<![CDATA[ROOKED - Transcripts]]>Wed, 12 Jun 2024 18:08:15 -0600Weebly<![CDATA[Episode 6: The Misogyny - A More Inclusive Future (Part 2)]]>Tue, 11 Jun 2024 16:49:58 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/episode-6-the-misogyny-a-more-inclusive-future-part-2
[00:00:00.47] [Rooked theme music plays]
[00:00:06.12] [Lile Koridze] Once I was walking with, like, these teammates, guy teammates, and one of the man said that you walking with us and stuff is like hiring prostitute. Can't really forget this thing. So that's why I don't like going out. Like, I will feel like I'm kind of hired prostitute. I mean, dude, I'm just literally walking because we just finished the round, and I want to eat food or, like, drink Coca-Cola or something. I mean, I don't know, like, dude, why, why? Because I'm a freaking woman or whatever? What's the problem, you know? So that's why since that, I'm like, no, no guys around me, nothing. Because it's not about assault. And I still have this in mind, you know? That's why I prefer not to be around these guys, because they speak this kind of way to women.
[00:00:52.45] I really don't want my reputation to be damaged. I don't want to be-- so I'm trying to avoid them as much as possible and don't stay with them. You want to socialize and you can't really socialize because you're afraid. So that's the thing. That's why I was meaning all of this stuff. So I really don't care if other people know. That's reality.
[00:01:10.45] It happened, like, a long time ago, but I still remember that. So it's not pleasant thing. I mean, that's the main reason I don't want to get along with these people, and I want to try distance. But you can't try distance because there's most of men, you know? And also, like, I don't have anyone who will come with me during tournaments, you know, and you're alone. It's really sad. So that's the-- I feel hard with these words, even though it has been many years ago. And it was as a joke. But it's never a joke.
[00:01:42.01] I mean, I told this guy that I didn't like the way he spoke and didn't like him. So it means that as a woman, we should be stuck at home and can't go out with them? And because it's all their mentality, women who goes out with men just to speak, just to walk? It's, like, prostitute, sorry? I mean, it reminds me of really older mentality.
[00:02:00.25] Problem is that these people are from the countries which are very developed about feminism, very developed about equality and stuff. So it means that it's not. It's just surface. There is no equality. There is no development. It's just for surface, and it shows like this, but in reality it's not that way.
[00:02:19.32] [Jess] As promised, we're back for part 2 of this sidestep from the Sinquefield Cup scandal. And if you haven't listened to part 1 yet, you should go back and do that, partly because we're really proud of it, but also because we explain how our investigation into cheating allegations ended up leading us into the mire that is sexism in chess.
[00:02:42.69] [Ryan] This is still a story about chess, but it's also about how far we still need to go for women to be equal in this great game, and what needs to change in order to make that happen.
[00:03:00.00] [Jess] Because this is a tale of chess and a tale about the fight for inclusivity.
[00:03:06.75] [Ryan] This is a tale of misogyny, sexism, and a turning tide.
[00:03:13.67] [Jess] This is a tale of cheating, of lies and conspiracies.
[00:03:20.36] [both] This is Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit.
[00:03:27.52] [Music fades]
[00:03:27.99] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:03:32.27] [Jess] I'm Jess Schmidt. I'm a woman and a podcaster. I am not good at chess, but for some reason, I have become completely enchanted by this sport, and especially by the women who play it.
[00:03:46.82] [Ryan] I'm Ryan Webb. I'm a chess player and first-time podcaster. I started playing chess because of the Queen's Gambit. And even though Beth Harmon is a fictional character, she's the reason I now have an over 600-day streak for games played on chess.com.
[00:04:04.10] [Jess] That's, like, almost two years, Ryan. And you got your wisdom teeth removed and you quit chewing nicotine gum in the same week last year.
[00:04:13.16] [Ryan] Yeah, I lost a shitload of rating points that week. Turns out T3s do not make you better at chess.
[00:04:19.94] [Jess] And then you just stop taking them because you couldn't poop. That was actually worse than the nicotine withdrawal.
[00:04:26.12] [Ryan] Yeah, that was probably the worst week of my entire life. Little tip: don't play chess constipated.
[00:04:33.56] [Jess] Or high on T3s.
[00:04:36.82] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:04:37.22] Last episode, we introduced you to some new voices. But we also want to bring back the hosts of chessfeels, Julia Rios and JJ Lang. You last heard them in the psychology episode, but they also had some great insights about equality, inclusivity, and sexism in chess.
[00:04:56.12] [Julia Rios] I'm Julia Rios. I use she/her pronouns. I am in my clinical residency for my doctorate in clinical psychology, and I have been playing chess since the summer after COVID, so the summer of 2020, which means it's been about 2 and a half years. Wow.
[00:05:16.91] [JJ Lang] Hi, my name is JJ. They/them or he/him pronouns. I am a chess teacher and do writing, editing stuff for the US Chess Federation. I've been playing chess most of my life.
[00:05:30.05] [Julia Rios] JJ and I just realized, hey, you are a professional chess teacher and an expert chess player, as much as you want to be humble about your experience, and I'm a professional psychologist, so we've got a pretty good duo here.
[00:05:45.13] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:05:45.96] [Ryan] Last episode, we focused a lot on how sexism hurts women in chess. But the thing about misogyny is that even though women are the most obvious victims, it actually ends up hurting everyone. Here's JJ.
[00:06:02.22] [JJ Lang] One of the reasons I lost interest in chess when I was late teenager, in my 20s, was it felt like a space where there were a lot of very emotionally suppressed and repressed men. And, I mean, that's like most spaces. But it was frustrating feeling like there was nobody to talk about these, like, very deeply emotional or sometimes painful experiences that I was having and seeing other people have, but also feeling like no one had the tools to either explain what they were feeling or a community around sharing with that. And just thinking how one of the reasons I wanted to get back into chess was feeling like I was at a point in my life where I could envision myself as somebody who could actively try and shape or create the way spaces look.
[00:06:43.00] [Playful music plays]
[00:06:43.68] [Jess] We just barely scratched the surface of some great interviews last episode. So, of course, Fiona, Lile, and Emilia are all back for a second round.
[00:06:54.78] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] My name is Fiona Steil-Antoni. My chess title is Woman International Master, and I'm calling from home. I'm home in Luxembourg.
[00:07:04.35] [Lile Koridze] I am Lile Koridze from Georgia. I'm 22 years old, and I am a Woman FIDE Master.
[00:07:11.77] [Emilia Castelao] My name is Emilia Castelao, and I am currently the President of the Women in Chess Foundation, and am also a Master's student at the Diplomatic Academy studying chess history.
[00:07:21.15] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:07:21.63] [Ryan] We don't want to rehash our whole last episode. Feel free to go back and listen to it if you can't remember. What you need to keep in mind for this part 2 is that sexism in chess ranges from fairly subtle microaggressions to blatant criminal acts that jeopardize the safety and livelihoods of women who play the sport. And, again, it's just supposed to be a board game.
[00:07:46.11] [Jess] Just like last time, we're going to try and get out of the way as much as possible, because no one knows this story better than these players themselves. We're not done talking about why being a woman in chess is so hard and what needs to change if there's going to be any hope for the future of the game. There's already steps being taken to try and tip the scales, but there needs to be more spotlight and more support if there's going to be any real shot at making a difference.
[00:08:15.97] [Ryan] We're going to hear more about the Women in Chess Foundation later this episode. But to get the ball rolling, we were really inspired hearing Emilia talk about why exactly she and her co-founder, Mr Dodgy, thought that chess needed some serious changes.
[00:08:31.93] [Emilia Castelao] The inspiration really came from Jennifer Shahade and when she came out with her story about Alejandro Ramirez back in March of last year. Me and Mr Dodgy, a.k.a. @ChessProblem on Twitter, we've been really good friends since we met in Sitges in December of 2022, and when that story came out, we were just so angry. Like, we knew about what was going on in the chess world. A lot of I think what happens is an open secret just because the chess world is so small, but also at the same time, we were like, why is no one doing anything about this? It's truly just, like, enraging. And so we were just like, let's do something about it. Like, let's just rock the chess world on its head and, you know, start something that's just for women to make sure that they have a space where they can go to and, you know, come to us, like, with their problems, and we can help them find a solution. Because we know the chess world and, like, we know how to navigate it, and so we can help them.
[00:09:34.39] [Sighs]
[00:09:34.79] There are definitely bad actors everywhere, and there are a lot of institutions in the chess world that just have not taken a stance on this issue, or will focus on other things except this, like, one glaring problem that really desperately needs to get fixed. Addressing things from a top-down level is extremely important, but also how do we get the community itself engaged in this problem and make them want to fix it?
[00:10:01.14] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:10:01.37] [Jess] Last episode, we talked about two men in particular who have come to represent a lack of progress in the sport, to say the least. But Alejandro Ramirez and Ilya Smirin are by no means the only men in the history of chess who have expressed sexist views about women. Take one of the greatest players of all time, colloquially known as our boy Bobby on this podcast.
[00:10:27.45] [Bobby Fischer] The women aren't really very good players. I mean, I guess I could give every one of them a knight and still win easily.
[00:10:33.86] [reporter] Why is this? Do women make bad chess players?
[00:10:36.27] [Bobby Fischer] Oh, they're terrible chess players. I mean, some are better than others, you know? But I don't know why. I guess they're just not so smart.
[00:10:44.64] [He laughs]
[00:10:45.43] [reporter] Does this apply to all women, do you think?
[00:10:47.29] [Bobby Fischer] Well, I guess so. I don't know. They have never turned out a good woman chess player, never one that could ever stand up against a man in the history of chess.
[00:10:57.49] [reporter] Do you enjoy playing against women?
[00:10:59.12] [Bobby Fischer] No, I've never played a woman in a tournament game.
[00:11:01.54] [reporter] Would you?
[00:11:02.56] [Bobby Fischer] I'd play them, but I don't think they'd want to play me.
[00:11:06.03] [He laughs]
[00:11:06.34] [Jess] Ten years later, though, Fischer would sing a different tune.
[00:11:12.55] [reporter] Do you think chess is a sexist game?
[00:11:15.88] [Bobby Fischer] I don't think it is at all. I'd welcome some girls in chess.
[00:11:19.00] [reporter] I mean, have any tried to enter the competition?
[00:11:21.38] [Bobby Fischer] Well, there was at Lisa Lane. By the way, you said-- I think you said she was dead or something. She's around.
[00:11:25.85] [reporter] Oh, I'm
[00:11:26.53] [Audience laughs]
[00:11:27.01] [Bobby Fischer] Yeah.
[00:11:29.89] [reporter] I certainly apologize to her. No, I had a note that she-- I assumed she was back in the 19th century, for some reason or something. Lisa Lane.
[00:11:37.12] [Bobby Fischer] She's alive.
[00:11:38.20] [reporter] Sure that was news to her then.
[00:11:40.65] [Audience laughs]
[00:11:42.88] [reporter] But have they entered competition?
[00:11:44.62] [Bobby Fischer] Yeah, there were-- there was one very famous one, Vera Menchik from Hungary. And the best one now is Nona-- no, no-- Yeah, right, Nona Gaprindashvili of the Soviet Union. And she is a very good player. And she plays with men now. Plays in tournaments with men.
[00:12:00.17] [reporter] And there's no discrimination against her and--?
[00:12:02.20] [Bobby Fischer] No, chess is wide open. We don't have amateurs. We don't have discrimination with women. Anybody, kids. You know, I played when I was a kid. Everybody is welcome. Old people, everyone.
[00:12:10.37] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:12:11.35] [Ryan] Garry Kasparov-- yes, that Kasparov-- who was the first World Champion to lose to the IBM chess computer Deep Blue-- listen to the cheating episode if you want to hear more about that-- has also publicly made sexist remarks about the inferiority of women chess players. This quote is from the November 1989 issue of Playboy.
[00:12:33.68] Quote, "Well, in the past, I have said that there is real chess and women's chess. Some people don't like to hear this, but chess does not fit women properly. It's a fight, you know, a big fight. It's not for women. Sorry. She's helpless if she has men's opposition. I think this is very simple logic. It's the logic of a fighter, a professional fighter. Women are weaker fighters. There is also the aspect of creativity in chess. You have to create new ideas. That's quite difficult, too. Chess is the combination of sport, art, and science. In all these fields, you can see men's superiority. Just compare the sexes in literature, in music, or in art. The result is, you know, obvious. Probably the answer is in the genes," end quote.
[00:13:25.79] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:13:26.24] He later recanted this statement after Grandmaster Judit Polgar beat him in 2002, becoming the first woman to ever beat a World Champion. The sad truth about chess is that not enough women play it. And, in fact, there's lots of women and girls who quit chess not because they don't love the sport, but because they don't see a place for them in the culture.
[00:13:50.73] [Jess] And even men taking back misogynistic comments doesn't erase the wrongs of them having been sexist in the first place. Here's Lile.
[00:14:02.12] [Lile Koridze] What I really hear when there's a group of guys and what they speak about some women players, what do they do, it kind of makes me feel like I don't want to be next to them. I don't even want to speak with them, because I don't really know what they are going to say. Even though I don't do anything else, I'm just speaking or I just want to be friendly. Then they complain. Why don't want any woman, them, like, to socialize or speak with them, or answer their DMs or something, because it's the reason. I mean, it's the problem is you, because you speak so badly about them. And that makes me, like, that I don't want to go out. I don't even want to be friendly with them. I just want to, like, be at my home in my room and just go and play chess, or speak with them in the playing hall.
[00:14:48.11] So that's the biggest problem. If they change this mentality that women are not, like, just a decoration and stuff like this, then I think it will be easier for us to socialize with these guys. But, of course, I don't mean all of them, but I still have these kind of trust issues, you know? If you, like, listen once, twice, third time and stuff, and God knows what they speak behind and stuff. So it's-- it's kind of not pleasant.
[00:15:15.93] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:15:16.97] [Jess] We keep saying it's not that every man in the sport feels this way about women, and maybe that's because we ourselves feel like we need to be apologetic enough to not get cancelled.
[00:15:30.93] [Ryan] What do you mean, we have to be apologetic?
[00:15:33.11] [Jess] Well, you might not have experienced this, but it's really easy for women to get labelled as man haters as soon as you start trying to talk about sexism and misogyny.
[00:15:44.54] [Ryan] It kind of defeats the purpose when you have to clarify that you're not throwing every single man who plays chess under the bus. "Not all men" takes attention away from the fact that we ARE talking about men who are abusing women and making the space unsafe. Even just saying "not all men" is a red flag for internalized misogyny, which even the two of us who are trying to think critically about this exact topic are not exempt from.
[00:16:16.30] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:16:16.68] [Jess] That's the patriarchy, baby.
[00:16:18.67] [Ryan chuckles]
[00:16:19.08] [Ryan] I think that's actually FIDE's new tagline.
[00:16:21.30] [Jess] So, yeah, even we fall victim to the rhetoric of sexism. And so do you, dear listener. And so do some of the, quote, good guys in chess-- even the ones who think women in the sport deserve better. That's how the patriarchy works. It inherently prioritizes the male experience, so you need to continuously unlearn that way of operating in order to make room for equality.
[00:16:47.55] [Ryan] So what does questioning the patriarchy actually look like in the chess world? Well, here's an interview from Magnus Carlsen in the aftermath of the Queen's Gambit becoming popular on Netflix.
[00:17:00.84] [reporter] Have you seen a shift in the number of female players over the last few years, and do you think this might help bring more women into the game?
[00:17:08.49] [Magnus Carlsen] I think she can certainly be a role model for-- for women and girls who want to play chess. I would say that, in general, overall, chess has not been that kind to women. I don't believe there are any, like, underlying genetic circumstances or anything that should make men better players. But, as I said, the environment has not been great towards-- towards women. I certainly hope this will help. And from my experience, travelling around the world, I've seen that at a young age, there's really not that much of a difference between boys and girls. Like, girls are as fascinated and as interested in chess as boys are. So hopefully this will-- will spark a bit of a revival there.
[00:18:09.37] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:18:09.70] [Jess] And here's another example. In January of this year, following the conclusion of one of the most well-regarded tournaments in elite chess, Tata Steel, 18-year-old Indian International Master Divya Deshmukh called out sexism in chess in an Instagram post.
[00:18:26.83] Quote, "I have been wanting to address this for a while, but was waiting for my tournament to be over. I got told and also noticed how women in chess are often just taken for granted by spectators. The most recent example of this on a personal level would be in this tournament, I played a few games which I felt were quite good and I was proud of them. I got told by people how the audience was not even bothered with the game, but instead focused on every single possible thing in the world-- my clothes, hair, accent, and every other irrelevant thing. I was quite upset to hear this, and I think it is the sad truth that when women play chess, people often overlook how good they are, the games they play, and their strength. I was quite disappointed to see how everything was discussed in my interviews by the audience except my games.
[00:19:19.48] Very few people paid attention to it, and it is quite a sad thing. I felt it was unfair in a way, because if I go to any guy's interview, there would be way less judgement on a personal level, actual compliments about the game and the player. I feel women are underappreciated and every irrelevant thing is focused on and hated on while guys would probably get away with the same things. I think women face this daily, and I'm barely 18. I have faced so much judgement, including hatred over the years for things that don't even matter. I think women should start getting equal respect," end quote.
[00:20:00.45] [Playful music plays]
[00:20:00.85] [Ryan] This post prompted the former Women's World Chess Champion Susan Polgar to detail her decades of experience with sexism in chess. In a tweet titled Why I Chose to Look Ugly and the Reasoning Behind It, she wrote the following.
[00:20:16.81] Quote, "I read what Divya Deshmukh wrote about her recent, horrible experience. It is absolutely terrible," end quote. She also linked to an article that she had written over a decade ago about her own experiences. Here's an excerpt.
