The world of chess seemed to be heading towards another feud off the chess board after former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik presented new statistics on his Chess dot com profile that he purportedly believes reveals cheating by a player in blitz games. Kramnik, who has off late taken it upon himself to “expose cheating” in online chess games, frequently posts what he calls evidence for deceit in online games.
While Kramnik didn’t name anyone in his allegations (which were then shared by GM Ian Nepomniachtchi on social media platform X), it led to American GM Hikaru Nakamura to hit back at the former world champion and Nepo in a lengthy Twitch stream on Tuesday where he took potshots at the former world champion Russian for “not having a brain.”
The latest feud over alleged online cheating started off when Kramnik, in a post late on Monday, said: “Some small new piece of statistics, recently noticed, a player had scored 45.5 out of 46 CONSECUTIVE 3 minutes blitz games against approximately 2950 in average rating opposition (few different players) which is equivalent to 3600+ performance in those 46 Consecutive games. I believe everyone would find this interesting (SIC).”
Hours after the tweet, Nakamura took to his Twitch account to live stream a rebuttal of sorts to the claims. He also said that Kramnik and Nepo had made disparaging comments about him away from the internet as well.
“I don’t know what Kramnik’s thinking. At the end of the day, it’s very disappointing to see him doing this. I’m sure he’s going to go back and say he was just giving a stat and that it doesn’t mean anything. I know behind the scenes they (Kramnik and Nepomniachtchi) have said stuff about me. It’s hard to take this in good faith. I would hope he leaves it to the actual experts… the people who are mathematicians and statisticians, who do know what they’re doing,” Nakamura said in his stream.
Vladimir appears to be referencing my record…is he really accusing me of cheating??? @LevitovChess. @lachesisq are you jumping on this accusation as well by tweeting this garbage?? https://t.co/NO17P0RH3H
— Hikaru Nakamura (@GMHikaru) November 20, 2023
Despite Kramnik not naming him, Nakamura explained how he figured out it was about him.
“Kramnik was really stupid… If he wanted to do it in a way for it to be anonymous, he would have never put the average rating and the performance. Because there are about three players who can do it: Magnus Carlsen, Daniel Naroditsky (American GM) and me. Magnus hasn’t been playing that much online. If Kramnik actually had a brain, he would have found a way to do it without specifically listing it that way. But he doesn’t have a brain. He’s lost it,” said the American GM.
Kramnik’s post was then shared on X by two-time world championship contender Ian Nepomniachtchi, who shared a screenshot of it, with the comment: “Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”
Nakamura took offence to the claims and called the statistics “garbage”. Just last week, Nakamura broke the record for the highest blitz rating on Chess dot com with scores of 3336.
Responding to Nepo’s tweet, Nakamura said: “Vladimir appears to be referencing my record…is he really accusing me of cheating??? … Are you jumping on this accusation as well by tweeting this garbage??”
Responding to a comment from a fan on his livestream asking him to challenge Kramnik to a blitz game, Nakamura said: “What’s the point? Kramnik’s not doing anything in good faith anymore. I don’t think anybody should play Kramnik in blitz, cause all he’s doing is using those games to compile garbage stats and trying to claim that online chess is completely broken. I would never play Kramnik. Period!”
While it remains to be seen how Nepo and Kramnik respond to the rebuttal video and the tweet, this will certainly spice up their upcoming battle at the FIDE Candidates tournament in April next year, where Nepo and Nakamura will be two of the top players vying for the chance to challenge World Champion Ding Liren for the crown next year. Besides the duo, the India pair of Vidit Gujrathi and Praggnanandhaa R are also in the fray.
Just two months back, Kramnik had declared that he will not play games on Chess dot com anymore due to “too many obvious cheaters” on the platform. Even back then, he had refrained from naming any player. But it came on the back of controversy around American GM Hans Niemann, who had only recently agreed to a ceasefire with former world champion Magnus Carlsen. The World No 1 Carlsen had alleged that Niemann had been cheating in over-the-board games against him, which had led to a lawsuit, which also involved Nakamura as he had amplified Carlsen’s allegations against Niemann. Eventually, the suit was settled out of court.
The Russian legend has said: “I promise I will continue trying my best to save chess from this disease.”