely suspected of cheating against him in a recent tournament: he resigned after one move.
Thirty-one-year-old Magnus Carlsen’s resignation after one move signaled his refusal to compete against 19-year old Hans Niemann; Carlsen had led the standings at the at the Julius Baer Generation Cup after the opening rounds Sunday; his resignation does not affect his play in other games at the virtual tournament.
“What happened? What?!” Woman Grandmaster Tania Sachev exclaimed on the broadcast of the event when Carlsen’s camera signed off. “Magnus Carlsen just resigned, got up, and left … And that’s all we know right now,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Event announcer Peter Leko echoed, “Wow. Speechless, yeah? What to say, what to say? And the story continues.”
“This is unprecedented. I just, I can’t believe it,” Sachdev responded. “Did that just happen, Peter? Magnus just refusing to play against Hans. He will play the tournament, but he is saying I will not play the game against him. That’s making a very big statement.”
On September 4 at the Sinquefield Cup, Carlsen withdrew in his match against Niemann, stunning the chess world. Niemann’s chess Elo ranking spectacularly soared from 2484 in January to 2701 after his victory, eliciting questions as to whether he had cheated.
Those claims seemed to gain ground because Carlsen tweeted, “I’ve withdrawn from the tournament. I’ve always enjoyed playing in the @STLChessClub, and hope to be back in the future” accompanied by a video of football manager Jose Mourinho saying: “If I speak I am in big trouble.”
Mourinho made that statement after a game in which his team lost but fans felt officials’ had made calls that caused the loss.
After Carlsen’s withdrawal, American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura said it occurred because Carlsen thought Niemann was “probably cheating”.
Niemann bragged after his victory, “It must be embarrassing for the world champion to lose to an idiot like me. I feel bad for him.”
Although Niemann has admitted cheating twice in online games when he was younger, calling them mistakes he made because he was young, he denied claims he had cheated against Carlsen. Chess.com countered Niemann’s claims and shown evidence that he had cheated more frequently.
After Carlsen’s withdrawal, Sinquefield Cup organizers implemented a 15-minute broadcast delay of games to interfere with any possible outside aid for players as well as adding extra scans to detect suspicious radio frequencies and using metal detectors to discover any possible other gadgets players might use to cheat.
Significantly, prior to those measures being taken, Niemann had won two of his first three games. But after they were used, he lost or drew his last six games.