Grandmasters go to war over claims 46-game chess streak was tainted
World of Chess rocked by a second scandal: Grandmasters go to war as American champion Hikaru Nakamura is accused of cheating by rival after 46-game winning streak
- Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik, 48, sparked the clash by casting doubt over America’s Hikaru Nakamura’s stunning 46-game no-loss streak on Chess.com
- Nakamura, 35, hit back in a series of fiery YouTube clips accusing Kramnik of ‘cherry-picking’ the figures – until Chess.com was forced to give a verdict
- It follows outrageous allegations that American prodigy Hans Niemann, 20, had been using vibrating anal beads to cheat – which has only just been resolved
A fiery feud has broken out between two grandmasters after a former chess world champion accused America’s top player of cheating.
Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik, 48, sparked the clash by casting doubt over Hikaru Nakamura’s stunning 46-game no-loss streak via online gaming platform Chess.com, saying it was statistically improbable.
Florida-based Nakamura, 35, hit back in a series of YouTube clips accusing Kramnik of ‘cherry-picking’ the figures – until Chess.com hired an ivy league math professor to intervene in the dispute.
It’s not the first time Nakamura has been embroiled in allegations of foul play – he was one of the grandmasters who accused American prodigy Hans Niemann of using vibrating anal beads to cheat in 2022.
Niemann was cleared of the chess crime in August – only for this latest allegation to emerge last week against Nakamura himself, who has been America’s top-ranked player for more than 10 years.
A former world champion has accused reigning US number 1 chess player Hikaru Nakamura (pictured) of cheating to achieve his stunning 46-game no-lose streak on Chess.com
Russi ‘s Vladimir Kramnik (pictured) sparked the clash by casting doubt over Nakamura’s stunning 46-game no-loss streak on online gaming platform Chess.com, saying it was statistically improbable
The fiery feud broke out between the two grandmasters on November 20 and it has only just been resolved after Chess.com moderators intervened with a verdict. (Pictured: Kramnik and Nakamura going head to head in a 2019 chess tournament)
The drama began when Kramnik, who was Classical Chess World Champion from 2000 to 2006, claimed in a blog post on November 20 that Nakamura’s streak was suspicious and that moderators should check it out.
A grandmaster since the age of 15, Nakamura had stunned the chess community in recent weeks by sustaining a streak of 45 wins and one draw by an anonymous player in the online blitz competition called Titled Tuesday.
Although he didn’t name Nakamura initially in the since-deleted memo, Kramnik referred to the pattern of wins being statistically almost impossible, adding ‘I believe everyone would find that interesting’.
Kramnik didn’t explain how he believed Nakamura had cheated – though older players are becoming increasingly suspicious of younger opponents’ potential to use artificial intelligence in online games.
Nakamura, who is popular with chess enthusiasts for explaining his moves over streaming platforms like Twitch and Kick, defended his reputation in several lengthy YouTube videos.
The day after Kramnik aired his allegations, Nakamura accused him of trying to undermine his achievement.
Addressing what he called ‘a lot of drama’, the New York-raised player told his 2.2 million subscribers: ‘Kramnik at the end of the day is putting these things out under the guise of saying it’s interesting, it’s different or it shouldn’t be happening.
‘It feels very much like he’s just trying to sow the seeds of doubt.’
In the online equivalent of asking to take the fight outside, he challenged Kramnik, from Tuapse in south-west Russia, to ‘just come out and say what you’re trying to say’.
The drama began when Kramnik, who was Classical Chess World Champion from 2000 to 2006, claimed in a blog post on November 20 that the streak by Nakamura (pictured) was suspicious and that moderators should check it out
Kramnik, 48, from from Tuapse in south-west Russia, was Classical Chess World Champion from 2000 to 2006
Although he didn’t name Nakamura initially in the since-deleted memo, Kramnik referred to a 46-unbeaten game streak being statistically almost impossible, adding ‘I believe everyone would find that interesting’
Nakamura, who was born in Japan to an American mother and Japanese father before moving to White Plains, New York with his family at the age of two, claimed to have been the target of a campaign by the Russian for the last few months.
He said he’d accused him of cheating previously behind closed doors, telling his YouTube followers: ‘I think he’s doing it to undermine chess’.
‘Someone doesn’t get to say these things without actual proof. They don’t get to falsely accuse people over and over again without having to pay a price,’ he said.
To prove his point, Nakamura went on to win another 43 blitz chess games in a row, prompting an explosion of awe from the chess community online.
‘This is insane,’ an account called GothamChess wrote in a viral X post. ‘He is clearly sending a message regarding the recent comments from Vladimir Kramnik.’
But another Russian grandmaster, Ian Nepomniachtchi, poured fuel on the fiery dispute by tweeting a screenshot of Kramnik’s Chess.com profile showing his bio which read ‘despising cheaters’, while appearing to support him.
The 33-year-old 2023 world championship finalist shared the image with the mysterious caption: ‘Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.’
Nakamura, who has been playing chess since he was seven years old, again took to YouTube to address what he called the ‘continued attack’.
‘The stats that Kramnik provided were completely wrong because he cherry-picked a data-set of 46 games rather than looking at all the games that were played over those two days,’ the player said.
But Kramnik doubled down on his allegations, starting an online petition to demand a ‘detailed examination’ by the chess equivalent of the FBI.
Nakamura (pictured) who was born in Japan to an American mother and Japanese father before moving to White Plains, New York with his family at the age of two, claimed to have been the target of a campaign by the Russian for the last few months
Chess.com found that the accusations lodged by Kramnik (pictured) ‘lack statistical merit’
He went on to claim on his Chess.com blog that he had received threats online because of his suspicions about Nakamura.
As the war of words reached a boiling point, Chess.com intervened to clear Nakamura of wrongdoing.
‘We can say that we have generated nearly 2,000 individual reports on Hikaru’s games in our Fair Play system and have found no incidents of cheating,’ the platform said on Wednesday.
Chess.com said they got a ‘professor of statistics at a top-10 university’ involved to verify Nakamura’s streak.
‘Our team has done the math and various simulations of streaks for a player like Hikaru who has played more than 50,000 games,’ they said.
‘We have found that not only is a 45 game winning streak possible, it is in fact likely given the number of games played.’
‘With the deepest respect for former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, in our opinion, his accusations lack statistical merit,’ the platform added.
Nakamura set a record for being the youngest American in history to achieve grandmaster status at the age of just 15.
A grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain, and it stays with them for life apart from in rare cases when it’s rescinded for cheating.
There are around 2,000 grandmasters in the world. The title is gained once a player reaches a certain number of favorable results, known as norms, and a rating of 2600 points in tournaments.
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