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Interviews Nov 16, 2022 | 12:27 PMby Tarjei Svensen

Anand on Carlsen-Niemann: "There's not going to be any proof"

5-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand spoke about cheating in chess and shared his thoughts on the scandal involving Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann.

Vishy Anand spoke about cheating in chess at the 20th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi | photo: Hindustan Times

The Indian chess legend spoke during the 20th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi last week, where the rising Indian prodigy old D. Gukesh also was present.

Anand commented on the scandal that has rocked chess and made headlines all over the world:

I saw Carlsen-Niemann. And I thought, 'wow, great game by this kid!' When you play Carlsen, you desperately want to get it over with. Many people have this problem, they want to get it over with. They can't handle the tension of playing him for a couple of hours. So even if you have a better position, they use that as a springboard to liquidate into a drawn ending and take the draw.

Hans Niemann's win over Magnus Carlsen in Round 3 of the Sinquefield Cup sent shockwaves around the world | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

But Niemann kept conserving his advantage, even though he worked hard, converted very well, and I thought Carlsen literally cracked at the end. From his moves, you thought he cracked.

Niemann sensationally defeated the World Champion in the 3rd round of the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. The day after Carlsen didn't show up for his 4th round game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. 

He posted the following tweet:

Anand continued:

Then I read this very cryptic tweet of his. I had no clue what he was referring to. Then Hikaru, I think, started on his stream mentioning how 'People have said Niemann is cheating.' So this is how things started. Then it hit me, 'Oh, they are actually accusing him of cheating. Do they have any proof?' One thing is that the moves didn't say anything to me. 'Am I naive, or are my colleagues paranoid?' Maybe I am too trusting, or maybe I have gotten into the habit of 'what I cannot prove, it's better to keep your mouth shut', you know, that sort of approach.

Anand is not only among the world's top rated players, but has stepped into chess politics for the first time and is now the FIDE Deputy President. Arkady Dvorkovich, the FIDE President, publicly criticized Carlsen for his actions in the weeks following the incident.

With computer assistance, there will be no smoking gun. You are not going to get someone at the scene of the crime. You have to take, to some degree, your gut feeling. There are quite a few strong chess players who have no particular reason to swim in these waters, but choose to suspect him. I keep an open mind at this point, but there are commissions now investigating the matter, trying to look at it slowly.

The Carlsen/Niemann saga is now under investigation by FIDE's Fair Play Commission. The Norwegian World Champion risks suspension for making an allegation without evidence, while the US teenager could also face consequences if sufficient evidence of cheating is found. The Indian legend commented:

There is not going to be any proof. We'll have to conclude that, first, a crime is done, and then that somebody actually commited it.

In October, Hans Niemann filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura,, Daniel Rensch and the Play Magnus Group over the accusations.

Hans Niemann scored a decent result in the US Championship last month and finished shared 5th, breaking 2700 | photo: Lennart Ootes, St. Louis Chess Club

Speaking to TV 2 before the ongoing Tour Finals in San Francisco, Carlsen denied any suggestions that the lawsuit led to his somewhat disapponting performance in the Aimchess Rapid and the World Fischer Random Championship:

In general I am very good at blocking this kind of thing out. Whenever I make poor moves, I will never blame it on that. I don't feel that it's a problem for my play.

He suspects illness affected his play.

I've had some degrees of a cold the last three weeks, so that makes me a bit unsure about where I stand. It's also about confidence and flow. It's something that is difficult to find, and easy to lose.

Hans Niemann, who has become perhaps the most famous chess player in the world, is heading a weakened US team in the World Team Championship that begins in Israel this week.

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