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Hans Niemann And Magnus Carlsen Announce A Reluctant Ceasefire

US international grandmaster Hans Niemann waits his turn to move during a second-round chess game against Jeffery Xiong on the second day of the Saint Louis Chess Club Fall Chess Classic in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 6, 2022. - Niemann said on October 5 that he "won't back down," after the chess platform reported he has "probably cheated more than 100 times" in online games. (Photo by Tim Vizer / AFP) (Photo by TIM VIZER/AFP via Getty Images)
Tim Vizer/Getty Images

Nearly one year after Hans Niemann shocked the chess world by defeating five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup, the ridiculous saga that spiraled out of that match is over. Niemann, Carlsen, and released a joint statement on Monday announcing an end to their tripartite hostilities and a restoration of Niemann's account—as of writing he was actively online, though not currently accepting challenges—a final resolution that all parties say they began working toward after a federal judge in Missouri dismissed Niemann's outrageous lawsuit two months earlier.

Considering the intensity of this grandmaster feud, it's a bit funny for it to end with nothing accomplished. The beef began last September when Niemann beat Carlsen with real flair, playing a sharp Nimzo-Indian defense then talking some frankly wild shit afterward, building off trash talk from earlier that summer. Carlsen then withdrew from the tournament while hinting that something dodgy was happening; streamer and grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura claimed that Carlsen probably had reason to believe Niemann had cheated in their game, exhuming old evidence of other top players expressing skepticism about the legitimacy of Niemann's record. Eric "ChessBrah" Hansen, Nakamura's erstwhile sparring partner, emerged to giggle at the theory that Niemann had cheated via anal beads, which Elon Musk and others then turbocharged. Niemann defended himself, said he'd play nude if it got people to believe his innocence, and finished sixth at Sinquefield.

Two weeks later, Carlsen matched up with Niemann at a rapid tournament and resigned after two moves, sending a message that he wasn't over this yet. Carlsen finally accused Niemann of cheating, first obliquely and then directly, and while Niemann copped to cheating online as a preteen, he vehemently denied the accusations. Carlsen's friends at put out a lengthy dossier detailing "many remarkable signals and unusual patterns in Hans’s path as a player," with regards to both his progression on their platform as well as over the board, which is not within the site's purview. Meanwhile, was in the process of acquiring Carlsen's PlayMagnus group in a $82 million deal. Niemann continued to deny, pointing out that Carlsen,, and Nakamura are three of the most powerful entities in chess, and after a very silly time at the U.S. Chess Championships, he filed an obviously specious lawsuit against his three foes, seeking an absurd amount of money in damages. Since then, Carlsen won some tournaments and Niemann stayed out of the public eye. With Monday's statements, the yearlong fight had reached the most frustrating of chess endgames: a stalemate.

Of the three statements, Carlsen's was the shortest and the most interesting. Niemann termed the dismissal of the suit and his reinstatement as "mutually acceptable," while said it stood by its report on Niemann's activities on their platform and stressed that it had no proof of any over-the-board cheating. Carlsen's statement had a begrudging tone. "I acknowledge and understand’s report," he said, "including its statement that there is no determinative evidence that Niemann cheated in his game against me at the Sinquefield Cup. I am willing to play Niemann in future events, should we be paired together." That is a stilted and cold piece of legalese; saying there is no evidence of cheating is different than saying he believes Niemann didn't cheat. My interpretation is that Carlsen has opinions on the matter that he doesn't want to defend in court.

Niemann is now a free man, but his return to the competitive chess scene will not be triumphant. He still copped to cheating a few times as a younger player, and the biggest chess platform in the world released a 72-page document calling him a clown. He'll have to prove his quality as a chess player all over again. Hopefully he's paired up with Carlsen as soon as possible.

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