After allegations of fraud by five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, the young US player Hans Niemann sued the Norwegian. In the lawsuit filed in a Missouri court on Thursday, Niemann is seeking $100 million (€102 million) in damages from Carlsen, Carlsen’s company Play Magnus, and US chess players Danny Rensch and Hikaru Nakamura. Niemann accuses them of defamation and slander as well as collusion to destroy his reputation and existence.
The controversy surrounding Carlsen and Niemann has been causing a stir in the chess world for weeks. Carlsen withdrew from a chess tournament in the United States in early September after Niemann beat him there. Two weeks later, Carlsen abandoned a game against Niemann at an online chess tournament after just one move. At the end of September, the 31-year-old then made concrete allegations of fraud against 19-year-old Niemann for the first time. Carlsen said Niemann cheated more than he admitted, even recently.
Niemann had admitted to cheating twice in online chess tournaments in the past – once at the age of 12 and once at the age of 16. However, Niemann assured that he had never cheated in a face-to-face tournament. He even offered to play naked so trickery could be ruled out.
In early September, chess website chess.com banned Niemann from continuing to use the platform because he had “probably cheated in more than 100 online chess games” at chess.com.
In his lawsuit, Niemann accuses Norwegian Carlsen and US players Rensch and Nakamura of causing “devastating damage” to his reputation and career. After Niemann’s win at the Sinquefield Cup in Missouri, Carlsen “viciously retaliated by falsely accusing Niemann, without evidence, of somehow cheating during their face-to-face play,” the lawsuit states.
Chess.com has banned Niemann from its website and all future events “to lend credibility to Carlsen’s baseless and defamatory allegations of cheating.” Chess streamer Nakamura “reinforced” Carlsen’s “false cheating allegations” in hours of live video.
Niemann also suggests in his lawsuit that his ban from chess.com came under pressure from Carlsen, whose company Play Magnus is being acquired by chess.com for $83 million. Carlsen, as the “king of chess”, assumes “that he can do whatever he wants in chess and that he can get away with it,” criticizes Niemann.