[00:20:32.35] Quote, "When I was a young chess player, I consciously tried to look as plain and unattractive as possible. I never even touched makeup until I was in my 20s. Most people never knew why. I never really talked about it. It is because I was tired of being sexually harassed/assaulted and hit on constantly by male chess players. I was often the only girl in all men chess tournaments. In fact, FIDE severely punished me by taking away my world number one ranking for choosing to play only against men at that time. I was the only woman in chess history to be brutally punished for wanting to play and beat male chess players.
[00:21:14.33] And the behaviour of some of these male chess players was absolutely appalling. It sometimes became very dangerous. I was many times fearful for my life. Some male chess players cannot take no for an answer, especially when they had too much to drink. Some tried to physically and sexually assault me. I wanted to prove myself on the board. I could not care less what people think about how I looked. I was not there to pick up men. I was very thankful that my parents, especially my mother, were always with me at tournaments to try to protect me. It is better today, but still bad at times. Knowing what I had to go through and the heavy price I had to pay, I would still do it again. It is a fight worth taking on for countless girls and women out there around the world," end quote.
[00:22:07.42] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:22:08.35] [Jess] Long story short, sexism comes in many forms, and some of it is more apparent than others, like predators targeting young girls. But all of it matters, and all of it needs to be taken seriously. Here's Emilia again.
[00:22:26.06] [Emilia Castelao] Like, I know that Magnus is, like, the number one chess player, and his role in the chess world is really important. But, like, you don't even get that kind of equality and equal attention with, like, the Women's Chess Champion. Like, I want to see a Ju Wenjun Puma shoe. Like--
[00:22:42.85] [She chuckles]
[00:22:43.61] It's something so, like, small I feel like that people might not notice when they're consuming chess content, but when you see it, you can't stop seeing it.
[00:22:54.20] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:22:54.47] [Ryan] If you don't know who Emilia is talking about here, it's the current Women's World Chess Champion Ju Wenjun. Ju Wenjun was also the subject of a viral video that was shot at the opening ceremony of the 2023 World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championship. In it, you see her seated next to Magnus. And remember, at this point, Magnus has already forfeited his World Championship title, so she actually holds a higher title than him. But that doesn't stop a group of fans from asking her to move so that they can take pictures sitting in her seat next to Magnus, forcing her to stand awkwardly to the side. Not only that: when the photos are done, someone else sits down in her chair and starts talking to Magnus. The clip ends with Ju Wenjun laughing in disbelief. She's the highest-titled women's player in the entire world, and even she isn't respected.
[00:23:52.39] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:23:52.84] [Jess] We've already spent more time this episode than we wanted to talking about men in chess, because they get enough attention. This episode, we want to talk about and to some of the changemakers of the present in women's chess. And by the way, the fact that anybody in the chess world was willing to speak to us about this is incredibly brave. Almost everyone we spoke to expressed doubts about whether this was the right thing to do, because the reality is that speaking out about this issue is not without risk. As a woman in chess, you're already more likely to experience harassment and abuse. But as we've already seen from things like Jen Shahade's departure from US Women's Chess, the sport is especially unkind to women who rock the boat.
[00:24:42.26] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:24:42.70] [Ryan] The women we've spoken to about this issue have all acknowledged that there's a chance their statements could end up having negative impacts on their careers, but that they want to talk anyways. They have all invariably said that this is too important to not talk about-- even if they do get punished for it later-- and that they're tired of having to stay silent. So we just really want to commend them for speaking up and to encourage others to do the same if they feel able to do so.
[00:25:14.45] [Jess] We said earlier that sexism in chess isn't always a huge controversy. In fact, sometimes it's not even readily apparent. A lot of the problems with chess culture aren't taking place in a huge public stage, the way we saw with Fiona and Ilya. Some of it is embedded into the daily interactions that anyone on any chess site could be subjected to. Here's Julia and JJ.
[00:25:40.76] [Julia Rios] It's been a while since I made the mistake of having a picture of myself as my chess.com profile and having chat open. I've learned you can do one of those things, but you can't do both.
[00:25:51.75] [Chuckles]
[00:25:52.28] So I just in my chess.com settings have chat disabled so someone can't try to message me anything, which made me feel really sad at first. I just found you cannot have a picture of yourself and have your chat open to strangers. Whatever you think men would say to you, honestly, I found it to be ten times more horrific. I mean, threats about wanting to sexually assault me. Like, things I just can't even imagine saying to another person, I was experiencing on a daily basis.
[00:26:22.24] [Ryan] But sometimes it is bigger things, too, like trying to start up a constructive conversation about sexism in your community.
[00:26:30.26] [Julia Rios] But it is interesting how any time I try to talk about it online or point it out, I will receive a large number of men telling me that there is no sexism in chess. So, I mean, I definitely wouldn't say, oh, it's a thing that we all agree on, but it does seem fairly obvious.
[00:26:51.19] [JJ Lang] I think there's absolutely raging misogynists in chess. What's worrisome is that for every raging misogynist, there's probably dozens, if not hundreds of men who play chess, who vaguely agree that, like, it would be cool if those raging misogynists weren't such raging misogynists, but also, like, take utter offence at the suggestion that anything they do or could do would make the chess space less safe for women. Or even the idea that, like, the reason more women don't play chess is because there's any problems with the space as a whole, and not just with, like, this one bad individual. And I think my favourite explanation that I see for this, which comes in quite a lot-- the argument goes, chess isn't sexist because there's misogyny everywhere. Which is weird, because you'd think that's an argument for chess being misogynist. But apparently it means that because these are problems that exist outside of chess, putting a focus on chess is unfair-- question mark?-- or expecting chess to be better is unrealistic-- question mark? Saying that this sort of behaviour is why more women aren't in chess is a bad argument because this sort of behaviour exists everywhere, so why would it be chess in particular?
[00:28:06.66] [Julia Rios] Yeah, I feel like in these really male-heavy spaces, it actually does lead to a propensity for more of these sexist dynamics. Maybe it's not something about the board game itself, but no one's really trying to make that argument. So I feel like it just really sidesteps the issue of, is there misogyny in chess? A lot of women are trying to be really vocal and say, yes, and here's how I've experienced it. So coming in with this argument of, well, you'll see that everywhere.
[00:28:33.94] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:28:34.31] [Jess] You heard from Lile at the top of this episode, recounting a particularly infuriating encounter with a male teammate. But it's not the only encounter she's had with men being shitty, especially since she's also a streamer, not just an OTB player.
[00:28:54.53] [Lile Koridze] Sometimes it happens when, like, some people join and they're like, "Go back to kitchen. Why are you streaming?"
[00:29:00.57] [Chuckles nervously]
[00:29:01.07] "Why are you wearing this thing?" when I'm just simply wearing some random hoodie or, like, shirt. Why do you do that? Why do you do this? I mean, "You are just pretty. That's why you play chess." Something, like, really ridiculous stuff. Of course, if I was a guy, of course, it would be easier, because they treat guys as, like, some, like, smartest people and girls, like, only just pretty.
[00:29:24.78] And what I experienced, as well, when, like, I was communicating with these kind of men, like, over-the-board chess players, they were like, "We can't stream because we are not women and we are not-- we won't get treated well," and stuff. And so big jealousy towards women streamers and towards women in general. Like, dude, if you work a lot, there are tonnes of top chess streamers who are men. Like, I think most of them are men. We think account, GothamChess, Hikaru, Daniel Naroditsky, IM Rosen. I mean, it's really, really sexist in a way to speak like this, and it's really hard.
[00:30:01.01] I hate, like, because you are a girl. Because you are a girl. Because you're a girl. Not, like, because I beat Grandmasters online. It literally destroys your hard work, which you put so many hours every day. Lately, women became more and more active in chess. But, still, it will take so much time for women to become equal in chess with men. Don't say that we are just the girls.
[00:30:22.98] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:30:24.23] [Ryan] Here's another example of what women have to face playing in chess tournaments with men. This is women FIDE Master and chess content creator anna Cramling discussing with Levy Rozman a.k.a. GothamChess, about her experience of the predatory behaviour she's faced from men in chess.
[00:30:43.42] [Anna Cramling] The person that I've played against has, like, sent me a message and be like, hey, I was thinking about all these things while we were playing the game today, and then, and, you know, and then, you know, brings up sexual stuff or whatever. And--
[00:30:56.10] [Levy Rozman] Wait, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I thought it was going to be, like, they thought about, like, chess moves.
[00:30:59.79] [Anna Cramling] No, no, no. Levy, you were supposed to take the hint!
[00:31:03.15] [Laughs]
[00:31:03.86] [Levy Rozman] Oh, my God. No, no. So what I thought is, like, they were too shy to talk to you during the game or after, so they--
[00:31:10.08] [Anna Cramling] No, no, no, no, no. So-- so, yeah.
[00:31:14.25] [Laughs]
[00:31:14.92] [Levy Rozman] Wait, Anna, I'm not a mathematician, but if you stopped playing in 2019, doesn't that mean that literally every one of these stories you were not even like, of age?
[00:31:24.33] [Anna Cramling] Mmm-hmm, you are right.
[00:31:26.14] [Levy Rozman] Oh, my God. No, no, no, no, no. With your parents at the tournament, too? This is-- oh, no!
[00:31:31.80] [Anna Cramling] My parents were at the tournament, too. I haven't told them. I don't think they know about this, though. And that's just one part of it.
[00:31:38.54] [Gloomy synth music plays]
[00:31:39.19] [Jess] Okay, firstly, it's crazy to me that Levy didn't pick up on what Anna was putting down. I knew immediately what she was referencing. But this is something else that we've stumbled upon in our research for this set of episodes.
[00:31:53.15] [Ryan] Yeah, I've been completely flabbergasted this entire journey at the horrible behaviour of men, and then flabbergasted all over again that you haven't been shocked really at all.
[00:32:06.19] [Jess] I mean, I was a bit surprised to learn about the degree of what women in chess face. And some of the testimonies we've gathered have been shocking to me. But on the whole, there's been lots of times where I can't understand why you're so caught off guard. I don't want this to be normal, but it's not like I don't expect it. There's mostly men in this sport, and women aren't treated very equitably. And the way that math shakes out in my own personal lived experience as a woman is that men are probably taking advantage of that. Here's Emilia.
[00:32:46.34] [Emilia Castelao] I will say that there are a lot of people who hear things about someone that they've played chess with their whole lives and they go, "No way. That person never could. Like, I've known them for years. Like, they never would do something like that." Like, that's what also happened with Alejandro, you know? It's, like, people were like, "No, I've known him forever. Like, he could never do that." But at the end of the day, like, you don't know anyone. And I tell the advocates this in my training program, I'm like, you have to be careful, because statistically when things like this happen, it's someone you know. Like, it's never a stranger. It's never, you know, someone coming in from the outside. It's someone who's a part of your community who is charming and likable. And it's sad that that is that way. But it's a part of the institutions, as well. And it's, like, not only US Chess, but other institutions just, like, perpetuate this idea that, you know, it is The victim's fault. And it's not. And it's so hard because you just want to, like, shake them and be like, "Can you please just be empathetic for five minutes towards this person who had a horrible experience?"
[00:33:57.59] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:34:05.44] [Ryan] I think by now, after hearing about countless ways in which men in the chess community have abused and/or taken advantage of women, we can start to empathize more with any woman chess player. Men can be dangerous. It takes so much willpower, and strength, and determination to persevere when that voice in the back of your head is constantly reminding you of that danger.
[00:34:36.00] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:34:36.49] [Jess] This is part of the bigger picture of why there's an underrepresentation of women in chess. According to Grandmaster Dr. David Smerdon, girls drop out at faster rates than boys at all ages, and the dropout rate is especially severe after age 16. I don't think that's any coincidence, because the teen years are when women are most likely to be targeted by men. We've already heard that from Anna Cramling, Divya Deshmukh, and countless others.
[00:35:08.02] [Ryan] But it doesn't have to be this way. The participation stats for women in chess are markedly better when you look at streaming as compared to OTB. The fact that women are almost at parity for streaming proves that they are participating at a higher rate online. Seven out of the top 20 earning streamers in chess are women. Zero out of the top 100 highest-rated OTB players are women. Chess online might just be a safer space for women. Here's Julia.
[00:35:40.22] [Julia Rios] A lot of really kind, supportive voices, and also a lot of really safe community definitely helped me not feel like, okay, I don't want to explore this space or engage with chess whatsoever. I felt like I had a lot more agency in how I was able to carve out the spaces and form relationships with the people that I wanted online in a way that I don't feel in person or over the board.
[00:36:03.63] [Jess] Lile is both a chess player and a streamer. We're going to hear more about her thoughts on streaming in another episode, but here's what she had to say about how her experience in the chess world has been informed by both OTB and online.
[00:36:18.96] [Lile Koridze] I can ban anyone on Twitch if they disrespect me, and in one second, not even thinking about that. And, yeah, in classical chess, you can't really do it, because these people are in real life, and either you need to, like, move away from these people, try to be distant, or try to argue. And arguing is kind of like making you feel drained. And so, it's not a great solution. So better to, like, move-- move on from this kind of people.
[00:36:46.24] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:36:46.56] [Jess] You know that adage that men on a first date are most scared of being embarrassed or not being liked, and women are scared that they're going to get murdered? Well, it's the same in chess.
[00:37:00.78] [Lile Koridze] I don't want it to happen to me. And it's really hard, I know, to be a woman in especially a male-dominated field. But same time, we need to, all of them, we need to learn how to take care of us, how to be cautious and stuff. I know if I go with this many guys and if I get drunk, there will be some things which I won't like, because that's the reality. So either I should go with other girls as well to, like, lean on them, or just don't go. And if you say these kind of things, you are getting blamed as being sexist. And that's not sexist. That's the reality. You know, don't go out. Don't be, like, in private places, and then you will get less chance. So, yeah, just I want to tell girls to be cautious and don't, like, be around these guys because you want their attention or something else. No, that's not worth it. Your mental health, and your future, and your career-- it really is not worth it.
[00:37:54.31] [Playful music plays]
[00:37:54.72] [Jess] So to recap-- in general, the women we talked to weren't so impacted by their gender that it stopped them from playing chess. But it makes you wonder how, much better could they be playing if they weren't also worried about all these other things? Why does it have to be this way, and what needs to change? Here's Fiona.
[00:38:22.37] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] You know, when you're a kid, you don't think so much about, oh, what are other girls' experiences, you know? You're just having fun. And obviously as I grew older, I saw a lot more of these issues, and I heard a lot more stories. And so I think the people need to be just held responsible, as well. I think that's very important. I think a big thing is that for many, many years, this old men's club, unfortunately, there were quite a lot of men in positions of power who felt they can get away with-- I don't want to say everything, but pretty close to everything.
[00:39:05.34] I think it's important that, you know, these people understand, like, they can't keep doing this. And, you know, for a while, some people, I thought, surely they're going to fall. Like, a few years ago, I was telling my friends, like, their time has to come. And I'm sure it will come soon, because in some cases, I heard, you know, so many different sources about the same person. And I was like, this person will be brought down. And in a lot of cases, unfortunately, these people are still there. So we've still got a long way to go.
[00:39:51.55] The fact that more and more women feel comfortable to speak out, there's unfortunately still so many with stories that have never been told.
[00:40:02.02] [Jess] Here's JJ.
[00:40:03.76] [JJ Lang] I can't count how many times I've heard women say something like, "Oh, yeah, my dad played, but he never taught me," or "Yeah, my grandpa taught my brothers, but they didn't teach me." Obviously, that's anecdotal, but I think the reason why I've caught that is it definitely tracks this perception of somebody somewhere down the line has coded certain interests as, like, more appropriate for boys than girls based on all sorts of things at a young age. And it's just led to, like, people being like, "I think I might have liked that, but I never learned." And then the next level up is, "Well, I did learn, and then I went to the club at my school, and it was all boys, so I didn't come back," or "I went there and it was a lot of girls, but the boys were kind of mean, and the girls eventually kind of drifted off, and then by the time we were all hitting puberty, the boys were getting creepy, and then I stopped coming back." So there's just a lot of social reasons at every step.
[00:41:02.70] And I know that there's research on representation and the idea of, like, what you think of a chess player being, or who can be a chess player can influence whether or not it's something you would really even want to take seriously or do, and I imagine that that has a reinforcing effect. So you have, like, almost all of the top players throughout history have been men, so your picture of what a top chess player looks like is a man, so the thought of getting into chess just doesn't occur to you. And then the result is so many more men compete than women that the odds of women being in that, like, top 100 are so small just because of the numbers being so skewed heavily towards men, that it has this terrible loop effect.
[00:41:43.55] [Playful music plays]
[00:41:43.81] [Jess] One of the major changes that's already started to bring about positive impacts on the chess world is the establishment of the Women in Chess Foundation. Take it away, Emilia!
[00:41:56.08] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:41:56.99] [Emilia Castelao] This podcast is listened to by Emilia, the Women in Chess Foundation President. The Women in Chess Foundation's mission essentially is to empower women and also make chess safer for everyone. We are working right now on two big projects. The first one is advocacy training. So we are training people in the chess world, from arbiters to moms of kids who play chess, on how to help women or anyone who has experienced misconduct in the chess world. As well, we have been working with a bunch of chess federations on changing safe play guidelines and making them not only more inclusive, but also just more preventative, and having actual things in place for people who want to report misconduct.
[00:42:46.19] You can support us by going to our website womeninchess.com and becoming an advocate. We have advocacy trainings at least once a month. If advocacy training is not your style, then donating to the Women in Chess Foundation is always really great. All of the proceeds that we get go directly back into Women in Chess, in helping put advocates at tournaments, or supporting, you know, upcoming young girls in chess. We have a lot of lofty goals that we're trying to accomplish, so any penny helps.
[00:43:20.28] Anyone should become an advocate. We really want there to be a wide range of people who are advocates, whether it's, you know, moms taking their kids to chess tournaments, or if you're just a local club player who goes to, you know, weekly chess meetings.
