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Hans Niemann counterattacked in his feud with world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, filing a federal lawsuit accusing Carlsen of maliciously colluding with others to discredit the 19-year-old grandmaster and spoil his career.
It’s the latest move in a scandal that has injected unprecedented levels of drama into the world of elite chess since early September, when Carlsen suggested that Neiman’s surprise victory over him at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis was the result of cheating.
Neiman wants a federal court in the Eastern District of Missouri to award him at least $100 million in damages. The defendants in the lawsuit include Carlsen, his company Play Magnus Group, the online platform Chess.com and its leader, Danny Rench, along with great teacher Hikaru Nakamura.
The lawsuit says that in the wake of Neiman’s surprise victory in September, Carlsen was eager to maintain his status as “the king of chess” so he could complete the purchase of his company through Chess.com – a deal worth tens of millions of dollars.
The court filing accuses Rench and Nakamura of using their influence to amplify and reinforce Carlsen’s allegations that Neiman is a cheat. The lawsuit seeking a trial was filed with a jury Thursday, a day after Neiman finished his United States Chess Championship in a five-way match for fifth place.
Chess.com once again rejected Neiman’s account of events
Neiman has publicly admitted to using electronic devices to cheat in online matches – but insisted he only did so when he was 12 and 16. He described one of those cases as “absolutely a fatal mistake”. Neiman said that other than when he was 12, he had never cheated on a tournament with prize money. He described it as “the worst thing I could ever do.”
Neiman, who like other top players host lucrative video accounts on Twitch and other services, also said he did not cheat when he was broadcasting games.
But in early October, Chess.com released a report rejecting Neiman’s account, stating that “Hans may have cheated at more than 100 online chess games, including several prize money events. He was already 17 years old when He probably cheated in some of these games and matches. He was also streaming in 25 of those games.”
In response to the new lawsuit, Chess.com published a statement from its attorney saying that the new allegations were baseless, and that the company “looks forward to making matters right on behalf of its team and all honest chess players.”
Noting that Nieman publicly admitted last month to cheating, the company added that “the fallout from it is of his own making.”
NPR requests for comment from other defendants in the lawsuit prior to this article’s publication were unanswered.
Niemann says Carlsen could not afford to lose to him
The lawsuit provides Niemann’s full explanation so far about his high-stakes dispute with Carlsen. The Norwegian, who is considered one of the best chess players in history, describes him as “notorious for his inability to face defeat”.
Carlsen rocked the chess world in late September, when he was faced off again against Neiman in a tournament – but according to Neiman’s lawsuit, Carlsen “relentlessly lost the match after making a single move”. Carlsen later stated that he would refuse to play Neiman due to his past links to cheating.
This situation amounts to being blacklisted, Neiman says, as tournaments sponsored by Carlsen’s subsidiaries or wanting a world champion appearance would be motivation not to invite Neiman.
The lawsuit states that “malicious defamation by the defendants and unlawful collusion have, on purpose, destroyed Neiman’s brilliant career in the prime of her life and ruined his.”
In Neiman’s view, his victory over Carlsen “should have propelled Neiman’s career to the next level and allowed him to continue to realize his enormous potential as the next great American chess player.” But the lawsuit adds, “Unbeknownst to Nieman at the time, the defendants were doing whatever was necessary to ensure that this never happened.”
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