Just days after the governing body of chess said that it would investigate claims that Hans Niemann had cheated, a report by an online chess site has concluded that the American grandmaster cheated in at least 100 online games.
While Niemann has publicly admitted to cheating, claiming that he has only done so twice as a youth, the 72-page report by Chess.com, the world's most popular chess platform which is patronised by many leading players, disputes this.
It concluded that he "likely received illegal assistance in more than 100 online games, as recently as 2020," reported the Wall Street Journal, which reviewed the Chess.com report.
The newspaper added that the site uses a variety of tools to detect cheating, "including analytics that compare moves to those recommended by chess engines, which are capable of beating even the greatest human players every time". It also monitors behaviour such as players opening up other browsers while playing.
The Chess.com. report, which was released on Tuesday, added that Niemann had confessed to the allegations privately, resulting in the site banning him for a period of time.
It also noted his meteoric rise through the ranks for non-virtual competitions, adding that his improvement has been "statistically extraordinary". However, it stopped short of accusing him of cheating in the over-the-board format.
The chess world has been shaken for weeks by the controversy, since Norway's Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup in the United States after losing to the 19-year-old American.
In September, Carlsen's abrupt withdrawal from a match against Niemann in the Julius Baer Generation Cup online tournament reignited the furore and the 31-year-old Norwegian later openly accused his American rival of cheating, writing in a letter published on Twitter: "I believe that Niemann has cheated more - and more recently - than he has publicly admitted."
Niemann has acknowledged cheating online twice, when he was 12 and 16, but says he has never played fraudulently in a face-to-face match and is even willing to play nude to prove his honesty.
The International Chess Federation, Fide, says it is conducting its own investigation into the Niemann-Carlsen affair. It will create an investigatory panel comprising three members of its fair play commission to look into the claims.
"The focus of the investigation would be two-fold: checking the world champion's claims of alleged cheating by Niemann and Niemann's self-statement regarding online cheating," Fide said.
The Chess.com report also noted that Niemann is not alone in his cheating. It said dozens of grandmasters had been caught cheating on the website, including four of the top-100 players in the world who had confessed. AFP