[00:43:38.89] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:43:39.29] Advocacy is for everyone. There's really space for everyone in our advocacy program. And even if you're a man, we welcome you, you know? It's really important to have a full spectrum of representation in our advocates program. Follow Women in Chess at Women in Chess on Twitter and Instagram.
[00:43:59.46] [Music fades]
[00:43:59.96] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:44:02.44] [Ryan] Wow, what a great ad! Rooked is a really high-budget production. And you know how we manage to make such a good show with such a small team? Well, it's thanks to listeners like you.
[00:44:15.57] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:44:17.52] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:44:18.01] Did you know that Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is an indie podcast?
[00:44:22.19] [Jess] Indie as in independent. We don't receive any sponsorship support. Ryan and I make Rooked in our spare time for free.
[00:44:29.57] [Ryan] And don't get us wrong. We love getting to make this podcast exactly the way we want to. But we've been thinking that maybe with some support we could make this show even better.
[00:44:39.34] [Tim Robinson] I got to figure out how to make money on this thing. It's simply too good.
[00:44:43.49] [Jess] So, like many creators, we've joined Patreon.
[00:44:46.85] [Ryan] Can I just ask, what is Patreon?
[00:44:49.48] [Jess] Great question, Ryan. Patreon is a way for fans to join and engage with their favourite creators' community. Basically, it's a platform that allows you to support creators financially. Currently, we have two tiers open: the Pawn level, if you want to support us for 5 Canadian dollars a month-- cheaper than mailing us an envelope of loonies and toonies-- and the King level, for $20 per month. If you choose to support us at the King tier, we'll also mention you by name in the episode credits. And if you support us at any level on Patreon, you'll also be able to access bonus content.
[00:45:23.06] [Ryan] Patreon looks like they stole their logo directly from Target.
[00:45:26.62] [Jess] You are the only person I've ever had to describe Patreon to, so I don't really trust your judgement here, honestly.
[00:45:33.33] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:45:33.70] But that's a good point. If you want to support us but monthly donations don't fit your budget, you can also buy us a coffee instead at buymeacoffee.com/rooked. Or we also really appreciate ratings, reviews, and shares, too. And those are free.
[00:45:48.53] [Ryan] We love making this podcast, and our motivation is listeners like you, so we really appreciate your support at any level.
[00:45:56.51] [Jess] Go to patreon.com/rooked to support the podcast. That's patreon.com/rooked. Thanks for listening.
[00:46:06.66] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:46:09.55] [Jess] Wow, I can't believe we ran two ads back to back. We're a real podcast now. Okay, back to the Women in Chess Foundation.
[00:46:17.22] [Playful music plays]
[00:46:17.59] [Ryan] After learning about what the Women in Chess Foundation is, which you should also know now after listening to our delightful ad roll, we wanted to hear from Emilia why she thought it was important to start it in the first place.
[00:46:30.74] [Emilia Castelao] Chess is such an old sport. It's been around forever. The demographics didn't really grow up addressing this kind of problem. And so, now that it's here, there's actually a lot of people who do want to fix the problem. They just don't know where to start, or they don't know how they can be helpful. And I think that that's kind of where we wanted to focus, is saying, okay, yeah, there's this problem, and we'll teach you how to fix it. We'll teach you how to be supportive. We'll teach you how to engage in your community in a way that's beneficial for everyone, and how to support someone and navigate them through this system that is extremely confusing. And so, we definitely wanted to not only address it from the top down, because we are working with national federations to address this problem, but also get the community engaged, as well. So coming at it from both directions I think is really important.
[00:47:20.64] There's always going to be bad people out there, but I think if you can educate people on how to spot them and how to prevent something from happening, or just how to move forward after something happens, that can be really powerful in giving people kind of their autonomy back in a community that I think has not had a lot of autonomy.
[00:47:42.46] [Playful music plays]
[00:47:42.77] [Ryan] Another thing that the Women in Chess Foundation advocates for is the marketing and media support of women chess players.
[00:47:50.12] [Emilia Castelao] This was actually Dodgy's kind of vision in that, obviously, it's really important to promote safety at events to empower women, but also at the same time, one thing we noticed is that the chess community in the way that, like, chess marketed its players was really different between men and women. Like, when it comes to men, I could tell you so many of Magnus Carlsen's hobbies, like, outside of chess. Like, you know, he loves basketball. When it came to, like, women, though, we didn't really get to know much about them. And so, it was really important for us to not only work on these safe play guidelines with federations, but also tell them, especially at very high-level tournaments, when we were working with them, to say, when you do interviews with women, ask them questions outside of chess. Like, let us get to know them like we get to male chess players. And so, changing the way that we market female chess players and build up their brand is also really important to us, because, like, that is how you have a sustainable, long-term kind of marketing strategy when it comes to players, like getting to know them. Have people be emotionally invested in them. So that's something that was really important to us.
[00:49:07.68] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:49:08.18] [Jess] Social platforms are a hot-button topic in more than just chess, especially around the issue of accountability for bad actors. People love to throw around the term "cancel culture." It usually has a negative connotation, something around the mass cancelling or withdrawal of support from public figures when they're deemed to have acted inappropriately. If you want to know more about this, then you should really subscribe to our Patreon, because our monthly bonus is a dissection of a chess thought piece that argues against cancel culture in chess as a way of intellectualizing and validating misogyny.
[00:49:45.18] [Ryan] Personally, we're fans of using social media to increase accountability for bad behaviour, especially since it can signal to others where they can find safe spaces and allies. Here's how JJ uses social space online to increase inclusivity, but also how these signals can end up being a target for hate speech, too.
[00:50:09.11] [JJ Lang] In my lichess profile, I have the rainbow flag as my flag, and my pronouns as they/them. And I've had multiple players just, like, ask in chat, like, "Why do you do that?" And once it was actually somebody who was queer and looking for a queer community, and that was dope. But it's usually-- at this point, I just don't respond. And I remember, like, being really bummed, like, with people trying to just, like, say all sorts of shit just based off of that. And I know no shortage of women who play chess whose profile photo on chess.com is their cat, not themselves, or a stock photo, or no photo. And just being like, yeah, okay, that's a glimpse firsthand into the kind of shit.
[00:50:50.83] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:50:51.97] [Jess] Social media is as likely to be a hotbed for sexist comments as it is to be used as a tool to combat misogyny. And for women in chess, it's been a space that's been used as a way to prevent and call out bad behaviour that previously had gone unnoticed-- or maybe noticed, but swept under the rug. Just look at the fateful tweet that finally brought Jen Shahade's account of abuse into the light after repeatedly being silenced. Jen has helped pave the way for others to find justice that they'd previously been denied. And the result is that men are on notice, and seemingly they are behaving better. Here's Lile.
[00:51:33.73] [Lile Koridze] What I noticed that when I play lately in the tournament, it's for , me at least, it's not as much, you know, they try to do something because I think they know that I'm going to check-- get to my Twitter and write. I'm going to, like, publish what has happened. So I feel like nowadays it's really less this than it was before. So now I understand, as well, why they could not speak before, because it was not as common. It was not as like possible to cancel them on Twitter. So I understand that.
[00:52:05.45] [Playful music plays]
[00:52:05.75] [Ryan] Retribution by Twitter is basically what Jen Shahade did. And given the track record of having institutions listen to her before that, it seems like it really was the most feasible option. Plus, online communities can be helpful, too. Here's Julia.
[00:52:23.83] [Julia Rios] It really only has been in these really small scenarios when I've been pretty vocal about experiencing misogyny, then I end up experiencing more misogyny.
[00:52:35.54] [Chuckles]
[00:52:35.98] But I also just do feel like those experiences have been so vastly outweighed by so much support and kindness in the community that I didn't necessarily know whether or not to expect, which has been really, really nice. And I think that that is why it's so important in a lot of ways to be vocal online, especially in certain situations where I might not ordinarily. I don't always feel totally comfortable confronting the online hate, but I just see how important it is for those voices to sort of outweigh all of the vitriol out there. So while I definitely have experienced, honestly, just shocking things that I can't believe anyone would say to a stranger online, they just don't really feel quite as sticky with me because of how much support there also is.
[00:53:30.97] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:53:31.43] [Jess] Last episode, we mentioned the 2023 Experiences of Women in Chess Roundtable on chess.com, which you can find the link to in the show notes. It's an almost two-hour long video of women in the chess world, including Fiona, discussing topics like what we've been covering here. Honestly, it's a really good video and you should go watch it. But here's one of our favourite clips featuring WIM Ayelen Martinez.
[00:53:56.62] [Ayelen Martinez] It's linked with something that Jennifer said before. Like, it's okay that you didn't speak up about it. Like, I guess, like, yeah, it's like double pressure that we have. Like, we suffer this kind of situation, and also we have this pressure that, okay, we have to tell, or we don't have to, and what to do. And it's really awful. And actually, yeah, it's, like, double thing, and we are the victims and we have to be victims again to say the thing.
[00:54:22.08] And in that situation, again, I point to the Federation. We need, like, an official entity even monitoring the company. Like, you know, FIDE should also say, okay, if there's a business about chess, like chess.com, Chessable, chess24, like, also they should actually regulate a bit inside there, let's say, like, that touch a bit the chess world. Because they're supposed to be the official part. Shouldn't be like that.
[00:54:45.45] And the other thing I want to mention, in Chessable, we have two girls, Matilda, from France. Actually, she's a Woman Grandmaster. And also, well, there's a Department of Science in Chessable, and they've been doing a lot of research about the gender gap and everything. And now they are implementing-- Matilda and Sofia-- like, the inclusive language. That is something that you, Anna, were saying. Like, how we can change the perspective about women in chess levels and everything? And it's something that I never seen before and it's super revolutionary. And I'm, like-- I'm actually super grateful with the girls there with the work that they are doing. Because in some books you hear actually-- you read that they say, like, a chess master put his rooks always in an open file, for instance. His rooks, because it's not her rook. Like, it was always the chess master or the genius is going to be he. So it's always like the good player's always he, he, he.
[00:55:43.05] So it's necessary to change from the very bottom that part. And with this project that they are going to implement in Chessable, all the courses in Chessable, is like trying to have in the guidelines to put this inclusive language and start using they. So then it's, like, okay, like, a chess master is someone who plays really good. Could be-- could be men, could be a male player, but also could be a female player.
[00:56:05.76] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:56:06.02] [Ryan] It's hard to even comment on everything Ayelen said, because she just brings up so many important ideas. But one of my favourite points that she raises is how impactful representation is. These are the things we need to start thinking about and changing when we ask ourselves, how can we make chess more inclusive? But in chess, it's more than just women that are being left out of the conversation. Chess is, by the numbers, predominantly played by straight, cis men. Here's what JJ had to say in regards to diversification in chess and why they have a Commitment to Inclusivity page on their website.
[00:56:45.24] [JJ Lang] Because I think that the way to fight exclusionary spaces isn't by just being not a bigot, but by actively reflecting on how to make these spaces more inclusive and thinking about what skills or resources you have that you can offer to make that space a better space.
[00:57:04.14] And thinking about how a skill that I have as a coach is my patience, is I have a lot of experience with neurodiversity particularly, but also, like, myself, like, I'm a very anxious person, and I've seen how that affects my chess, and how that affects my results and ability to perform under pressure. And so, just, I know I bring a lot of empathy to those conversations and create a kind of space that could be really useful for people who are maybe trying to break in, but maybe didn't find these YouTube videos that are littered with misogynistic comments, or didn't find coaches who, like, even something as innocuous as, like, maybe just a coach uses he as a gender-neutral thing in their explanations, and you start to wonder if this is a person for you. And so, just knowing that I can do that and want to do that.
[00:57:53.69] And then also selfishly, if this is the space that I love and want to spend the rest of my life in, I want to spend it with people who I think are really cool. And that means people who probably have mostly felt alienated by a lot of the people in this space who aren't cool.
[00:58:10.62] [Chuckles]
[00:58:11.02] So I personally would like more people who I want to hang out with to get into chess.
[00:58:15.52] [Jess] Here's Emilia's take on inclusivity and the future of chess.
[00:58:19.90] [Emilia Castelao] In the next five years, I cannot see chess becoming a fully inclusive place. I think that we are still just so far behind in things that need to become more equitable, not only when it comes to protecting players, but also, like, the pay gap between men and women's chess, and in prize funds. And, you know, I don't think that in the near future there will be any kind of equality, as much as I think we are on the right path.
[00:58:55.29] When Dodgy and I kind of were brainstorming the Women in Chess Foundation, we wanted it to be something that was long lasting, that was something that was around for the next 10, 20 years, because that was honestly really our timeline in how long we thought it would take to have chess become equal, and have, like, the next, you know, Judit Polgar come into the scene. There are so many amazing young female chess players that are really just, you know, I think, going to turn the tide and be a part of chess becoming more equal. But I think that to get there, you know, we really need to have this culture shift in how we see women at the chess board.
[00:59:45.87] I think one story that I was told is this one mother, she brought her daughter to a chess tournament, and she, like, overheard the dad saying to the son, you know, "Oh, you're playing a girl. You'll be fine." And that needs to change. And not even change-- it needs to leave the building.
[01:00:07.13] Until we start seeing women as equal competitors across the board, chess will not become fully equal.
[01:00:16.14] [Playful music plays]
[01:00:16.53] [Ryan] We talked pretty extensively about chess titles last episode, and how important they are for affirmative action to try and give women equal footing. Here's what Fiona had to say when we asked her about her thoughts on separate male and female titles, as well as women events.
[01:00:34.11] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] I actually don't have a strong opinion, which is a weird thing for me to say as a titled-- you know, woman titled player. If tomorrow they took away my Woman International Master title, how would I feel? I'm not sure. Do I feel-- I don't think I feel strongly. I'd be like, oh, my God, I can't believe you're removing women's title.
[01:01:00.39] I think it was Pia Cramling who talked about the importance of having women's-only and girls-only events. And I think for a long time, I didn't understand so much because I was someone who all my life got on better with boys than with girls, in general.
[01:01:17.45] [Playful music plays]
[01:01:17.89] [Jess] Fiona's right. It was Grandmaster Pia Cramling who talked about this. Pia also happens to be the mother of Anna Cramling, who you heard earlier in this episode talking about her experience playing in open tournaments as an underage girl. Here's the clip that Fiona was probably thinking about.
[01:01:36.12] [Pia Cramling] This is very typical in the Nordic countries, that we don't have so many specific women tournaments, in general. We have it, but very few. And it's the same in all Nordic countries. And it's my belief, but it's my personal belief, that the Nordic countries are considered to be more equal between gender. And this is why I believe we have more resistance to organize specific women or girls tournament here, because people think it's not needed. But I believe that to have lots of girls playing, lots of women playing, you need to have tournaments. You need to have trainings where the women or the girls are many. And the easiest way to be many is to have a specific woman or girl tournament.
[01:02:23.73] [Sombre music plays]
[01:02:24.58] [Ryan] There needs to be a bigger attitude adjustment to get more women to play the sport. At this current point in chess history, separate women's titles are needed in order to incentivize women to play chess. In a perfect world, chess has a 50/50 participation rate, and separate titles are no longer needed. But a lot of things need to change in order to get there. Like, for instance, compensating women fairly. Here's Lile's take on women's tournaments and worthy incentives.
[01:02:56.60] [Lile Koridze] If it does not have enough support, it won't change. You know, there are many things which needed-- for example, women prizes in open tournaments. I was playing in one tournament and it was horrible. Like, how it's possible to have, like, in first woman category prize, like, 40. euros. It's like, I don't know, 40 euros would be like $38, $37. Dude! Like, I even need to spend this money in one day to eat. Like, imagine. Even if I would get in first place, I will not go to awarding ceremony because that's shame.
[01:03:29.42] Even in many tournaments, there's so small prizes for women. Like, who you expect them to play? Do you expect them to play? No, it doesn't-- like even $100 does not cover anything, absolutely. Even $200 or $300, it does not cover anything. Like what it should cover-- like, you spend this for food and stuff. So I think it's, in general, a problem that chess has not as much money as it should be, but especially women players. So why they would waste their time if they want to play professional? There isn't enough woman tournaments. Like, the problem is that I want to play in women tournaments, but only I can play in one woman tournament, European Women's Championship. Otherwise, many movement tournaments are closed or they are for, like, certain players, or they are, like, team championships where you should be in some clubs. So what's the point?
[01:04:12.71] Make open tournaments for women, as well, for women to play, and then eventually they will start playing in open tournaments. They have more, like, motivation. So there are many issues that I don't-- I don't know if they're going to fix that, but if it will be fixed, and if it will be more like possible women to play, of course, there will be many players, but if not, there won't be any change. And this would be-- and many women will be just on streaming because streaming is still safer place.
[01:04:36.57] [Playful music plays]
[01:04:36.97] [Ryan] Women's chess needs a makeover. Chess in general needs a complete overhaul. I'm being a bit facetious here but not really when I say that chess needs a Gordon Ramsay to make it more equitable, accessible, and more enjoyable to watch. But in the meantime, here's JJ and Julia's take on what you can do at an individual level to help make chess more inclusive.
[01:05:02.74] [JJ Lang] I mean, I think that one useful thing that organizers for, like, local chess spaces can do is-- especially if they know anybody who is coming to the clubs, and really just reach out to those people and say, hey, like, what is or isn't working for you, or what could I do better, and take seriously the fact that nobody can answer the specific problems that your community locally is facing than members of that community. Because I've seen people talk online of how it's been difficult as a trans person to play tournaments and not know if there's going to be gender nonspecific restrooms. So that's something that maybe some organizers just don't think about, but you might have somebody who would prefer using a gender nonspecific restroom. They come to your club once or your tournament once, they realize they can't go to the bathroom there, and they don't come back. And they don't personally believe that you did that because you're a bigot. But that just makes it less their space, and that could be a problem. But then also, you could be somewhere where restrooms aren't a problem at all. And that's not the thing. So you really just don't know.
