How far would one be willing to go to beat a world champion in their chosen sport?
The world of competitive chess has been rocked by an unexpected defeat, unproven allegations of foul play, and theories that involve sex toys and artificial intelligence.
Down goes Carlsen
Hans Niemann is a 19-year-old chess player from San Francisco. During the Sinquefield Cup tournament on Sep. 5, he faced none other than Magnus Carlsen, the fearsome grandmaster and world chess champion.
However, in a stunning upset, Niemann beat Carlsen and ended his 53-game unbeaten streak.
After the match, Carlsen tweeted this cryptic missive, and confirmed his withdrawal from the tournament.
The video of the former Chelsea and Manchester United football manager Jose Mourinho has become a meme indicating that the person is hinting at possessing more information, usually controversial, but does not want to spill the beans.
Where the sun don't shine
Speculation raged after Niemann's unlikely victory and Carlsen's mysterious tweet.
But leave it to the Internet to come up with the silliest of theories.
A tweet that read, "Currently obsessed with the notion that Hans Niemann has been cheating at the Sinquefield Cup chess tournament using wireless anal beads that vibrate him the correct moves" went viral.
A streamer posited that an anal bead would "probably beat the thing" although with the caveat that he wasn't an "expert in that stuff."
Billionaire Elon Musk said in a now deleted tweet, in response to the video, "Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one can see (cause it’s in ur butt)," an adaptation of an aphorism from German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.
Yet another post on Reddit posited another unproven scenario -- it was Carlsen who had been using the power of anal beads all along, and Niemann merely adopted the
The New York Times reported that Niemann's account on Chess.com had been removed following the match.
Another grandmaster, Hikaru Nakamura, had this to say: "There was a period of over six months where Hans did not play any prize-money tournaments on Chess.com. That is the one thing that I’m going to say and that is the only thing I’m going to say on this topic."
In an interview following Nakamura's comments, Niemann acknowledged having played unfairly in previous online games by using computer assistance.
NYT said: "There were mitigating circumstances: He was young, and a friend was running a chess engine, a piece of software that determines the best move, and calling out those moves while Mr Niemann played in a tournament online."
However, it pointed out that this cloud of suspicion would be difficult to clear in the chess community, which prizes integrity.
Niemann denies cheating
Niemann has vehemently denied any kind of cheating, bead-related or otherwise.
The Evening Standard quoted Niemann as saying:
"If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it. I don’t care. Because I know I am clean.
You want me to play in a closed box with zero electronic transmission, I don’t care. I’m here to win and that is my goal regardless."
Chris Bird, the Chief Arbiter of the US$500,000 tournament released a statement that said there was no indication that any player was playing unfairly.
He detailed the strict anti-cheating measures involved, like "close observation" of the players, randomly scanning them with metal detectors and a "fair play" analysis.
However, he also said that after the third round, other measures were introduced, such as a 15 minute delay in the broadcast of the event.
Top image from Hans_niemann Instagram.