Chess Cheating and Defamation Lawsuits

Sebastian Valdez-Oranday

In October 2022, Hans Niemann, a 19-year-old American Chess Grandmaster, filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit against the World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen,, and a popular Twitch streamer and top chess player Hikaru Nakamura.[1] Niemann’s lawsuit came in response to the previous month’s events that gave the chess world its biggest shock since Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit. Niemann and Carlsen were both competitors in The Sinquefield Cup, a prestigious St. Louis chess tournament filled with some of the top chess players in the world. On September 4, 2022, Niemann beat Carlsen in their match during the early stages of the tournament.[2] The next day, Carlsen withdrew from the tournament. During the tournament, Nakamura followed the action live on his Twitch stream and made suggestions that Carlsen likely believed Niemann had cheated during their match, and that Niemann had been banned from playing online chess by the platform[3]

Still, Carlsen did not make a statement about the reason for his withdrawal until weeks after The Sinquefield Cup had concluded. In his statement, a screenshot posted to his Twitter account, Carlsen wrote, “I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted.”[4] Notably, Carlsen did not directly accuse Niemann of cheating during their match at the September tournament, but he did comment on Niemann’s irregular play and body language during their match that contributed to his suspicion. Carlsen also stated that he does not “want to play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past,” because he did not know what those players would do in the future.[5] Carlsen’s statement about not competing against players who have cheated in the past explained his decision to resign in a subsequent online chess match against Niemann after only playing one move.[6]

Discussion around the alleged cheating scandal reached a high point when, the third party being sued by Niemann, published a cheating report specifically about Niemann. Grabbing headlines, found that Niemann “likely cheated” over 100 times during online matches, and as recently as 2020. The report relied on information obtained through the platform’s cheat-detection system, including statistical analysis comparing Niemann’s online play with that of a chess engine, a software able to calculate the “best” move in a given position during a game. Perhaps most damning to Niemann was the site’s revelation that Niemann privately confessed to cheating to and agreed to receive a ban from the platform.[7]

Since the events at The Sinquefield Cup, Niemann has maintained his innocence with regard to his play against Carlsen, saying he cheated only twice in the past, and that he had not cheated in a tournament with prize money since the age of 12.[8] Still, Niemann was facing down statements from popular chess streamers, the powerful online chess platform, and arguably the greatest chess player of all time. Someone in Niemann’s position had the choice to respond to continued allegations in a variety of ways. For a sport-specific remedy to what Niemann believes are false accusations, Niemann would have to wait on FIDE, the international chess federation, to conduct an investigation into Carlsen’s accusations and publish their findings. However, as of December 20, 2022, FIDE had still not completed its investigation. So, quite literally taking matters into his own hands, Niemann chose civil action.[9]

Filing suit in the Eastern District of Missouri, Niemann seeks $100 million in damages and alleges that the three defendants in the suit defamed him and unlawfully colluded to blacklist him from chess. Niemann takes aim at what he calls defamatory false accusations, and further claims that Carlsen and, aided by Nakamura’s online presence and partnership with, are actually working together to discredit Niemann because is acquiring Carlsen’s Play Magnus app for almost $83 million.[10]

It remains unclear if Niemann’s lawsuit is an effort to clear his name by grabbing headlines with such a large sum, or simply an attempt to silence further comments from Carlsen,, and Nakamura. Whatever the outcome, defamation lawsuits, particularly with eye-popping figures, could quickly become an avenue for individuals seeking remedies in the sports context.



[1] Andrew Beaton & Joshua Robinson, Hans Niemann Files $100 Million Lawsuit Against Magnus Carlsen, over Cheating Allegations, Wall St. J. (Oct. 20, 2022), [] [].

[2] David Segal & Dylan Loeb McClain, He’s the Bad Boy of Chess. But Did He Cheat?, N.Y. Times (Dec. 4, 2022), [] [].

[3] Sean Ingle, Magnus Carlsen Leaves Sinquefield Cup Amid Niemann Chess ‘Cheating’ Furore, Guardian (Sept. 7, 2022), [] [].

[4] Magnus Carlsen, My Statement Regarding the Last Few Weeks, Twitter (Sept. 26, 2022), [] [].

[5] Id.

[6] Beaton & Robinson, supra note 1.

[7] Andrew Beaton & Joshua Robinson, Chess Investigation Finds that U.S. Grandmaster ‘Likely Cheated’ More than 100 Times, Wall St. J. (Oct. 7, 2022), [] [].

[8] Bryan Armen Graham, Hans Niemann Probably Cheated in More than 100 Chess Games, Investigation Finds, Guardian (Oct. 4, 2022),,I%20confessed [] [].

[9] FIDE Fair Play Commission, Statement by the Fair Play Chair on the Carlsen-Niemann Investigation, FIDE (Dec. 20, 2022), [] [].

[10] Beaton & Robinson, supra note 1.