[01:06:03.89] There's been some discussion for tournaments for equal prizes or having specific prizes for top women players. You want to be very careful about language there. Like, are you prepared for a trans woman to win that prize and maybe somebody say some shitty things about that? Or what about somebody who doesn't identify as a woman but might be the kind of person that your inclusion efforts would want to target. So I think that a lot of reflection can be done there, but I think there is something really appealing of, hey, if I'm going to be maybe one of three women playing this 30-player event all weekend, but also I can win my entry fee back and then some if I win a particular prize, that can, I think, serve a function of identifying the barriers and trying to make things a little bit more enticing. Or, also, it serves as a signal that they're thinking about it.
[01:06:55.88] Whatever organizers can do, I think it's really going to be a lot up to community members and people who are at the events themselves. Like, what kind of behaviour are you personally going to let slide before you confront somebody when you see something that's not okay? Like, if you do see somebody make some comments or some glances against, I mean, a woman of any age, but particularly there have been stories of girls in high school, 14, 16, talking about unsolicited advances, and looks, and comments from men. Like, and other people hear that. Other people see that. No one's hiding this. Like, it's really those moments where maybe the organizer didn't hear that, but the person at the table next to you did. So I'm a lot more interested in how the people react in those cases.
[01:07:40.29] I think it's just something that's really worth thinking about. You know, whenever you see these sorts of horror stories online of what happens at these events, I think to really just ask yourself the question, if I were a bystander, what would I feel comfortable doing? Because if you don't think about that question beforehand, and you're like me, your reaction when you see something horrible is, you freeze up. If I haven't thought about how I would react to that, I will be kind of in shock and not react to it. And then, as a result, you have a bunch of people not doing anything. And it would be really cool to see more people just figure out what they can do, even if that means nothing in the moment, but reaching out to someone after and being like, "Hey, are you okay? I saw that. That's not okay. Would you like me to talk to the director for you?" Or being like, "I saw this behaviour, and if this person isn't kicked out of the club, I'm not coming back." There's lots of things you can do, but it's worth thinking about that, I think.
[01:08:29.28] [Julia Rios] I love that point about thinking about those things ahead of time. It can be really, really hard to feel reactive in the way that you want to be, especially when you aren't expecting to see something like this, or it can be really activating. So I think this concept of being proactive, and just thinking about it ahead of time, and thinking about it creatively. There's lots of ways that we can step in. I can think of a lot of scenarios where I might not actually feel comfortable confronting someone, especially when we think about those power dynamics that would still be at play. But other things that I can do, and the ways that I have actually felt really comfortable, reaching out to women when I see things at least in the online space and just being that voice of support, or even confronting it publicly. There's such a range of what we can do. So kind of keeping a lot of options on the table and thinking about it ahead of time is just, like, a really nice way to think about those scenarios.
[01:09:26.42] [Jess] We were not able to get Gordon Ramsay to talk to us about how he would revolutionize the game of chess.
[01:09:32.86] [Gordon Ramsay] It was painful just watching you disintegrate. Get a grip! Oh, dear.
[01:09:38.38] [Playful electronic music plays]
[01:09:38.72] [Jess] But we did have an amazing conversation with Emilia. She and her team at the Women in Chess Foundation are making great strides in advancing the game of chess and moving towards equality. Significant change can only take place when institutions, like FIDE, the US Chess Federation, the Saint Louis Chess Club, and individuals work-- together and separately-- to make these changes. Anyone interested in the game has a say. Here's Emilia again.
[01:10:06.39] [Emilia Castelao] One thing, too, with the Women in Chess Foundation is showing young women that there are other avenues into the sport besides just playing over-the-board tournaments. There are female chess photographers. There are people who work at chess.com who are software engineers, things like that. There are so many avenues that, if you love the sport but don't play constantly like I do, there's other ways to, like, be supportive and to, like, make a difference.
[01:10:32.80] [Playful electronic music plays]
[01:10:33.25] [Ryan] The Women in Chess Foundation hasn't been around for very long, but they've already begun proving that change can take place. Here's Fiona.
[01:10:42.24] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] More and more women feel comfortable enough to speak up and to share their stories. I think it's hugely important. So the fact, first, that it's being recognized that there is a problem, and second, for example, the creation of the Women in Chess Foundation recently, I thought, was something that I was so glad to see. I think they are doing great work. They have great projects, and I think it was long overdue. So I'm very happy, and I hope that more and more, you know, safeguarding policies will be put in place.
[01:11:20.09] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[01:11:22.72] [Jess] We've talked a lot about the changes that need to be made and the reasons why we think those changes need to happen. But there's also this interesting question of what made this issue come to light kind of at the same time as the Sinquefield Cup scandal-- this question of, why now?
[01:11:41.69] [Emilia Castelao] I honestly think it's because people are really tired of chess just, like, being this way. I think that there has been a tolerance level for it for a really long time, and now that there are so many avenues to share your story, whether it be online or, like, actually reporting it, people feel comfortable coming forward. And I think, as well, too, just seeing the inaction of the institutions in chess. People want something to change, and something desperately needs to change. And I think they're finally, like, ready to actually do something about it, and to speak up about it.
[01:12:25.65] [Distorted voice,with reverb] I just think it's not just one, okay?
[01:12:28.85] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:12:32.10] [Ryan] There's still lots more to be said about this issue, but it's going to have to wait, for now. Maybe we'll be back for a second season of Rooked to do this topic justice. But we still have our first scandal that we need to wrap up. And what better way to get back into the Sinquefield Cup anal beads affair than to tease apart the granular details of the lawsuit that we've gone on and on about with not one, but two law experts.
[01:12:59.82] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[01:13:00.27] [Jess] We're bringing law professor and chess enthusiast David Franklin back into the mix. But we've also secured a second expert guest-- law professor and novice chess player, Nicole O'Byrne. Legal eagles, prepare yourself. It will be the lawsuit episode.
[01:13:18.43] [Music fades]
[01:13:19.37] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[01:13:21.72] [Jess] Thanks to our King-tier Patreon subscribers, Umaima Baig, Madelyn, Gord, and Mya Schmidt, Stefan Vezina, Marie Edwards, and Derek Keane.
[01:13:41.10] [Music fades]
[01:13:43.09] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:13:48.09] [Jess] Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is written and produced by me, Jess Schmidt.
[01:13:52.06] [Ryan] And by me, Ryan Webb.
[01:13:53.62] [Jess] Our amazing music is by the ever-talented Lorna Gilfedder.
[01:13:56.92] [Ryan] Our marketing is by media genius Bailey Simone Photography.
[01:14:00.16] [Jess] Our executive producers are Rooney and Indigo.
[01:14:02.66] [both] Speak.
[01:14:03.90] [Rooney and Indigo howling]
[01:14:06.34] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:14:08.29] [Jess] This podcast is recorded on the traditional Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the land of the Siksika, the Kainai, the Piikani, as well as the Stoney Nakoda and the Tsuut'ina Nations.
[01:14:19.73] [Ryan] We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Metis Nation of Alberta Region 3 within the historical Northwest Metis homeland. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge all nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
[01:14:38.59] [Jess] This gathering place, and therefore this podcast, provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate reconciliation. The Government of Canada has not followed through on a number of the Calls to Action that have been suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
[01:14:54.40] [Ryan] One of the Calls to Action is for all levels of government in Canada to fully adopt Jordan's Principle. Jordan's Principle was established by First Nations in the early 2000s in response to the death of Jordan River Anderson, who was a young child from Norway House Cree Nation, who suffered from a rare muscular disorder that required years of medical treatment. He spent years in a Winnipeg hospital and was eventually cleared to live in a family home, but he remained in the hospital until his death at five years old. He was never able to live in a family home because the federal and provincial governments fought over who was responsible for covering the cost of the necessary home care.
[01:15:33.59] Though most governments have adopted Jordan's Principle, not all have. It can be argued that no government has fully implemented the principle, and there have been countless cases-- like the 2017 suicide deaths of two girls from Wapekeka First Nation in Ontario-- where governments failed to act in a timely manner. It is frankly disgusting that First Nations children have failed to receive the access to government services that all other Canadians enjoy. Adopting Jordan's Principle in full means valuing First Nations' lives over money at every cost. We need to stop tragedies like unnecessary death from occurring. We must be less reactionary and more preventative when human beings' lives are at stake. Do better, Canada.
[01:16:25.07] [Music fades]
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<![CDATA[Episode 6: The Misogyny - Recent Controversies (Part 1)]]>Tue, 16 Apr 2024 21:33:18 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/episode-6-the-misogyny-recent-controversies-part-1
[00:00:00.47] [Rooked theme music plays]
[00:00:05.70] [Emilia Castelao] I wouldn't say I was surprised when the news broke, mostly because, in the chess world, stuff like this tends to be an open secret. And when I went to my first chess tournament, sadly, like, those were the first things that I was told, is to watch out for these people and, you know, just make sure that you're staying safe. And so, for me, that was, like, really disheartening, just because chess is one of those games that, like, theoretically should be one of the safest sports. Like, there's no physical contact. It's all over the board. It's all mental. Like, it's one of those things that should be so equitable, and to have the first thing that I hear is, you know, be careful when you're with these specific people, it just-- the news didn't come as a shock to me.
[00:00:59.41] [Fiona Steil-Aontoni] I was shocked. I mean, as a girl or a woman in the chess world, I know there is a lot of very flirty guys out there. Of course, also a lot of flirty girls, but when you have almost 90% men, I think that's just how it works. But I didn't realize, you know, the proportions. And I think especially the Wall Street Journal piece, I was absolutely horrified. That was a very tough read.
[00:01:37.34] [Lile Koridze] Ugh, there are so many cases. One case, there will be another case, there will be also another case, because some people can't really learn the lesson, you know, from other people that they should not do, that it's a crime. It's horrible. It's a really, really, really bad thing to do to anyone. Like, why a normal person would assault someone? Why would even make some sexual uncomfortable jokes or whatever? But some people-- like, because the thing is that they don't get enough punished. So if they were getting enough punished, then no one would do that.
[00:02:08.26] But, actually, what I noticed that when I play later in the tournaments, for me, at least, it's not as much they try to do something, because I think they know that I'm going to get to my Twitter and write. I'm going to, like, publish what has happened. So I feel like, nowadays, it's really less this than it was before. So now I understand, as well, that why they could not speak before, because it was not as common. It was not as, like, possible to cancel them on Twitter.
[00:02:44.91] [Ryan] We've been talking about this episode for months now. And we appreciate your patience in waiting for us to get it right.
[00:02:52.88] [Jess] In reality, this episode has actually been in the making since the very beginnings of the sport. But it's also about the changes that have begun to unfurl in the last decade, coming to a head in the last couple of years.
[00:03:07.44] [Ryan] This is a story about chess, but it's also a story about society, about the place of women in the patriarchy. It's about the embedded values that continue to push women down as they fight to be seen and considered as equals in a male-dominated world. And that's a big topic. So this is just part one of this episode, with an equally wordily titled part two still to come.
[00:03:35.79] [Jess] Because this is a tale of chess and a tale of inequality and bad actors.
[00:03:42.54] [Ryan] This is a tale of misogyny, sexism, and abuse.
[00:03:49.37] [Jess] This is a tale of cheating, of lies and conspiracies.
[00:03:56.61] [both] This is Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit.
[00:04:00.63] [Music fades]
[00:04:03.52] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:04:07.37] [Jess] I'm Jess Schmidt. I'm a woman and a podcaster. I'm also a capital F feminist, because I support equality and women's rights.
[00:04:16.52] [Ryan] I'm Ryan Webb. I'm a chess player and first-time podcaster. I almost minored in women's lit in university, so I just missed the boat on being able to call myself an accredited feminist. I like to think, at the very least, that I'm an ally. Whatever terminology you want to put on it, at the end of the day, I also think women should be equal in society and in the game of chess.
[00:04:43.29] [Jess] For this episode and the upcoming part two, we're going to try and get out of the way as much as possible, because one of the biggest problems in this story is that even though women are at the heart of it, you don't always get to hear what they think in their own words. So we're putting our own narrative aside as much as we can so we can let these women speak for themselves.
[00:05:05.97] [Ryan] For this episode, we're bringing back a familiar voice and introducing you to new ones, too. You might have recognized the first voice at the top of this episode. But if you didn't, it's Emilia Castelao.
[00:05:19.44] [Emilia Castelao] My name is Emilia Castelao, and I am currently the President of the Women in Chess Foundation. I am also a Master's student at Diplomatic Academy studying chess history.
[00:05:29.37] [Jess] Emilia has served as our resident chess historian in previous episodes, but since the last time we spoke, she's also started the Women in Chess Foundation, so we knew we had to re-interview her for this set of episodes. We'll hear more from her in part two, but for now, here's a sneak peek. And an ad roll!
[00:05:48.66] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:05:49.62] [Emilia Castelao] This podcast is listened to by Emilia, the Women in Chess Foundation President. The Women in Chess Foundation's mission essentially is to empower women and also make chess safer for everyone. We are working right now on two big projects. The first one is advocacy training. So we are training people in the chess world, from arbiters to moms of kids who play chess, on how to help women or anyone who has experienced misconduct in the chess world. As well, we have been working with a bunch of chess federations on changing safe play guidelines and making them not only more inclusive, but also just more preventative, and having actual things in place for people who want to report misconduct.
[00:06:38.83] You can support us by going to our website womeninchess.com and becoming an advocate. We have advocacy trainings at least once a month. If advocacy training is not your style, then donating to the Women in Chess Foundation is always really great. All of the proceeds that we get go directly back into Women in Chess in helping put advocates at tournaments or supporting, you know, upcoming young girls in chess. We have a lot of lofty goals that we're trying to accomplish, so any penny helps.
[00:07:12.92] Anyone should become an advocate. We really want there to be a wide range of people who are advocates, whether it's moms taking their kids to chess tournaments or if you're just a local club player who goes to, you know, weekly chess meetings.
[00:07:31.50] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:07:31.92] Advocacy is for everyone. There's really space for everyone in our advocacy program, and even if you're a man, we welcome you, you know? It's really important to have a full spectrum of representation in our advocates program. Follow Women in Chess at Women in Chess on Twitter and Instagram.
[00:07:51.76] [Music fades]
[00:07:52.52] And LinkedIn.
[00:07:53.99] [Emilia laughs]
[00:07:54.96] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:07:56.89] [Playful music plays]
[00:07:57.38] [Ryan] Again, we're going to talk more about Women in Chess next episode. But it's a great initiative, and you should definitely give your support in any way possible before then.
[00:08:07.49] [Jess] As for the new voices, gracing the Rooked podcast for the first time...
[00:08:13.17] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] My name is Fiona Steil-Antoni. My chess title is a Woman International Master, but I hope you're not going to call me, you know, Woman IM Fiona. And I'm calling from home. I'm home in Luxembourg.
[00:08:26.87] I've been a Woman IM since 2010, and my rating has dropped a bit. It's now around 2150. I started playing chess when I was nine. I was very active and my teenage years and early 20s, but now my career has sort of taken a different direction, and I've been working in the chess world for the last 10 years.
[00:08:50.63] Like so many other people, I started with my dad. So my dad himself only started playing chess quite late, when he was 40 or so. He was just very passionate about it. He's not super strong or anything, but he would always play chess at home, either analyzing by himself with a book, or a friend would come over and they would play. And I just got curious, because I kept seeing that board and, like, what are they doing? What's going on? So I went up to my dad, and I asked him, "What is this? Can you teach me?" And the rest is history, pretty much.
[00:09:27.87] [Ryan] You also heard the voice of chess player and streamer Lile Koridze at the top of the episode. Again, you'll hear more from Lile in part two. As a young player in the sport, she's got some really interesting takes on the future of the game and what needs to be done in the present to make the game safer and more equitable.
[00:09:45.90] [Lile Koridze] I am Lile Koridze from Georgia. I'm 22 years old, and I am a Woman FIDE Master. I have been playing chess for around 14 years, and I started playing it when I was at school around first or second grade. So since that, I became a chess player. My rating will be around 2120. My maximum rating, classical, was 2191. I am working towards to hit my first goal, which is 2200.
[00:10:20.22] So as I am a classical chess player, competitive chess player, and at the same time a streamer, it's pretty hard to balance everything. Probably on stream I'm usually, like, three to four hours. In studying chess it's, like, around three hours, at least two, three hours-- as much as I really can, because it's pretty hard to balance everything. But I make sure that I study enough chess every day.
[00:10:47.61] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:10:47.94] [Jess] Before we dive in any further we just need to acknowledge the fact that, again, we're interlopers in this sport. Our knowledge of most of the game is second hand. We're getting it from research and talking to the players and experts whose lives and livelihoods are based on their participation in this game.
[00:11:08.07] [Ryan] So before we delve into the recent sexist controversies that have troubled the chess community, we wanted to know from these women chess players, are sexism and misogyny actually big problems in chess? Here's Fiona's response.
[00:11:23.26] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] I think it's such a difficult question. Is sexism, you know, is it a systemic issue? The answer is probably yes, but it's not just in the chess world. It's in the world at large. In a field that's more or less 90% men, I guess it's bound to be unfortunately a bigger issue maybe than in society.
[00:11:49.59] It's sad for me as a woman in chess. Like, I am struggling to wrap my head around why are we not as good? But it's a fact. I mean, even the percentage of women that do play, roughly 10%, there is not one single woman in the top 100, and so it's hard to deny these facts.
[00:12:13.62] [Jess] And here's Lile's opinion.
