Two weeks after sending the chess world into a frenzy, grandmasters Hans Niemann and Magnus Carlsen faced each other in another tournament. The match ended abruptly after three moves. When the two met for a rapid game as part of the Julius Baer Generation Cup on Monday, Niemann opened with 1.d4, Carlsen responded by bringing out his king’s side knight, and after Niemann played 2.c4 to begin another Nimzo-Indian line, Carlsen switched off his webcam and resigned.
Those three opening moves were identical to the moves the two used during their now-infamous Sinquefield Cup meeting, although this time Niemann had the white pieces. In their last game, he surprised Carlsen by putting him in a strange position and won with the black pieces. Carlsen left the tournament abruptly, all but accused Niemann of cheating, chess Twitch streamers ran with the speculation, and Niemann defended himself in an incendiary interview while also copping to past cheating allegations when he was younger and his ban from Chess.com. Every major player and commentator in chess was drawn into the scandal’s orbit while its gravity was enhanced by the promise/threat of nude chess. Niemann, who said he’d play naked to prove he wasn’t cheating, finished sixth at Sinquefield.
Throughout it all, Carlsen has remained remarkably silent. While Niemann has repeatedly defended himself in public and the scandal’s firestarter Hikaru Nakamura has also defended lighting the match, Carlsen hasn’t commented since invoking the spirit of Jose Mourinho. His silence has allowed him to avoid the ire directed at Nakamura for accusing a guy of cheating without offering any proof, since all he did was shrug his shoulders and leave.
Today’s resignation is a clear escalation, even if Carlsen didn’t speak after the game and, per his father Henrik, won’t give any post-match interviews for the duration of the tournament. That’s baby behavior. If he’s going to go out of his way to publicly humiliate Niemann and make a show of his disdain for him, eventually he’ll have to present some evidence that he’s cheating, or at the bare minimum, say something. Niemann is a young grandmaster on the rise, the sort of player Carlsen will have the convenience of avoiding as long as he’s at the top of the game. Norwegian grandmaster Jon Ludvig Hammer, a former Carlsen teammate, went after his countryman on TV today and called for sanctions against him. “It’s the most unacceptable behavior to lose on purpose,” Hammer said. “The most unsportsmanlike [thing] you can do.” Perhaps the funniest part of Carlsen’s huffy exit today is that the Julius Baer Generation Cup is one of his pet tournaments, organized by his Play Magnus Group.