In the popular imagination, the mysterious world of chess resembles a world of silence. However, the world of bishops and towers has been going through a moment of sound and fury for three weeks, which the latest outing from King Magnus Carlsen has further fueled. The undisputed best player on the planet, for a good decade, is published a statement on the night of Monday to Tuesday where he accused Hans Niemann (19) of fraud.
This document is at the center of the third episode of a saga that begins at the beginning of the month. First action: the Norwegian (31) withdrew from the prestigious Sinquefield Cup after a surprise loss to the young American on September 4. Second action: a week later, Carlsen threw in the towel after a punch , during an online meeting against the same opponent. Unheard of behavior, as Arnaud Duplantis refused to pole vault against a competitor who usually tops 5.70 m.
“I believe that Niemann cheated more, and more recently, than he admitted to the public,” said Carlsen, summoned to explain his epidermal reactions to some luminaries, including Garry Kasparov. “His head-to-head progress is unusual,” he continued, surprised by the California Olympian’s calmness and even casualness, even in critical moments, and his way of defeating him “as few you players can do it”.
Admitting past fraud
However, Niemann, 49th in the world, is not supposed to be about the gratin likely to topple the emperor on the chessboard. “He knows a surprising development in two years, observes the French Fabien Libiszewski, international grand master. He is not bad, but he is not a good mega talent. There he entered the world elite. After his loss at the beginning of the month, Carlsen – “one of the three or five best players in history, maybe the best” according to Libiszewski – published a tweet accompanied by a video of José Mourinho Chelsea season: “I don’t want. to speak. If I speak, I will get in trouble. »
The Norwegian ended up talking, but couldn’t provide any evidence of recent fraud. After his resounding victory on September 4, Niemann admitted that he cheated online twice when he was 12 and 16 years old, but never face to face, and even said he was willing to play in Adam’s shoes to dispel doubts. . Because we’re not talking about Daniel Auteuil-style cheat sheets for dad The Under-Gifted.
This time, it is a question of technological doping, with possible earpieces or things that vibrate the body. The rumor of using an anal plug, incidentally, did much to bring the Carlsen-Niemann fight beyond the realm of chess. “It started from a delirium in a forum, but there is absolutely no support for that”, sweeps Fabien Libiszewski, who collaborates with the special YouTube channel Blitzstream, created by Kevin Bordi and strong with 175,000 subscriber.
The grand master emphasized the danger that misuse of technology brings to his discipline.
Worse than doping in sport. If I play tennis full like a mule, I don’t think I put up a point against an ATP rated player. Conversely, an ATP player who shows up to a computer will beat everyone else in chess. It can be unplayable, like a guy with bionic legs running 100m in three seconds. »
In fact, the world of chess has never been the same since Deep Blue dominated the charismatic Garry Kasparov on May 11, 1997. For the first time, a supercomputer defeated a human, the best on the planet. . Since then, artificial intelligence has always been made better, in a more reduced format. “Deep Blue is a building,” jokes Libiszewski. Now, even my smartphone can play chess better than me. »
The case of sulphurous Niemann, banned for several months by the reference site chess.com, was not a flash in the blue sky. The history of the discipline is full of more or less croquigolesque muddles.
In 2019, former French hopeful Sébastien Feller and two other players, including his coach Arnaud Hauchard, were given a six-month suspended prison sentence (pending appeal) by the court in Thionville (Moselle), for facts that started nine years ago, during the very famous Olympiad in Khanty-Mansïsk in Russia. Staying in France and following the games live, the third person simulates the moves to be played on the computer and sends it to the coach who is able to communicate it to his player.
Surprised by his mobile in the toilet
Also in 2019, the Czech grandmaster Igor Rausis, who has jumping results despite his 58 years, was shocked in the middle of the tournament in the toilets of Strasbourg. The 50-year-old consulted software on his laptop, hidden away like a bad movie.
“It’s hard to catch a cheater in the act,” Libiszewski said. So it is necessary to try to take steps, even if it is not very comfortable. One can imagine random searches after the game, scanners at the entrance to competitions. There may be a delay in the transfer of the games, half an hour difference than a live broadcast, so that someone following the game cannot transmit the information. Or else introduce random checks, like cycling. »
“Bad publicity for chess”
Without mentioning an Armstrong affair in the grand chessboard version, Libiszewski fears the consequences of a psychodrama that goes beyond the simple personalities of Carlsen and Niemann. “However, it is bad publicity for chess. Either way there are cheaters, and we don’t notice them. Even the world champion wrongly accused a young player. Carlsen is likely right, but that remains to be proven. »
The ball is in the court of the International Federation (Fide), very angry at the situation. On Friday, he issued a judgment-like statement from Solomon. Its president, Arkady Dvorkovich, believes that “there are better ways to handle this situation” than Carlsen’s outbursts. But he promised to “share the deep concern” of the Norwegian about the negative impact of cheating on the discipline and announced that preventive measures are already in place in the competitions organized by Fide. Only, in chess as anywhere else, cheaters are always one step ahead.