Huge chess scandal ends with begrudging agreement as one grandmaster threatens to 'name names' regardless

Chess pieces
(Image credit: Jordan Lye via Getty.)

Just under a year ago, the chess world exploded in a cheating scandal: world champion Magnus Carlsen, who some consider the finest to ever play the game, accused opponent Hans Niemann of cheating. Carlsen first implied this and, shortly afterwards, resigned against the same opponent after one move and released a statement saying "I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted.", the de facto home of the sport online (though FIDE remains the world governing body), then re-ignited the scandal with a report claiming Niemann had cheated in "over 100" online games.

For his part, Niemann robustly denied the claims and, shortly afterwards, filed a $100 million suit against Carlsen and multiple other defendants, including Carlsen's Play Magnus chess company,, Daniel Rensch, and Hikaru Nakamura. This suit was later dismissed, leading to private discussions between the parties involved.

A statement has now been released by saying that " and Hans Niemann have resolved their differences and are moving forward." It goes on to give a precis of events before saying that since June, "both sides have negotiated privately in a good-faith effort to resolve their issues and allow the chess world to move forward without further litigation. We are happy to share that all sides have reached an agreement."

"Hans has been fully reinstated to, and we look forward to his participation in our events," said. "We would also like to reaffirm that we stand by the findings in our October 2022 public report regarding Hans, including that we found no determinative evidence that he has cheated in any in-person games."

Note the distinction between in-person games and online: it is self-evidently much more difficult to cheat in-person. One of the reasons this story took off was the lurid speculation that swirled around how Niemann may have been able to do it, resulting in the absurd suggestion it could have been vibrating devices in a body cavity. Really.

World champion Magnus Carlsen's statement is brief and the language is chosen in such a way that he doesn't quite retract his original accusations:

"I acknowledge and understand’s report, including its statement that there is no determinative evidence that Niemann cheated in his game against me at the Sinquefield Cup," said Carlsen. "I am willing to play Niemann in future events, should we be paired together."

Hmmm. This is far from the apology Niemann would have been looking for, but it at least allows the younger player to get on with his chess career without this hanging over him. And Niemann's supporters will point especially to Carlsen's final line, and that willingness to play against him, which retracts Carlsen's previous assertion he wouldn't compete with Niemann.

Niemann says he's pleased the lawsuit has been resolved "in a mutually acceptable manner," adding, "I look forward to competing against Magnus in chess rather than in court."

Niemann will be allowed to play in "any and all events, and will be treated no differently from any other player." Carlsen has made no further comment on the settlement.

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, however, swiftly released a video about the statements, in which it is quite clear what his thoughts on the situation are. Nakamura says it's good that the incident is "behind us" and says much that came out of it was "very negative and definitely reflected very poorly on chess as a whole." But with this agreement, "everyone gets to go forward with their lives."

Nakamura then goes on, however, to point out certain facts like Niemann's slight decline in ELO (which could be down to anything), and at several points seems annoyed by the situation and how legal everything got. This does seem to be some sort of a resolution to events, but Nakamura says "many grandmasters" have thoughts about cheating in the game: "Down the road I may or may not name names. I might go into that in the future."

So: the players agree a stalemate. Perhaps it will hold. But it seems clear there is little love lost between the participants, and this may only be the end of the beginning.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."