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The Full Chess Cheating Report of Hans Neiman

erdevs

This report provides a detailed background of Hans' potential cheating, and detailed breakdowns of certain aspects of chess.com's cheat-detection methodology, including previously unknown (or little known) methods such as window focus change event monitoring and post-focus-change move analysis.[1]

The report also reveals Niemann's engine move correlations alongside over two dozen chess Grandmasters who have admitted to cheating on chess.com. The fact that online cheating is so widespread even among top chess players is certainly news to many, including me. Perhaps it is a good thing that this scandal is highlighting the issue, and given how widespread cheating may be, perhaps chess tournaments both online and physical need to take cheating much more seriously than they apparently have been.

There is also an interesting analysis of Hans' rating improvement history, his over the board tournament performance and key game analysis, and a rundown of key moments in his game against Carlsen in the Sinquefield cup. Each raises concerns.

Chess.com's report also makes it clear that Niemann lied outright about his history of cheating in post-Sinquefield interviews, as he admits in communications with chess.com Fairplay staff to much broader cheating.

All in all, the report raises many concerns and it seems reasonable for the chess community to demand much higher standards of cheat prevention and detection across competitive venues. How long might cheating issues have gone on merely rumored vs fully investigated or acted upon, had this intrigue not developed due to Carlsen's withdrawal from Sinquefield '22?

[1]Tangentially, this induces an obvious concern about cheat and cheat-detection arms races. A clever cheater might scrutinize this report and refine their cheating plan. For example, they might recognize the need to use a second device (such as a phone) to cheat. They might use the data corpus presented in this report to establish limits on how often they use chess engine moves per game, and they might manage their ratings progress over time carefully, so as to stay in acceptable ranges of engine move correlation, rate of improvement, etc.

maegul

> [1]Tangentially, this induces an obvious concern about cheat and cheat-detection arms races. A clever cheater might scrutinize this report and refine their cheating plan. For example, they might recognize the need to use a second device (such as a phone) to cheat. They might use the data corpus presented in this report to establish limits on how often they use chess engine moves per game, and they might manage their ratings progress over time carefully, so as to stay in acceptable ranges of engine move correlation, rate of improvement, etc.

Important point I'd say. I really can't shake my personal feeling that chess as a sport is just simply dead, especially as an online e-sport. Especially in combination with the possibility that there's plenty more cheating that they're not catching/detecting.

Taking this report along with Hans's admission to only cheating twice, for example, and accepting Chess.com's assessment as accurate, it would seem that Hans's mistake was to confess only to the instances of cheating that he thought had been caught. Which indicates the mentality and experience involved where the actual game is not getting caught and many, just as Hans was before beating Magnus, are playing it successfully.

lmm

> I really can't shake my personal feeling that chess as a sport is just simply dead, especially as an online e-sport. Especially in combination with the possibility that there's plenty more cheating that they're not catching/detecting.

Online chess is bigger than ever, and some kind of botting/cheating is possible for virtually every e-sport (indeed I'd say many are easier than chess). This is a major scandal that should have serious consequences, but there's no reason for it to be the end of online chess.

patmcc

>>Online chess is bigger than ever, and some kind of botting/cheating is possible for virtually every e-sport (indeed I'd say many are easier than chess).

I think it's the other way, chess is about as easy to cheat as it gets. With chess you can have a perfectly usable cheating system that isn't on the same computer at all - computer A is clean, and is where you actually play on chess.com, computer B is where you enter the moves into the chess engine. That doesn't work for something like CS:GO or League of Legends or whatever, cheating or botting needs to be in real-time and on the same computer.

maegul

Totally fair ... and it would make a lot of sense that this event brings about some sort of cultural cleansing or realignment. I guess I really just meant "dead to me."

That being said, if it turns out that online chess continues to do well, but there's still plenty of cheating going on, I don't think it'd be accurate to say online chess is alive because it wouldn't be chess but something different, for better or worse. And whether such an outcome occurs might be what's really at stake here.

vkou

Cheating is common in e-sports, but it is rare in high-level competitive e-sports. Sure, you may be a 'gaming chair enthusiast', using a cheat when in your online Apex or Forntite pub games, but you can't bring it with you to a tournament.

Starcraft is about the only e-sport where I can see tournament cheating providing a very large advantage for a single bit of information - a player who can be notified that he is being all-inned would have a huge advantage in tournament play.

Bakary

I'm sensing a market in dedicated hardware here. For players who spend upwards of 1000 hours on a single game it could be worth it to have a locked down machine for certain contexts where you have to prove your bona fides.

amelius

Can't we just consider cheating part of the sport?

If you or your team is capable of making a tiny chess computer that fits under your skin and can go undetectable, then congratulations to you.

So basically a bit like Formula-1.

remarkEon

I guess I’m not as cynical. I picked up chess again when I was deployed (I was on the chess team in high school) and have been closely following this drama, and my sense is that perhaps we all admit that online chess is dead, but a return to analog chess is possible and, perhaps, preferable. I know this begs the question of defeating cheats in irl play, but shouldn’t that be an easier problem to solve?

maegul

I would be surprised of over-the-board cheating was viable in the long term. Seems like it should be relatively easy to stamp out provided there's a will to do so.

null

[deleted]

eternalban

> I really can't shake my personal feeling that chess as a sport is just simply dead, especially as an online e-sport.

This sent me musing whether we are actually witnessing the emergence of a new type of gamesmanship. If we don't end up killing each other in another global war (sadly there won't be subsequent volumes about "the war no one wanted"), then having men and machines team up in competitive environments is a given. (This is already happening, no doubt, in military settings.)

Maybe new games can be devised, or existing games modified, that can't default to games that are machine vs machine with the human teammates reduced to secretaries in the game. Games designed with AI teammate already in mind. The human role can't be just physical. I wonder what that would be like.

ninethirty

Makes me wonder how many people are running game-theory-optimal poker bots and raking in fortunes.

rrrrrrrrrrrryan

I don't know if a game-theory optimal poker bot would work well - You'd really want a battle-tested psychologically optimal bot that can convincingly play like an amateur, except when it really counts, to give your victims a false sense of confidence. A hustler-bot, essentially.

I'm sure it'd be highly illegal.

cowvin

One of the most interesting (but inconclusive) points they found was how Hans' evaluated strength dropped after they introduced the 15 minute broadcast delay.

krick

Except, introducing the 15 minute broadcast delay just happens to coincide with Magnus scandalous withdrawal, Hans being especially carefully searched and being stared at by everyone (that is, if we trust how it was evaluated over a couple of games in the first place).

So, again, even though some statement from chess.com was expected, this one probably does more harm than good. Heavy implications, winking and chuckling, but nothing that would allow one to close the case (quite naturally). All of this historical progress evaluation was done by people a month ago already, and did achieve as much as this one. This one is "official" though, so pours another barrel of fuel into the fire.

That said, I wonder why 15 minute (or even more) delay isn't standard in events like that. Seems like the least you could do, given how questionable chess in 2022 is in the first place.

Taek

I do think all of the implications on Hans are well deserved, and the deep exploration of cheating within the chess world is well placed. And after looking through the evidence myself, I do believe that Hans is cheating in over-the-board games. I don't think any of the analysis presented on YouTube have yet met a sufficient standard of quality (statistical mistakes everywhere), but I do have faith that someone will come forward with an analysis that both doesn't make any mistakes and also firmly implicates Hans is a cheater. Time will tell.

