Updated Oct 25, 2022 - Sports

Chess grandmaster files $100M defamation lawsuit over cheating allegations

US international grandmaster Hans Niemann waits his turn to move.

Grandmaster Hans Niemann waits his turn to move. Photo: Tim Vizer/AFP via Getty Images

Hans Niemann, a 19-year-old American chess grandmaster, is suing world champion Magnus Carlsen and others for $100 million in damages on the heels of an alleged cheating scandal.

The big picture: The lawsuit — which Niemann says "speaks for itself" — says that Carlsen, Chess.com and others have colluded to "blacklist" Niemann from the chess world.

Chess cheating allegations

Catch up quick: Earlier this month, a Chess.com investigation claimed Niemann likely cheated in at least 100 online games, Axios' Kendall Baker reports.

  • The accusation came after Carlsen claimed Niemann was a cheater during the Sinquefield Cup competition, a moment that shook up the chess world. Niemann admitted that he cheated twice as a kid.
The latest

Details: Niemann claims in the lawsuit that the cheating allegations against him "destroyed" his career and "ruined his life."

  • Niemann says he is not allowed to compete in many of the top chess tournaments now following the cheating accusations.
  • The complaint also alleges that Chess.com teamed with Carlsen to create these allegations because Chess.com is, according to the lawsuit, trying to buy Carlsen’s “Play Magnus” app. The offer for such a purchase was made in August.
  • Niemann has accused the defendants — which includes Chess.com chief chess officer Danny Rensch and the Play Magnus app — of libel and slander.
  • The American grandmaster denies any wrongdoing, saying in the lawsuit the allegations have been debunked.

What they're saying: Latham & Watkins, the law firm representing Chess.com, said Thursday in a statement emailed to Axios that Niemann confessed to cheating after the Sinquefield Cup so the "fallout is of his own making."

  • "We are saddened by Hans Niemann’s decision to take legal action against Chess.com," said attorneys Nima Mohebbi and Jamie Wine in the statement. "We believe his lawsuit hurts the game of chess and its devoted players and fans around the world."
  • "There is no merit to Hans’ allegations, and Chess.com looks forward to setting the record straight on behalf of its team and all honest chess players," the law firm said.

Carlsen's attorney, Craig Reiser of Axinn, told Axios in an emailed statement that "Niemann has an admitted history of cheating and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to deflect blame onto others. His legal claims are without merit and we will vigorously defend against them.”

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This story has been updated with additional details.

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