American grandmaster Hans Niemann filed a lawsuit Thursday against five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen and online platform Chess.com – the latest twist in the cheating saga that has shaken the world of competitive chess.
The lawsuit, filed in a U.S. District Court in Missouri, comes a little more than six weeks after Niemann’s surprising defeat of Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, which prompted Carlsen to abruptly withdraw from the event without explanation. Carlsen formally accused Niemann of cheating in a statement three weeks later.
Niemann claims in the lawsuit that the Norwegian’s cheating allegation has significantly damaged his reputation and career. He is seeking $100 million in damages.
“With this lawsuit, Niemann will set the record straight,” his attorneys, Darren and Terrence Oved, said in a statement.
“This is not a game. Defendants have destroyed Niemann’s life simply because he had the talent, dedication and audacity to defeat the so-called ‘King of Chess.’”
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The lawsuit also lists Chess.com executive Danny Rensch, Carlsen’s online chess platform Play Magnus, and American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura as defendants.
Representatives for Carlsen, Nakamura and Chess.com did not immediately reply to emails from USA TODAY Sports on Thursday afternoon.
In addition to claims for slander and libel, Niemann’s lawsuit accuses the defendants of “unlawfully colluding to blacklist him” from professional chess.
It points, in part, to a 72-page report published by Chess.com earlier this month, which concluded that Niemann likely cheated in more than 100 online chess games. The lawsuit calls the report “nothing more than a false and malicious hatchet-job.”
Niemann, 19, has publicly admitted to cheating in online chess on two occasions – once when he was 12, and again when he was 16. He has denied cheating in any over-the-board games – a term for games that are played live and in-person.
Despite his denials, Niemann’s play has raised eyebrows in the chess community, as he has rocketed up the world rankings. While he is currently ranked 40th, his Elo rating – which measures a player’s strength relative to their peers – increased by 350 points in just four years.
Niemann claims in the lawsuit that the cheating allegations have damaged his reputation and prompted him to be excluded from key tournaments, in part because Carlsen has said he will not participate in an event with Niemann.
“By being excluded from these tournaments, Niemann has lost any opportunity to obtain any appearance fees or cash prizes, as well as the ability to improve his FIDE rating,” the lawsuit alleges.