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Chess on 9/11


September 11 2022

On the 21st anniversary of September 11, I look at how online discussion about Niemann is devolving.

==September 11==

I have discussed my memories of the September 11 attack in 2021, 2019, and 2012; I was in Mexico when it happened.

One additional memory that sticks out is that not only did all of the USA TV channels we could watch in Mexico have non-stop coverage of the 9/11 attacks, but in addition all of the Mexican TV channels stopped showing telenovelas (Spanish language soap operas) and other shows to give Mexico non-stop coverage of the attacks in the days immediately after the attack.

I remember going to a local coffee shop one afternoon a day or two after the attacks and seeing two television screens where Mexican news anchors were still discussing the attack in Spanish.

==The Niemann conspiracy theories==

I’m starting to see conspiracy theories about Hans Niemann, the player who defeated Magnus Carlsen a week ago, fester on Reddit and Youtube, so I will address what I have seen so far.

I’ve seen comparisons to Lance Armstrong’s story, where it took over a decade for the doping allegations to finally end his career. A Lance Armstrong comparison isn’t valid. Even back in 2004, there was a French book, L.A. Confidentiel, which presented strong circumstantial evidence of Armstrong’s doping. On the other hand, there have been no suspicions of Niemann cheating over the board until Magnus left the Sinquefield Cup.

People are bringing up a theory that Niemann does better in tournaments using DGT boards, but this data has not been replicated by others. See this tweet and this tweet.

To quote the Wall Street Journal, “game screening of Niemann’s play by one of the world’s leading chess detectives, the University at Buffalo’s Kenneth Regan, haven’t found anything untoward.” His win over Carlsen has been scrutinized by others, including apparently former world champion Karpov; no one has found evidence of computer play in Niemann’s victory.

Allegations of Niemann using computer assistance in other over the board tournaments have been made, but if Niemann is able to beat the reigning world champion as Black without cheating, he can beat many other players without having to resort to cheating.

Some claim maybe there’s an undetectable cheating technology out there. If such a technology exists, it makes every single super grandmaster, not just Niemann, suspect.

Now that Hans Niemann has been cleared of cheating by the people running security where he has been playing chess this last week, the accusations of him cheating are starting to go down a tin foil hat conspiracy theory rabbit hole. I expect better from chess players, who need to use logic and intelligence to play well.

I understand Niemann has cheated online, but he claims to have not done it since he was 16, and in our society, with the exception of the most egregious crimes, anything someone does when they are under 18 is forgiven and forgotten on their 18th birthday. While claims Niemann has cheated other times, they do not claim he cheated since becoming 18. Regardless, Niemann strongly denies ever engaging in over the board cheating.

I understand it can be very hard to accept that maybe Magnus Carlsen left a tournament without playing all of his games because he lost, which I believe is the most likely explanation of what happened. If true, this is not behavior a world champion should engage in. I feel a lot of compassion for Magnus Carlsen and his fans, but it does the chess world no favor to drag Niemann through the mud with baseless accusations.

==Carlsen vs. Niemann, September 2022==

Here is the historic game where Niemann defeated Carlsen as black in a very surprising upset a week ago today. I will simply leave the game here without comment.

The picture of the twin towers burning on September 11 was taken by Michael Foran and obtained from the Wikimedia. The picture is available from Wikimedia under a CC-BY-2.0 license, and has been altered (resized and cropped) for this blog entry.

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