The teenage chess player at the centre of an alleged cheating scandal, has launched a $100 million (£89m) libel suit against the world champion and online platform Chess.com.
Hans Niemann, 19, was accused of widespread cheating following a Chess.com investigation, which ruled it was “likely” he cheated in more than 100 online games.
It came after he beat 31-year-old world champion Magnus Carlsen – considered the greatest player of all time – sending shockwaves throughout world chess.
Chess.com, which has banned Niemann, is the world’s most popular chess platform and used detection tools and analysis of a player’s moves against those recommended by computers to put together its report.
The investigation found no evidence of face-to-face cheating by Niemann against Carlsen or in any other in-person games.
But it did suggest widespread cheating online.
The lawsuit, filed at a court in Missouri, USA also lists Carlsen’s online chess platform Play Magnus, Chess.com executive Danny Rensch and American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura as defendants.
Niemann claimed the defendants are “colluding to blacklist” him from the professional chess world, and that he has been shunned by tournament organisers since five-time world champion Carlsen publicly accused him of cheating.
Carlsen’s surprise defeat to Niemann and his subsequent withdrawal from the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis, Missouri in September sparked a furore of comments and allegations, including from Nakamura, that the American had cheated.
Weeks after the Sinquefield Cup, the Norwegian resigned after just one move against Niemann in an online tournament.
In a statement on Thursday, lawyers for Chess.com said there was no merit to Niemann’s allegations and the company was saddened by his decision to take legal action.
“Chess.com looks forward to setting the record straight on behalf of its team and all honest chess players.”
Representatives for Carlsen and Nakamura have not responded to requests for a comment.
Niemann had previously been banned from Chess.com for cheating online, having admitted he had not played fairly in non-competitive games on the website in his youth, but denied any wrongdoing while contesting over-the-board games.
His lawsuit said that Chess.com “banned Niemann from its website and all of its future events, to lend credence to Carlsen’s unsubstantiated and defamatory accusations of cheating”.
“Carlsen, having solidified his position as the ‘King of Chess,’ believes that when it comes to chess, he can do whatever he wants and get away with it,” the complaint added.
The lawsuit further accused Nakamura, a streaming partner of Chess.com, of publishing “hours of video content amplifying and attempting to bolster Carlsen’s false cheating allegations.”
The International Chess Federation said last month it would open an investigation into the allegations of cheating.