I also agree that Hans material drop in performance after the broadcast delay could be reasonably attributed to:

1. he's 19 2. the best chess player in the world said he's a dirty cheater

Such circumstances would throw off many prodigal 19 year old's, I'm sure his emotions got in the way of his playing. (I also believe he was cheating here, but I don't think the drop in his performance meets any standard for acceptable evidence)

6510

I didn't look at the chess.com thing since the historic progress is eclipsed by a streak of 5 important games where he simply scores 100%. Everything else is irrelevant. GM's usually have zero games at that level. Dropping to his usual level after that doesn't average it out to human level. lol

Someone should organize that running joke: naked chess tournament.

canes123456

Another player decreased by 10 vs 15 for hans. Other players increased by a similar amount to hans. It could easily be noise. Hans under the most public scrutiny and criticism of his life, so you would expect his play to suffer.

I kind of suspect magnus misplayed because he knew that Hans cheated so much online.

berkut

Does engine correlation actually prove anything though? Some of the 'statistical analysis' that has been posted on twitter regarding it in the last week has been against hundreds of engines, so 'engine correlation' seems to mean "the move made matched against at least one engine that would have made that move" I think?

bsder

1) You can look at the "strength" of individual moves. Someone who plays at 2000-level normally but magically coughs up 2600-level moves when in trouble is probably cheating (watch some of the live chess streamers--you'll regularly see this in real time). Computers are quite good at estimating the strength of a move after the fact.

2) Quite often there are certain "play lines" that computers will play that humans simply can't find over the board.

For example, a computer can take a defensive "play line" that is littered with traps with only a single non-losing path for 30+ moves and work it out really quickly (there is only one non-losing path to take so it prunes the search space mega fast) and play it perfectly. A human playing such a line is almost always cheating--humans simply can't run those kinds of lines in real time.

If you look at computers analyzing even the highest end games, you see the humans making quite a few mistakes that the computers will spot and take advantage of immediately. Someone who walks down these kinds of paths regularly is a statistical anomaly.

That having been said, given the current crop of computer-trained chess kids, it IS possible that we'll grow a prodigy that can run those kinds of lines. However, it doesn't seem like that person exists, yet.

Nomentatus

I'm haunted by the possibility that humans might (at least half) catch up, too. When I look at how AI beats humans, I can't help thinking that AI shows us that human narcissism holds humans back. We don't want to look stupid, or mediocre - we don't want to make moves that are hard to explain the value of clearly.

In Go, we can't make ourselves spread our moves around the board as much as we should, we tend not to choose a maybe good move elsewhere over a clearly powerful move where the board is developed, for example.

Maybe there's a pattern to the moves AI chooses that is also a pattern humans can see without running every line; we're just reluctant to choose moves that we can't clearly justify in the shorter run.

umanwizard

> Computers are quite good at estimating the strength of a move after the fact.

Are you sure? I’ve never heard of such a program.

computerdork

Am not a statistician, but at least in an online analysis I saw, seems like correlation can effectively identify players who are playing too much like a computer. Because they don't just run correlations on Niemann, but on all the top players, and do comparisons (and for certain long stretches of tournaments, Niemann's is playing way, way above how anyone else has ever played).

This is video explains it pretty well, and seems like a very compelling argument (at least to me): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjtbXxA8Fcc - and just know that the woman talking is a bit hard to understand because of her accent.

... oh, and to address your point about 100's of engines, my first thought was that are only a handful that everyone uses (Stockfish?) (and also, just guessing, but I get the impression that most top engines recommend similar moves, but again, just a guess!).

gbear605

Chess.com explicitly states in the report that that sort of methodology does “not meet our standard” for cheating detection. If they don’t feel comfortable using it, I certainly don’t.

nextaccountic

> Does engine correlation actually prove anything though?

It probably doesn't, and for many reasons, both because the more engines you add the greater the chance of falsely accusing someone (so an analysis that features hundreds engines is probably worthless), but worse than that, you can manipulate the result of the analysis through the selection of engines

There's a number of topics about that on /r/chess, like https://www.reddit.com/r/chess/comments/xtwzfe/fm_ingvar_joh... https://www.reddit.com/r/chess/comments/xtwzfe/fm_ingvar_joh... etc

But anyway this isn't the analysis that Chess.com does anyway

erdevs

I don't think engine correlation necessarily proves anything, on its own. It's worth remembering, though, that chess.com's report a) presents more than merely raw engine correlation, and b) its correlations do not seem to match against hundreds of engines.

But even with all the evidence presented, "proof" is a tricky thing. To what standard would we be trying to prove a claim?

Does this report prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Niemann cheated? I'd say no, but others may disagree.

How about to a preponderance of evidence? Perhaps. But even that is hard to say when no one has yet presented a rigorous defense or set of counterpoints.

In any case, my post wasn't meant to say that Niemann cheated per se. I have no idea, and chess.com themselves may not be able to actually prove whether he did. But I found the report interesting, even beyond the current issue surrounding Niemann and speaking to potential cheating in high-level chess more broadly, and if you re-read my post, I tried not to state anything definitive about whether Hans actually cheated or not.

rybosworld

Not anymore than elevated testosterone levels are "proof" of performance enhancing drugs. Engine correlation is a marker and when combined with other markers, can be meaningful.

What it mostly shows is that Hans move strength is unnatural.

Further evidence to support this is that he often plays bad moves. That is, moves that are considered blunders, with a high frequency. This is either an attempt to cover up the engine moves or representative of his actual capability. For instance, the report mentions that in a post-game analysis he suggested a move that would be an obvious blunder. When the interviewer pointed this out, Hans wasn't fully convinced until he was shown the engine analysis. So he also is showing a habit of deferring to what the engine suggests.

hdjjhhvvhga

> The fact that online cheating is so widespread even among top chess players is certainly news to many, including me.

A few weeks ago my daughter very proudly announced that she managed to "outsmart" (=hack) her online test app used by her class. I was shocked and asked why she would do that, she's smart enough to get an A without that. She seemed obviously puzzled by my question and my lack of enthusiasm about her "achievement" she was so proud of (it involved some JS modifications). I guess is it's just another kind of thrill.

borbulon

> A few weeks ago my daughter very proudly announced that she managed to "outsmart" (=hack) her online test app used by her class. I was shocked and asked why she would do that, she's smart enough to get an A without that. She seemed obviously puzzled by my question and my lack of enthusiasm about her "achievement" she was so proud of (it involved some JS modifications).

I wonder if maybe it was the chance to solve a different challenge than the one before her (the test), which if she could already get an A maybe wasn't the right challenge?

Bakary

She should be proud in the sense that real world problem solving and valuable technical skills is a lot more important than any school test. That said she will have to learn not to let arrogance and risk-taking be her downfall.

bombcar

Depending on what she had to do to hack it, I’d be proud, and then try to explain to her why even if we can do it we shouldn’t.

When you’re bored you try to learn how the system works - it’s a valuable skill.

Maursault

> two dozen chess Grandmasters who have admitted to cheating on chess.com. The fact that online cheating is so widespread

chess.com globally has more than 93M members. There is cheating, but a dozen admissions can't be accurately described as "so widespread." Research has shown fewer than 0.02% cheat. While this is mildly shocking, your statement based on 12 grandmaster admissions is a sweeping generalization.

daveguy

Two dozen is 24, not 12.

