Hans Niemann - "This is a targeted attack"
The Chess world was taken by storm when young Grandmaster Hans Niemann defeated Magnus Carlsen in the 3rd round of the Sinquefield Cup 2022. It was an extremely impressive performance due to 2 reasons: Hans beating Magnus with the Black pieces, and outplaying Magnus in the endgame! However, things took a different turn when the World Champion Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the tournament with a cryptic tweet. On the same day, a 15-minute security check was added before the rounds began. The whole chess world started speculating and rumors started spreading that Hans had cheated. After the 5th round game against GM Leinier Dominguez Perez, Hans Niemann spoke to Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez in the post-game interview where he defended himself against rumors of cheating, his accent, and much more. Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club Interview.
Grandmaster Hans Niemann speaks out against all allegations
GM Alejandro Ramirez: Hans, we have got to speak about the elephant in the room. Do you have some words for us?
GM Hans Niemann: Yeah. So, there's been a lot of things that have been, you know, the social media stuff. I have a lot of things to say and I've thought a lot about what I want to say and how I'm going to say it. Let's just discuss a few things.
So first of all, my accent. I'm sorry, this is just the most funny thing. Because if you want me to speak like an American right now, I don't, I can't even tell. But for the last two years, I have lived in a suitcase traveling around Europe, playing chess, nonstop. I spend so much time working on chess that I simply don't go outside and socialize with people who speak fluent English. This is just one thing I wanna talk about. I have spent the last two years not spending any time in America. Even when I'm in America, I don't go outside other than when I pick up my food, I'm just too busy with chess. So all these things, saying that I'm faking an accent and that I'm putting on some facade, that is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. If anyone is using my newfound accent to make any conclusions about anything chess related, it is absolutely insane, because I don't spend any time in America. I only speak to chess players who have bad English. So maybe it's a product of my environment.
Then comes the Magnus opening, let's get to that. So people were saying that there was no idea why I checked this. Well, first of all, you know, people are absolute idiots, because the explanation I'm gonna give is gonna make all the top GMs look like total idiots. First of all, they said there were zero games in that position. No, there was a game, just check the database. There's this thing in chess called transpositions.
Now let's say theoretically, Magnus has been playing quite a lot of Catalan recently. So perhaps, I'm looking at the Catalan and I'm thinking, how is Magnus gonna surprise me in the Catalan? Well, there's this weird move Nc3. I remember some instances where he's going for these structures. So this is a perfectly reasonable thing. And during that moment, I did not think about it because it was such a small part of my preparation. I simply recognized the pattern. Also, I spent 8 minutes after the move a3, and after I play ...dxc4 since it's not a direct transposition, I should obviously take some time to make sure that the position is going to be transposed properly.
Here, White can play Qa4. This is a move that I was concerned about in the game, but now there's Bd4. After Qxc4 Bc6 Nf3 Nd7 0-0, I thought I'll play ...Bd5 followed by ...c5, and this was my plan. I understood at least not in the most precise way, but I understood that there was going to be the move Nf3, thus leading to a transposition. So this is why I took some time. I checked it because it's a transposition. I'm spending extra time to make sure that the transposition is correct because it's the world champion and he's just sprung a very dangerous trap. Now, if I don't know this, it can be very dangerous. But the fact that it's not a miracle, it's actually me being extremely tedious and going through every single possible transposition or line that he could play in the Catalan.
In my game against Firouzja, you need to understand that when I play the move Qg3, this is a purely psychological move. Clearly, people don't know anything about Firouzja, his style, and how to beat him. The way to beat him is to attack him. He really, really hates being attacked, and the main way he loses is by being attacked.
We had a game in Miami where I got an attack, and he completely collapsed. So when I see the position and I see Qg3, I highly doubt based on my intuitive feeling that I'm losing here. I don't feel the need to calculate every single variation because I'm confident that there's no way he's gonna take the Knight. And if he takes, he's gonna be scared shitless. After the game, you're extremely tired and it's extremely difficult sometimes to recollect the things that you're talking about, the moves, variations. It's not like I'm coming in here full of energy. Sometimes you just forget things!
The notion that I simply can't speak about chess on a high level, is completely ridiculous. I'm a very intuitive player. I made a gut call to play Qg3, and it paid off. Even if you look at the pattern in my games, I'm clearly missing many, many chances and it's extremely human chess. This is not a façade. I'm sorry, I just don't socialize much because I work so hard at chess.
I delete all social media. I sit inside, I study chess and I leave to pick up my delivery food twice a day. That is my life, I enjoy it.
