Last year the chess world was engulfed by scandal after world champion Magnus Carlsen accused his opponent, grandmaster Hans Niemann, of cheating in a game which Niemann won. The allegation was explosive and, as allegations about Niemann's past behaviour came to light, one unverifiable and lurid detail took centre stage: that the player had cheated through the use of vibrating anal beads that, somehow, communicated on-the-board moves to him.
The notion always seemed absurd to me, but chess has a long history of players doing just about anything to gain an advantage, and despite there being no proof it stuck around the story. The scandal itself has now somewhat died down, after the pair and various other parties settled a $100 million lawsuit last month, and so of course now is the time Niemann has chosen to address the supposed device.
Niemann went on the show Piers Morgan Uncensored to talk about the incident itself and how he'd coped with the subsequent fallout (which risked destroying his career, and will certainly dog him for the rest of it). The player said it was a "disheartening" time and "it really has taught me a lot of very important lessons about life and chess."
The host Piers Morgan raised the question of the sex toy and asked Niemann specifically if he had ever used anal beads while playing chess.
"Well, your curiosity is a bit concerning, you know, maybe you're personally interested, but I can tell you no," said Niemann. "Categorically, no, of course not."
This is the first time Niemann has addressed the rumour and this will, hopefully, put the unsubstantiated rumour to rest. There will always be those who say that of course this is what Niemann would say. Which all reminds me of an old English idiom about wrestling with a pig in shit. You both get covered, but the pig likes it.