As chess champion Magnus Carlsen accuses an American grandmaster, coaches are trying to develop a virtuous love of the game in young players.
A couple of weeks ago, my pastor’s nine-year-old son, who plays chess for fun, asked me what I thought about “Hans.”
He was referring to Hans Niemann, the American 19-year-old chess grandmaster facing cheating allegations.
World chess champion Magnus Carlsen, one of the best players ever, abruptly withdrew last month from a big tournament after he lost to Niemann. Carlsen later put out a statement saying that he believed Niemann had cheated extensively in his career, and that he found their previous game together to be strange. In response Niemann admitted to cheating online when he was 12 years old and in one inconsequential game when he was 16 but has denied cheating in more serious tournaments.
No one can say how Niemann might have cheated. During online chess, players can sneak a look at a chess engine—a tool that shows the best possible moves. Cheating during in-person games is tougher to imagine: Perhaps a player is getting signals from a person in the room, sneaking a look at an engine during a trip to the bathroom, or wearing some kind of buzzer.
The money and status reached in the heights of chess don’t come close to professional sports like soccer or football—why risk your reputation? But the pressure to succeed, and sin while trying, is a human condition. Cheating in chess may be more tempting in a way, because a chess engine can turn anyone into one of the best players in the world. In baseball, a steroid taker or pitch stealer would still have to be really good at baseball.
After more global hubbub than chess has seen in decades, Chess.com (one of the main websites for online tournaments) put out a lengthy report showing that Niemann had likely cheated in more than 100 online games, …