rogoff229_Dean MouhtaropoulosGetty Images_chesscarlsen Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

How to Settle the Great Chess Cheating Scandal

In early September, the 19-year-old American upstart Hans Niemann crushed world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, prompting the latter to level accusations of computer-assisted cheating. In the absence of any hard evidence to resolve the matter, the two should settle it on the chess board.

CAMBRIDGE – The chess world is reeling from an accusation of cheating that has generated headlines around the world, even drawing a response from Elon Musk. With the situation remaining unsettled and unresolved, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) has launched an investigation that one hopes will lead to better rules. But that is unlikely to prove decisive in the controversy at hand, so I want to suggest another way forward.

The basic facts of the case are as follows. In early September, the 19-year-old American upstart Hans Niemann, playing the black pieces, crushed world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway. The match was shocking not only because Carlsen lost (which does happen, if only rarely), but because it is exceedingly rare for the world’s top player to be defeated in such a smooth, one-sided fashion.

The story could have ended there, but Carlsen withdrew from the tournament, insinuating that Niemann had been aided by a computer, possibly with the help of an accomplice. He then leveled that accusation openly in writing. His statement, remarks by other players, and all the other details are now available everywhere. But no one, ultimately, has any definitive answers.

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