This is how many grandmasters admitted cheating, not how many players globally have admitted it.

As of 2021 there were 1,315 active grandmasters. [0]

24/1,315 = ~1.8% of grandmasters admit cheating (give or take a few depending on how many play online chess or are still active). In my opinion, that is a serious problem.

[0] https://chessdelta.com/how-many-chess-grandmasters-are-there...

Maursault

Even with my careless error, the statement in question is still a sweeping generalization.

> As of 2021

This is a tough number to track down, and you've limited the count by "active," in 2021, but the number is rapidly increasing. According to the FIFA Database as of a few moments ago, there are 1771 chess grandmasters.[1]

24/1771 < 1.4%

> In my opinion, that is a serious problem.

Even assuming 1.8% of chess grandmasters are cheaters, this means that 98.2% of them are not. If you tested a 98.2% of a perfect score on a test, would you really think your grade was a serious problem? If you had the chance to retake the test for a replacement score, either better or worse, would you?

[1] https://ratings.fide.com/advaction.phtml?idcode=&name=&title...

sigmaml

> Tangentially, this induces an obvious concern about cheat and cheat-detection arms races.

This exists in every domain, and is - perhaps - inevitable. Look at what SEO has done to web search.

72deluxe

The one thing that baffles me with SEO is how it's just guesswork yet is a massive business. It's like promising to someone that you'll get their name listed sooner in the phonebook without any control over the phonebook itself, and then that person pays you to do it.

It's no different, since we have no control over Google's ranking mechanism and they won't explicitly tell you what the algorithm is (and change the rules daily), so it's just guesswork.

Baffling an entire colossal "industry" is built from guesswork.

res0nat0r

They say they estimate that less than 0.14% of players on chess.com ever cheat, so it may be less than everyone assumes just due to this current drama.

johnaspden

They also claim 100 million subscribers, so that's 140,000 cheats. Since if you're cheating you probably do quite well (I pity the engine that could lose to me!), that's likely most of the high-rated players on their site.

And actually this tallies quite well with my experience of amateur physical sport, where at the lower levels everyone's honest and sporting and it's all great fun, but as soon as you get to the point where people are putting their heart and soul into the game, everyone's cheating, everyone knows everyone else is cheating, and anyone who's not cheating might as well give up and go home, as far as winning things is concerned.

Once you put money on it, and you're playing against people you're never likely to meet in real life, Jesus I can't imagine what it's like.

tarentel

This number seems wildly low to me. I've been playing on chess.com for 2 years and have run into ~30 cheaters. I know they were cheating because chess.com told me they were. I've suspected a handful more of cheating who may not be as they were never banned. Either way this number doesn't seem correct.

jsmith45

What seems really odd is that they don't have any data accusing him of cheating after his initial 2020 ban/new account creation.

They conclude that while there are several unusual things about his OTB play, there is not enough for them to conclude he probably cheated.

Basically the biggest takeaway here is that he definitely publicly lied about the extent of his cheating prior to his original ban.

lysp

> The conventional wisdom is that if you are not a GM by age 14, it is unlikely that you can reach the top levels of chess.

> While that statement may seem discouraging, it has been borne out in modern chess.

> Greats like Fischer, Kasparov, Carlsen, and almost all of the modern GMs who have been established as top five players, were notable GMs by age 15 at the latest

Wow.

quadrifoliate

In my opinion, this sort of ad-hoc stereotyping weakens the rest of the analysis. There are plenty of counterexamples.

Anand, a former world champion, became a GM at age 19 and is still ranked World No. 9 currently (at age 52). Ding Liren (Current No. 2) became a GM at 17. Grischuk (currently No. 17, peak No.3) became a GM at 17. All three have crossed 2800 ELO at some point.

I hope this is not the sort of analysis that chess.com has run in the other 71 pages of the report.

pedrosorio

> Anand, a former world champion, became a GM at age 19

At the age of 18: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viswanathan_Anand#Early_chess_...

Also, according 2700chess.com he was #96 in the world with a rating of 2520 on January 1988. That's right after turning 18. Growing up in India (before the chess boom). Before chess engines existed. 6 months later he was #49 in the world. https://2700chess.com/players/anand

A year earlier (at 17), he had won the world junior chess championship (U-20). Not exactly a "strange meteoric rise" for Anand. The "GM at 18".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Junior_Chess_Championshi...

Meanwhile, at the same age of 18 (already during his covid boost), on July of 2021, Hans Niemann was #20 among all juniors (U-20), with a rating of 2571. Close to #300 on the global rating list: https://ratings.fide.com/profile/2093596/top https://ratings.fide.com/profile/2000059

Unlike Anand, no achievements of note until then (ok, he was 9th at U-16 World Youth Chess Championships in 2019). A year later he's a top 40 player, hanging out with the best and beating the (incredibly dominating) world champion with the black pieces. Make it make sense.

Also, take a look at this analysis of correlation between average (and stddev) of move accuracy vs rating:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnnJ0Da4Rp0 - explained in the detail

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5nEFaRdwZY - analysis applied to several players

aws_ls

Thanks for the pointer to Milky Chess YT videos. The first one at 13.41 minutes has a clincher argument regarding a flat Centipawn loss at 2300 ELO and 2600 ELO. Don't think, another argument is needed.

treis

This is all pointless comparisons though. Hans made his improvements during Covid times and The Queen's Gambit boom in online chess. Even if it's an extraordinary thing to happen we were in extraordinary times.

camaaaargue

> Make it make sense.

Hans Niemann didn't win the game. The incredibly dominating world champion lost it. He bodged the game and then threw a tantrum calling the other, weaker, player a cheater to save face because he couldn't stomach his own incompetence.

The rest is what is called "circumstantial evidence" in the lay press.

maegul

Yea generally I wouldn't characterise the report as being a glimmering indication of the scientific quality of the chess.com cheat detection team.

Even the graphs look a lot like copy-paste jobs from excel, which is fine obviously, but not the sort of thing I'd expect competent scientists/data-scientists/developers to be doing, especially for a big public report where some of the formatting issues are just about readability and basic presentation quality. Like Figures F and G (page 14) ... why are they styled so differently? Same question applies to many of the graphs, which isn't to mention label font sizes either.

Beyond that, yea I'd say good amounts of the data and logic are pretty basic and wouldn't be surprising from an amateur on the internet. The main thing chess.com have seems to be their Strength Score algorithm, which IMO is probably developed and maintained by a team different from the one that prepared this report.

Orothrim

Good design skills have zero correlation with good data analysis skills.

treis

IMHO unless line three of the table on page 5 is a typo it conclusively proves that their analysis is bunk. In every other line they think he cheated 100% of the games. But for line three it's only 12 out of 32. Of the 11 events in that table he had his 2nd highest rating in that event.

That obviously shouldn't be possible. If he only cheated in 1/3 of the games in the event then his performance should have been much worse than events where he cheated 100% of the time.

And I don't understand how they can say this:

>However, while Hans has had a record-setting and remarkable rise in rating and strength, in our view there is a lack of concrete statistical evidence that he cheated in his game with Magnus or in any other over-the-board (“OTB”)—i.e., in-person—games.

