Mai 19, 2024

Decision on the Magnus Carlsen / Hans Niemann case

The FIDE Ethics & Disciplinary Commission (EDC) has released its decision in the Magnus Carlsen / Hans Niemann case

After his loss in the third round of the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis, Missouri on 4 September 2022, GM Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the tournament and made statements that insinuated that he was the victim of cheating by his opponent. GM Hans Niemann, in turn, made a statement admitting to cheating as a teenager in unrated online chess events, but strenuously denied that he had ever cheated in an over-the-board match. The controversy has attracted the attention not just in the chess world but also in international media.

The matter was addressed by FIDE, first by an Investigatory Panel of the Fair Play Commission (FPL). They concluded that there was no evidence of cheating by GM Niemann at the 2022 Sinquefield Cup and other over-the-board tournaments played by GM Niemann over the preceding three years. The FPL therefore concluded that GM Carlsen’s accusations against GM Niemann were unfounded as far as they concern over-the-board chess. The FPL also found that GM Carlsen’s withdrawal from the tournament was directly related to his belief that GM Niemann had cheated in their game. The FPL accordingly referred the matter to the EDC for disciplinary steps to be taken against GM Carlsen.

The EDC registered the case on 20 February 2023 and informed GM Carlsen accordingly. GM Carlsen was called upon to defend himself against charges of the violation of the Ethics and Disciplinary Code, more particularly Art. 11.7(f) [reckless or manifestly unfounded accusation of chess cheating], alternatively Art. 11.9(j) [attempt to undermine honor], as well as Art. 11.6(b) [disparagement of FIDE’s reputation and interests] and Art. 11.9(b) [withdrawal from tournament without valid reason].

At the request of Mr. Carlsen’s lawyers, the EDC ordered a stay of proceedings for six months in the disciplinary case on 18 April 2023, related to the then pending civil suit for damages which GM Niemann had instituted against GM Carlsen in the U.S. civil courts. After the civil litigation became settled in August 2023, GM Carlsen filed his defense in the proceedings before the EDC on 22 September 2023.

In a thorough and carefully considered written decision, the EDC First Instance Chamber (consisting of Yolander Sammy as chairperson, and Khaled Arfa and Pedro Dominguez as members) found Mr. Carlsen not guilty on the first three charges, but guilty on the last charge. The EDC Chamber held that GM Carlsen’s suspicions of cheating were based on reasonable grounds despite the ultimate conclusion that GM Niemann had not made himself guilty of over-the-board cheating. The reasonableness of GM Carlsen’s belief rested upon GM Niemann’s own confession of online cheating, and a report released by Chess.com.

The EDC held that GM Carlsen’s withdrawal from the Sinquefield Cup was without valid reason and that if he had had concerns about the fair play of his opponent, he should have followed the prescribed procedure of making a confidential in-tournament cheating complaint to the organizers. In light of GM Carlsen’s status as the foremost chess player in the world with a considerable influence and following, his withdrawal set a bad example for other chess players and he is therefore given a fine of 10,000 Euros.

GM Carlsen has the right of appeal to the Appeal Chamber of the EDC within 21 days of the decision.

The full decision of the EDC in Case no. 2/2023 may be found HERE.