If my English is not as native sometimes, I'm sorry, but when I speak to an American friend, it comes right back. It's something subconscious, maybe now it's coming back anyways. I noticed throughout social media, a lot of people who I once had respect for, who I once looked up to, and a lot of my heroes have decided to hop on this bandwagon. There has been a lot of speculation, a lot of things said, and I think I'm the only one who knows the truth. So there's a few things that need to come to light. First of all, there's the situation with chess.com. People have said that my chess.com account was banned twice, so this is what happened. When I was 12 years old, I was with a friend and I was playing Titled Tuesday on chess.com. I was playing, and he came over on an iPad with an Engine, and I was 12 years old. he started giving the moves - I was a child, I had no idea what happened. This happened once, in an online tournament, I was just a child and nothing happened then.
Four years later, when I was 16 years old during my streaming career, I made an absolutely ridiculous mistake in unrated games. Apart from when I was 12 years old, I have never, ever in my life cheated in an over-the-board game, in an online tournament, and only once in unrated games and I'm admitting this. I'm saying my truth because I do not want any misrepresentation. I am proud of myself that I learned from that mistake and now have given everything to chess. I have sacrificed everything for chess, and I do everything I can to improve. Basically, I wanted to gain some rating, you know, I just wanted to get a high rating so I could play stronger players. So, I cheated in random games on chess.com. Now I was confronted, I confessed, and this is the single biggest mistake of my life.
I'm completely ashamed and I'm telling the world because I do not want any misrepresentation, and I do not want rumors. I have never cheated in an over-the-board game.
Other than when I was 12 years old, I have never, ever, ever, and I would never do that. That is the worst thing I could ever do, cheat in a tournament with prize money. Now I made that mistake, and it's not something I was doing consistently. Never when I was streaming did I cheat, never did I misrepresent my strength. So I made this mistake, and I was confronted by chess.com. I had fully admitted this and I stopped playing on chess.com.
What I want people to know about this, is that I'm deeply, deeply sorry for my mistake. I know that my actions have consequences and during that time, I completely stepped away from a very lucrative streaming career. I stopped playing at all events, and I lost a lot of close friendships and relationships that meant a lot to me.
So I assure you, maybe I did not suffer, but I'm putting myself in the public now. I could be ruining my reputation for my life, but I want to tell the truth. Now this happened, I'm deeply, deeply ashamed of it, but keep in mind, I was 16 years old. I never wanted to hurt anyone, and these were random games. I could never even fathom doing it in a real game. Unfortunately, now there has been a targeted attack and some recent events have made it really, really difficult for me to not stop speaking. After the game against Magnus, he put this tweet with clearly some insinuations, and then everyone starts to pile.
I get an email from chess.com, saying that they've privately removed access to my chess.com account and that they have uninvited me from the global chess championship. Three days ago, I met with someone very high up in chess.com at the Sinquefield Cup who had amazing words. But because of this game against Magnus, because of what he said, they have decided to completely remove me from the website.
This is after I have already fully admitted, and they have the best cheat detection in the world. They know that I'm not a cheater and that I have given everything in chess. I work so hard, and chess is my entire life. Now, if they're going to try to think that I'm gonna be silent about what has happened, it is completely ridiculous. I met with Danny Rensch in Miami, and he was the person who confronted me and I was deeply, deeply indebted to him for handling the ban privately and giving me the chance to redeem myself. Now, after not playing chess.com events, I went to over-the-board tournaments and I decided to myself that the only way to make up for my mistakes was to prove to myself and to prove to others that I could win myself. Now that has been my mission., and that is why I've lived in a suitcase for 2 years. That is why I have played 260 games in one year. That is why I've trained 12 hours a day because I have something to prove.
Now, chess.com has suddenly decided to hop on Magnus' insinuations, and Hikaru's very direct accusations. Now they see the opportunity, "okay, we're just gonna get rid of this". I believe this is completely unfair, this is a targeted attack. If you look at my games, this has nothing to do with my games. So, why does the CEO of chess.com come to me and say, "We're looking forward to having the global chess championship, we're looking forward to you playing in our events". Then right when I beat Magnus, they decide to remove my account and not let me play in their tournaments. This is absolutely ridiculous, and they've only done this because of what Magnus and Hikaru have said.
The entire social media and chess world is completely attacking me and undermining me. They maybe would think that I would be afraid to tell the entire world that I cheated in some random games, and I cheated in a tournament when I was 12 years old, but I'm not afraid because I know who I am. I know the chess player that I am, and what I give to chess.
I'm not going to be scared, to be manipulated and be conspired against, to try to ruin my chess career when I know what has happened.
As far as Magnus, the fact that he did it without saying it, he knew the insinuations that would follow. If you look at social media, on every single platform, I'm getting thousands of tweets. Everyone is attacking me, and some people are defending me and I really appreciate those. But when I see people attack me with absolutely zero evidence... I'm the only person who knows what happened, and I'm telling you guys that this is the truth. I really do not think that I would have the courage to say this, but I'm very thankful to the people who helped me make the decision.