[00:12:16.23] [Lile Koridze] It's hard to deny that there is no fact of sexism in chess. For example, when I play open tournaments there's, like, 100 male chess players, maybe a few women players. So that's the biggest issue in chess. You know, if there was balance of chess players, women and male players, there would be women who would support each other, and now it's really hard to, like, play as a woman, because it's also hard to socialize in a way that we are unused to. There are so many men and most of them want to, like, take you out to date or just have some private time with you. It's really hard to look at them as, like, friends and look at them as like I can look to another woman, you know? That's a problem.
[00:12:59.22] I would not say that I experienced something, like, big or something traumatic. Fortunately not. But I have seen other people's examples. Besides the fact that many times if you are a woman chess player and if you beat guys, sometimes they just feel like their ego is destroyed or something because you beat them and you are a girl. Well, that's how it works. And I hope that eventually there will be enough women chess players who will compete in open chess tournaments, and there will be balanced kind of men and women players.
[00:13:33.33] [Ryan] And here's Emilia's take.
[00:13:35.34] [Emilia Castelao] A lot of I think what happened is an open secret just because the chess world is so small, but also at the same time, we were like, why is no one doing anything about this? It's truly just, like, enraging. We're just like, let's do something about it. Like, let's just rock the chess world on its head and, you know, start something that's just for women to make sure that they have a space where they can go to and, you know, come to us with their problems, and we can help them find a solution, because we know the chess world and we know how to navigate it. And so, we can help them.
[00:14:10.36] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:14:10.84] [Jess] In most facets of life, there's at least some level of sexism. But in chess in particular, it's highly concentrated because of the ratio of men to women participants. Men don't have an advantage in chess the way they might have in other sports because chess is a predominantly mental game. But despite that, women as a minority are disadvantaged.
[00:14:35.86] [Ryan] According to chess Grandmaster and economist, David Smerdon, women represent 11% of all classical FIDE-rated players and just 16% of the FIDE Master list. Only 2% of Grandmasters are women, and of the top classical rated adult players at the time of this recording, the highest-rated woman in the world, Hou Yifan, is ranked at number 115. There's a number of reasons women are not represented in the top 100 players, which we'll talk more about later, but most of it boils down to low participation.
[00:15:11.29] [Jess] The numbers and the lived experiences of women in chess create a pretty big performance gap, and in part thanks to that gap, sexism is alive and well. If you don't believe us from these stats and the quotes from women chess players that you've already heard, buckle up. We have some pretty terrible stories to delve into.
[00:15:33.79] [Ryan] Something else important to note is that this set of episodes is a step sideways from the Sinquefield Cup anal beads scandal. We're taking you into darker and perhaps even more pervasive issues in chess than cheating. We're going to be discussing accounts of mistreatment of women-- from harassment to physical and sexual abuse-- in this episode and the next. So please take care.
[00:15:58.29] [Piano music plays]
[00:15:58.78] [Jess] One silver lining-- if you want to call it that-- from the anal beads scandal is that it made us pay more attention to bad behaviour in chess on the whole.
[00:16:10.01] [Ryan, chuckling] "On the hole."
[00:16:11.26] [Jess] Okay, get it out of your system now, Ryan, because I doubt there's going to be many chuckles for the rest of the episode. Are you good?
[00:16:17.89] [Ryan] Yeah, I'm good. You got to take the levity where you can get it, you know?
[00:16:20.86] [Jess] Yeah, I mean, you're right, but this is pretty serious.
[00:16:25.06] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:16:25.64] There was at least one verified bad actor on the main stage during the Saint Louis Chess Club 2022 coverage of the Sinquefield Cup. His name is Alejandro Ramirez.
[00:16:38.01] [Ryan] The reactions you heard at the top of this episode were our guests responding to the question, "Were you surprised when you heard about the sexual assault allegations that have been levelled at Alejandro Ramirez?" And the resounding answer from Emilia, Fiona, and Lile: yes... and no.
[00:16:58.19] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Yes, because I know Alejandro. I wouldn't say that we were ever close friends, but I would probably say we were friends. But, yeah, I was-- I was shocked.
[00:17:11.51] [Lile sighs]
[00:17:12.21] [Lile Koridze] There are so many cases. One case, there will be another case, there will be also another case.
[00:17:17.22] [Emilia Castelao] In the chess world, stuff like this tends to be an open secret.
[00:17:20.85] ["secret" reverberating]
[00:17:21.73] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:17:22.22] [Jess] To tell this story properly, we need to go back to the beginning and introduce you to some new players. The two people at the heart of this scandal are Woman Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade, the accuser, and Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez, the accused. If you're not already aware, both of these players are very well known in the chess community. Jen Shahade is a two-time US Women's Chess Champion, renowned poker player, author, commentator, and women's rights advocate in the chess community. She served as Women's Program Director for US Chess from 2018 to 2023. Her accomplishments on and off the chess board are remarkable, and she's been a dominant figure in the chess scene for decades-- with one of her main goals being equity and equality for women and girls in chess. We weren't able to speak to Jen for this episode, but here's a clip from an interview she did with chess.com in 2023.
[00:18:22.53] [Jennifer Shahade] Hey, it's Jennifer Shahade.
[00:18:24.47] [Groovy music plays]
[00:18:24.85] Wow, when I was a kid, I learned chess from my father and my brother. I'm from a big chess family. My brother is an International Master, the founder of the Pro Chess League, and my dad's a FIDE Master and a multi-state champion.
[00:18:40.91] [Music fades]
[00:18:42.55] Well, the recently published Wall Street Journal article really brought to light some extremely disturbing, heartbreaking, infuriating things that have been going on in the chess world for too long. And I think the message I really want to send to people is that, you know, men, the adults, have to do better to create a better culture. Because there were so many accounts that I have heard that were mentioned in the article where people, very young at the time would say, like, "Well, you know, everybody else around me acted like it was normal, so I didn't say anything. I didn't do anything. It just was very normalized." And, yeah, that just needs to stop, and we need to step up and make sure that our game is, like, safe and fun for everyone.
[00:19:32.72] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:19:34.33] [Ryan] Alejandro Ramirez is a Costa Rican-American Grandmaster, commentator, and coach, who was once the second-youngest GM in the world. He's not a commentator or a coach anymore, though, and it's because of these allegations.
[00:19:48.37] [Jess] Before this story broke, Jen and Alejandro had been working together for years at the Saint Louis Chess Club, often commentating on the same tournaments. You'll remember Saint Louis Chess Club as the host of the 2022 Sinquefield Cup where the Hans-Magnus scandal all began. You might not recall, though, that Alejandro was the main interviewer of Hans during the tournament. That might be because of us. We've done our best here on this podcast to scrub Alejandro's name and voice from any of our content. But for this episode, we do need to speak his name in order to discuss the horrendous allegations against him. It's important for all the women involved in this particular story, but also for women in general, to have the ability to say the names of those who harass and assault them, in order to hold them accountable, and to make them an example to others who might also try to get away with this kind of behaviour.
[00:20:46.85] [Ryan] But we're jumping around a bit. And just like we said in episode one, we're not here to give you our opinions. We're here to tell you the facts. And the facts are this: on February 15th, 2023-- five months after the anal beads scandal-- Jennifer Shahade accused Alejandro Ramirez of multiple accounts of sexual assault. Her Twitter post, titled Time's Up, reads, quote, "Currently, there are multiple investigations underway on Alejandro Ramirez and sexual misconduct, including a series of alleged incidents involving a minor. I was assaulted by him twice-- 9 and 10 years ago. I'd moved on until the past couple of years when multiple women, independent of each other and with no knowledge of my own experience, approached me with their stories of alleged abuse. These accounts were from much younger alleged victims. I saw alarming evidence, including texts that admitted abuse of a minor while he was coaching her, as well as a text to an alleged victim about being an underage 'temptress.' The road to investigation and potential consequences has been a very stressful process. You may have noticed I've taken a major step back from commentary as this plays out. I've filled the time with poker, writing and prompting girls in chess, and yet a lot of that work to make chess more inclusive is futile if we cannot make crystal clear that the safety of women, girls, children is of the highest priority. And that's why I'm speaking out now. Thanks for your support and patience for more details," end quote.
[00:22:22.07] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:22:22.55] [Jess] In the days following this post, Jen revealed on Twitter that seven additional women had come to her with further allegations of abuse and assault against Alejandro. People from within the chess world and even some others from outside of it had also come to Jen's defence on Twitter, offering their support and condolences, and with some even leaving comments about their own bad experiences with Alejandro. According to Misha Vilenchuk, a former u-18 US Chess Champion, Alejandro's disrespectful and even predatory behaviour had been going on for decades. Misha tweeted that Alejandro was, quote, "grabbing underage girls and DMing them at chess camps," end quote.
[00:23:05.48] [Ryan] And as it would turn out, this first community uprising was only the beginning of the revelations that were to come. Remember, this is February 2023. Jen first reported her allegations in the fall of 2020 and then again in 2022-- the same time that Alejandro was commentating and leading interviews for the Saint Louis Chess Club during the Sinquefield Cup. At the time, Alejandro Ramirez was the highest-paid employee of the club. US Chess and the Saint Louis Chess Club were aware of these allegations for years and seemingly nothing was done.
[00:23:43.35] [Jess] Fast forward a few weeks from the time of Jen's first tweet to March 7th, 2023. The Wall Street Journal releases a detailed article exposing Alejandro for his predatory behaviour. We're not really here to get into all of the frankly disgusting and shocking details, but suffice it to say that the WSJ article lays out all the alleged counts of unwanted physical aggression, force, harassment, and misconduct.
[00:24:12.60] [Ryan] Eight women interviewed by WSJ say Alejandro used his position of power to make unwanted advances on them. The allegations date back over a decade, some of which come from anonymous women who were underage at the time and say he plied them with alcohol. There's accusations of rape and unwanted sexual touching by some women he was coaching at the time. Again, the WSJ article is a difficult read, but if you want to know more, we've linked it in the show notes.
[00:24:44.22] [Jess] According to the article, a lawyer for the Saint Louis Chess Club wrote in a 2021 letter that the club was aware of Jen's allegations as early as 2020. In 2021, the Saint Louis Chess Club and US Chess were again notified of the accusations against Alejandro, including the abuse of a 15-year-old. Jennifer herself even tweeted on July 12th, 2023 that she, quote, "notified the org at least four times of Alejandro's alleged abuse of girls/women, including of me plus a 15-year-old before he was paid to coach the Olympic women's team," end quote.
[00:25:22.91] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:25:23.19] Even with these allegations being documented several times over, Alejandro was still given the job of coach for the US Women's team at the World Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India in 2022.
[00:25:36.45] [Ryan] The WSJ article also details an instance in 2016 where a woman who was underage at the time was warned by officials at the Saint Louis Chess Club to not be alone with Alejandro after a party. In another instance in 2017, a player's mother alerted a top US chess official of Alejandro's behaviour and reported that she heard top executives for the Saint Louis Chess Club joking about Alejandro's interest in underage women. It was seemingly just an open secret that Alejandro Ramirez was a predator with a penchant for young women, and the US Chess Federation and Saint Louis Chess Club continued to uphold him as a dominant figure in chess in spite of these "shortcomings". These governing bodies gave him power over and direct access to so many women, and when they were informed that Alejandro was abusing this power, they swept it under the rug and refused to take action.
[00:26:39.10] [Jess] Actually, they did do something. They gave him a shitload of money, and coaching gigs, and a spotlight. They promoted him as the top commentator representing their brands. Ultimately, US Chess and the Saint Louis Chess Club failed in their duty to protect the players that participate in their events by continuing to employ Alejandro despite the risk and warning signs that he does not respect or value women.
[00:27:06.96] [Ryan] So what about Alejandro? After Jen's allegations, he wrote a letter to the Saint Louis Chess Club. It reads, quote, "It is clear the investigations into allegations of inappropriate behaviour have proven to be a negative distraction for the club. My cooperation with investigative efforts notwithstanding, I must acknowledge my continued affiliation with the club is not presently in the best interests of the club. With this in mind, I hereby resign my affiliation in all respects with the Saint Louis Chess Club. I sincerely wish the club all the best as it moves forward," end quote.
[00:27:44.12] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:27:44.39] [Jess] Following Alejandro's letter, the Saint Louis Chess Club put out the following statement. Quote, "Mr Ramirez resigned his affiliation with the Saint Louis Chess Club in all respects on March 6th, 2023. The Saint Louis Chess Club accepted his resignation on March 6th, 2023. This action effectively ends his role as a coach for the chess team at Saint Louis University. The Saint Louis Chess Club has no further comment regarding this employment matter," end quote.
[00:28:14.34] [Ryan] Besides this last statement, US Chess and the Saint Louis Chess Club had remained pretty tight-lipped around Jen's allegations and the onslaught of accusations compiled in the WSJ article. This silence prompted Jen to tweet out the following on September 5th, 2023. Quote, "I have left US Chess and will no longer serve as Director of US Chess Women, a program I started four years ago. Resignation letter on why I cannot in good conscience lend my credibility to the org anymore," end quote.
[00:28:47.37] [Jess] The linked resignation letter reads in part, quote, "Sadly, I leave with heavy concerns. After I went public in February with a viral tweet about being assaulted by a prominent Grandmaster, things escalated quickly. More women came forward to me, and a Wall Street Journal article, How Allegations Against a US Grandmaster Went Unaddressed for Years, dropped on International Women's Day. You can read a particularly detailed account of the timeline and institutional failures in Lichess' Breaking the Silence as well as a subsequent WSJ piece on the fallout. One of the most alarming facts that came out was that US Chess sent Alejandro as a coach at the Women's Olympiad, an event that includes over 100 minors, despite my repeated warnings in addition to warnings from others that he allegedly abused a 15-year-old and that he had also attacked me."
[00:29:41.19] "With the truth out, I was hopeful-- perhaps naively so-- that I could help reset the pieces and forge a better future within US Chess, especially for our girls and children. Instead of support, I was greeted with hostility. My tweet, the one that had finally instigated consequences, was criticized by US Chess. A lawyer representing the organization told me to be mindful that speaking up could violate policy and jeopardize US Chess' process."
[00:30:12.03] "From the women's Olympiad coach selection to the day I resigned, my advice and accomplishments were consistently minimized or ignored. Based on what I've seen, I cannot currently lend my credibility to the organization in good conscience. This is especially true since I've become a de facto confidante for so many women and girls, making it essential for me to have faith in executive decision making and communication."
[00:30:37.98] "Those familiar with institutional betrayal and whistleblowing won't find any of this surprising. As painful as it was, I am confident the insights I gained will help me in my advocacy and work. I wish the best for US Chess in making the necessary changes in the future, and to whoever takes over US Chess Women, know that my door is always open to chat. My deepest admiration goes to the Jane Does who stepped up and broke the silence, to make the game safer for the next generation. To any survivors reading this post, whether you've spoken up or not, know that to me, you are the important one. In truth, Jennifer Shahade," end quote.
[00:31:18.35] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:31:18.66] [Ryan] Around this time, Jen took part in the March 2023 The Experiences of Women in Chess Roundtable with chess.com. We'll be linking this video in the show notes as it's really worth a watch, but here's a clip from it featuring Jen.
[00:31:33.09] [Jennifer Shahade] In recent weeks, I've-- I've come forward with some really disturbing allegations about, you know, some bad experiences I had in the chess world, and as a result of this, I've been hearing from girls and women from all over the world about, you know, really terrible things that they have experienced in chess-- abuse, assault. And it's-- it's really like a gut punch, because I knew, of course-- I've known that this has existed. You know, it's happened to me. I've seen it, I've heard about it, but in recent weeks, I'm hearing so much more. And it's devastating. And I think it just goes to the point when people ask why girls drop out of chess. We have a very obvious answer-- that a lot of them drop out because they don't have the support structure of friends, family, school, that will support them not only as players but as human beings. And now I always knew that, but now I know it much more. And so, as a community, I think we have to figure out how to make the space-- how to make the space safer for girls and women, and for kids, as well.
[00:32:52.17] Sadly, I have crossed paths with this horrific story of abuse in chess, from the other side, as well, as a classmate of some boys that also experienced abuse. So it's not just girls. It's also boys. And I think that there's many things that we can do as a community. I know that different organizations are implementing, like, codes of conduct, safe play policies. It goes back to tolerance of negative comments, of sexualizing people who are underage. All of this just needs to be really nipped in the bud. And so, I'm glad that we're having the conversation, even though I'm also really heartbroken by the stories that I'm hearing about.
[00:33:41.17] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:33:41.59] [Jess] On May 24th, 2023, US Chess would break their silence with a statement titled US Chess Final Statement about Alejandro Ramirez Investigation. In it, they voted to ratify the resignation of Alejandro and ban him permanently from US Chess membership. They list a handful of steps that they are committed to taking in order to build a safer and more welcoming environment, including but not limited to, "adopting a training and education program around safe play, required for tournament director certification at various levels; development of event communications outlining the safe play guidelines and Code of Ethics, specifically identifying prohibited conduct and appointing a contact person for complaints and concerns which will be specific to each event; and providing resources for minors regarding behavioural expectations, as well as a review of current background screening policies to determine whether and what restrictions to impose on prospective or existing coaches and tournament staff with a record of, for example, crimes involving minors, sexual assaults, and similar offences."
[00:34:52.78] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:34:53.19] Seems like these things should have already been thought of and had rules about them.
[00:34:58.71] [Ryan] So that's US Chess. What about the Saint Louis Chess Club? Well, on October 2nd, 2023-- a whopping 229 days after Jen tweeted her accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment by Alejandro-- the Saint Louis Chess Club broke their silence with a statement titled An Important Message from the Board of Directors. In it, they admit that they should have done more to look into the allegations and, ultimately, that they had failed. They say they are, quote, "deeply troubled by the allegations and accounts of misconduct," end quote. Here's an excerpt from the statement/apology.