So what the hell? They pored over his OTB games, found no evidence of cheating, but then wrote 70 more pages? And even the circumstantial evidence is weak. They base a lot on Hans having unusually late improvements. But it's not like they're an order of magnitude better. He's slightly better than #2. And it's a simple fact that someone is going to have a late career rise that is better than anyone else. It's not evidence of cheating.

IMHO, Magnus or Chess.com need to pony up some hard evidence or STFU.

warent

Don't forget Sam Shankland! He became a GM at the age of 20 and is now one of the top players in the world (Super GM status)

DiogenesKynikos

Levon Aronian (former No. 2, current No. 10, achieved the 4th highest Elo rating of all time) only became a grandmaster at age 17.

bsder

> > The conventional wisdom is that if you are not a GM by age 14, it is unlikely that you can reach the top levels of chess.

This is confusing correlation and causation.

One thing that people don't realize is the sheer amount of money required to become a "GM". You have to get a certain number of "norms" from FIDE and the requirements list is a PITA: https://chessgoals.com/how-to-get-a-grandmaster-norm/

If you don't have a lot of money and a lot of free time to go to a lot of chess tournaments around the world, you are not getting a "GM" title in this day and age. This favors children (few time constraints) with rich parents (lots of coaching along with the ability to travel).

The problem is that if you aren't a "chess prodigy" by 15 it generally isn't worth continuing to pursue--what does sinking the resources into being a "GM" get you at the end? If you're one of the "Chess Gods", you have entry into the tournaments anyway, and, if you're not, it doesn't really matter.

User23

That's why I quit playing seriously when I was still an underclassman. It was overwhelmingly obvious that merely being well above average was completely irrelevant, and there was absolutely no practical reason for me to play chess whatsoever. Although it did subsequently get me laid once or twice, which in retrospect still surprises me.

toast0

> Although it did subsequently get me laid once or twice, which in retrospect still surprises me.

!

bsder

> It was overwhelmingly obvious that merely being well above average was completely irrelevant

I find this true for any semi-competitive endeavor that doesn't also have intrinsic extra benefits. You're going to hit the people who want it more than you and are willing to put in the practice time, and they're going to beat you.

Consequently, any competitive thing I do has to also have an extra dimension to it. A competitive sport is generally fine since I'm getting in better shape. I'm happy to do stuff like darts or bowling if it has a high social aspect to it. As long as I can be slightly above average and that's good enough and there is some extra benefit, I'm down with it.

Chess, sadly, generally fulfills none of those criteria.

avgcorrection

Imagine how barren a sport/hobby/field is when you feel compelled to point out that you had sex two times during your stint in it.

arrow7000

I didn't know there was a thriving chess groupie scene

addicted

This also ignores a once in a century pandemic.

It’s an absolutely ridiculous basis to make a claim.

pedrosorio

> This also ignores a once in a century pandemic.

Hans Niemann was almost 17 years old when the pandemic started. When he turned 15 (June 2018) his rating was 2313, almost 200 points (an immense gulf at that level) below the minimum to become a grandmaster.

_the_inflator

The trouble I have is, that Hans is 19. Given the accusations and his own confession, he is a life long cheater in contrast to traditional GMs. Hans confessed to have cheated at age 12 and 16.

Since cheating is arguable habit forming, he simply based his career on cheating. Where others put in the mileage, he invested in his cheating expertise.

undefinedzero

He cheated as a child during a stressful period that children still need to figure out how to deal with. I think it’s very unreasonable to cancel someone over things they did as a child, much less to cancel them IRL over things they did as a child in an online game.

thatguy0900

Except the only reason we know is because chess.com said so. He hasn't exactly come clean about it, he's been lying about this whole time. It's fair to judge him for his childhood cheating if he is still lying about it as an adult.

Bakary

We have evidence of a sustained period of cheating that he then lied about and obfuscated as a legal adult. This is not just a childish mistake. A teenager, in particular a person capable of being a professional chess player, can fully understand the ramifications of these sorts of actions.

What about the stress of the players he's cheated against?

jjulius

>... he is a life long cheater in contrast to traditional GMs.

Is this an accurate statement given that, because of this report, we are now aware that a lot of other GMs have cheated as well?

rossdavidh

Another explanation is simply that, if you reach early adulthood without deciding to devote your life to becoming good at chess, you are unlikely to do it later. Becoming among the best in the world at anything requires not only natural talent but also focused, almost monomaniacal work, and if you haven't started doing that (for chess) by your mid-teens, it's hard to see why you would start.

If, for some reason, you decided to drop your budding music/engineering/whatever career at age 20 to focus entirely on chess, and you had the natural aptitude to be able to become a GM, perhaps it could happen. But rarely would a person decide to do that, if they had not prior to that point.

umanwizard

Brain plasticity is real. If I dropped everything and devoted my life to studying Chinese I would still never learn to speak it as well as a child who grew up in China.

I think both effects have something to do with it.

rossdavidh

Definitely brain plasticity is real, but there are people who learn to speak languages as adults, with native proficiency. I recall hearing on the radio, people in India who (as adults) learned a Midwestern US accent, because they were doing phone support and they could get through each phone call quicker if the old person on the other end of the line wasn't confused by an Indian accent. I am a midwesterner, and I could not detect anything "off" in their midwestern accent, even though I knew they were Indian.

In other words, you can only learn a language natively, if you have some good reason to do so, like say money.

But, your basic point that both effects have something to do with it, is surely correct.

htrqball

Aronian was a late bloomer. No evidence here at all.

glenstein

How representative is Aronian as an example of skill trajectories in chess?

JadeNB

> How representative is Aronian as an example of skill trajectories in chess?

It doesn't really matter, does it? There's a big difference between telling someone "if you're not a GM by age 14 [but actually I mean 15], then don't bother, it's hopeless" and "a typical top-level player reaches GM by age 14, but it is possible to reach that level even if you are a relatively 'late bloomer'." I'd prefer not to err on the side of telling people not to try.

seer-zig

The exception the proves the rule?

addicted

One of the stupidest phrases vert.

Almost by definition the exception disproves the rule.

There’s literally no logical sense in which the exception can prove the rule unless the rule is not really a rule but more of a suggestion.

langsoul-com

Most of the sports starts tend to start very very young. Some more true than others, like how most ice skating Olympic winners are sub 18. More true for classical music as well.

treis

But not all of them have immediate success. Look at someone like Kurt Warner. It took him until his senior year to start at the University of Northern Iowa. Then he plays 3 years for the Iowa Barnstormers in Arena Football and 1 year for Amsterdam in NFL Europe.

Finally he gets on a NFL roster as 3rd string for St Louis. Cleveland skips picking him in the expansion draft. The Rams sign a different starting QB and trade away #2 QB leaving Warner as the backup. The starter gets hurt and with basically no first team practices Warner gets named the starter.

After all that and starting for the first time in the NFL at age 28 he has one of the best statistical seasons ever for QB and wins the MVP and Superbowl. Goes on to win the MVP again and has a 10 year HOF career.

If we apply Chess.com's logic he's the biggest cheater that ever cheated. But obviously he's not because you can't really cheat at QB in the NFL.

avgcorrection

> > While that statement may seem discouraging, it has been borne out in modern chess.

Totally unnecessary sentence that just leads to derailment (like in this subthread).

maegul

So page 9 from the last paragraph is interesting. Chess.com basically indicate that apart from Hans, a number of highly rated players (including higher than Hans) have been caught and admitted to cheating.

