https://www.bbc.com/-Image source, Saint Louis Chess Club/Crystal Fuller
World champion Magnus Carlsen (left) rocked the chess world by accusing Hans Niemann (right) of cheating
By Alex Therrien-BBC News journalist and Fide Master chess player
A top chess player accused of cheating has insisted he is “not going to back down” after making his first comments on the scandal in nearly a month.
On Tuesday, a Chess.com investigation claimed it was “likely” Hans Niemann cheated in more than 100 games online.
The 19-year-old American rising star had already been accused of cheating by world champion Magnus Carlsen.
Speaking on Wednesday after winning his US Championship game, Niemann said his victory was “a message to everyone”.
In a news conference following a convincing win against 15-year-old grandmaster Christopher Yoo, Niemann was asked about the “elephant in the room” – a reference to the cheating scandal that has gripped the chess world.
Without addressing the allegations directly, Niemann said: “This game is a message to everyone. This entire thing started with me saying ‘chess speaks for itself’ and I think this game spoke for itself and showed the chess player I am.
“It also showed I’m not going to back down and I’m going to play my best chess here regardless of the pressure.”
Niemann then cut the interview short after less than 60 seconds.
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“You can leave it to your own interpretation, but thank you, that’s it”, he said when the interviewer tried to ask more questions.
“That’s all I can say, because it was such a beautiful game I don’t even need to describe it,” he concluded.
Niemann, who was playing in the first round of the US Championship in St Louis, then walked out of the interview, prompting commentator Yasser Seirawan to laugh and say: “What? That’s it? Ok.”
Until the interview Niemann had not spoken about the scandal since 7 September when he admitted to cheating in informal games when he was younger but strenuously denied doing so in competitive games.
Niemann added that he was willing to play naked to prove his innocence and accused Carlsen and Chess.com of trying to ruin his career.
The scandal began last month after 31-year-old Carlsen, considered by many to be the greatest player of all time, was defeated by Niemann at the Sinquefield Cup in a major upset.
The Norwegian made veiled accusations of cheating against Niemann at the time before openly accusing him last week.
Then on Tuesday, a Chess.com investigation claimed it was likely Niemann had cheated “much more often” than he had admitted to, including in prize money events and against highly-rated “well known” figures in the game.
Chess.com also noted “anomalies” in Niemann’s rate of improvement, which has seen him soar up the rankings in classical chess from around 800 in the world to the top 50 in less than two years.
The site said this rise was the fastest in “modern recorded history” and had occurred “much later in life than his peers”.
But it found no evidence he had cheated in his game against Carlsen or in any other over-the-board games.
A separate statistical analysis of Niemann’s over-the-board games by Prof Kenneth Regan, widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on cheating in chess, has also found no evidence he cheated.
Not since 2006’s “Toiletgate” has chess faced a cheating scandal at the elite levels of the game.
Back then, world championship challenger Veselin Topalov’s team accused the champion Vladimir Kramnik of cheating during his “strange, if not suspicious” trips to the bathroom.
Prof Regan also found no evidence Kramnik had cheated.