[00:35:36.92] Quote, "Our greatest concern is for those who were assaulted or harassed by Mr Ramirez, and we are deeply sorry for the pain it caused. We also realize the Saint Louis Chess Club should have done more to address the allegations made by those who bravely came forward with information about his inexcusable behaviour. Following an investigation by our organization, during which time Mr Ramirez resigned, it was determined he would no longer be allowed on the Saint Louis Chess Club campus or be allowed to participate at any chess-related activities the Saint Louis Chess Club hosts, supports, or is affiliated with in any capacity. We also stand behind the decision by US Chess to suspend Mr Ramirez. Sadly, these incidents point to a larger issue in the global chess community that must be acknowledged and addressed-- the undercurrent of bias and discrimination against female players, which leads to a culture of sexism and harassment."
[00:36:34.61] "As one of the most powerful and influential organizations in chess, we need to take responsibility and recognize we risk remaining part of this cultural problem unless we take a leadership role in working toward a solution. We were silent on this very real and important issue for too long, and in doing so, we let down those whom we champion-- our students, players, donors, and friends. Our failure to use our influence to publicly step up and fiercely advocate for keeping chess safe is a mistake that will not be repeated," end quote.
[00:37:11.68] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:37:12.29] [Jess] Like US Chess, the Saint Louis Chess Club also had some bullet points as to what they're going to do better in the future. If you want to read them, they're included in the show notes for this episode, but for the most part, again, it seems like policies they should have already had in place.
[00:37:29.45] [Music fades]
[00:37:29.75] Better late than never isn't really something you want to say when it comes to protecting women and girls from predators in one of the most well-followed sports in the world.
[00:37:40.35] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:37:40.81] [Ryan] So, where are we now, over a year after Jen's infamous tweet? I think it's only fair that we let her sum it up. On February 13th, 2024, she wrote the following on her Substack. Quote, "It's been a year since I tweeted about being assaulted by Alejandro Ramirez. The post went viral and changed my life. Within 48 hours, several other women alleged to me that they'd also experienced abuse or harassment by Ramirez. Thanks to a bombshell WSJ article and eight brave women, including three who were under 18 at the time of the alleged abuse, my concerns were corroborated. Alejandro resigned from the Saint Louis Chess Club, Saint Louis University, and US Chess after receiving a list of questions from the Journal."
[00:38:27.60] "The change went beyond one person. More women are speaking out about abuse and violence in chess, from WIM Sabrina Chevannes, to a group of French chess players led by WIM Yosha Iglesias. They wrote an open letter signed by over 100 women, including GM Susan Polgar. Lichess posted an in-depth piece Breaking the Silence, leading to another Grandmaster facing consequences. The Women in Chess Foundation was founded, and federations across the world, including France and Norway, announced or strengthened policies against abuse and harassment. The Saint Louis Chess Club apologized for not acting sooner and announced a slate of new policies. A New Jersey chess team wrote about the need for leadership change. Dozens of women, and men, too, came to confide in me about abuse or harassment they experienced in chess, and many took action," end quote.
[00:39:22.12] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:39:22.45] [Jess] Jen's tweet was the catalyst for all of these events. It opened the door for people to come forward, to speak up about the abuse that they've suffered at the hands of others in the chess world. It prompted over a hundred players to sign the open letter Jen mentions that was spearheaded by French chess players denouncing sexism. Titled We Women Chess Players, the letter reads, quote, "We women chess players, coaches, arbiters, and managers have experienced sexist or sexual violence perpetrated by chess players, coaches, arbiters, or managers. We are convinced that this harassment and these assaults are still one of the main reasons why women and young girls, especially in their teens, stop playing chess. Faced with these acts of violence, we have remained silent for too long. However, staying silent means carrying the burden of shame alone. Finding the words and the courage to speak up may take time, but we believe it is necessary and healing."
[00:40:25.39] "Today, we are speaking out and encouraging all female players to denounce the violence they have suffered, so that fear and guilt change sides, so that perpetrators can no longer act with impunity, so that the support of players, coaches, arbiters, managers, and parents are aware of the extent of the problem and can be part of the solution. Your vigilance, support, and firmness are essential. To anyone who has experienced sexist or sexual violence, we want to say, you are not alone. We believe you. We will be there for you," end quote.
[00:41:03.16] [Ryan] We've linked the letter in the show notes if you're a woman in the chess world listening to this who's experienced sexist or sexual violence yourself. The letter is still open for signatures if you want to add your name to the list.
[00:41:16.59] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:41:23.93] [Jess] The chess world has come a long way in a year, but there's still so much left to accomplish. It should be noted that this is not by any means a comprehensive timeline of everything that's taken place following Jen Shahade's emotional and powerful tweet on February 15th, 2023. This story is more intricate and nuanced than what we've outlined, but we just don't have time to lay out all the details.
[00:41:50.60] [Ryan] Jess and I have floated the idea of producing a second season of Rooked to really explore misogyny and sexism in chess. So if you like that idea, let us know. If you as a listener have any resources or stories of your own that you think need to be shared, please reach out to us at rookedpodcast@gmail.com or on our socials. We think that this is such an important issue to unpack, and we'd like to do so with as many voices as possible.
[00:42:22.15] [Music fades]
[00:42:26.10] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:42:28.56] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:42:29.07] [Ryan] Did you know that Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is an indie podcast?
[00:42:33.21] [Jess] Indie as in independent. We don't receive any sponsorship support. Ryan and I make Rooked in our spare time for free.
[00:42:40.53] [Ryan] And don't get us wrong. We love getting to make this podcast exactly the way we want to. But we've been thinking that, maybe with some support, we could make this show even better.
[00:42:50.58] [Tim Robinson] I got to figure out how to make money on this thing. It's simply too good.
[00:42:54.45] [Jess] So, like many creators, we've joined Patreon.
[00:42:57.81] [Ryan] Can I just ask, what is Patreon?
[00:43:00.54] [Jess] Great question, Ryan. Patreon is a way for fans to join and engage with their favourite creators' community. Basically, it's a platform that allows you to support creators financially. Currently, we have two tiers open: the Pawn level, if you want to support us for 5 Canadian dollars a month-- cheaper than mailing us an envelope of loonies and toonies-- and the King level, for $20 per month. If you choose to support us at the King tier, we'll also mention you by name in the episode credits. And if you support us at any level on Patreon, you'll also be able to access bonus content.
[00:43:34.15] [Ryan] Patreon looks like they stole their logo directly from Target.
[00:43:37.81] [Jess] You are the only person I've ever had to describe Patreon to, so I don't really trust your judgement here, honestly.
[00:43:44.49] [Upbeat, playful music plays] But that's a good point. If you want to support us but monthly donations don't fit your budget, you can also buy us a coffee instead at buymeacoffee.com/rooked. Or we also really appreciate ratings, reviews, and shares, too. And those are free.
[00:43:59.71] [Ryan] We love making this podcast, and our motivation is listeners like you. So we really appreciate your support at any level.
[00:44:07.66] [Jess] Go to patreon.com/rooked to support the podcast. That's patreon.com/rooked. Thanks for listening.
[00:44:16.74] [Music fades]
[00:44:17.68] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:44:20.49] [Sinister music plays]
[00:44:21.43] [Jess] I think we've told this story pretty well at the most basic level. And in spite of us both having a lot of feelings about it, we've stayed to the facts, because, unfortunately, even with all this evidence, there's still people who don't think sexism and misogyny are big issues in chess. There's people who are still denying wrongdoing without legal charges to back these allegations up. The sad reality is that crimes around sexual misconduct, harassment, and abuse often don't leave behind physical evidence. And it can really come down to he said, she said. But the majority of assault and harassment incidents never get reported at all, and of the abuse that does get reported, false reports are thought to be somewhere between 2% and 10% of all reports. So, again, if you're not moved by the women making these reports and what their lived experience is, at the very least, you've got to believe the math that they're telling the truth.
[00:45:27.36] [Music fades]
[00:45:30.09] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:45:31.00] [Ryan] Which brings us to our next controversy. Here's GM Ilya Smirin commentating on a women's event in September 2022, just after the Sinquefield Cup scandal. This clip was posted to Twitter by Woman Grandmaster Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova-- sorry if I butchered your name-- as a screengrab from the live broadcast of round-nine commentary.
[00:45:56.09] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Is a GM norm possible for Zhu in this event?
[00:46:00.69] [Ilya Smirin] She is not GM, Grandmaster?
[00:46:02.36] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] No, she's actually not even International Master. I believe she is--
[00:46:05.06] [Ilya Smirin] I mean, she's Woman Grandmaster or what?
[00:46:06.48] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] She's Woman Grandmaster, yeah.
[00:46:08.12] [Ilya Smirin] Why she wants to be like man Grandmaster in this case?
[00:46:11.99] [He chuckles]
[00:46:12.92] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] So to answer the question, it must be possible, Yeayeah? I guess there are enough-- what do they need, three Grandmaster opponents, right?
[00:46:19.79] [Ilya Smirin] Well, it's possible basically to make a man norm in a woman tournament?
[00:46:25.52] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Of course. Why not?
[00:46:27.26] [Ilya Smirin] I don't know.
[00:46:28.32] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] I mean--
[00:46:28.74] [Ilya Smirin] For instance-- for instance, why not? Why women can play with men and men cannot play with women? It's also why not?
[00:46:34.79] [He laughs]
[00:46:35.09] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] A question for another day. Yeah?
[00:46:39.14] [Ilya Smirin] It would be like, you know, today everyone for parity.
[00:46:43.55] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Well...
[00:46:46.45] But you cannot-- I mean, you are saying, you know, chess is maybe not-- not for women? Then you have to pick either. It's the same.
[00:46:52.96] [Ilya Smirin] I did not say it openly. I didn't say it openly. Sorry, in private. In private conversation.
[00:46:57.46] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] I thought you said it and-- I mean, okay, you said that Goryachkina is playing like a man, yeah? It's also not--
[00:47:03.37] [Ilya Smirin] Yeah, that's true. So Goryachkina, she played in Soviet Union, in Russia, sorry, Superfinal. Small minus she made, but it was very strong tournament.
[00:47:13.33] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Yeah, but that doesn't--
[00:47:13.90] [Ilya Smirin] And she also had, like, 2600 plus recently rating.
[00:47:17.74] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Yeah, but what does that have to do with playing like a man? Only men can play well?
[00:47:21.45] [Ilya Smirin] No, no, but she is playing in style, like positional style, like very strong end game, so it's-- But okay, I also-- I always was curious why women can play among men but men cannot play with women in women tournament. This is interesting question, yeah?
[00:47:39.43] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] You have to ask someone else.
[00:47:40.06] [Ilya Smirin] Interesting question, yeah?
[00:47:41.29] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Someone else than me.
[00:47:42.58] [Ilya Smirin] Yeah, I'm not asking, basically. It's a rhetorical question, let's say.
[00:47:48.17] [He laughs] With today, we are speaking on chess-related topics a little bit. Not-- because one game less.
[00:47:54.73] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Yes.
[00:47:55.12] [Ilya Smirin] One game less--
[00:47:55.90] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] We have a little bit more time.
[00:47:57.34] [Ilya Smirin] And we should spend some time, yeah, somehow. c5 at least interesting move, independent obvious question about possibility of norm, of Grandmaster norm.
[00:48:09.40] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] I think absolutely it must be possible.
[00:48:12.04] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:48:12.43] [Jess] This tweet ended up going viral, and FIDE sacked Ilya Smirin from his job as commentator for these sexist remarks. This story even ended up on the front page of BBC News. And Ilya Smirin's co-commentator for this event, Fiona Steil-Antoni-- yep, that Fiona who you heard at the top of this episode-- also ended up going viral from this story. In fact, that's why we asked her to talk to us, because we wanted to hear from her what it was like, in her own words.
[00:48:45.73] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] It's actually funny that it's the first time that I'm publicly speaking about my experience of what happened. I think what's well documented is Ilya Smirin was fired for the remarks he made before the last round, I believe. There was just one round he didn't do. And I think a lot of people will have seen the clips of-- of what he said. Now, I think the main thing that maybe some people didn't realize is he didn't just say this out of the blue on day nine. It's just nobody had really picked up on it before.
[00:49:23.25] I think for me, it was difficult to have to listen to-- to those small remarks every day, but at the same time I felt, okay, I mean, we have a producer team. This is a FIDE event. People are watching this and thinking it's fine.
[00:49:39.72] [Piano music plays]
[00:49:40.18] [Ryan] But before we let Fiona take it away, in case you're kind of lost as to the nuance of Ilya Smirin's comments in that clip, let's unpack it and give some context. Fiona and Ilya are commentating on round nine of the Women's Grand Prix tournament in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan. During the live broadcast, one of the viewers of the event puts a question into the chat asking if Woman Grandmaster Zhu Jiner is going to make a Grandmaster norm in this women-only event.
[00:50:11.14] [Jess] As Fiona points out, this is a really interesting question. But before she can answer it, Ilya interrupts and asks why a woman would want a male grandmaster title in the first place.
[00:50:23.74] [Ryan] There is more to this exchange that we need to talk about. But first we should talk about how titles work in chess.
[00:50:30.25] [Playful music plays]
[00:50:30.49] We've discussed it in previous episodes and mentioned that it's a really complicated system, but basically players have to earn a certain number of what's known as norms, a high level of performance in a chess tournament. There's lots of rules and regulations around norms, and you have to earn several norms, have a certain Elo rating, and win or be a finalist in certain tournaments to receive the four recognized elite chess titles of Candidate Master, FIDE Master, International Master, and Grandmaster.
[00:51:01.36] [Jess] In addition, there are two types of titles in chess: open titles, meaning any over-the-board chess player can earn them, and women's titles, which are modelled on the open titles but can only be awarded to a woman player. The women's titles are awarded on a less-restrictive norm system than the open titles, and on average, women's titles are achieved at an Elo that's about 200 points lower than the open version of the title.
[00:51:27.28] [Ryan] In essence, women's chess titles are slightly easier to earn than their open title counterparts. The idea is that, because chess has long been held as a game for men, where women have not been well represented or even welcomed, and have not had the same opportunities as men, a separate system for women helps to restore some of the balance. In a game where women have been historically and systematically discouraged from playing, women's titles create greater incentives for women to play. That being said, not everyone agrees with separate women's titles, and we'll talk about why this is in more detail next episode. But just as a teaser, Grandmaster Judit Polgar never accepted a woman's title because she has a strict policy of only playing in open competitions. Woman titles are separate from but modelled on the open title system. Here's Lile again.
[00:52:23.86] [Music fades]
[00:52:25.31] [Lile Koridze] If there was total equality in chess, like, for example from 100 players there was 50 women players and 50 men, of course, that would be stupid to have women titles. But now it's not that way. So we need to have some encouragement when there's women's titles. We need this encouragement to have some Grandmaster titles and stuff. When it becomes really equal, when the women will be at the same level as men, in chess, of course, then that won't be necessary.
[00:52:52.13] [Playful music plays]
[00:52:52.47] [Jess] But as we can also see from Judit Polgar, the existence of women-only titles does not exempt women from being able to earn open titles. Which brings us back to Ilya Smirin. [Ilya Smirin, synthesized voice with reverb] Why she wants to be like man Grandmaster in this case? [Ilya laughs, with reverb]
[00:53:10.62] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:53:11.06] [Jess] Fiona doesn't respond here , because there isn't anything to say, or at least nothing to say in the middle of a live public broadcast. Ilya is asking, why does Zhu Jiner want to be a male Grandmaster. And the answer is so obvious it doesn't need to be said, but we'll say it anyway, because we're not on a live broadcast. Zhu Jiner doesn't want a men's Grandmaster title because that title doesn't exist. She's a woman who plays chess who is looking for the acknowledgement given through an open title, not a men's title, as Ilya incorrectly calls it-- just like any other elite player.
[00:53:51.36] [Ryan] The interesting tidbit here is not that Zhu Jiner as a woman is earning norms to become a Grandmaster. It's that she can earn an open norm at a women's tournament. One of the rules for scoring a GM norm is that at least one third of your opponents that you play in the tournament must be a Grandmaster. And in this tournament six of the 12 participants are women who hold the title of GM, meaning that even though it's a women's tournament, open norms could still be earned.
[00:54:22.53] [Jess] The whole point of women's tournaments and titles is to create better equality, and that's exactly what it's doing here. It's a scaffold within the existing open system to give women a leg up and ease some of the burden that goes along with being part of an underrepresented demographic. It's not divided by women and men. It's a pool of everyone, with a separate support system for women because they are so disadvantaged in the sport being built on a foundation of sexism. But, clearly, Ilya Smirin doesn't see it that way.
[00:54:57.51] [Ilya Smirin] Well, it's possible basically to make a man norm in the women's tournament?
[00:55:02.75] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Of course. Why not?
[00:55:04.98] [Ilya Smirin] I don't know.
[00:55:06.07] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] I mean--
[00:55:06.49] [Ilya Smirin] For instance-- for instance, why not? Why women can play with men and men cannot play with women? It's also why not?
[00:55:12.54] [He laughs]
[00:55:12.81] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] A question for another day. Yeah?
[00:55:17.61] [Jess, mockingly] If women can play with men, why can't men play with women?
[00:55:20.85] [Jess laughs]
[00:55:21.53] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:55:21.87] [Ryan] Again, this must have been really hard for Fiona to be polite. The answer to this is just as obvious-- because that defeats the purpose of the separate title system. Then we're just back to open tournaments. But what he's asking could also be taken to be more insidious than that: maybe women should just play amongst themselves. Taken another way, he's suggesting full segregation based on gender.
[00:55:49.71] [Music fades]
[00:55:50.18] [Jess] Okay, now here's Fiona again to explain in her own words what this whole experience was like, and how she ended up where she did in the clip that went viral.
[00:56:00.92] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] Maybe I should have spoken up, but it's a difficult situation, because if I say something, it's just going to make working together more awkward. So at the time, I just decided to get on with it. And then came that fateful day, where basically I think I'm very patient and I have overall a very high tolerance limit for bullshit, but that day he just reached that limit and crossed it. And I just kind of-- I spoke back and I fought my side. And I didn't think at the time that anything was going to happen, because the event didn't have very high viewer numbers.
[00:56:46.04] I received some messages throughout the tournament from friends that were watching that said, "I don't know how you deal with this," because it was-- I mean, it was not horrible. I don't want to paint my experience as something awful, but it was unpleasant, let's say, and I think it was unpleasant for me and it was unpleasant for some of the viewers who I think were wondering, why is this guy commentating on a women's event when he holds these opinions? So I was absolutely not expecting it to blow up, and then it all just happened very quickly somehow. It gained a lot of traction very quickly, and I barely slept that night because so much was happening, and I'd never been caught in the middle of-- I know the chess world is never-- you know, there is always some drama, there is always some things happening, but I had never been caught right in the middle of it before. So it was pretty intense.
[00:57:49.72] And then in the morning, I got contacted by someone from FIDE and they said he wasn't going to be there that day, which I thought was for the best, just because it would have been very hard, I think, for me, for him, and for everyone to do another to do another day together.
[00:58:09.95] The one thing I will also say is, you know, I don't hold a grudge against him. I don't think, oh, he's such a terrible person. I mean, he has a lot of good sides, and overall-- overall we had a good time. I think it's just that, unfortunately, a lot of people still hold the kind of opinions that he voiced, but most people, if they have those opinions, either don't take a job at a women's event, or do not voice them in the commentary. So-- and, you know, if that girl hadn't clipped that moment and tweeted it, it could very well be that nobody would ever have known about any of it. Like, I was fully expecting the tournament to be over in a couple of days, and that was going to be that, basically.
[00:59:06.14] To be honest, I was absolutely shocked how the story made mainstream news. Like, when I was still there in Kazakhstan-- I read the BBC every single day-- and I see my picture on the front page with Smirin, and it said, "Chess commentator fired for sexism." That was so surreal, you know, opening this news outlet that I read every day and see my picture on the front page? I was like, what is going on?
[00:59:37.16] Unfortunately, in the chess world, there is still a lot of that, you know, old-boys-club mentality, and unfortunately all the way to the very top. So it sounds kind of crazy, but I can't even say that I was so shocked. You know, like, of course, I was shocked. Of course, I didn't expect that he would say the things he said. But at the same time, you know, it's unfortunately not the first time I'd heard things like that. It's just most people don't voice it on a live broadcast.
[01:00:12.75] At the time, I really didn't think that I was throwing him under the bus for something he had said in private, because he had said so many things during those nine days, some on camera and some off camera, that it was actually I couldn't remember which was which, you know? So it wasn't-- because he actually told me later on that it wasn't fair by me that I had brought up something that was said in private, and I genuinely just couldn't remember.
[01:00:45.48] That clip that people will have seen, I was just angry. I think you need to push me quite a lot to-- I'm overall tolerant, very patient, but he really crossed the limit for me, and I thought, okay, enough is enough.
[01:01:04.06] I didn't think, you know, again, in that moment, suddenly a million people are going to see this clip. Like, I thought this is just between him and me, because clearly not that many people were watching. And for me, it was just I wanted him to know, like, I absolutely cannot accept what you're saying, and I completely disagree, and I've had enough. Like, I just wanted him to know, that's enough. Like, I'm not sitting here next to you any longer while you are saying these things, because, you know, like, throughout the whole previous nine days, so many times I had just glossed over what he said and not reacted. And it made me angry even throughout the tournament, because I am his co-commentator, and if I'm not fighting back, I'm kind of silently agreeing. But I had weighed up for myself that there wasn't-- there was just not that much point until that moment to surge conflict and to look for confrontation.
[01:02:11.51] I was under no illusion that I was going to change his perspective or change his opinion. I think my emotions, I was just fed up, basically.
[01:02:23.27] I mean, to be honest, I do think that it should be on FIDE if they have a broadcast to check in, at least. You know, they don't have to watch six hours every day. But it is their broadcast. They hire the commentators. So at the end of the day, it is their responsibility. And I think they made the right call in the end. There was just-- there was no choice. He couldn't come back that day after all the shitstorm that happened online. But, yeah, I think we should never have gotten to that point in the first place.
[01:03:00.10] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[01:03:01.04] [Ryan] Our impression after talking with Fiona is that she's been more than fair to Ilya. And we're in agreement with the sentiment that FIDE made the right call in firing him, but also that this shouldn't have happened in the first place.
[01:03:15.36] [Jess] This is the statement that FIDE released on September 28th after firing Ilya Smirin from commentating the last round of the Women's Grand Prix. Quote, "During yesterday's Women's Grand Prix live broadcast, one of the announcers expressed some very embarrassing comments. Although we have the greatest respect for Grandmaster Ilya Smirin as a chess player, the views he expressed on air are completely unacceptable, offensive, and do not represent any of the values that FIDE stands for. Therefore, we unreservedly apologize to all of those who were offended. Additionally, GM Smirin will not continue as a FIDE commentator with immediate effect. FIDE not only strives to increase women's representation in professional sports and official positions, but also to change the perception of chess as purely a men's world. Our community has to be a place where women feel safe and respected. Therefore, any action that carries disrespect, sexism, or physical, verbal, or emotional assault is unacceptable," end quote.
[01:04:20.27] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[01:04:20.63] Certainly, it's a shame that Fiona was in that position at all. And also, Ilya Smirin should probably not have been asked to commentate a woman's event if he doesn't actually think women are good chess players. Failing that, he definitely should have been pulled from the broadcast sooner-- like, maybe before the ninth round?
[01:04:40.42] [Jess chuckles]
[01:04:41.23] [Ryan] But another thing to note here is that this event didn't end Ilya Smirin's career. Sure, it's a blemish on his record, and he might never be asked-- I mean, I kind of hope he's never asked-- to commentate for a women's event again. But it's not the end for him.
[01:04:58.29] [Music fades]
[01:04:59.16] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[01:04:59.60] [Jess] One of the things that has continued to amaze me in interviewing women in chess about misogyny is that they genuinely do not bear men any ill will. Not men like Smirin who make clear and public mistakes, but just to men in chess on the whole. Despite how many bad experiences they have or hear about, women in chess remain optimistic that there can one day be equality, and they're always quick to clarify that it's not all men. Here's Fiona again.
[01:05:32.15] [Fiona Steil-Antoni] I think until that incident with Smirin, overall, I never had any big problems. I loved growing up in the chess world. All my best friends to this day come from the chess world. I always got on well with boys. I never had bad experiences. So my experience overall has been fantastic. And I love everything about it. But I know other girls who unfortunately had the complete opposite experience. I know a fair few girls who quit chess because it was so bad. So it's always, for me, a tricky topic. But, yeah, I always-- I don't want to get too negative, because I met so many incredible people, and many incredible men and boys in the chess world. So not everyone is bad, obviously. But unfortunately the ones who are can ruin chess for an entire demographic, in this case girls, women.
[01:06:36.69] It makes me sad, because I had such a great and fun childhood and teenage years, and I loved the chess world. I still do. And I just wish it wasn't for that ugly side of it sometimes.
[01:06:53.31] [Gloomy music plays]
[01:06:56.24] [Ryan] By the way, Zhu Jiner did become what Ilya Smirin calls a man Grandmaster after achieving her final norm in April 2023.
[01:07:05.57] [Jess] We didn't know Zhu Jiner's name until we went to write this episode. Despite the fact that Ilya smirin got canned for comments related to her career, his was the name that took up the headlines. Even when they're being shit on and disparaged against, we still don't say women's names in chess. As Fiona herself tweeted, making BBC News for all the wrong reasons is not what women want from their chess careers. They want to make headlines for the same reason that players like Magnus Carlsen make headlines-- because they're making a mark in the sport and are being celebrated the way they deserve to be. Here's Lile.
[01:07:47.27] [Lile Koridze] It's so, so, so hard. I mean, yeah, but I will keep doing as long as I'm alive chess. I will have still the community which really supports me as a chess player, and fortunately I still have this kind of community. And I will be chess coach and everything chess related. No one and nothing can stop me of doing that.
[01:08:07.56] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[01:08:10.52] [Ryan] Next time on Rooked, we're going to talk more about misogyny in chess-- specifically, why women are less likely to play it and what needs to change to make the game more equitable.
[01:08:21.41] [Jess] We're going to bring back more guests from past episodes, and you're going to hear more from some of the guests we introduced this episode. There's still a lot to tackle in this topic. We're going to try and wrap it up next time, but stay tuned. Part two is coming, and it's going to be just as important as this episode was.
[01:08:42.01] [Music fades]
[01:08:47.27] [Ilya Smirin, synthesized voice with reverb] Why she wants to be like man Grandmaster in this case?
[01:08:51.01] [Laughs, with reverb]
[01:08:53.24] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[01:08:54.13] [Ryan] Thank you to our King-tier Patreon subscribers: Umaima Baig, Madelyn, Gord, and Mya Schmidt, Stefan Vezina, the Colorado Avalanche Institute of New Zealand, Marie Edwards, and Derek Keane. Thanks also to our Pawn-level subscribers, too!
[01:09:13.58] [Music fades]
[01:09:17.56] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:09:22.53] [Jess] Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is written and produced by me, Jess Schmidt.
[01:09:26.38] [Ryan] And by me, Ryan Webb.
[01:09:27.97] [Jess] Our amazing music is by the ever-talented Lorna Gilfedder.
[01:09:31.20] [Ryan] Our marketing is by media genius Bailey Simone Photography.
[01:09:34.41] [Jess] Our executive producers are Rooney and Indigo.
[01:09:37.29] [both] Speak!
[01:09:38.81] [Rooney and Indigo howling]
[01:09:41.48] [Jess] This podcast is recorded on the traditional Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the land of the Siksika, the Kainai, the Piikani, as well as the Stoney Nakoda and the Tsuut'ina Nations.
[01:09:52.58] [Ryan] We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Metis Nation of Alberta Region 3 within the historical Northwest mighty homeland. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge all nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
[01:10:12.03] [Jess] This gathering place, and therefore this podcast, provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate reconciliation. The Government of Canada has not followed through on a number of the Calls to Action that have been suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
[01:10:28.16] Healthcare is supposed to be a basic right for all Canadians, but Indigenous people in Canada do not have equal access to care. A complicated patchwork of policies, legislation, agreements, and cultural barriers make for inequitable access to healthcare and services. For example, suicide rates are five to seven times higher for Indigenous youth as compared to non-indigenous youth. Proper support and interventions for at-risk youth, through things like healthcare services, can help to bring these numbers down dramatically.
[01:11:00.99] It's an unfortunate and avoidable reality that Indian status is an indicator of health, poverty, and education in Canada. Indigenous Canadians have worse health and educational outcomes, worse housing, and less access to critical services than any other population in Canada. This is due to federal funding practises, policies, and discriminatory legislation, some of which has been in place since the 1800s.
[01:11:28.38] Childhood trauma from things like poverty, overcrowded housing, and with mental health or addiction issues in the family, causes a trickle-down effect into costly healthcare problems for adults. The better childhoods we can guarantee for all Canadians, the more money and lives are saved downstream. The World Health Organization says for every dollar spent on a child's welfare, taxpayers save $7 down the line. Healthcare is a human right, and all Canadians deserve equal access. To learn more, visit the link in our show notes. Do better, Canada.
[01:12:08.34] [Music fades]
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<![CDATA[Episode 5.5: Chess Murderers (BONUS)]]>Wed, 27 Mar 2024 03:35:52 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/march-26th-2024
[00:00:00.48] [Rooked theme music plays]
[00:00:05.72] [Jess] In honour of International Women's Day later this week, we wanted to bring you an episode all about misogyny in chess, because even though this podcast is technically about the Hans-Magnus Sinquefield scandal, cheating is not the only problem that chess is currently facing. And it needs to be talked about.
[00:00:23.58] [Ryan] But instead we're going to honour International Women's Day by not giving you that episode.
[00:00:29.35] [Jess] The reason is that the misogyny episode is probably the most important one in this entire series, so out of respect to the women in this story, we're delaying its release until next month so that we can take the time to get it right and include more women's voices.
[00:00:45.87] [Ryan] So first Tuesday in April we'll be back with that episode, for real this time.
[00:00:51.21] [Jess] But we know that you wait patiently all month for the next chapter in this story, and we didn't want to leave you completely high and dry.
[00:01:02.82] [Ryan] To tide you over, here's a special little bonus snack episode--
[00:01:07.47] [Apple crunches]
[00:01:08.92] --about chess...
[00:01:10.56] [Ominous, droning music plays] ..and...
[00:01:12.82] [Eerie stinger plays]
[00:01:14.48] [Pitched down, frightening voice] ..a murder most foul.
[00:01:17.84] [Normal voice] Well, murders most foul.
[00:01:20.64] [Eerie stinger plays]
[00:01:21.86] [Cheerful music plays] Normally, you have to be a Patreon subscriber to get this kind of juicy content, but because we're randomly taking a month-long hiatus smack dab in the middle of the season, you get this even without supporting us financially. Just a special thank you and sorry from us for supporting us with your time and ear holes.
[00:01:41.31] [Jess] That being said, this month's paid Patreon bonus is the narcissism and ADHD portions of the last episode on psychology that got cut for time. So if that appeals to you, or you just want to hear your name in the credits, then consider supporting us at patreon.com/rooked. We're not doing any ad rolls today because it's a bonus episode and it's short.
[00:02:02.22] [Music ends]
[00:02:03.02] [Ryan] But back to this freebie bonus. Be warned, this has very little to do with Hans or Magnus, but we're technically a true crime podcast, so screw it.
[00:02:13.99] [Ominous, droning music plays]
[00:02:14.25] We're going to talk about serial killers and matricidal maniacs instead.
[00:02:19.25] [Eerie stinger plays, echoes]
[00:02:22.07] And just to get ahead of this, we're obviously going to be tackling this with a sense of humour. We're not trying to be glib about the victims, because obviously no one deserves to be murdered by serial killers. But sometimes you have to laugh so you don't cry. You know?
[00:02:38.19] [Andy Davis, singing] You should laugh so you don't cry, laugh so you don't cry.
[00:02:43.67] [Folky guitar music plays]
[00:02:45.91] [Ominous, droning music plays]
[00:02:46.36] [Jess] With that in mind, we bring to you...
[00:02:49.60] [Pitched down, frightening voice] ..two stories of chess murderers.
[00:02:53.74] [The Murder by Esa Pekka Salonen
[00:02:55.86] plays]
[00:03:01.18] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:03:02.18] [Ryan] Alexander Pichushkin, a.k.a. The Chessboard Killer, was born April 9th, 1974. He's an Aries like you, Jess.
[00:03:10.76] [Jess] Those Aries do be spicy.
[00:03:12.80] [Ryan] I don't know if I would refer to murder as spicy.
[00:03:16.91] [Jess] It's not not spicy, though.
[00:03:18.44] [Jack Somack] Mamma Mia, that's a spicy meatball!
[00:03:22.52] [Jess] According to Wikipedia, Alexander Pichushkin started life as a sociable child. I don't really know what that means, but calling someone chatty makes me think he probably had ADHD. Anyway, he was pretty normal until one day when he was playing on a swing and fell off.
[00:03:39.23] [Music fades]
[00:03:39.53] When he sat up, the still-swinging swing smoked him in the forehead.
[00:03:44.42] [Ryan chuckles]
[00:03:44.93] [Ryan] The way you're describing this makes it seem like a Charlie Chaplin skit or something.
[00:03:49.25] [Charlie Chaplin's The Party plays]
[00:03:55.28] [Jess] Yeah, it does. It's a funny image.
[00:03:57.11] [Ominous, droning music plays]
[00:03:57.53] But what's not so funny is that a child's brain is still a long way from being fully developed. And also when you're a child, your skull is a lot softer and less protective. Plus, the immediate area behind your forehead is your frontal lobe, which is where things like impulse control happen. Basically, an almost comical accident like this one could have potentially set Pichushkin on a completely different path-- a path that would lead him to become a cold-blooded killer.
[00:04:28.60] [Eerie electronic music plays]
[00:04:33.94] [Ominous, droning music plays]
[00:04:34.44] [Ryan] From the swing incident onward, Pichushkin's behaviour and attitude changed dramatically. He was bullied by his classmates for his social and emotional disabilities, often being called names. So his mother moved him to a school for disabled children, but his grandfather intervened and took Pichushkin to live with him instead, as he felt that Pichushkin's intellect was not being sufficiently encouraged. And this is when he began playing chess. Pichushkin is generally thought to have been a good player, but he doesn't have a rating, so there's not really any objective information backing that up.
[00:05:13.92] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:05:14.41] [Jess] By the time Pichushkin turned 18, three formative things had happened: his obsession with chess continued to grow, his grandfather passed away, leaving him emotionally devastated, and he started drinking heavily.
[00:05:28.87] [Man chugging water]
[00:05:36.50] [Exclaims in satisfaction]
[00:05:38.90] [Jess] And he developed another somehow less healthy coping mechanism: any time he was going to be alone around children , he would bring a video camera. This was so that he could record himself threatening the children with physical violence.
[00:05:57.02] [Music fades]
[00:05:57.47] In one video that was later made public, he records himself dangling a child upside down by their leg, saying, "You are in my power now. I'm going to drop you from the window and you'll fall 15 metres to your death."
[00:06:11.58] [Ryan] Not to psychologize, but I can totally see this as revenge for his childhood bullying. But, like, obviously, it's still really fucked up and not healthy.
[00:06:22.16] [Jess] I always say everyone needs therapy.
[00:06:25.20] [Ryan] Especially serial killers.
[00:06:27.36] [Andrea Savage as Denise in Step Brothers] So I thought we'd begin talking about your parents' divorce.
[00:06:30.86] [Will Ferrell as Brennan Huff] Okay.
