the Hans Niemann saga
Why was Elon Musk tweeting about chess and anal beads?
How hard is it to be a professional chess player? Apparently not that hard.
Consider the saga of Hans Niemann. 18 months ago, he was a high-school senior with aspirations of attending university, who, in his spare time, was on the threshold of grandmaster-level strength in chess.
Now, after making chess mastery his primary occupation over the past 18 months, he has defeated lame-duck1 World Champion Magnus Carlsen in classical chess at the Sinquefield Cup.
Carlsen responded to his defeat by withdrawing from the tournament, with an accusatory but vague statement:
The implication is that Niemann’s performance was not on the up-and-up, and there are a wide variety2 of accusations about cheating.
There are claims that Carlsen’s opening prep may have leaked. However, it was no great mystery3 that Carlsen would play the Catalan opening with white, or some variation including the moves d4, c4, and g3.
There are claims about cheating by Niemann in online matches. Niemann has acknowledged cheating in online matches several years ago. However, he has recently been banned anew from chess.com for reasons which are not currently public. With neither an accusation nor evidence, we cannot comment.
There are claims about using a relay during the over-the-board matches. This is where the silly season comes into play. From somewhere (probably /r/AnarchyChess), the leading4 theory was that the only way to have a relay system that would not be detected in a patdown was ... vibrating wireless anal beads.
Of course, such a topic was irresistible for Mr. Elon Musk, who tweeted (and then deleted5) comments on the theory. This was sufficient for various tabloids to promote the theory from "obvious trolling" to "conspiracy theory".
Our Take: it would be more remarkable for a top chess player not to be somewhat insane. Carlsen, after seeing his invincible Catalan defeated, and after Niemann’s inflammatory6 press-comments, decided to do the crazy7 thing: knock the board over, make vague insinuations, and go home.
well, either that, or Carlsen got forewarning about an alien vessel leaving Earth on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and left St. Louis early to get on board …
In one of a series of questionable recent decisions, Carlsen recently announced he would not defend his World Championship title.
I am yet to see any accusations involving performance-enhancing drugs.
It’s not like the rules of chess are secret.
The anal-beads theory was leading in terms of crassness, not in terms of being likely.
The original tweeter, after seeing Mr. Musk re-tweet him, changed his display name to “Unionize Tesla”. This type of gamesmanship is yet another issue for Twitter to potentially address.
“[Magnus] was so demoralized because he was losing to such an idiot like me. It must be embarrassing for the World Champion to lose to me” - Hans Niemann
One can posit that Magnus is crazy like a fox; as he has a substantial ownership share in the websites that online chess is played on, perhaps any chess publicity is good for him.