Two days after Chess.com released a 72-page report detailing Grandmaster Hans Niemann’s repeated history of online cheating on its website, the beleaguered pro is now, much to everyone’s surprise, competing in 2022’s US Chess Championship. And while the internet has cracked plenty of jokes about how, exactly, Niemann might be cheating in over-the-board play, it seems that some of the suspicions about his conduct were partially validated by the amped-up security measures at the St. Louis Chess Club that is hosting the event. I am sorry to say we’re still going to be talking about anal beads.
To get in at all, contestants found themselves subjected to a security check that is unlike anything the competition has seen before. During the livestream, viewers could see a guard taking time to scan people up and down with a device, sometimes briefly pausing at specific body parts. Presumably, it’s all in favor of trying to find hidden cheating devices, especially after Niemann’s extremely public fallout with reigning five-time World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen.
While there’s not been any actual, concrete proof Niemann has cheated during play in a real-world setting, Carlsen and some of the chess community have accused Niemann of funny business. The suspicions are hinged on Niemann’s previous history of online cheating, which per the report were incidents as recent as 2020, but also due to the strange way in which Niemann behaves. Unlike most top players, Niemann doesn’t seem nearly as bothered during high-stakes competitions. And the chess community hasn’t been happy with Niemann’s bizarre commentary on the strategies that have made him one of the fastest-rising Grandmasters in the world. Things got bad enough that Magnus rage-quit after just one move in a tournamentall in protest against Niemann’s continued competition.
The St. Louis locale’s director spoke to the added security measures during the competition’s livestream, where the commentator interviewing him stated that Niemann deserved to be there.
“Obviously we want to ensure that our events are held with the highest integrity possible,” he said. “And we want to ensure fair play across all the tournaments. I want the players to feel, knowing that when they come to play in St. Louis, that we take it very seriously,” the director added.
Read More: Leading Chess Site Asked Top 100 Player Unmasked As Cheater To Confess (And They Did)
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He noted that the championship has always employed metal detectors, but now they’ve added radio frequency scanners that are meant to capture any potential electronic signaling emanating from players. They now also check for silicon devices, which they claim scanners can pick up even if the device isn’t turned on. In addition to “physical scanning,” the director also said the competition has a cheating expert on deck watching events unfold, Ken Regan. And just to be extra safe, the tournament also instituted a 30-minute delay on the livestream, too.
When Niemann got scanned, security seemed slightly more intense than it did for the other players. Everyone got scanned from head to toe, but security seemed to linger for a few extra moments on parts of Niemann’s body, at one point turning him around. To me, it seemed as if they checked Niemann’s butt a little more closely than they did other competitors. I’m sure they weren’t checking for anal beads, the theorized method the internet jokes Niemann must be using to cheat. At least, I’m sure they weren’t checking for just that, or specifically that. We have contacted the St. Louis Chess Club, along with Niemann, about the additional security measures.
According to a local newspaper, viewers were allowed in the room at the start of the proceedings, but were quickly escorted out. The director notes that even media had to leave electronics outside, and they were all accompanied by chess club staff.
Niemann, it should be noted, won the first round against Grandmaster Christopher Yoo. Here’s Chess.com with the breakdown of how things went down:
The increasingly-popular Jobava London [system of chess play] was the weapon of choice for Yoo though things quickly turned around as the young GM was repelled through the center.
Despite the healthy advantage, Niemann found himself with seconds left on the clock and needed to make several precise moves to make it to the time control at move 40. On move 36, Yoo helped his opponent with the blunderous 36.e6??
Perhaps the most entertaining moment came after the showdown, when Niemann got interviewed about his match. He was defiant of any line of questioning.
“I think this game is a message to everyone,” he said. “You know, this entire thing started with me saying ‘chess speaks for itself’ and I think this game spoke for itself and showed the chess player that I am and also showed that I am not going to back down and I’m going to play my best chess here regardless of the presure that I’m under. That’s all I want to say about this game. You know, chess speaks for itself, that’s all I can say. You can leave it to your own interpretation, but thank you.”
Stunned, the commentator asked if Niemann was sure about this.
“That’s all I’d like to say, yes. If it was such a beautiful game, I don’t need to describe it,” he answered.