After a tense bout, Niemann ended Carlsen’s 53-game unbeaten streak, and then rubbed it in by saying in an interview after the match: “It must be embarrassing for the World Champion to lose to me. I feel bad for him!”
Then, round four of the match between the pair was delayed by 15 minutes as security stepped up their attempts to ensure no one was cheating by smuggling in equipment. Niemann was reportedly scanned for 90 seconds on his way to play.
Shortly afterwards, Carlson took the decision to withdraw from the tournament without fully explaining why.
\u201cI've withdrawn from the tournament. I've always enjoyed playing in the @STLChessClub, and hope to be back in the future https://t.co/YFSpl8er3u\u201d
The chess champion fuelled speculation by posting a clip of Jose Mourinho’s infamous “If I speak, I am in big trouble” quote.
Things took another turn after another player, Hikaru Nakamura, got involved. The sixth highest-rated classical player in the world spoke about the incident on his Twitch stream, speculating that the reason Carlson withdrew is that he believed Niemann was cheating.
“That is the one thing that I’m going to say, and that is the only thing I’m going to say on this topic,” Nakamura said, before later adding: “I think that Magnus believes that Hans is probably cheating.”
It quickly became the most talked about thing in the game. Others including grandmasters Rafael Leitao and Jacob Aagaard defended Niemann and said they thought Niemann didn’t cheat.
However, things took another unexpected turn after player Eric “ChessBrah” Hansen tried to claim that Niemann had signals conveyed to him via anal beads.
It might sound outlandish, but the theory gathered traction after others circulated it online – including none other than Elon Musk
Musk contorted a quote from German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer to fit the situation, writing: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one can see (cause it’s in ur butt)” – Schopenhauer”
\u201cflattered owner of the anal bead theory that made its way all the way to Elon\u201d
Hansen replied to Musk's comments by saying: “Flattered owner of the anal bead theory that made its way all the way to Elon.”
No-one could have imagined the issue would have become such a talking point, and Niemann eventually addressed the situation and denied the allegations.
Despite admitting that he cheated in online chess games as a child, he said as part of an impassioned defence: “I am not going to let Chess.com, I am not going to let Magnus Carlsen, I’m not going to let Hikaru Nakamura, the three arguably biggest entities in chess, simply slander my reputation.”