The story of the fraud of the American grandmaster Hans Niemann, which spread about a year ago, has received a new twist. Vladimir Kramnik recently happened to be the opponent of a 20-year-old chess player at an online tournament organized by one of the most popular sites in the world Chess.com (blocked in Russia), and found his game rather suspicious.
According to Kramnik, up to a certain point, the opponent who played with black led the game absolutely correctly, with a classic approach, which allowed him to earn a more advantageous position. And then Hans began to make rather strange moves that turned out to be incomprehensible to the titled chess player. Most of all, he was alerted by the unusual timing of decision-making by the American.
"A person thinks when there seems to be nothing to think about, and plays quickly when it would be worth thinking about," said the 14th world champion.
He admitted that at the end of the game he was discouraged and did not know what to think. Therefore, I decided to study in more detail other parts of Niemann, in which I also found similar oddities.
"Somewhat reminiscent of Jekyll and Hyde - as if different people are playing. Most of the game is played by an excellent chess player, very competent and sees tactics brilliantly. I can give a bunch of examples when in a few seconds he finds excellent tactics and can play positionally brilliantly. But a certain number of games - not so small as to be considered a mathematical error - is generally played by a chess player of the level of a candidate for master, "Kramnik shared his thoughts in a video published on the Levitov Chess YouTube channel.
In addition, he analyzed and compared the statistics of the game of several eminent grandmasters, in particular, figured out what is the percentage of games with the accuracy of the game below 80 according to the computer.
"I took the last 200 blitz parts of Carlsen, Nakamura, mine just in case, just out of interest, and Niemann. Carlsen has 9 out of 200, I have 14 out of 200, Nakamura has 15 out of 200, Niemann has 45 out of 200. That is, in fact, every fifth game he plays at the level of a candidate for master. But at the same time, the number of parties over 90% is very close. The indicator [in relation to] me, for example, is a little less, but about the same, "said Vladimir.
He did not directly accuse Niemann of cheating and stressed that these doubts about the American's game are only reflections.
"This is such an interesting chess player, such a phenomenon of modern chess. Well, let's see, I don't know. I don't have any concrete conclusions yet. All this is insanely strange, all this is insanely ambiguous, but anything can happen, anything can happen. But I must admit that this is an interesting phenomenon and I would like, of course, to see it in action, already in offline tournaments, how it plays. The feeling that this person can play at the level of [FIDE rating] 2400, and at 2800. Or somewhere in between, maybe its real strength. In general, there are more questions than answers," Kramnik summed up his study.
As you know, earlier Magnus Carlsen also suspected Niemann of cheating during a match with him on the Grand Chess Tour in St. Louis, which the Norwegian unexpectedly lost. Subsequently, he defiantly refused to meet Hans during the Julius Baer Generation Cup online tournament. After the incident, the administration of the site Chess.com organized a large-scale check of Niemann's games, which revealed signs of fraud in more than a hundred of his games until 2020. As for the subsequent period, analysts found no evidence of a violation of the rules, although a number of games aroused their suspicion, including the same game won against Carlsen in St. Louis.
The American, by the way, admitted that he cheated in his distant youth, but stopped doing it a long time ago. To save his reputation, he even filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian, but the case did not come to a real trial - the grandmasters settled claims against each other and expressed their readiness to come together again at the board. Chess.com in turn reinstated Niemann's rights to participate in online tournaments.
The new suspicion voiced by Kramnik did not outrage the American as much as the accusations from Carlsen. Niemann recorded a video message to a colleague, in which he first of all called himself a big fan of the Russian chess player and stated that he had been looking up to him for a very long time. Hans invited Vladimir to hold a joint training camp so that he could personally verify his chess abilities. The 20-year-old grandmaster even expressed his willingness to financially thank Kramnik for the time that he will spend on communication.
"Perhaps the solution to this problem would be a personal training camp, where you would have the opportunity to evaluate my chess game on a deeper level. I will be happy to hold it at your discretion: play games, analyze positions. So you would get a more detailed idea of my interesting style, which has been talked about so much, "said Niemann.
Kramnik has not yet responded to the American's proposal.
According to grandmaster Sergei Shipov, despite all efforts, it will be difficult for Niemann to get rid of the reputation of a crook, but he "will always be good at chess."
"The situation is absolutely understandable and unpleasant. There is a precedent: even if a chess player is absolutely sure that his opponent is cheating, it is impossible to talk about it directly. You don't want to play against such people, you can't do anything about it, that's why situations like Kramnik and Niemann happen. I think there will be more cheating in chess. I haven't studied Niemann's work in as much detail as Carlsen, but he's a good grandmaster. Sometimes he plays divinely, but, definitely, there is no champion potential in him, "said the TASS specialist.