Ben Finegold made this point during his streams, that even if Magnus Carlsen suspects either cheating on Hans Niemann's part or sabotage on the part of a member of his team, he should not have withdrawn.

According to Finegold, it is improper to withdraw from a round robin for such reasons. Furthermore, he says that it is unfair to the organisers, who did nothing wrong.

How would you rate Carlsen's actions, relative to your understanding of chess ethics?

Or perhaps more importantly to your assessment of the threats or benefits that this will pose to the business side or the organisational side of high-level chess?

1 Answer 1


How would you rate Carlsen's actions, relative to your understanding of chess ethics?

The ethical side really boils down to the question, "who is hurt by these actions".

If it is a Swiss tournament and he just silently withdraws then none of the other players are affected. The player tells the arbiter he is withdrawing, the arbiter marks him as unavailable for pairing in the pairing program and the tournament continues. If it counts as bad publicity (unlikely) then the sponsors of the tournament may be damaged but normally all extra publicity counts as good publicity. So, for instance, rage-quitting Titled Tuesday punishes nobody.

But this was a round robin tournament. An early withdrawal meant players who were paired to play him in later rounds had the chance to play him removed and ended up playing one game fewer. Any player doing this in a norm tournament (a round robin tournament set up to allow players the chance to achieve title norms) would basically ruin their own reputation. They would never be invited to such a tournament again because they likely ruined the norm chances of the norm seekers who paid good money for the chance to achieve a title norm.

Although none of the players at this level are norm seekers his actions still caused disruption and harm to the players and the tournament.

However in this case there is an additional ethically bad element. His actions were a silent (maybe not so silent) accusation of cheating. The method was cowardly. Instead of coming straight out and presenting evidence that his opponent had cheated he implied that using innuendo.

Normally in a tournament if a player comes to the arbiter or organizer and accuses another player of cheating that accusation is kept secret unless or until definitive proof is obtained that that the player was cheating. To publish unsubstantiated accusations like that amounts to defamation and in some countries could result in legal action. It looks like Carlsen came as close to that line as possible without actually crossing it.

  • 6
    My feeling was that Carlsen felt he had such a bad game and was so much out of shape/concentration, that he decided to withdraw in order to limit further rating-damage. The reason for fearing that he'd play the remainder of the tournament very badly might be caused by emotions due to a cheat suspicion or simply "if I lose with white from <2700 player it seems my career is over" but that doesn't seem very relevant; I don't think he withdrew to damage Hans-reputation, but because he wanted a time out himself.
    – Carlo Wood
    Sep 20, 2022 at 22:03
  • 1
    What would be the ethical thing for a player to do if, after having done well early in a round robin tournament, he were to e.g. receive news that a relative had died, and as a consequence doubted his ability to play well during the remainder of the tournament? If the person's play would have been grossly affected, staying in the tournament would put those he had already played and beaten at an unfair disadvantage relative to the opponents he had not yet faced. Withdrawing might be "icky", but would seem less unfair to the other competitors than remaining in.
    – supercat
    Sep 21, 2022 at 20:51
  • 7
    @CarloWood that argument only works if he would not have tweeted what he tweeted, made no attempt at clearing up the rising accusations afterwards and would not have resigned in the latest game. He is actively hurting Hans' reputation and with clear intent - it would be very easy for him to clear everything up if he wanted to but he continues to discredit Hans, abusing his position of power as the WC.
    – luk2302
    Sep 22, 2022 at 8:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.