I haven't gone over the report thoroughly, but it's clearly focused on Hans's conduct and not so much on the state of play regarding online cheating, which is, even by Magnus's statement, the chief focus of all of this.

As an outsider to the chess world, this revelation of rampant online cheating is the main story.

First, not surprising, right? Using a computer engine is part of learning and preparing in chess (AFAICT). What other sport has a similar issue where an extremely useful and essential and highly available tool in the sport is considered cheating based entirely on using it within the narrow window of a game? Of course it was going to leak into play in online games where you only have the data feed of moves and nothing else connecting the players.

Second, that it's common amongst the elite of the sport is huge. Either online chess is somewhat dead on arrival as a sport and was never taken seriously by many players (which makes sense to me given how integrated computer engines are in the sport) ... or the chess world needs to go through some sort of cultural revolution here.

Third, chess.com have a conflict of interest in this meta-discussion, I presume, as they have commercial interests in the survival of online chess.

Fourth, the OTB cheating question still seems open and it seems plausible to me that a good chess player would cheat online for followers and income and entrance to tournaments and then use OTB as the real testing ground. My bias here is that I suspect cheating in OTB is just crazy by comparison as you'd have to carry some sort of device that would stand as hard evidence of cheating while in online play the proof is always circumstantial and so easier for a cheater to convince themselves they won't get caught. Which gets back to my second and third points about how online chess maybe doesn't make much sense and chess.com aren't quite seeing the forest for the trees on this.

karpierz

> Using a computer engine is part of learning and preparing in chess (AFAICT). What other sport has a similar issue where an extremely useful and essential and highly available tool in the sport is considered cheating based entirely on using it within the narrow window of a game? Of course it was going to leak into play in online games where you only have the data feed of moves and nothing else connecting the players.

Pretty much every e-sport with hidden information has this issue. CS:GO, DotA2, SC2. They all have replay analyzers to reveal the map and let you look back to figure out how to play better. But if there was a way to use them in game (map hacks), it'd invalidate the game.

subroutine

Trying to think of an example in 'physical' sports (give me some rope here)... in baseball you start by using light aluminum bats, then in college they impose weight rules on non-wood bats, then in the MLB they impose weight rules on wood bats. However, pro players sometimes train with non-regulation bats to work on bat speed or for pregame warm up. Rarely, a training bat will accidentally get used during a game. If such a bat breaks during the game, it will reveal itself as a hollowed or corked bat. The consequences, esp with regard to public perception, for such mistakes are severe.

https://fanbuzz.com/mlb/sammy-sosa-corked-bat/

maegul

I don’t know about those games … but isn’t the incomplete/hidden information a fundamental difference from chess and how easy it is to cheat?

Aicy

I'd argue it's much easier to cheat in Chess than those games. In Chess the "hidden information" is the best move to play (I know I'm misusing the term there), which is easily determined by using a computer.

eSports are similar to normal sports in the fact that even if you have complete information, you need the physical skill to back it up. Professional DotA / SC2 / CSGO players would still wipe the floor with a mediocre player using maphacks.

jasonwatkinspdx

Only partly. In DOTA for example one of the more common cheats is scripting that provides the player with reaction time more like a pro in triggering items and abilities.

noxvilleza

Some of the Dota cheats use methods in which subtle bits of what should be private information are made public, although not always in a nice/easy way for humans to see. For example some animations and particle effects are visible through the fog of war. Another interesting situation (which I think was recently fixed?) was a bitmap stored on a unit (for example, your hero) for visibility checks by each faction (as in, which factions could see you). You could thus tell if you were visible, and hence detect enemy vision.

msbarnett

> Second, that it's common amongst the elite of the sport is huge. Either online chess is somewhat dead on arrival as a sport and was never taken seriously by many players (which makes sense to me given how integrated computer engines are in the sport) ... or the chess world needs to go through some sort of cultural revolution here.

Really? My takeaway is that chess.com is doing a better job of detecting cheaters than FIDE, who seem to have been asleep at the wheel with Niemann

> Fourth, the OTB cheating question still seems open and it seems plausible to me that a good chess player would cheat online for followers and income and entrance to tournaments and then use OTB as the real testing ground.

This seems wildly implausible to me. Niemann‘s OTB rise would be indicative of a not just significant but utterly world historic chess mind, head-and-shoulders above Fisher and head-shoulders-and-entire-torso above every other player in history. When led into uncharted territory by the world chess champion, Magnus indicated that Niemann seemed utterly and completely untroubled - and yet he’s, what, running stockfish in another window for $1000 prizes online and getting himself caught dozens of times? Why? Why take the risk against opponents he should beat in his sleep? These should have been sleepwalk games for this Fisher++ genius who’s totally untroubled by a 5 time world chess championship, but he’s for some reason making obviously weaker moves when not switching windows when his unaided moves shouldn’t have been screamingly weaker than the aided ones given his singularly extraordinary chess rise.

It beggars belief. His world historic rise in rating alone is ludicrously over the top. Kid’s an obvious fraud.

gbear605

They didn’t find any instances of cheating after August 2020. At that point his OTB ELO was only around 2450. It’s only after his last known instance of cheating that he improved into the truly great level.

msbarnett

> They didn’t find any instances of cheating after August 2020

They banned him after August 2020, and only reinstated him after a full confession the next year.

The fact that, after having being caught red handed in online for-prize tournaments and knowing he’s being monitored very closely online going forward, he suddenly starts rising at a world-historic pace (at an age this has never before happened at) at OTB tournaments suggests to me that having lost the ability to reliably cheat in one forum he turned his attention to another.

hibikir

The Chess.com anti cheat system, as described by the report, is set up to handle blitz and bullet. This makes sense, both because it's most of what is played on the site, and because it's so much easier to detect cheating in that environment: A whole lot of engine recommendations would be bananas if a human played them in blitz, and finding major mistakes is very challenging under such time pressure. Evaluating when to play a secondary or tertiary line under pressure, instead of what the engine says, is also challenging. Along with the metadata of thinking time, or whether someone tabbed out of the screen, it's unsurprising that cheating is pretty detectable.

On the other hand, in OTB classical chess the difficulty is in bypassing the security controls. Players are much closer to engines, and far fewer moves appear to be completely inhuman. Furthermore, with an accomplice that is also quite good at chess, those lines could just be discarded. This makes it much easier to both play very good moves that are not all that suspicious, and take enough time to "sell" the thinking time.

This doesn't mean Hans cheated over the board, just that without very good physical security, any unscrupulous GM could gain 300-400 points virtually undetected, other than from the fact that they are playing much better than they used to. If security is a top priority, at the very least we need to do what the Sinquefield cup did in the last few rounds: No spectators and a 15 minute delay, so that all communication with computers/co-conspirators has to include the player relaying all the moves out before they can get any help.

maegul

From page 17 of the report:

> In conclusion, while we cannot definitively prove that Hans’ rise in strength is entirely “natural,” we have also found no indications in the game data to suggest otherwise. While some have suggested that a move-by-move analysis by humans may surface some oddities in move choice or analysis, there is nothing in our statistical investigation to raise any red flags regarding Hans’ OTB play and rise.

msbarnett

That’s specifically in response to the question of whether or not Niemann has played a statistically anomalous number of “near perfect games”, based on analysis of on-board moves. But as they note earlier:

> Hans is consistently above many contemporaries in strength increases, even though he has only recently shown the same caliber of play. Likewise, as set forth in Figures A and B below, Hans had the fastest and biggest increase in his score over time in comparison to his peers and other notable players, when considering all of their known Classical OTB games played from age 11-19.

