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Chess world champion Magnus Carlsen resigns in protest after one move

Professional chess has turned into a reality show, and the best player in the world is stoking the flames while saying nothing.

Norway’s grandmaster Magnus Carlsen poses with the FIDE World Chess Championship trophy, at the Dubai Expo 2020 in the Gulf emirate, on December 12, 2021. - Carlsen retained his world chess title as he recorded a fourth win over Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

“Nobody ever won a chess game by resigning,” said former chess Grand Master Savielly Tartakower many years ago. But after dropping out after just one move in the Julius Baer Generation Cup on Monday, five-time chess world champion Magnus Carlsen appears to be trying to win a larger point.

Carlsen’s opponent was once again Hans Niemann, the 19-year-old American enfant terrible d’échecs. After Niemann broke Carlsen’s 53-match winning streak at the Sinquefield Cup on Sept. 4 in USA’s chess capital of St. Louis, Carlsen sent a tweet that appeared to accuse Niemann of cheating.

And that brings us to today’s action, where instead of across a board the same duo are playing online. You can watch the broadcasting team try to figure out what to say when Carlsen simply quits and goes dark.

The best ball sports equivalent here is what Carlsen did is like serving once at the US Open, then walking off the court to protest an opponent you believe to be doping.

The champion impugning Niemann’s character isn’t completely out of bounds. Niemann has been caught cheating twice online previously, and remains banned from for those offenses. And recent results at the FTX Crypto Cup in Miami show without some help, the teenager might not be a player that should be beating a world champion very often.

Today’s tournament was on Chess24 so Niemann was allowed to play, but by making this move Carlsen has put the onus on himself to say something. But as of now, it appears he’s simply refusing to play another grand master.

We’ll see how all this shakes out, and if Carlsen agrees to continue in the current tournament. But the silence of perhaps the best chess player to ever live says more about what he thinks than anything.

Carlsen has already said he won’t be defending his world championship next year, and he’s taken an interest in other games including poker. So in semi-retirement he can do what he wishes. But it appears we’ll have to wait to see what he says about Niemann and the recent drama whenever he’s ready.