If you thought that chess was boring, the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit soon sorted that out.
However, some recent cheating accusations have just made the discipline a hell of a lot kinkier.
Indeed, 19-year old chess grandmaster Hans Niemann is currently at the heart of a scandal that is rocking the chess world. Or should that be, making the chess world vibrate.
Niemann has been hit with accusations on social media which state that the only reason he won against the world’s top grandmaster Magnus Carlsen earlier this month is that the young player cheated using wireless vibrating anal beads.
You read that right.
What happened (before anal beads got involved)?
The 4 September win at the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis represented something of a meteoric rise for Niemann and was unexpected, as Magnus had not been beaten in 53 sittings. Niemann was the lowest ranking of the 10 players in Saint Louis, and had become the first chess player to beat Carlsen in more than two years.
Carlsen decided to withdraw from the event following his loss.
“I’ve withdrawn from the tournament. I’ve always enjoyed playing in the Saint Louis Chess Club, and hope to be back in the future,” he tweeted.
The five-time World Chess champion also added a video of football coach Jose Mourinho’s 2020 news conference speech held after a game in which his team may have lost due to questionable officiating: “I prefer not to speak. If I speak I am in big trouble… and I don’t want to be in big trouble.”
No further explanation was provided, but many interpreted Carlsen’s post as insinuating that Niemann cheated during the game.
To further spice things up, the same day Carlsen withdrew (5 September), the World Chess Hall of Fame suspiciously decided to beef up its anti-cheating security measures. This included scanning Niemann before his next match.
Is Niemann guilty?
Though no concrete evidence has yet been brought forward to back accusations of cheating, a recent interview in which Niemann acknowledged that he had violated the rules in the past by using computer assistance in online games made the rounds.
In response, Chess.com stated that it had “privately removed” Niemann’s account from its website and the Global Championship in Toronto decided to uninvite Niemann.
Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura said on his Twitch stream that “there was a period of over six months where Hans did not play any prize-money tournaments on Chess.com. That is the one thing that I’m going to say and that is the only thing I’m going to say on this topic.”
Except he didn’t limit it to that, saying that it was “a known fact” that Niemann had previously cheated on Chess.com, referring to the aforementioned interview.
As for grandmaster Eric Hansen, he added that he had removed Niemann from chess events he had hosted due to cheating suspicions.
When does the sex toy come into play?
The issue was already proving to be one of the biggest chess scandals in years, especially because it concerns Niemann, who is notorious in the chess community for his difficult behaviour.
Then, somewhat predictably when it comes to rumour mongering and drama stirring, Tesla CEO Elon Musk waded in.
Musk shared a video on Twitter of an influencer discussing the rumour that Niemann used a vibrating sex toy during the competition in order to cheat.
In a now deleted tweet, Musk even posted a Musk-version of a quote by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, writing: "Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one can see (cause it's in ur butt)."
Eventually, Niemann addressed the cheating allegations, admitting he had cheated during virtual Chess.com tournaments when he was younger. However, Niemann said, he never cheated IRL.
“I have never cheated in an over-the-board game. If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it,” Niemann offered. “I don’t care. Because I know I am clean. You want me to play in a closed box with zero electronic transmission, I don’t care.”
Still, social media couldn’t get enough of it:
So, a statistical anomaly? A targeted attack spread because Niemann’s abrasive personality is not to the community’s liking? Simply another case of social media being the bin juice of humanity? Or has Niemann elevated the dark art of cheating to a new elaborate level after watching Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels one too many times?
Whatever the case may be, if the Chess Federation want to strip players bare for the games just to avoid any cheating allegations, their viewing figures may well spike.
Let’s just hope that the second season of The Queen’s Gambit don’t take any ideas from this cheating saga – although Netflix are now greenlighting NC-17 rated content, no one needs to see squirming players climaxing before a checkmate.