Magnus Carlsen’s Lawyers Call Hans Niemann’s Lawsuit A Big Dumb Publicity Stunt
4:09 PM EST on December 5, 2022
Neither party in the Hans Niemann–Magnus Carlsen blood feud has issued a public comment on the other for almost two months now, which, while a disappointing development for those who enjoy the bombast of Niemann or the steady, understated play and manner of Carlsen, is probably the prudent move when the affair has resulted in a $100 million lawsuit. This all began after Carlsen walked out of a tournament after losing to Niemann, then kicked into high gear when Carlsen finally accused him of cheating. Niemann filed his suit in mid-October shortly after hard cheating allegations were made, alleging that Carlsen, Chess.com, and Hikaru Nakamura inflicted "devastating damages" on his "reputation, career, and life by egregiously defaming him and unlawfully colluding to blacklist him from the profession to which he has dedicated his life."
In responses filed Friday, lawyers for both Carlsen and Chess.com asked that the suit be dismissed, with Carlsen's lawyers alleging that Niemann "wants to cash in by blaming others for the fallout from his own admitted misconduct." Chess.com's legal team, meanwhile, was a bit ruder in the opening paragraph of their motion to dismiss. Niemann "openly pronounced that his 'lawsuit speaks for itself,'" they wrote. "He is right. It is so plainly without merit that it could have been brought only as a public relations stunt." Both filings seek to make the same two points: Niemann has failed to meet the legal standard of proof for slander, libel, and tortious interference, and, most crucially, Niemann has undermined his entire case by admitting to cheating.
Niemann's suit spends a good deal of time on the Chess.com dossier that the platform released in October, a dossier that detailed his history of cheating on their website but also dedicated itself to speculating on Niemann's over-the-board record. That discrepancy was of great concern to Niemann's lawyers, who also noted that Chess.com was in the midst of an $83 million acquisition of Magnus Carlsen's Play Magnus group. Chess.com's filing points out that Niemann's suit only insinuates collusion between the two entities, while failing to present any evidence. They also note that his libel case falls apart because he's a public figure, ironically, a role that brought him into association with Play Magnus.
Indeed, Niemann alleges that he was "proudly touted" as a "brand ambassador" for Play Magnus—"an incredibly lucrative global brand and online chess company." He not only "travel[ed] the world to compete" in these tournaments but was paid to do so, raking in thousands of dollars in "appearance fees."Chess.com
Niemann's lawsuit downplayed all of the cheating accusations against him, writing them off as the small-time, extremely occasional actions of a child in non-tournament play trying to raise his ranking so he could play better opponents. He notably failed to address any of the detailed revelations from Chess.com's report, and the site and Carlsen both reiterate that everything that's happened to Niemann has been the result of his own reputation as a cheater. Niemann's complaint "leaves no doubt that his history of known misconduct is the reason that top-ranked chess players and tournament organizers question the integrity of his play," Carlsen's lawyers wrote. They later characterized the suit as "a series of grievances in search of a legal theory."
"Hans beat Magnus fairly. The way he was treated was not," Niemann's lawyers told the Wall Street Journal. "Hans is a winner on and off the board. We are confident his greatest victories are yet to come."
The uncertainty at the heart of this scandal remains unresolved, and likely will stay that way. There is probably no way of knowing whether or not Niemann cheated against Carlsen, no matter how much circumstantial evidence there is. It does seem clear that Niemann did cheat on Chess.com, though that is not the same as cheating in big-time tournaments, and I am no legal expert but it seems like Niemann's lawsuit is what the defendants allege it is: a nothingburger. FIDE, chess' governing body, is conducting an investigation of its own, so maybe that'll give us some answers whenever it drops.
Stay in touch
Sign up for our free newsletter