Chess World in Uproar as Defamation Lawsuit Filed Against Reigning World Champion Carlsen
The chess world has been turned upside down, by a 19-year-old champion who defeated the perennial greatest in the world, Magnus Carlsen. After the teenager defeated Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup tournament (“Cup”) in September of 2022 in St. Louis, Missouri, rumors swirled about alleged cheating by the teenager, Hans Neiman, the champion of the important chess tournament. While it was not the first time Carlsen was defeated by Nieman, it was the first time that happened at an officially sanctioned event.
While Carlsen never directly accused Nieman of cheating, he is purported to have done so in so many words. Carlsen decided to not participate in the rest of the Cup, something nearly unheard of for a reigning world champion. Soon thereafter, the two faced off again at a new tournament, the Julius Baer Generation Cup. After one move, Carlsen decided to forfeit the game and not move forward.
Notably, this is the not the first time Neiman has been accused of cheating. In fact, Neiman has admitted to cheating in past matches, including matches with money on the line. Despite the speculation that Neiman has continued to cheat, including in recent matches, there has been no hard evidence offered to suggest that Neiman cheated in the Cup earlier this year.
Resulting from these “allegation,” Neiman alleges harm as a result of the allegations, he alleges retaliation, including through Chess.com, a prominent chess community which acquired Carlsen’s company through a merger for $83 million.
The Complaint characterizes Carlsen’s “accusations” as having had “no legitimate basis.” Neiman does not allege that Carlsen actually made any specific direct accusations, rather that his course of conduct would be reasonably perceived as defamatory allegations. The Complaint specifically states that Carlsen knew:
(i) the public would believe his accusations of cheating against Neimann, even though Carlsen had no legitimate basis to believe Neimann actually cheated against him;
(ii) he could ensure that no reputable chess tournament would invite Niemann to compete in the future; and
(iii) his false accusations would cause other top chess players to boycott Niemann as well.
Neiman seeks $100 million in damages, based upon Neiman being banned from Chess.com after the purported allegations. The Complaint also names Hikaru Nakamura, a prominent Chess.com streamer for “amplifying” the purported allegations; against Chess.com executive Danny Resnch, for alleged defamatory press releases; and against Chess.com for its purported role in the retaliation.
Time will tell what happens in response to this. The only certainty is that the chess world will continue to be upside down with everything going on.
While this case is especially of interest for chess fans, it also includes some other relevant allegations that might be of interest to others. While I am not incredibly familiar with the facts or some of the relevant law here, the alleged antitrust violations, stemming from Carlsen’s involvement with Chess.com seems to be the most interesting and perhaps likely to prevail.