Why was Magnus Carlsen sued for $100 million by Hans Niemann? The story so far

Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup in Missouri earlier this month after losing to Hans Niemann. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

What happened?

Magnus Carlsen, five-time world chess champion, has been sued for $100mn by fellow chess player Hans Niemann.

Hans who?

Niemann. 19 years old. From the USA. From an ELO rating of 2484 in Jan 2021, he rose to 2688: a big rise in the world of chess.

What's his issue with Carlsen?

He has claimed 'Libel, slander and unlawful boycott and tortious interference of Niemann's business.'

You'll need to explain all that

Oh, yes, of course. For that, though, we'll have to travel back to Sept 5, when Carlsen withdrew from a chess tournament (the Sinquefield Cup) a day after losing to 19-year-old Niemann. He then tweeted something that hinted at Niemann being a cheat.

A Mourinho reference? Nice. But that doesn't sound 100mn sue-worthy, does it?

Oh, we haven't gotten to that part yet. After Carlsen's tweet, Niemann came out saying he had cheated twice (aged 12 and 16) but never after, and certainly not against Carlsen. On Sept 26, Carlsen went on the offensive (there's a chess strategy pun in there somewhere), and put out a statement clearly accusing Niemann of cheating, and saying he'd never play against him again.

On Oct. 4, Chess.com (who've also been sued by Niemann), put out a 72-page report saying Niemann had "likely cheated" in more than 100 online games on its platform. Hence: 'libel and slander'.

Why did chess.com get involved?

Chess.com is the world's largest online gaming site - most online tournaments of note are held on the website. If there's a major chess tournament happening anywhere, offline or on, you'll see their name. They got involved because so much of chess has now gone online.

Oh, and on entirely unrelated note, chess.com is in process of buying Carlsen's Play Magnus app for $83 million.

Unrelated, eh?

Yeah, Niemann didn't think so. He's raised that point in the lawsuit, saying that Chess.com and Carlsen are coming together in a merger that will "monopolize the chess world."

Wait, so chess.com is not an official governing body?

Nope. They do not govern rules, regulations or ranking. It's a private website. Which is why Niemann and his lawyers had this to say in the lawsuit: "For the most part, professional chess players use Chess.com merely to connect with fans, increase their visibility in the chess community and gain "followers" to enhance their personal brands, or simply to have fun and play chess in a relaxed, unofficial atmosphere. For example, despite Carlsen's obsession with his FIDE ranking and unbeaten streaks, Chess.com's own statistics reveal that he has lost at least 40 online chess games on Chess.com in the past month alone."

It's going to be messy, isn't it?

Of course. Carlsen's and chess.com's accusations are very serious, considering their status and power in the chess world. Niemann's lawsuit in response is indicative of that. With neither party looking like they'll back down, this could be a long drawn-out affair.