Thursday, September 22, 2022

Bad blood in the chess world

The usually serene world of chess has been roiled by the recent allegations of cheating against the young American upstart, Hans Niemann

Recently, Niemann beat the Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen, who is generally considered unbeatable at the moment. Then, the two faced off just a few days later in another competition, this one online, and Carlsen took the unprecedented step of resigning after just one move, later cryptically tweeting a José Mourinho quote, "If I speak, I am in big trouble" (a reference to cheating allegations in soccer).

For his part, Niemann, who has admitted to cheating in the past, is NOT admitting to cheating in these cases, but the chess world is unsurprisingly suspicious. Cheating in chess has reared its head from time to time, from simplistic schemes like consulting a phone in the toilet, to more sophisticated strategies like pre-arranged signals from aides (aides with access to computer programs, that is). Vibrating anal beads have even been suggested in some cases.

Part of the issue here is that chess has become a surprisingly lucrative sport in recent years, and so the stakes are pretty high. The Sinquefield Cup in which Niemann and Carlsen met, for example, has prize money of $500,000 on the line, as does the Global Championship, which is not to be sniffed at. Top players like Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, have accumulated earnings of nearly $10 million, and some older players like Garry Kasparov and Anatomy Karpov have made even more when adjusted for inflation.

And don't ever make the mistake of thinking that chess is a placid gentleman's game, and not super-competitive. Re-watch Queen's Gambit on Netflix, if need be.

No comments: