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Chess

Nihal Sarin vs Vladimir Kramnik: An intriguing cheating drama unfolding in chess

World champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia has recently accused Indian teenager Nihal Sarin of cheating at online chess events.

Nihal Sarin vs Vladimir Kramnik: An intriguing cheating drama unfolding in chess
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Vladimir Kramnik accused Nihal Sarin of cheating at an online chess event. 

By

Deepanshu Jain

Updated: 7 May 2024 1:34 PM GMT

Chess is one of the fastest-growing sports in India and across the globe, and the top bodies in the chess world are trying to introduce several variations to the sport to increase its popularity among the youth.

Some of these changes have been the shorter periods and online chess events. But, in the last couple of years, some players have been facing allegations that they were using engines while playing online chess.

An identical incident happened a couple of days back with the Indian teenager, Nihal Sarin when the former world champion Vladimir Kramnik accused him of cheating based on some data analysis of his performance this year in online games.

The bone of contention

According to Vladimir's factual post on X, Nihal has played 36 online games this year against the world's top 10 players like Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniatchi. He won 25 of these 36 games and lost only 5 while drawing 6 matches.

This performance of Nihal came in a 3+0 blitz timings and the data suggests that this performance will be equal to a FIDE blitz rating of 3068, which is even far better than the world no.1. This analysis came across as a shocker for the chess experts including him.

Kramnik suggested that a player who is not even in the top 20 in the world at over-the-board ratings giving such a performance in online chess is "absolutely not possible". He said, "Justification of the scenario is that it is mathematically 99,9999% impossible."

Nihal has been a regular performer at the speed chess championship and also won a junior speed chess championship in past. He also delivered commendable performances in major events such as Tata Steel, World Rapid and Blitz, Titled Tuesdays (TTs). He is said to be one of the best blitz players in India.

This profile of him proves that he has a talent for doing well even at the overboard chess. Nihal's outstanding performance this year in online chess is just a prime example of what we could expect from him in future, not the claims that Vladimir mentioned.

Magnus vs Hans-Niemann controversy

This is not the first time such a charge has been levelled against a player in chess. A similar incident happened in the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, involving the five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen and chess grandmaster Hans Niemann. Carlsen tacitly accused his opponent Niemann of having cheated and left the tournament mid-way.

It was the most talked about cheating allegations in chess in years, and it caught the attention of the whole world. That controversy reached the next level when Hans Niemann filed a $100 million lawsuit against Magnus and others for the allegation that he cheated in the competition.

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