Indian connection to Niemann's defamation case against Carlsen

In his petition filed in the US court, Niemann said owing to the defamatory statements made by Carlsen and others, the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, one of the game's most prestigious tournaments, immediately ceased its ongoing arrangements with him to play in its January 2023 tournament.
Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen

CHENNAI: Is there an Indian connection to the US-based 19-year old chess Grandmaster (GM) Hans Niemann filing a USD100 million defamation suit against World chess champion Magnus Carlsen and others? Yes, it seems.

In his petition filed in the US court, Niemann said owing to the defamatory statements made by Carlsen and others, the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, one of the game's most prestigious tournaments, immediately ceased its ongoing arrangements with him to play in its January 2023 tournament.

The other impacts to his chess career due to the alleged defamatory statements made by Carlsen and others listed in the petition are:

1. The Chess.com Global Championship revoked Niemann's invitation to play in that tournament in October 2022, even though he earned that invitation through his exceptional play;

2. Teenage Grandmaster Vincent Keymer cancelled his upcoming game with Niemann in Germany;

3. Niemann cannot obtain employment as a chess teacher in a reputed school.

This raises questions like, whether Tata Steel Chess stopped communicating with Niemann after the cheating allegations were levelled against him and whether an invitation extended by Tata Steel Chess to Niemann to participate in the January 2023 tournament, was withdrawn later?

"The Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee is one of the most prestigious chess tournaments in the world. Almost all top players in the world want to participate here in January. Throughout the year, there are several formal and informal conversations between the organisation and players, initiated from both sides. No one is sure of participation," Jeroen van den Berg, director, Tata Steel Chess Tournament Wijk aan Zee told IANS.

He also said, "The tournament has a special invitation policy. This differs on several points from what is usual at other top tournaments. There is always a search for a perfect mix between the chess elite and upcoming new talents. In addition, the tournament also differs in the number of participants; 14 in the Master group and 14 in the Challenger group. We will announce the complete field of participants of the 85th edition of the tournament (in) mid-November."

Niemann has filed a USD100 million defamation suit against Carlsen, his company Play Magnus Group, Chess.com, Daniel Rensch and GM Hikaru Nakamura.

In his petition, Niemann said, "Prior to the acts giving rise to this complaint, Play Magnus proudly touted Niemann as one of its brand ambassadors. Over the years, Play Magnus has grown into one of the two largest online chess companies in the world, second only to the multi-billion-dollar behemoth Chess.com, LLC (Chess.com).

"In August 2022, Chess.com agreed to acquire Play Magnus for nearly USD83 million and merge the two companies in order to monopolise the chess world. Carlsen, having solidified his position as the 'King of Chess', believes that when it comes to chess, he can do whatever he wants and get away with it," the petition notes.

As per the petition on September 4, 2022, Niemann soundly defeated Carlsen during an in-person game at the prestigious Sinquefield Cup tournament in St. Louis, Missouri. Notably, this was not the first time that Niemann had beaten Carlsen at chess, just the first time he did so at a FIDE-sanctioned event, the petition said.

"Niemann's upset victory effectively dashed Carlsen's two remaining statistical ambitions, namely: achieving a 2900 FIDE performance rating for the first time in history; and breaking his own world-record unbeaten streak in FIDE-sanctioned events. These accomplishments, if achieved, would have solidified Carlsen as arguably the greatest chess player of all time and made his burgeoning chess empire even more valuable. Making matters worse for Carlsen, Niemann embarrassed Carlsen by playfully taunting him during his post-match interview," the petition said.

"Notorious for his inability to cope with defeat, Carlsen snapped. Enraged that the young Niemann, fully 12 years his junior, dared to disrespect the 'King of Chess', and fearful that the young prodigy would further blemish his multi-million dollar brand by beating him again, Carlsen viciously and maliciously retaliated against Niemann by falsely accusing Niemann, without any evidence, of somehow cheating during their in-person game and demanding that the organisers of the Sinquefield Cup immediately disqualify Niemann from the tournament," Niemann said in his petition.

Carlsen then confirmed his defamatory accusations against Niemann with a provocative post on Twitter, which had the intended effect of disseminating Carlsen's false accusations that Niemann had cheated against him across the globe, the petition states.

As per the petition, days later, Carlsen was scheduled to play Niemann again in the Julius Baer Generation Cup. Rather than seek to redeem himself from his unexpected loss to Niemann, Carlsen, the 'King of Chess', gutlessly forfeited the game after making one move, and then issued a press release repeating his false accusations that Niemann had cheated against him at the Sinquefield Cup.

According to the petition, Carlsen also unleashed his media empire to fan the flames of his cheating accusations, drown out the legitimate evidence refuting them, blacklist Niemann from top-level chess tournaments, and protect, at any cost, his eponymous Play Magnus brand and status as 'King of Chess'.

"Almost immediately thereafter: (a) Chess.com, in collusion with Carlsen and Play Magnus, immediately banned Niemann from its website and all of its future events, to lend credence to Carlsen's unsubstantiated and defamatory accusations of cheating; (b) Defendant Hikaru Nakamura -- Chess.com's most influential streaming partner -- acting in collusion with Carlsen and Chess.com, published hours of video content amplifying and attempting to bolster Carlsen's false cheating allegations against Niemann with numerous additional defamatory statements; and (c) Chess.com executive Danny Rensch issued defamatory press releases, and leaked defamatory "reports" to prominent press outlets, falsely accusing Niemann of lying in his post-match Sinquefield Cup interview regarding his use of a 'chess engine' in a handful of recreational online games when he was a child, to bolster Carlsen's unsubstantiated defamatory accusations that Niemann cheated against him at the Sinquefield Cup," the petition notes.

Owing to the malicious defamation and unlawful collusion has, by design, destroyed Niemann's remarkable career in its prime and ruined his life.

"As a result of Play Magnus and Chess.com's collusion to blacklist him from chess, Niemann can no longer compete in any online Chess.com or Play Magnus tournaments, and will not receive invitations to in-person events sponsored by Chess.com or Play Magnus, which collectively comprise the majority of FIDE-sanctioned chess tournaments," Niemann's court petition states.

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