A US judge on Tuesday dismissed the $100 million defamation lawsuit filed by American chess grandmaster Hans Niemann against Magnus Carlsen, among others, in an alleged cheating scandal which has rocked the sport, according to court documents.
US District Court Judge Audrey Fleissig rejected Niemann’s claims that Norwegian Carlsen, online platform Chess.com, its chief chess officer Daniel Rensch and popular streamer Hikaru Nakamura have been “egregiously defaming him and unlawfully colluding to blacklist him from the profession to which he has dedicated his life.” Niemann said in the lawsuit that the saga caused him “devasting damages.”
Fleissig also rejected the accusations of an antitrust violation with prejudice. This means Niemann cannot file again about antitrust violation allegations against these defendants on this evidence.
Niemann’s lawsuit, which was filed in October last year, came after an alleged cheating scandal which sent shockwaves through the sport.
According to the lawsuit, the scandal began in September 2022, when world No. 1 Carlsen accused Niemann of cheating at the $350,000 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri.
The lawsuit claims that Carlsen pulled out of the tournament after losing to Niemann, later tweeting a video of soccer manager Jose Mourinho saying, “I prefer, really, not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.”
Over–the–board chess is played face-to-face, rather than online. Carlsen did not provide details about what he alleges Niemann did during their September 2022 match.
In an interview with the St. Louis Chess Club shortly after, Niemann said he had never cheated in over–the–board games.
“I cheated on random games on Chess.com. I was confronted. I confessed. And this is the single biggest mistake of my life,” said Niemann. ”And I am completely ashamed. I am telling the world because I don’t want misrepresentations and I don’t want rumors. I have never cheated in an over the board game. And other than when I was 12 years old I have never cheated in a tournament with prize money.”
However, a 72-page report by Chess.com – one of the sport’s most popular websites – later alleged Niemann “likely cheated” in more than 100 online matches between July 2015 and August 2020, “including several with prize money events.”
The report alleges that Niemann privately confessed to cheating to the website’s chief chess officer in 2020, which led to the American being temporarily banned from the platform.
Niemann’s lawsuit described this allegation as “false,” and stated that he “had not previously been banned twice on Chess.com for cheating.”
The report said Chess.com closed Niemann’s account in September 2022, given his previous acknowledgments of cheating, suspicions about his recent play and concerns about the steep, inconsistent rise in his rank. The American has risen to 36th in the world at the time of writing.
“While we don’t doubt that Hans is a talented player, we note that his results are statistically extraordinary,” the report said.
Niemann has previously admitted publicly to cheating in online matches at the ages of 12 and 16 but the investigation alleged he had cheated more recently. Niemann has denied these accusations.
Niemann initially filed the lawsuit in October before making two amendments to the accusations over the following months, according to Chess.com.
In his second amendment, Niemann alleged that Carlsen paid a friend $328 (€300) to shout “Cheater Hans” from the stands at the closing ceremony of a tournament. Carlsen has not responded to this allegation.
“We’re glad to see this ruling,” Chess.com’s CEO Erik Allebest and Rensch said in their company’s press release. “We obviously thought it was a meritless lawsuit that burned a ton of time and money, but we have a stewardship to protect the game.
“We appreciate our amazing legal team for their diligence and commitment to our cause. Where do we go from here? We remain 100% focused on what we always have been doing: growing the game and serving the community.”
Chess.com has millions of users and hosts more than 10 million chess games a day, according to its owners. To detect suspected cheating, the website uses software that flags suspicious moves by comparing a player’s moves to those suggested by a chess engine. Fewer than 0.14% of players ever cheat on the site, according to the company’s report on Niemann’s alleged behavior.