Teenage chess grandmaster Hans Niemann “probably cheated” in more than 100 online matches, including prize money matches, according to a survey by one of the sport’s most popular websites.
The 72-page Chess.com report was released Tuesday, a month after controversy erupted at a top tournament when the world chess champion accused the 19-year-old American of cheating.
According to the report, first referenced by the Wall Street Journal, Niemann privately confessed in 2020 that he had cheated on the website’s chief chess officer, which resulted in him being temporarily banned from the platform.
According to the report, Chess.com closed Niemann’s account in September, given his previous admissions of cheating, suspicions about his recent play and concerns about his steep, inconsistent rise in rank.
“While we have no doubt that Hans is a talented player, we note that his results are statistically extraordinary,” the report said.
Niemann has previously publicly admitted to cheating in online matches between the ages of 12 and 16, but the investigation alleged that he had cheated more recently.
Niemann did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Chess.com has millions of users and, according to its owners, hosts more than 10 million chess games per day. To detect suspected cheating, the website uses software that flags suspicious moves by comparing a player’s moves to those of a chess engine. According to the report, less than 0.14% of players ever cheat on the site.
The controversy started last month when world chess champion Magnus Carlsen accused Niemann of cheating at the $350,000 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri.
“I believe Niemann has cheated more – and more recently – than he has publicly admitted,” the 31-year-old Norwegian said in a statement on Twitter.
“His progress across the board was unusual, and during our Sinquefield Cup game I had the impression that he was not tense or even fully focused on the play in critical positions, while he outplayed me as black in a way I think that only a handful of players can do. This game helped change my perspective.”
Carlsen withdrew from the tournament after losing to Niemann. Chess’s global governing body, FIDE, announced last week that it is investigating Carlsen’s allegations.
Chess across the board is played face-to-face rather than online. Carlsen gave no details on how Niemann may have cheated.
In an interview with the St. Louis Chess Club last month, Niemann said he never cheated at the board games.
“I cheated on random games on Chess.com. I was confronted. I confessed. And this is the biggest mistake of my life,” he said. And I’m completely ashamed. I’m telling the world because I don’t want any misrepresentations and no rumors. I’ve never cheated in a board game. And except when I was 12 years old, I have never cheated in a tournament with prize money.”
According to the Chess.com report, cheating in an over-the-board setting “can involve a variety of methods, such as: hand signals from a nearby coach or access to a phone in the bathroom, a hidden device in a shoe or a wire, or buzzer that is to the body.”
The report said Chess.com had not normally investigated board game cheating, but it believed Niemann’s appearances in some live games “deserve further investigation based on the data.”
“In our opinion, there is no direct evidence to show that Hans cheated in the September 4, 2022 match with Magnus, or prove that he cheated in other OTB games in the past,” the report said.