Chess.com and Hans Niemann have reached a settlement in which Niemann has agreed to drop a $100 million lawsuit against Chess.com and Magnus Carlsen, and will be allowed to return to compete, the company announced Monday. This puts an end to the legal aspect of a cheating scandal that captivated the chess world for nearly a year.
As part of the settlement, chess world champion Carlsen said “there is no determinative evidence that Niemann cheated in his game against me at the Sinquefield Cup. I am willing to play Niemann in future events, should we be paired together.”
The Niemann and Carlsen saga began at the Sinquefield Cup, an in-person chess tournament at the St. Louis Chess Club that took place last September. After Niemann defeated Carlsen, Carlsen withdrew from the tournament and inferred that Niemann cheated against him. He later strengthened his accusations, stating that Niemann “has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted.”
The accusations lit the chess world aflame, with chess streamers, fans, and the general public poring over Niemann’s previous games and theorizing how he could have cheated at an in-person match. Soon after the Sinquefield Cup, Chess.com released evidence that Niemann’s coach, Maxime Dlugy, had used a chess engine to recommend moves for him during Chess.com tournaments.
Chess.com then released a 72-page “Hans Niemann Report” that claimed Niemann “likely cheated” in more than 100 games on the platform. Included in that report were statistical analyses of Niemann’s play, as well as communications with Niemann in which he admitted to cheating in the past. Notably and crucially, the report did not include specific evidence that Niemann cheated against Carlsen in the Sinquefield Cup.
Following the release of that report, Niemann sued Chess.com, Carlsen, and chess grandmaster and Twitch streamer Hikaru Nakamura. Niemann alleged a conspiracy in which Chess.com, Carlsen, and Nakamura tried to blackball him from Chess.com, which he said had a monopoly in the chess market.
A federal judge in Missouri threw out the case, stating that Niemann’s ban was “not plausibly tied to any anticompetitive intent or effect.”
“Niemann’s ban resulted from his alleged violation of Chess.com’s rules regarding cheating. As noted above in the discussion of antitrust injury, Niemann has not plausibly alleged that Chess.com’s enforcement of its rules—whether fair or not as applied to Niemann—adversely affected competition among the professional chess tournaments and online recreational chess platforms that comprise the Competitive Chess Market,” the judge wrote.
Niemann appealed this decision, and, Monday, they reached a settlement in which Niemann will drop his appeal. Thus, we may never know what happened at the Sinquefield Cup.
Chess.com said that “we stand by the findings in our October 2022 public report regarding Hans, including that we found no determinative evidence that he has cheated in any in-person games.”
“I am pleased that my lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen and Chess.com has been resolved in a mutually acceptable manner, and that I am returning to Chess.com. I look forward to competing against Magnus in chess rather than in court,” Niemann said in a statement.
Chess.com said that he “will be allowed to play in any and all events, and will be treated no differently from any other player.”