The 1,400-year-old game of chess may sound stuffy and boring compared to other tabletop games like Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens.
But a bonkers conspiracy accusing a newly crowned chess champ of using vibrating anal beads to cheat has renewed public interest in the game.
On September 4, 19-year-old low-ranked American player Hans Niemann defeated 31-year-old Norwegian five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen in the Sinquefield Cup, a chess tournament where some of the world’s best players compete for a nearly $100,000 prize.
Carlsen made an early mistake in the match, according to Kotaku, and Niemann — who had studied Carlsen’s earlier matches to anticipate his gameplay style — capitalized on the error to defeat him.
Niemann’s victory ended Carlsen’s 53-game winning streak and compelled Carlsen to drop out of the tournament entirely.
“[Carlsen] was so demoralized because he was losing to such an idiot like me,” Niemann said in a post-match interview. “It must be embarrassing for the world champion to lose to me. I feel bad for him.”
In a tweet announcing his departure from the tournament, Carlsen included a video of Portuguese soccer manager José Mourinho saying, “I prefer really not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.”
The cryptic tweet led online commenters, including a Japanese-American chess grandmaster, Hikaru Nakamura, to speculate that Carlsen may have suspected Niemann of cheating.
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 5, 2022
The speculation was aided by Niemann’s admission that he had cheated during online matches on chess.com at the ages of 12 and 16. However, he said he never cheated during an “over-the-board” in-person match.
The speculation grew after chess.com removed Niemann’s profile from its site and released a statement saying, that Neimann hadn’t responded to the site’s private message concerning “information that contradicts his statements regarding the amount and seriousness of his cheating on chess.com.”
Nakamura publicly noted that Niemann had previously been prohibited from playing cash tournaments on chess.com for six months. Nakamura had also previously accused Niemann of “doing some things in tournaments that are not allowed,” though he didn’t elaborate.
Niemann defended himself while apologizing for youthful cheating, saying, “I just wanted to get higher-rated so I could play stronger players, so I cheated in random games on chess.com. Now, I was confronted, I confessed, and this is the single biggest mistake of my life and I’m completely ashamed, and I’m telling the world because I do not want any misrepresentation and I do not want rumors. I have never cheated in an over-the-board game.”
Niemann later accused Nakamura of making “frivolous implications” in order to increase his online subscriber base.
Hikaru plays the victim but seems to forget dedicating hours of his stream to criticize all of my interviews. with frivolous insinuations. Perhaps he deserves some blame and should take accountability for what he said. At least he has 42% more subs nowhttps://t.co/CLh6CO7291
— Hans Niemann (@HansMokeNiemann) September 8, 2022
Because the internet loves scandal, conspiracy theories, and gossip, online commenters began speculating how Niemann might have cheated in his match against Carlsen. One person speculated that he might’ve used a “shoe computer” and an artificial intelligence (AI) program that sent vibrations to Niemann’s shoe to tell him where to move next.
While broadcasting on the Chessbrah Twitch stream, two Canadian chess grandmasters, Eric Hansen and Aman Hambleton, briefly discussed someone’s suggestion from the live chat that Niemann might’ve used anal beads to cheat, Kotaku reported.
Riffing off of this theory, a Reddit user named XiTro baselessly theorized that Niemann might’ve cheated by pairing an AI program with vibrating anal beads.
XiTro claimed, with zero evidence, that Carlsen had actually invented the anal bead cheating method and that Niemann stole the idea, resulting in both men using secret vibrating anal beds during their fateful match. The signals sent to Niemann’s anal beads conflicted with the signals sent to Carlsen’s causing Carlsen to play badly, XiTro said.
Let’s take a second here to point out two things: First, there is absolutely zero evidence that Neimann cheated in his match against Carlsen. In fact, in a statement, the Chief Arbiter of the Sinquefield Cup wrote, “We currently have no indication that any player has been playing unfairly.”
— Grand Chess Tour (@GrandChessTour) September 10, 2022
Secondly, competitive chess is predominantly played by heterosexual males. As such, ridiculous conspiracy theories about players using anal beads carry a bitter homophobic undertone about “queer deception” and are emasculating these two “anal retentive” men publicly bickering over a board game.
But(t) it gets even weirder…
In an interview proclaiming his innocence, Niemann said, “If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it. I don’t care. Because I know I am clean. You want me to play in a closed box with zero electronic transmission, I don’t care.”
In response to his suggestion, the adult webcam site Stripchat decided to score some free publicity by (ahem) inserting themselves into the story and offering Niemann $1 million to play chess completely nude on their site to prove that his innocence, Vice reported.
“It’s a shame you’re being ridiculed by the chess community for potentially cheating,” Stripchat wrote in its public letter to Neimann. “Claims that you used wireless vibrating anal beads to gain an upper hand are ridiculous.”
“Prove the haters wrong once and for all,” the site continued. “Strip naked and play a game of chess live on Stripchat in return for up to $1 million.”
We’re guessing Neimann isn’t going to take them up on their offer.
Meanwhile, the Sinquefield Cup said that it would instate “additional anti-cheating measures” for future tournaments, including scanning players for radio frequencies and a giving 15-minute delay on its live broadcast to prevent outside viewers from trying to influence games in progress.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll go back to being interested in more modern games, like Settlers of Catan or Grindr.