Chess player Hans Niemann has launched a $100 million lawsuit against a group including world champion Magnus Carlsen, after public claims that the American grandmaster cheated.
Niemann, 19, is seeking damages from Carlsen, popular chess streamer Hikaru Nakamura, the chess.com website, and others over allegations that they colluded to “egregiously defame” him.
The lawsuit, which was filed at the Eastern Missouri District Court and confirmed by Niemann on social media, is the latest escalation in an extraordinary row which has rocked chess.
Niemann made headlines by defeating Carlsen in an over-the-board match at the Sinquefield Cup in early September, with the Norwegian five-time world champion later withdrawing from the tournament.
Carlsen then resigned after just one move in an online match against Niemann at the Julius Baer Generation Cup later that month, fueling rumors that he suspected the American of cheating.
Carlsen, 31, went public with his accusations in a bombshell statement in which he described Niemann’s progress as “unusual.”
“Throughout our game in the Sinquefield Cup I had the impression that he wasn’t tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions, while outplaying me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do. This game contributed to changing my perspective,” Carlsen wrote.
Niemann has admitted to cheating in two online matches when he was aged 12 and 16, which he says he deeply regrets, but denies ever cheating in an over-the-board contest.
A chess.com report released in October contested Niemann’s claims, alleging that he had “likely cheated” in dozens of matches online, but with no claims regarding over-the-board meetings.
Niemann’s lawsuit alleges that chess.com, Carlsen, and others are essentially trying to blackball him from the elite of the sport.
“Enraged that the young Niemann, fully 12 years his junior, dared to disrespect the ‘King of Chess,’ and fearful that the young prodigy would further blemish his multi-million dollar brand by beating him again Carlsen viciously and maliciously retaliated against Niemann,” the lawsuit claims.
Niemann, who is ranked number 40 in the world, has been competing amid ramped-up security measures at the US championship in St. Louis, where the Californian finished tied for fifth place this week after a strong recovery in the latter stages of the tournament.
“I’ve definitely been humbled a lot in this tournament” said the teenager, according to the FT, defiantly adding: “I’m a competitive chess player on the path to becoming a world champion.”