Which should raise a lot of red flags given the nature of the “peers” (Fischer, Magnus) and its very sudden occurrence after being banned from online tournaments. It’s much harder to detect computer-aided cheating in classical time control moves than in speed chess (where they detected it in his online play) — not least because, as they note, they have no access to time-usage data for the OTB events, which would be critical to any such analysis. Nevertheless they do flag 6 OTB events that their FairPlay team believes merits further analysis by FIDE, in Appendix X.3. Reading between the lines I think that’s about as strong a statement as they can make without fully creating political issues with FIDE, who they’re probably hoping will work more closely with them going forward.

All that said, it makes more sense to look at the anomalous nature of his OTB outcomes rather than searching individual OTB moves trying to find a smoking gun given chess.com’s relative lack of data there, and the political entanglements involved. And as for that

> While we don’t doubt that Hans is a talented player, we note that his results are statistically extraordinary.

paxys

Yup that part stood out to me as well. There are dozens of "Anonymous Confessed GM"s on the cheating list, most of them with a rating much higher than Neimann's. And this doesn't even mention the players who are flagged by their algorithm but haven't admitted their guilt. Given the very high ELO range of the offenders (2600-2700), it's clear that a lot of the most popular names in chess are involved. Why not name all of them? Shouldn't they receive the same amount of scrutiny, public criticism and punishment as him?

maegul

Yea, it definitely seems a bit suspicious and unfair, which fits frankly with the sport going through growing pains on this.

Seems like you gotta beat Magnus for your cheating to matter?! Snark aside, Magnus’s behaviour makes some sense, he wants this to be addressed. But the manner in which it is happening, his conduct included, is just poor form for the sport, even if it was the best overall move Magnus could make.

bombcar

I suspect something like “everyone cheats online” is kind of what we have here, and they’re a bit worried about upsetting the whole applecart.

threatofrain

It appears that chess.com was handling the matter discreetly until Hans made the issue public. It would be unfair if it turned out that the other GM's also challenged chess.com publicly.

me_me_me

carlsen is right saying cheating is an existential threat to chess. if cheating becomes easier to conceal (more subtle) it will kill interest in spectating and double paranoia in player.

i could not care about bike racing due to doping, literally all top racers were doping back when i was following it. i can no longer watch it without doping in the back of my mind after all of it started coming out. Olympiads to me are the same.

if cheating in your sport is not dealt with it will grow like cancer .

chucksmash

I wouldn't take this to mean that everybody cheats, or everybody at the top cheats, as a sibling comment has stated. Wikipedia cites the number of grandmasters as "almost 2000" so even 100 GM cheaters is still a small amount (modulo the ones no longer living I guess, who likely are not playing on chess.com). Elsewhere in the report chess.com gives a figure for number of players they believe have cheated on the site from total player base of 0.14%.

Lerc

This article https://en.chessbase.com/post/thirteen-super-grandmasters says

The history of the game of chess knows around 30 players who have at some point exceeded the dream mark of 2600 Elo points.

On the other hand this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chess_players_by_peak_... puts 125 at over 2700

plantsbeans

1/20 GMs is a minority, but it means that top players play cheaters all the time.

me_me_me

worth noting that gm title is up for 'sale'

the are proven cases of gms selling/throwing games so you can earn norms for gm title (understandable phenomenon when considering effort of getting to gm level vs little money you can make from it, gm from poorer country has big incentive earn extra $).

threatofrain

As I understand it, Hans decided to take the issue public and made questionable statements about his credibility, which in turn weighs upon the credibility of chess.com's decision to kick him out of an upcoming $1M tournament.

mzs

Also these players will think twice now about crossing chess-com's star players and stake-holders.

cryptonector

It would be against chess.com's interests to name those GMs, wouldn't it?

emmelaich

Is it not obvious that you start with the most anomalous ELO to success comparisons?

Therefore, Neimann.

zeven7

> Using a computer engine is part of learning and preparing in chess (AFAICT). What other sport has a similar issue where an extremely useful and essential and highly available tool in the sport is considered cheating based entirely on using it within the narrow window of a game?

In Magnus' recent interview with Lex Fridman, he said though members of his team utilize engines in preparation, it's not something he personally uses very much if at all in his training. In fact he seems to think training against engines can be detrimental.

---

Transcript from: https://steno.ai/lex-fridman-podcast-10/315-magnus-carlsen-g...

Lex: How much do you use engines like Leela and Stockfish in your preparations?

Magnus: My team does. Personally, I try not to use them too much on on my own because I know that when I play you can obviously cannot have help from from engines and often I feel like often having imperfect or knowledge about a position or some engine knowledge can be a lot worse than than having no knowledge. So I try to look at engines as little as possible.

Lex: So yeah, so your team uses them for research for generation of ideas but you are relying primarily on your human resources.

Mangus: Yeah, for sure... I can evaluate as a human. I can know what they find unpleasant and so on and it's very often the case for me to some extent... And so then looking at the engines doesn't necessarily help because at that point you're facing a human, you have to sort of think as a human.

maegul

Thanks ... didn't listen to that interview. Also, I'm not a chess person, so everything is AFAICT.

But ...

1) Magnus is one of the greatest ever, so he doesn't count as an example;

2) From excerpt, his *team* does use engines, and he *uses his team*. So his use of engines is one degree removed compared to others, which hardly matters, especially given point 1 above.

bombcar

Yeah, I thing Magnus is saying he doesn’t practice by playing the computer because it doesn’t help; but his team can use the computer to try to find human situations for him to look at.

And it makes sense - if he’s the best he really doesn’t have someone better to play against to “learn” so finding plausible situations could be useful.

I wonder if that’s one of the things - he felt like he was playing a computer.

bigbacaloa

Anyone who has taught a technical subject in the university knows that something like 1/5-1/2 of the audience is inclined to teach when there is not much risk, even when there is very little (a grade on an exam) at stake. When there is money at stake the inclination increases. When the marginal benefits of cheating are high is when cheating is most likely. This occurs in any competitive context that is a subculture (i.e. not football) in which the, say, top ten or one hundred are well compensated ($5000+) but no one else is.

Cheating is particularly easy in any online context and those who dismiss the notion that online sports and gambling aren't infected with it are simply naive. People cheat in competitive bass fishing where all you have to do is cut the fish open to catch them ...

edanm

> Third, chess.com have a conflict of interest in this meta-discussion, I presume, as they have commercial interests in the survival of online chess.

How is this a conflict of interest? It's just regular old interest. They are interested in Chess continuing to grow.

ZiiS

The is a subtext in the report suggesting "When players play on the largest online site cheating can be detected and regulated; it is very hard to apply the same level of analysis to OTB matches." It is possible that aligns with chess.com's interests.

matai_kolila

Rampant online cheating? Hm:

> At the outset, we want to make clear that while these events highlight a critical topic in chess—cheating the vast majority of chess games do not involve any cheating. We estimate that fewer than 0.14% of players on Chess.com ever cheat, and that our events are by and large free from cheating. We firmly believe that cheating in chess is rare, preventable, and much less pervasive than is currently being portrayed in the media

bigbacaloa

How rare is cheating in contexts where there is money at stake?