Hikaru, I've never cheated against you in an online game, never happened.
The most ridiculous part is that the same players in this tournament are insinuating that I'm cheating, have also made insinuations about people who are making insinuations about me. Let's just say that people who are saying these things about me, they're not that innocent themselves.
I'm not going to let Chess.com, Magnus Carlsen, and Hikaru Nakamura, arguably the 3 biggest entities in chess, simply slander my reputation.
Because the question is, why are you going to remove me from chess.com right after I beat Magnus? What's with the timing? Again, I'm deeply, deeply sorry for what has happened, it is the biggest single regret of my life. Even now to look back on it, I can recognize myself. To give context. I was 16 years old. I don't wanna make an excuse, but I was living alone in New York City. It was the peak of the pandemic. I have been financially independent since I was 16 years old. I left my family and I was living alone at 16.
I had rent to pay, and I was willing to do anything to grow my stream. So of course I made a childish mistake and I will have to live with that. But I'd rather live with that with everyone knowing the truth, instead of people making simple speculations about me, because this is the full truth. I'd like to see if everyone else can actually tell their truth.
GM Alejandro Ramirez: When Chess.com sent you this email, did they give any reasoning?
GM Hans Niemann: No reason. They just informed me. I tried to log into my chess.com account, I wanted to check the games and they said I could log in, send me an email. A few hours later, they have rescinded. They didn't want to ban me publicly because they would have to give a reason. They think that they can scare me. They think that I'm not gonna talk about it because I'm afraid to admit this. But I did this when I was 12 years old. And the other time, there was no prize money, it was an absolutely random game. I understand that some people might lose respect for me for this, but it is my greatest mistake. Everything I've done in the past few years has been to make up for that mistake.
That is my entire purpose as a chess player: to prove to myself and prove to others that I'm trying to do better. I hope that my results, commitment and hard work has shown that I have learned from this and that I learned my lesson.
GM Alejandro Ramirez: Hans, how does it feel to play the rest of the tournament, knowing that everything here is surrounding the Sinquefield Cup? Magnus left, and clearly, something is happening. How are you able to focus?
GM Hans Niemann: After the game, I opened social media and I can't get my eyes off it, because every single person and their whole family has an opinion. Of course, you sort of get dragged to it and I'm reading it. When I was 8/9 years old, Magnus Carlsen came to an exhibition in California and my mom took me there. I had just started playing chess and he was doing a blindfold simul. There was an auction to bid on it, and when there were bidding on it, it got up to $1,000 and it became too much. My mom was like, no, no, no, if you really, really want it, we'll do it. She was ready to make a financial sacrifice so I could play. And I said, no, no, no Mom, One day I'm gonna play him for free. Instead, I got a big signed chess piece.
But to me, to see my absolute hero try to target me and ruin my reputation, ruin my chess career, and to do it in such a frivolous way is really, really disappointing. Because you know, you spend your entire life looking up to someone and then you meet them, and my dream came true. I lived my dream for a day beating Magnus and then all of this happened.
But when I sit on the board, it's purely chess. So even today, maybe there are moments during the game where my mind wandered, but when I'm playing chess, that's all there is on my mind. Hopefully, it'll stay that way.
GM Alejandro Ramirez: Does this bothering you fuel you? Does it make you hungry?
GM Hans Niemann: It absolutely fuels me. My fuel has always been maybe not anger, but spite has been a strong fuel for me.
When I started to play chess in the Netherlands, my school teacher told me I wasn't good enough. That certainly fueled me. I've always been one to prove people wrong. This absolutely fuels me and makes me want to win the tournament even more.
I can come to the game, I can completely strip. You wanna do any Fairplay check on me you want, I don't care because I know that I'm clean. If they want me to strip fully naked, I'll do it, I don't care because I know that I'm clean and I'm willing to subject myself. Do you want me to play in a closed box with zero electric transmission? I don't care, you know, name whatever you guys want. I'm here to win, and that's gonna be my goal regardless.
GM Yasser Seirawan: It was a very heartfelt interview. Your motion spoke for itself. Hans, all we can say is enjoy your free day. Stay away from social media, and keep your head in the game.
GM Peter Svidler: Yeah, I think much of this needed to be said, and I think it's very good that it has been said. Thanks for coming in and doing this.
GM Hans Niemann: Before I go, Thank you guys for giving me the chance to speak. I'm sure many, many people are, are going to be seeing this. I would just like to hope that everyone keeps an open mind and understand that chess is my entire life. I've sacrificed everything for this game, and I'm willing to do anything to improve myself and to improve at chess. I'm sorry, but chess is everything to me. So, that's all I need to say.