Hans Niemann Is an Andy Kaufman-Like Character

Hans Niemann stares down Magnus Carlsen.

I posted the following message on TalkChess, a forum focused on chess engine programming. The topic is tangentially related to chess engine programming.

Drama in the World of Chess

Nineteen year-old Hans Niemann, unknown in the world of elite chess until very recently, sporting an improbably flat then steep rating progression, defeated World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a tournament game. Did Hans cheat? Did he receive computer assistance? Or did Magnus play poorly?

My Thoughts (Posted on TalkChess)

Hans Niemann strikes me as an Andy Kaufman-like character. You know, someone who gets off on people hating him, loves playing the villain, loves orchestrating a long con, seems anxious for a big reveal where he can expose his detractors as idiots, then bask in his sanctimony.

That’s my impression of him. He seems to be playing a character: the wild-eyed, misunderstood genius who cannot suffer fools and is impatient with the unimaginative, bourgeois chess establishment.

Whether this is based on…

  1. Derogatory comments Hans endured while stuck in the 2400s (not smart enough, not talented enough, etc) that inspired him to seek revenge by doubling-down his efforts, leading to a legitimate rise to the elite level, or…
  2. Hans realizing there’s no audience for the bad-boy, trash-talking villain in the 2400s; that no one cares unless the villain rises to the top and knocks the kings and princes off their thrones; so Hans decided to leverage computer assistance to get himself on the stage.

… is unclear to me at this time.

I’m skeptical based on Niemann’s history of cheating online. Plus GMs have said his post-game analysis is incoherent. Plus GM Larry Kaufman’s story (earlier in this thread) indicating Kaufman likely personally experienced playing against a cheater who couldn’t competently discuss the game he just played. I interpreted it as an experienced chess pro saying yes, it happens.

What a drama.

Follow the Story

What is this all about? Get caught up by reading a timeline of events.

Follow discussion of the drama, including my comments, here: Carlsen Withdrawal After Loss to Niemann

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