Your average person playing blitz while seated on the toilet has little incentive to cheat, particularly if it involves setting up real time access to a powerful engine ... One expects almost no cheating in such an environment.

What if the numbers are: 1/700 cheat, but 1/7 GMs cheat ...?

umanwizard

> particularly if it involves setting up real time access to a powerful engine

You might be overestimating how difficult this is. The free Stockfish app on your phone is enough to crush any human player.

matai_kolila

Professional sports deal with cheating in a number of different ways; suspensions, fines, exclusion from HOF consideration.

Cheating is a part of every competitive thing human beings do, unfortunately. Chess is no different.

bombcar

There are devices that you can put on your arm to greatly improve your baseball swing. They are permitted during batting practice but not during play.

maegul

But are they even useful in training for a player? Are they essential for improvement and competition?

null

[deleted]

cellis

All major sports watch film, and then run drills based on that film. They also now have analytical recommendations. Welcome to 2022

bombcar

I’m not sure they’re essential, but they may be able to help you improve your swing.

noncoml

“Our investigation has revealed that while there has been some noteworthy online play that has caught our attention as suspicious since August 2020, we are unaware of any evidence that Hans has engaged in online cheating since then.”

So he was re-banned for absolutely no reason.

He kept his side of the deal, i.e. not cheat again on chess.com platform. Chess.com didn’t keep theirs.

gpm

[Edit: This paragraph is wrong] As I see it he was largely banned for lying about his past cheating... which makes a lot of sense given that one of the conditions they impose for reinstating the account is telling the truth about the cheating (at least privately).

Either way, chess.com kept their side of the deal, their side of the deal was "and we can ban you at any time in the future for any reason or even no reason whatsoever". Frankly that strikes me as a very fair term in a deal for reinstating a admitted cheaters access to your tournaments with large cash prizes...

boole1854

The famous interview where (we now know) he lied came after he was banned again by chess.com.

As stated in the report, the reason he was banned again was that the insinuations from Magnus caused the chess.com team to reevaluate whether or not they could trust him not to cheat going forward, especially with an upcoming tournament with a million dollar prize on the horizon. After this reevaluation, they decided their previous leniency was unwarranted.

gpm

Oops, I really should have double checked the timeline...

Edited to warn people that that portion of my post was incorrect.

NotYourLawyer

An admitted cheater has been playing suspiciously. “No reason” lol.

noncoml

They could have chosen to ban him for life when they caught him cheating. I would have no sympathy for him in that case.

But the document paints a different picture. He cheated, and they agreed to re-enable his account if he promised to not cheat again.

According to chess.com he kept his promise. So why the sudden new ban?

I would agree with you that the initial cheating was enough for lifetime ban. But chess.com decided against it at the time.

Reconsidering their decision 2 years later without new evidence, is kind of shitty.

erdevs

The report outlines the rationale in some detail. The removal of Hans' ban was controversial among chess.com's Fairplay staff. In recent months, suspicions grew about Hans' tournament performance among both elite chess players and chess.com staff. Simultaneously, chess.com is readying to host its largest ever (by cash prize pool) tournament, and Hans recently qualified for it. Then the Sinquefield incident happened, resulting in both Hans' play specifically, and the potential for cheating in chess tournaments generally, being called into question with a great deal of attention.

All of this led chess.com Fairplay staff to request that leadership re-review Hans' account, with updated analysis they provided, and to reconsider the removal of Hans' ban.

currenciessfe

Because of the public uproar?

Happens all the time in all kinds of fields.

ajhurliman

Don't expect an honest report from chess.com, think about how that conversation would go in the event he _was_ cheating and they caught him:

Public: "So he's been cheating recently?"

Chess.com: "Oh yeah, he cheats all the time. Everyone does, really. Online chess is like 50% cheaters/bots, don't expect any real humans here, this is like 10x worse than Twitter."

slenk

No...they seem willing to provide evidence that he has cheated more times than he admitted. He did NOT keep his side of the deal

noncoml

Where did you read that in the document?

ThinBold

Search for "admitted" and it is on page 2.

avazhi

Just ban this clown outright.

If somebody has a prodigious history of not playing by the rules, there is no reason to think they'll ever reform, and it isn't worth the reputational damage to the game both within (Magnus) and without (the public's perception of high-end chess). This has been a fiasco when they should have just banned Neiman once it became clear that he's been consistently cheating for years.

addicted

Where was this report say 1 month ago, before a certain Magnus Carlsen lost to Niemann over the board?

Is Chess.com gonna reveal similar reports for every other player or is this privilege only for those who are accused by a chess.com part owner of OTB cheating.

mzs

This report is incredibly underwhelming. I only see Hans cheating before 2020-08-12 from the same chart the WSJ published earlier today. To me it seems he was banned again this year for the same offenses yet complied with chess-com terms (save for not sending an email).

ksd482

They must have started investigating when Carlsen protested a month ago.

BeefWellington

I think the thing I'd like to have clarified: Why does chess.com care about the results of an OTB game?

I can understand their online tournaments being something they care about and why they might rescind an invitation based on these allegations but there's something very strange about them taking it upon themselves to ban him from the platform as a result of his play against someone whose company they're in the process of buying.[1]

It seems to me as though they're inserting themselves into this unnecessarily with their analysis too. They spend a great deal of time explaining their rationale in a few places and then toss in a "In our view, no conclusions should be made from this data." at the end of it. If no conclusions should be drawn, don't bother sharing the data; it's useless. By sharing it in this manner, they are attempting to pretend it's reliable and effectively make the accusation with an out to claim they didn't.

This part too:

    And while Magnus’ actions prompted us to reassess the situation, Magnus did not talk with us in advance about our decisions or ask for, or directly influence, those decisions at all.
An uncharitable reading is that this is a very honest statement. Magnus may not have directly influenced their decisions but I think it would be hard to argue they don't have a vested interest in this for the reasons above. IMO this is a clear conflict and they should have simply withdrawn his invitation, even suspended him from their platform, but refrained from commenting on the over-the-board controversy entirely.

[1]: https://kommunikasjon.ntb.no/embedded/announcement?publisher...

maegul

> It seems to me as though they're inserting themselves into this unnecessarily with their analysis too. They spend a great deal of time explaining their rationale in a few places and then toss in a "In our view, no conclusions should be made from this data." at the end of it. If no conclusions should be drawn, don't bother sharing the data; it's useless. By sharing it in this manner, they are attempting to pretend it's reliable and effectively make the accusation with an out to claim they didn't.

I agree. Inline with your comments, the report has to me a bit of the vibe of an PR department scrambling to get ahead of the story. The poorly and inconsistently formatted graphs indicates they were pulled out of various documents written by various people at different times. And the spray and prey arguments that don't go any where make it seem like they're desperate to appear as objective and unbiased as possible ... which indicates that they are very biased in their urge/need to respond to the "Magnus refuses to play with Hans" situation.

If their cheating detection is so good, wouldn't it be reasonable for chess.com to say to Magnus that you don't have to worry about cheating in our tournaments so you'll play whoever you're paired with and you can leave it up to us to ban people because we know what we're talking about. Why ban Hans now, right after Magnus's ultimatum?

cool_dude85

>I think the thing I'd like to have clarified: Why does chess.com care about the results of an OTB game?

They run money tournaments and hope to have top GMs join and advertise their service by playing, streaming, and commentating the tournaments. You really don't see why they would prefer not to have an OTB cheat invited to these events?

