Magnus Carlsen/Hans Niemann Chess Cheating Story Mirrors Poker’s Recent Incidents

2 weeks ago
Magnus Carlsen/Hans Niemann Chess Cheating Story Mirrors Poker’s Recent Incidents
06:52
09 Sep

News from the chess world that Magnus Carlsen, the reigning world champion, has quit an event and hinted it was due to one of his opponent’s cheating, has had the poker world wondering aloud if it might be parallel to our own cheating problems.

Cheating, both online and live, have plagued both games for decades, the rise of computers and the internet making it much easier to cheat, although by the same token much easier to catch a cheat.

Carlsen’s shock departure from the top-level Sinquefield Cup after a defeat by up-and-coming youngster Hans Niemann, and the cryptic tweet that accompanied it, set the internet alight in much the same way as the recent Imsirovic/Schindler scandal in poker.

The Norwegian’s Mourinho-inspired quote – “If I speak I am in big trouble” – is thought by almost everybody to be a not-so-subtle hint that he believed his round three opponent, Hans Niemann, had somehow cheated, but he couldn’t outright say it.

Without any specific allegation being made, however, it has been left up to the internet to discuss all the possibilities, which will sound familiar to those of you who have followed the Mike Postle case, as well as the recent Imsirovic/Schindler scandal.

Access to a mobile phone with an engine running to give hints? An inside job where an official or sidekick offers surreptitious help? A hacking job against Carlsen’s computer to discover his preparation? A “traitor” in Carlsen’s camp giving information?

All these possibilities and more have hit the ground running as the rumour mill went into overdrive...and anal beads even put in an appearance, much to Liv Boeree’s amusement...

Not a shred of direct evidence has emerged in the few days since Carlsen quit, but circumstantial evidence has been seen aplenty, starting with the fact that Niemann was banned for cheating online, with chess and poker expert Jennifer Shahade keeping Twitter updated...

Shahade explained further:

“Should clarify to non-chess players that online cheating is SO much more common than live cheating- so the fact that someone cheated online is not a clear sign on its own that someone would cheat live.”
She then gave some examples of why that might be so:

  1. It's much much easier
  2. The cost of being caught is lower
  3. Cheaters probably think it's less "unethical" because a higher % do it/and it's not face to face.”

There have been many cases of chess players caught red-handed while cheating live, the most recent the case of Latvian Grandmaster Igors Rausis, who was caught using a chess engine on a mobile phone in the toilet during a game.


This could be considered the same as the online poker Real-Time Assistance (RTA) cheating Imsirovic and Schindler are accused of, had they done it in a live setting. Also the Mike Postle “crotchgate” scandal, believed to involve accessing cards via a mobile phone comes to mind.

Another huge case in the chess world saw French Grandmaster Sebastian Feller and two accomplices banned for using engine help and basic signalling to cheat at the Olympiad in 2012.

In the poker world, this was akin to adding RTA to the collusion case involving Jean-Paul Pasqualini and Cedric Rossi at the 2009 Partouche Poker Tour, where the dastardly duo were spotted signalling to each other (video below, in French)

Poker has recently been attempting to get to grips with cheating and cheating allegations, the newly-formed Poker Integrity Council headed by Jason Koon a step in the right direction.

FIDE, the international body of chess, can theoretically take action against Carlsen and/or Niemann if a complaint is made.

Their Ethics and Disciplinary Commission have previously considered cases of cheating and cheating allegations, and it might be useful for poker players to take a look at some of the cases listed here, in particular the four cases involving Rausis, Nigalidze, Solozhenkin and Sandu.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the Niemann/Carlsen incident continues, with Niemann refuting the allegations vehemently in a must-see interview...


What do you think of the recent cheating allegations in chess and poker? Let us know your views on our social media channels!


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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more

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