Top Grandmasters react to the Carlsen-Niemann issue from the Sinquefield Cup including Nakamura, Caruana, Aronian, and more.
The news of Magnus Carlsen's withdrawal from the Sinquefield Cup took the Chess world by storm. Not only did he just lose his undefeated streak to Hans Niemann, but he also made a record of leaving a tournament midway. Something he has never done before. But the attention of the community falls on Carlsen's withdrawal announcement, which had a cryptic hint toward possible false play.
Now this, if true, is a serious allegation. There is no evidence against Hans Niemann so far and Carlsen basically dropped a bomb
that left the entire community hanging. In times like these, we look towards their peers - all the other Grandmasters and chess experts, for their opinions.
Hikaru Nakamura has high suspicion against Hans Niemann
Naturally, most of the chess community gravitated towards Hikaru Nakamura's Twitch stream. Holding 25K concurrent viewers, Nakamura discussed the issue. Initially, he commented:
"This is probably something I should not say, but I will say this anyway. There was a period of over 6 months where Hans did not play any prize money tournaments on Chess.com. That's the only thing I'm going to say on this topic."
But of course, that wasn't the only thing he said, because he literally doesn't care.
Throughout the stream, he highlighted some fishy elements of Niemann. Regarding the rumor of Hans getting caught cheating on Chess.com, Nakamura said "that is not up for debate, that is a known fact"
A tweet by "Unsubstantiated Chess Rumors" stated that Hans Niemann was banned twice on Chess.com for engine cheating. Nakamura calls this tweet 'legitimate'.
: Hans Niemann has responded to Hikaru Nakamura's suspicions. We covered his full response in this article.
"This analysis is not a 2700 level analysis."
Niemann had claimed to prepare for Carlsen's specific opening which led to a successful game for him. For Nakamura, he doesn't feel like Niemann's statement fits his gameplay. He commented
that if Niemann had truly prepared for that opening, he wouldn't take long to move and would rather 'blitz it out'.
"If you are super well prepared, and you looked at something that morning, you blitz it out the first 20 moves. You don't pretend, you don't use 12 minutes, you use 3 or 4 minutes on one specific move."
Nakamura also reacted to Hans Niemann's post-game analysis after his match against Firouzja Alireza. Throughout the clip, Nakamura was clearly critical of Niemann's analysis.
"This is really weird. This analysis is not a 2700 level analysis."
Regarding Carlsen's withdrawal, Hikaru Nakamura emphasized the fact that it is out of Carlsen's character and that he wouldn't do it in a million years.
"The thing about Magnus withdrawing is, to me, it just seems like Magnus think (Hans) cheated. Magnus would never do this in a million years, he just doesn't do that. He's the ultimate competitor, he's a world champion. He wouldn't do this unless he strongly believes Hans is cheating with a very strong conviction."
On a Twitch stream, Eric Hansen was similarly critical of Niemann's analysis, describing it as incoherent.
"[Niemann's analysis] was incoherent. Not only was it incoherent, but he was also incoherent in trying to give incoherent lines. And there's no luck or randomness in these top-level games where you just drift into playing level 2800 chess."
When asked about the match between Carlsen and Niemann, Nepomniachtchi called the match "more than impressive." He also said that Carlsen probably had a reason as to why he withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup.
Fabiano Caruana wasn't too keen on taking sides or making assumptions. He acknowledged the rumors going around regarding the cheating allegation. He also stated that Carlsen hasn't given a specific reason as to why he withdrew and without that reason, he won't say no more.
"I guess there's a lot of rumors already. I assume [Carlsen] hasn't given a reason yet why he decided not to play, but probably some people have a decent idea of what he's alluding to..what he has a problem with, I don't know. I'm not going to say anything else without it."
Aronian has been the only GM so far to tilt towards Hans Niemann. According to him, when young players perform well, it's typical that accusations come to them.
"It quite often happens when young players play very well, there are always accusations towards them. All of my colleagues are pretty much paranoid, and quite often I was the one telling them, come on guys, I know myself, I'm an idiot and I'm a good player.' I always think that young players can play very well, there is no reason for them not to play well."
He added, "I've played against Magnus when he was very young and I've learned from him a great deal."
What do you think of this issue? Is Hans a powerful prodigy who got the biggest win of his life or is Carlsen's cryptic hint somewhat true?