Bizarre conspiracy scandal takes the chess world by storm

Chess news typically doesn’t set the pulse racing, but a feud between the sport’s highest-ranked player and a rising star has taken over the internet in recent weeks.

The conflict between Norwegian chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen and 19-year-old American prodigy Hans Niemann has spectators fascinated.

Niemann shocked the chess world when he beat Carlsen in the Sinquefield Cup on September 4, breaking the grandmaster’s 53-game winning streak.

The shock win ignited the beef between the pair, and fuelled bizarre rumours including a prominent conspiracy involving, ahem, anal beads.

Low-ranked victor

Carlsen, 31, began his professional chess career as a child.

He became a grandmaster (the sport’s most prestigious title) at the age of 13 years and 148 days, the third-youngest player in history to do so.

He is the highest-ranked chess player of all time, and has kept his cool throughout his decades-long career.

But one challenger ruffled his feathers.

Relative newcomer Niemann shocked the sporting world – and Carlsen – when he beat the five-time world champion in the third round of the Sinquefield Cup.

His win was most unexpected because he entered the tournament as the lowest-ranked player.

The defeated Carlsen withdrew from the tournament the following day – the first time he has called it quits.

He confirmed his exit on Twitter, including a video of Portuguese soccer manager José Mourinho saying: “I prefer really not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.”

Rumour mill starts spinning

Carlsen’s exit – paired with his cryptic tweet – fuelled speculation. Fans and experts wondered if Carlsen suspected his opponent had cheated.

Although Carlsen is yet to make any allegations, American grandmaster and popular Twitch streamer Hikaru Nakamura claimed he thought Niemann “probably cheated”.

“He probably believes in his heart of hearts that Hans cheated in that game,” Nakamura told his viewers.

The tournament organisers attempted to shut down speculation of cheating by ramping up security measures for the rest of the tournament.

They said they even thoroughly examined Niemann before his next match, but found no evidence of cheating.

But that didn’t stop the internet from speculating how it would have been possible for the American to cheat in his game against Carlsen.

Nefarious means

The internet next did what it does best by conjuring the most insane conspiracy theory possible.

Rather than believe Niemann was simply the better player on the day, rumours swirled that he had used wireless anal beads to transmit messages to himself.

Internet users speculated that Niemann had used artificial intelligence-based technology to calculate the next best move.

The beads would then vibrate in a morse code-like sequence, informing Niemann which move to make.

Twitter-obsessed Tesla CEO Elon Musk further propelled the theory in a now-deleted tweet, quoting German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one can see (cause it’s in ur butt),” Musk chimed in.

The rumour is no doubt outrageous, but devious tactics are not unheard of.

British man Charles Ingram made history in 2001 when he became the third person in the history of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to win the show’s £1 million prize.

However, he was later denied the winnings when production suspected he had used an unusual cheating tactic to answer the questions correctly.

It was alleged that one of Ingram’s fellow contestants would cough when he read out a correct answer.

Ingram and his wife later stood trial, and were found guilty of conspiring to cheat.

He was handed an 18-month suspended sentence, fined £15,000 ($25,560), ordered to pay £10,000 ($17,000) in costs, and was forced to resign as an army major.

Niemann responds

The anal bead theory wasn’t helped by an admission from Niemann, who conceded that he had cheated in online chess tournaments when he was 12 and 16.

But he refuted claims that he had cheated against Carlsen, saying he had “never” cheated at an in-person tournament.

Niemann called the allegations “slander” and a “targeted attack” and made a bizarre pledge to prove his innocence.

“If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it. I don’t care. Because I know I am clean,” Niemann said in an interview.

“You want me to play in a closed box with zero electronic transmission? I don’t care. I’m here to win and that is my goal regardless.”

Drama takes another turn

The feud was reignited when the pair went face to face a second time – this time virtually.

Carlsen and Niemann reunited for the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour’s Julius Baer Generation Cup on Monday night.

However, just one move into the highly anticipated game, Carlsen threw in the towel and left the virtual call.

Even commentators of the contest were taken aback by Carlsen’s shock move.

Announcer Tania Sachdev said the move was “unprecedented” and Carlsen was “making a very big statement”.

Both Carlsen and Niemann are yet to address the match’s abrupt ending, and both showed for their scheduled matches later that day.

Australian grandmaster David Smerdon told the ABC that Carlsen wasn’t giving Niemann a fair shot.

“Either you have a non-functioning event or they have to choose between inviting the grand champion and the junior, and if that’s the choice Magnus is giving them, then he’s essentially ruining the career of a junior,” Dr Smerdon said.

“At some point, Magnus has to explain himself.”

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