Not to say that Hans has been proven to be a cheat, but it does explain why they have to care about cheating in any event, anywhere.

BeefWellington

> You really don't see why they would prefer not to have an OTB cheat invited to these events?

No, I definitely see why they would rescind his invitation. I mention so in my post you're quoting from.

My question is specifically about the "analysis" they performed of the over-the-board game that started all of this off.

strenholme

This is my general take on it. As I posted on Twitter:

As one example, chess.com thinks it’s suspicious that Hans became a grandmaster at 17 instead of a younger age (page 15 of the report), but keep in mind that the legendary Joseph Henry Blackburne didn’t learn to even how to play chess until he was 17. More recently, world champion #15 Vishy Anand did not become a grandmaster until he was 18.

Point being, it argues like a polemic, not a fact-finding report. They themselves admit this. On page 19: “Chess.com is unaware of any concrete evidence proving that Hans is cheating over the board or has ever cheated over the board”.

My personal hurdle, which has not changed in the last month, is real evidence of online cheating on or after June 20, 2021 (Hans’s 18th birthday), or real evidence of over the board cheating. Understating the extent of his online cheating in his September 6 speech is not evidence of recent cheating. I don’t like it, but it might not even be deliberate lying, but a combination of a foggy memory and nerves.

Regardless, while apparently guilty of online cheating when he was 17 or younger, and possibly guilty of understating the extent of his juvenile delinquency, I see no need to ban him from playing over the board chess with the evidence we have on the table. To ban someone as an adult for something done while a juvenile is generally considered immoral, and to ban someone without solid evidence is also considered immoral. This is a line I draw in the sand and will hold to.

jefftk

> To ban someone as an adult for something done while a juvenile is generally considered immoral

I don't think it's so clear, especially when the time elapsed is short.

If you cheated I'm a game we played yesterday and today is your 18th birthday I'm still not going to trust you today.

johnaspden

> This is a line I draw in the sand and will hold to.

Would you play him for money at a game where you are both equally skilled and it's easy to cheat?

CompMagicWork

This is something I don't understand, why should FIDE accept any evidence from Chess.com, a completely separate corporate entity? That Hans cheated on chess.com is a fact at this point, but I don't see why that means he should be banned from real OTB tournaments or even from competitor online chess websites like Lichess.

extr

Talk about a buried lede, I can't believe that they allow caught cheaters to simply reset in rankings and never publicly name them. Can you imagine any other sport operating that way?

mach1ne

When they receive admittance of cheating, they are able to confirm their cheating detection works as intended. It's a two-way street.

ak_111

Wouldn't it be noticeable if someone got their ranking reset? So others can easily infer who got caught?

Bakary

People are investigating now, because of the drama. But prior to that there wasn't much in the way of open source analysis

thinkingemote

Chess.com recently (coincidently just before this drama happened) bought out Magnus Carlsen's group of companies https://chess24.com/en/read/news/play-magnus-group-receives-...

They are going to be defending 100% their investment.

Woeps

Could you please elaborate? I personally can't see how the acquisition and cheating are connected

Aicy

Conflict of interest.

Magnus Carlsen has put his reputation on the line by calling out Hans Niemann for cheating. Many people have criticised him for doing saying there is not enough evidence.

Chess.com has an interest in defending Magnus's brand since they are buying his companies.

AmericanChopper

There is a very short list of people, in the entire history of the game, who could possibly be considered better players than Carlsen. His reputation is not in jeopardy at all.

ajhurliman

One way to settle it: Grudge match... in an isolated room, fully naked, x-ray scans, in a Faraday cage, no coverage until the match is over.

koolba

> Grudge match... in an isolated room, fully naked, …

At that point does it even have to be chess?

lofaszvanitt

That won't prove anything...

chakhs

Drama aside, no-one seriously thinks Hans can measure up to Magnus. The outcome of that match heavily favors Magnus, even players like Nepo, Caruana, Firouzja are underdogs.

mellosouls

I've only really looked at the WSJ version but I'm scratching my head at what the big reveal is here - we already know - by Hans admission - he cheated online when he was 12 and 16.

I think anybody who knows how online chess tournaments work assumed those two times would cover multiple games and dates.

Other statistical analyses have been published that indicate no evidence for OTB cheating.

The negative against Niemann is the cheating is beefier than he indicated, and given the spotlight he needs to be more thorough.

Chess.com has a dog in the fight though, and it's bark seems worse than its bite here...

erdevs

The full report is worth reading, if you're interested. It reveals a great deal of additional information, not just about Hans' history of cheating and his misrepresentations, but of wider spread cheating (or suspected cheating) by high level chess elites online.

mellosouls

I've now gone through the full report and note that the vast bulk of it has little to do with the accusations themselves (or evidence) but ELI5 type stuff about the context including analysis, and - as you say - indications of a wider problem.

That's fine, but gives the surface impression of being heavyweight while the important stuff is only a few pages and adds little that is new and nothing that delivers a knockout blow that justifies the onslaught against Niemann led by Carlsen's antics that kicked the whole thing off.

fastball

No, the kicker here is that Niemann claimed that at no point did he "cheat in a tournament with prize money.”

Chess.com says this is not the case by their analysis.

Cheating when you're 12 in matches that don't matter is one thing. Cheating in your late teens in tournaments with money is an entirely different one.

shawabawa3

I think the big reveal was 100+ games where it's extremely likely he cheated including prize games

mellosouls

I can't remember the exact wording of his denial but I was thinking of him copping to two periods, which would cover 100+ games easily (any online regular can play more than that over a few days), so the report isn't a major surprise in that respect.

Orothrim

He specifically said "I never cheated in paid-tournament games" and "I never cheated whilst streaming". Chess.com presents pretty clear evidence that's untrue.

tromp

In releasing this report, Chess.com appears to violate their promise of confidentiality expressed in Exhibit C:

> As we mentioned earlier, we have made no public statements regarding the reasons for your account closure or our findings, and anything that happens in this conversation will remain confidential.

But they did at least hide the player identity, so we only know it's a FIDE top 100 nearly-2700 player.

I'm slightly surprised at how easy they make it for a confessed cheater to unban themselves:

> As a titled player, we would like to offer you a chance to re- establish yourself within the Chess.com community, and because of that, we have made no public statements regarding the reasons for your account closure or our findings. If you choose to acknowledge any of the behaviors that you feel might have resulted in your account being closed within the next 72 hours, we may try to work with you privately to have a new account opened, equipped with a title and Diamond Membership.

herendin

Edit: the comment above is apparently about a different, unidentified, player, not Nieman

>... Chess.com appears to violate their promise of confidentiality...

I think they believe that Nieman bringing his alleged cheating at Chess.com into the public arena, and saying things about it that Chess.com believe are not true, broke the agreeement between them, and gave Chess.com the right to respond

tromp

Exhibit C is about another unidentified player, not Nieman...

herendin

Sorry, I didn't read your comment carefully. I also wonder if there's enough information there to identify the players

jsmith45

It ought to be quite easy to identify this person. The report says:

>This person competed in a single event featuring 10 total games in 2020.

They either created a new chess.com account, or totally ceased playing on there around or after July 2020. They were a Top 100 player with almost a 2700 rating.

Those facts combined probably narrow the list to extremely few candidates, perhaps only 1. I don't know chess well enough to identify them.