American chess grandmaster Hans Niemann has been reinstated by Chess.com following the conclusion of a legal dispute between Niemann, Magnus Carlsen and the online platform, among others.
In June, a US judge dismissed a $100 million defamation lawsuit filed by Niemann against Chess.com, five-time world champion Carlsen, and popular streamer and player Hikaru Nakamura.
This followed an alleged cheating scandal surrounding Niemann which rocked the sport last year.
“We are pleased to report that we have reached an agreement with Hans Niemann to put our differences behind us and move forward together without further litigation,” said a statement released by Chess.com this week.
“At this time, Hans has been fully reinstated to Chess.com, and we look forward to his participation in our events.”
Chess.com calls itself the world’s largest online platform for chess and says it hosts more than 10 million games every day.
“I am pleased that my lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen and Chess.com has been resolved in a mutually acceptable manner, and that I am returning to Chess.com,” Niemann said in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter. “I look forward to competing against Magnus in chess rather than in court.”
He continued: “These difficult times have only strengthened my resolve and character and have only invigorated me even more to reach the top of chess. There will be a day when I will be the best chess player in the world, and I think it’s time to let my chess speak for itself.”
According to Niemann’s dismissed lawsuit, the dispute began in September 2022 when then world champion Carlsen accused Niemann of cheating at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri.
The lawsuit claimed that Carlsen pulled out of the tournament after losing to Niemann, later tweeting a video of soccer manager José Mourinho saying: “I prefer, really, not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.”
Over-the-board chess, like that played at the Sinquefield Cup, takes place in a face-to-face format, rather than online. Carlsen did not provide details about what he alleged Niemann did during their September 2022 match.
In an interview with the St. Louis Chess Club shortly after, Niemann said that he had never cheated in over-the-board games, though he did admit to cheating in “random games on Chess.com” as a younger player, which he called “the single biggest mistake of my life.”
However, a 72-page report by Chess.com later alleged that Niemann “likely cheated” in more than 100 online matches between July 2015 and August 2020, “including several with prize money events.”
The report claimed that Niemann privately confessed to cheating to the website’s chief chess officer in 2020, which led to the now 20-year-old being temporarily banned from the platform.
Niemann’s lawsuit described this allegation as “false” and stated that he “had not previously been banned twice on Chess.com for cheating.”
In this week’s statement announcing the conclusion of the legal dispute, Chess.com said: “We stand by the findings in our October 2022 public report regarding Hans, including that we found no determinative evidence that he has cheated in any in-person games.”
The report said that Chess.com closed Niemann’s account in September 2022 given his previous acknowledgments of cheating, suspicions about his recent play and concerns about the steep, inconsistent rise in his rank.
In September last year, Carlsen said that he believed Niemann had cheated “more – and more recently – than he has publicly admitted” having withdrawn from a game against Niemann at the Julius Baer Generation Cup after making just one move.
In a statement released by Chess.com this week, Carlsen said: “I acknowledge and understand Chess.com’s report, including its statement that there is no determinative evidence that Niemann cheated in his game against me at the Sinquefield Cup. I am willing to play Niemann in future events, should we be paired together.”
Speaking on his YouTube channel in a video released on Monday, Nakamura said: “Ultimately, everyone will or has formed their own opinions. Some have very strong opinions one way or another. I don’t think that anyone’s opinion is going to change at this point in time.”