Magnus Carlsen is letting the chess speak for itself.
The world champion stunned the chess world this morning by resigning in protest after just one move against Hans Niemann.
This morning’s game at the Champions Chess Tour: Julius Baer Generation Cup, was the first meeting between the two players since a cheating scandal erupted earlier this month.
Niemann, playing with the white pieces, started the game with d4 and Carlsen respond Nf6. When Niemann played c4, Carlsen simply resigned and turned off his webcam, leaving commentators visibly stunned.
Hungarian chess player Péter Lékó was commentating the game on the Chess24 website, when he exclaimed, “And what? No, what happened, that’s it?”
Announcer Tania Sachdev said: “Magnus Carlsen just resigned, got up and left. Switched off his camera and that’s all we know right now.”
“Wow. Speechless, yeah?” Leko said. “What to say, what to say? And the story continues.”
This is unprecedented. I just, I can’t believe it,” Sachdev said. “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.”
Sachdev later said, “The internet is exploding right now,” Sachdev said. “Twitter is exploding right now.”
Jamaican-American grandmaster Maurice Ashley wrote on Twitter: “This is shocking and disturbing. No one can be happy that this is happening in the chess world. Unbelievable!”
It was a clear statement from Carlsen that he has issues with the American player and comes after he abruptly quit the lucrative Sinquerfield Cup tournament in mysterious circumstances.
On September 4, Carlsen was soundly beaten by the much lower-rated Niemann, a stunning victory in an endgame after the American came prepared to play against an offbeat line by the Norwegian.
Carlsen then shockingly withdrew from the tournament without giving an explanation, apart from a terse tweet, which stated: “I’ve withdrawn from the tournament. I’ve always enjoyed playing in the [Saint Louis Chess Club], and hope to be back in the future.”
He attached a video of Portuguese football manager José Mourinho saying: “If I speak I’m in big trouble, and I don’t want to be in big trouble.”
The withdrawal led to widespread speculation, prominently by chess grandmaster and Twitch streamer Hikaru Nakamura, that Carlsen suspected Niemann was somehow cheating.
Niemann then gave a stunning interview in which he admitted to cheating in online chess in the past, but adamantly denied ever cheating in over-the-board chess.
He dramatically called out his critics and even offered to play in the nude in order to prove his innocence.
Niemann’s meteoric rise has split the chess world, with some suspicious of his rapid gain in rating points and others calling for increased measures to detect computer assistance. He also has a legion of supporters.
The issue of computer-assisted cheating is a growing problem for chess.
Computer chess engines, and AI self-learning programs, have far surpassed the ability of humans and they have grown exponentially in strength since Garry Kasparov was defeated by Deep Blue in 1997.
Niemann’s swagger in interviews, including one in which he brushed off a journalist by stating, “the chess speaks for itself”, had made the star the centre of discussion on forums like Reddit and Twitter, and spawned countless memes.
Carlsen, who is in the progress of selling his Play Magnus Group to powerhouse Chess.com, has not directly accused Niemann of cheating or produced any evidence to support such an allegation, despite many calling for him to do so.
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