[00:06:31.34] [Andrea Savage] How old were you when they got divorced?
[00:06:34.01] [Will Ferrell] 15.
[00:06:35.33] [Andrea Savage] It's a hard age.
[00:06:36.38] [Will Ferrell] Yes. Yeah.
[00:06:39.02] [Ryan] Pichushkin's hobbies at age 18 included sitting alone in his room and watching his child-threatening tapes, drinking copious amounts of vodka, and playing chess with other drunkards in the nearby Bitsa Park-- though apparently Pichushkin's chess was less affected by vodka than his opponents. But metaphorically killing his opponents over the chessboard wasn't enough for Pichushkin for very long.
[00:07:05.58] [Creepy wind-up music box plays]
[00:07:09.38] [Jess] On July 27, 1992, Pichushkin made a plan with his best friend and classmate, Mikhail Oditchuk, to kill 64 people-- one for every square on the chessboard. Pichushkin and Oditchuk met in Bitsa Park to discuss their plan, but Oditchuk told Pichushkin that he had cold feet and didn't want to go through with the murders.
[00:07:30.20] [Gloomy musis plays]
[00:07:30.56] Enraged, feeling like Oditchuk had teased him, and alone in a secluded corner of the park, Pichushkin strangled Oditchuk to death and threw his body into a sewer entrance. He was never found.
[00:07:47.98] [Music ends]
[00:07:48.43] If I murdered you for every time you teased me, you'd be dead.
[00:07:52.12] [Ryan] Like, dead a lot. A lot dead.
[00:07:54.67] [Jess] Yeah. This isn't very funny, but I just feel like I need to do something to dispel how terrible that is.
[00:08:00.88] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:08:01.09] [Ryan] Oditchuk was reported as missing, and Pichushkin was fingered--
[00:08:04.72] [Ryan laughs]
[00:08:06.19] [Jess, laughing] Sorry, do it again. Do it again but don't laugh when you say "fingered."
[00:08:10.12] [Ryan] Okay. Oditchuk was reported as missing and Pichushkin was fingered as the prime suspect since he was last seen with him. But with no real evidence or a body, Pichushkin was released.
[00:08:22.03] [Jess] Pichushkin would apparently not think seriously of killing again until 1996, the year that Russia passed a moratorium on the death penalty. This apparently reinvigorated his interest in murder. It seems that Pichushkin's mindset shifted with the new knowledge that he could kill without being killed as a repercussion. A bit have your cake and eat it too of him.
[00:08:46.09] [Ryan] Yeah, very God complex, but we'll get to that part.
[00:08:49.99] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:08:50.32] [Jess] On May 17, 2001, Pichushkin was playing chess with 52-year-old Yevgeny Pronin in Bitsa Park.
[00:08:58.10] [Ryan] It was reported afterwards that Pronin had defeated Pichushkin by playing the Englund Gambit. Enough to drive anyone to murder, frankly. This information is not verified, so don't bother checking it.
[00:09:10.88] [Jess] Not verified as in you made it up?
[00:09:13.01] [Ryan] Yeah, for the joke, because the Englund Gambit just sucks.
[00:09:16.46] [Music fades]
[00:09:19.24] [Kermit the Frog] Hi, it's me, Kermit the Frog. Did somebody say crickets?
[00:09:24.09] [Jess] Cool. So after their game, Pichushkin tells Pronin that it's the anniversary of his dog's death, and asks if Pronin will accompany him to the dog's grave in a secluded section of the park to have a drink with him in honour of the dog's memory. You probably already know where this is going.
[00:09:42.30] [Ryan] Yeah, well, we already know this guy is a murderer. But I think if I was Pronin and didn't know that yet, it's horror movie rule number one to not go into the woods with a stranger-- even if he offers you vodka to toast his dead dog. Maybe even especially in that case.
[00:09:59.71] [Jess] But despite us all screaming at the screen for him not to go into the woods, Pronin goes into the woods with Pichushkin in Bitsa Park and shares a drink of vodka with him. Pichushkin then hits Pronin in the head with the vodka bottle, killing him. He throws his body into a nearby well.
[00:10:17.37] [Ryan] Over the next five years, Pichushkin would continue killing in much the same way: luring people into the woods with an offer of vodka and/or a walk, followed by hitting them in the head or pushing them into the sewers to drown. His victims were often older homeless people who frequented Bitsa Park, his chess opponents, and 10 of his neighbours who lived in the same four-building complex that he did.
[00:10:43.99] [Jess] It's wild to me that he could get away with killing 10 of his neighbours without police intervention. You would think that, like, after the second person was killed, there would have been some sort of investigation.
[00:10:58.57] [Ryan] I mean, it's also wild because he full-on was a serial killer. I don't want to get into the graphic details, but he had a calling card that he would sign his kills with. And, spoiler, it involved the vodka bottles. But we'll let you look up the gory details yourself if you're into that.
[00:11:17.98] [Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam] You're a very sick man. You know that, don't you?
[00:11:21.05] [Generic '80s dance music plays]
[00:11:21.46] [Ryan] I don't know why I'm thinking about this, but I'm kind of upset that the only proper burial in this whole story is the one for this murderer's imaginary dead dog.
[00:11:32.47] [Jess] Okay, that is a lot to unpack. Uhhh, I think we need to save that for later. We still have a whole murderer to get through.
[00:11:40.21] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:11:40.51] Anyway, eventually Pichushkin does get caught. In June 2006, he invites his co-worker Marina Moskalyova, to go on a walk. Moskalyova is suspicious of Pichushkin but decides to go anyways. She does leave a note for her son saying that she's with Pichushkin. And Pichushkin knows that she's left this note, but Pichushkin kills her anyway.
[00:12:05.08] [Ominous, droning music plays]
[00:12:05.38] [Ryan] When her body is discovered on June 14th, 2006, there's enough evidence, including surveillance footage of Moskalyova and Pichushkin together on the metro on the way to the park, to arrest Pichushkin. Not only does Pichushkin admit to killing Moskalyova, but he also takes police officers to the scenes of multiple other murders that he committed in Bitsa Park, reenacting and recounting them in great detail.
[00:12:31.99] [Jess] When asked why he did it, Pichushkin said it made him feel like God. Quote, "In all cases, I killed for only one reason. I killed in order to live, because when you kill, you want to live. For me, life without murder is like life without food for you. I felt like the father of all these people, since it was me who opened the door for them to another world," end quote.
[00:12:56.29] [Ryan] On October 24th, 2007, Alexander Pichushkin was convicted on 49 counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. He requested 11 additional victims be added to his body count, to bring the death toll to 60, with three surviving victims-- just shy of his original goal of 64. He was sentenced to life in prison, with the first 15 years to be spent in solitary confinement.
[00:13:25.74] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:13:26.21] [Jess] Where is Pichushkin now? Still in prison. But we don't know much about his chess career, presumably because, yeah, he's spent most of that time in solitary confinement. But that is sort of unusual, because a lot of people's chess careers actually kind of get made in prison-- or, at least, that's the case for our next murderer, Claude Bloodgood.
[00:13:49.60] [Eerie stinger plays]
[00:13:53.25] [Sombre elctronic music plays]
[00:13:53.71] [Ryan] Fair Warning, it's difficult to talk about Claude Bloodgood with complete accuracy. Along with being a murderer, he was also a con man, so some of his claims may not be true.
[00:14:05.68] [Jess] What we do know is that Bloodgood was probably born in Norfolk, Virginia on July 14th, 1937-- though later in his life, Bloodgood claimed to be born in 1924 to German parents in Mexico. As you'll come to see, Bloodgood's deceitfulness was sort of his claim to fame, and the motivations behind his scams and lies weren't just for his own pleasure. But before all that, he started out as a regular old, run-of-the-mill, non-convict chess fan.
[00:14:38.02] [Ryan] In his early 20s, Bloodgood dedicated a significant portion of his life to chess. He was a tournament organizer and rating statistician for the Virginia State Chess Federation. Bloodgood at the time had a rating of 1956 Elo, which would have made him almost an Expert according to USCF rating titles. Definitely nothing to sneeze at.
[00:15:02.06] [Generic cartoon character sneezes]
[00:15:03.22] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:15:03.60] [Jess] So where is the drama? Well, Bloodgood would spend a majority of the '60s in and out of prison. In 1962, Bloodgood and his accomplice, John Newman, would rob the Stuckey's Pecan Shoppe in Delaware. This caper would earn them 55 bucks worth of cigarettes and food.
[00:15:23.61] [Ryan] It sounds like a Tarantino movie or something.
[00:15:25.58] [Bridget Fonda as Melanie in Jackie Brown] Jesus, but if you two aren't the biggest pair of fuckups I've ever met in my entire life. How did you ever Rob a bank? Hey, when you robbed banks, did you have to look for your car then, too? No wonder you went to jail.
[00:15:40.07] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:15:40.34] [Jess] The pair would go on to rob a couple more gas stations with other really cool names like Stuckey's until their arrests. Bloodgood would be sentenced to five years. He would be paroled in 1964 until 1966, when it was reversed because he left Virginia without getting permission. So back to prison again until '67.
[00:16:01.22] [Ryan] When he gets out in '67, he forges his mother's signature on a couple checks. Bloodgood's mother, Margaret Bloodgood, testifies against him in trial, even though Bloodgood threatened to kill her if she did. He's convicted and goes back to prison for another year.
[00:16:22.62] [Ominous, droning music plays]
[00:16:23.13] [Jess] Unfortunately for Margaret, Bloodgood was, in this instance, a man of his word. Because nine days after being released from prison in 1969, he would brutally bludgeon his mother to death at her own home. Her body was later found rolled up in a rug on Route 30 in New Kent County.
[00:16:43.08] [Ryan] A warrant would immediately go out for Bloodgood's arrest, as he was the obvious number one suspect, having threatened her pretty publicly prior to her murder. A few months later, on January 31st, 1970, Bloodgood was picked up by police in New York, but as a suspect for the stabbing murder of Patricia Dee Holtz. It would later be found that Bloodgood had no connection to this murder. So he's brought back to Virginia to stand trial for murdering his mother.
[00:17:16.05] [Music fades]
[00:17:16.54] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:17:17.02] [Jess] Bloodgood is tried for the murder of his mother on June 20th, 1970. From the events of the trial, we get a much clearer picture of the kind of man Bloodgood was. Apparently, he cursed throughout the trial and threatened the lawyers, witnesses, and even the judge. He spat in his own lawyer's face. He just made a complete mockery of the legal system and showed no decorum at all.
[00:17:43.12] [Ryan] It would also come out at this time that Bloodgood was a drug addict and mentally unstable. Not one but two psychiatrists testified he was a sociopath who was a danger to society. The jury found him guilty, and Bloodgood was sentenced to the electric chair.
[00:18:02.14] [Electric chair buzzing]
[00:18:06.85] [Warm piano music plays]
[00:18:07.33] It's no surprise to me that Bloodgood had such a love for the game of chess. He was a master manipulator. I say that because while on Death Row, Bloodgood somehow managed to elude his execution date six times. That is, until June of 1972, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional, which meant that instead of the chair, Bloodgood would have his death sentence commuted to life in prison.
[00:18:38.20] [Jess] With all that extra time on his hands, Bloodgood would basically spend the remainder of his years in prison playing chess. That's why we're including him in the chess murderer bonus episode.
[00:18:49.47] [Playful music plays]
[00:18:49.90] While on Death Row, he played over 2000 correspondence games through the mail after learning that the prison paid for all the postage stamps, which is just hilarious. Take that, prison industrial complex. His stamp privileges would be revoked when his sentence was commuted, but by that point, he was so popular in the chess world that it didn't really matter that he didn't have free stamps anymore. Bloodgood was even still allowed to organize chess tournaments outside of the prison, which is mind blowing, but in his own words, nothing was off limits if you knew how to, quote, "play the prison bureaucracy."
[00:19:26.93] [Ryan] But the scheming wouldn't stop there. During his stay at the Powhatan Correctional Centre, Bloodgood also organized chess tournaments with his fellow inmates. He was even able to obtain United States Chess Federation memberships for them, most of whom Bloodgood taught the game to. These were all mostly inexperienced players.
[00:19:48.68] [Jess] What's so controversial about this? Seems on the surface that Bloodgood is offering the inmates an outlet, teaching them all about the wonderful things chess has to offer. But that is not what he was doing at all. It's alleged that Bloodgood would manipulate the ratings to inflate his own. Remember, he was a ratings statistician for the Virginia State Chess Federation. He had an intimate knowledge of how the rating system worked.
[00:20:14.83] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:20:15.17] [Ryan] Supposedly, he arranged for players who were new to the game to play against other higher-rated inmates. Bloodgood convinced these inmates to lose to the new player. Because of the way the rating system was set up, the new player would then have a hugely inflated rating but would not actually be any good at chess. In comes Bloodgood. He plays the new player, and after winning easily, Bloodgood substantially inflates his own rating-- so much so that by 1997, he had a rating of 2759, which at the time would make him the second highest-rated player in all of the United States.
[00:20:57.56] [Jess] Bloodgood would deny these accusations of scheming to inflate his rating. He even went as far as claiming that he wrote to the USCF to warn them of the closed pool ratings inflation, as inmates were not allowed to play in chess tournaments outside of the prison and were therefore flying under the radar of the governing body by only playing amongst themselves. Though just to rewind a little bit--
[00:21:22.18] [Tape rewinding]
[00:21:23.03] --in 1974, Bloodgood and one other prisoner were granted furlough to play in a chess tournament outside the prison.
[00:21:30.41] [Ryan] There's not a whole lot of information on this, but story goes that Bloodgood and fellow inmate Lewis Capleaner were accompanied by a single guard to the guard's house in Richmond prior to the tournament. Instead of preparing for their games, the inmates overtook the guard, stole his guns, and took off for New York. It's almost like that was their plan all along and the tournament was just a cover.
[00:21:58.55] [Rowan Atkinson as Edmund Blackadder] I've got to plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.
[00:22:02.84] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:22:03.20] [Ryan] They were found a couple days later and returned to the prison. This prompted Bloodgood's former defence attorney to sue the Commonwealth of Virginia because he thought it was dumb to allow a murderer back into the community to play chess, which is fair.
[00:22:20.09] [Jess] You know it's bad when your former attorney is like, "Hey, don't let that guy out. He deserves to be in prison. He spat on me and he murdered his mom."
[00:22:28.98] [Ryan] Bloodgood would spend the remainder of his days playing chess in prison until he died of lung cancer on August 4th, 2001. At one point, he would qualify for the US Chess Championship based solely on how high his rating was. This tournament determines the country's best player. When USCF got word of this, they immediately began an investigation and ultimately changed their rating system to disallow rating inflation and manipulation, such as what was happening in the Powhatan Correctional Centre.
[00:23:02.07] [Jess] While in prison, Bloodgood would pen three books, one of them titled The Prisoner's Gambit, which Magnus himself actually played in 2021 against former World Champion Vishy Anand. Magnus walloped him in 21 moves. Thanks for making an appearance, Magnus.
[00:23:19.24] [Music fades]
[00:23:19.74] It should also be noted that, while in prison, Bloodgood would claim that Margaret was his stepmother, not his birth mother.
[00:23:26.79] [Ominous, droning music plays]
[00:23:27.15] You might be asking yourself, why? Why would he lie about his mother not being his mother? Also, I don't know if you clocked it at the beginning of this story, but he also lied about being 13 years older. Why would you lie to make yourself older?
[00:23:43.25] [Chuckles]
[00:23:43.59] Especially when you're already middle aged?
[00:23:45.99] [Ryan] As far as we can tell, the reason he lied is because he would just do anything to try to escape prison. Bloodgood claimed his real parents were from Germany or from Mexico, and he asked on a couple of occasions to be extradited to those countries, which like the chess tournament, could have given him the opportunity to escape.
[00:24:06.18] [Rooked outro music plays]
[00:24:06.60] He claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity. He claimed to be a German spy. He claimed to have played chess with Humphrey Bogart. He claimed a lot of things, none of which he could verify. His whole life he just lived as an enigma, weaving an ever-growing web of lies.
[00:24:29.88] [Jess] We'll never know how good Bloodgood actually was at chess. Clearly, his rating doesn't really tell the whole story here. But it's fascinating that Bloodgood was even able to scheme his way to the very top of chess all the way from the confines of prison. It just goes to show that he was always looking for ways to manipulate, to elude. He was known for playing aggressive, gambit-style chess. He wanted the fast, unsavoury wins. Simply put, he lived his life the same on and off the chessboard: he was always looking for the easy way out, always trying to outsmart his opponent.
[00:25:11.62] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:25:13.02] [Ryan] On the next episode of Rooked, we're back with a real episode, and it will be on misogyny in chess. We have some great new guests who you haven't heard from yet and also some familiar voices-- all of whom help flesh out chess's most damaging and important issue, sexism. It's going to be a hard one to listen to, but the only way to make change is through difficult discussions.
[00:25:37.42] [Jess] Thank you to our King-level Patreon subscribers, Umaima Baig, Madelyn, Gord, and Mya Schmidt, Stefan Vezina, the Colorado Avalanche Institute of New Zealand, and Marie Edwards. Thank you also to friend of the pod Trisha Bernardo for giving us the idea for this episode.
[00:25:56.52] [Music fades]
[00:25:58.49] [Rooked outro plays]
[00:26:02.93] [Jess] Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is written and produced by me, Jess Schmidt.
[00:26:06.42] [Ryan] And by me, Ryan Webb.
[00:26:08.27] [Jess] Our amazing music is by the ever-talented Lorna Gilfedder.
[00:26:11.72] [Ryan] Our marketing is by media genius Bailey Simone Photography.
[00:26:15.44] [Jess] Our executive producers are Rooney and Indigo.
[00:26:17.70] [both] Speak!
[00:26:19.43] [Rooney and Indigo howling] This podcast is recorded on the traditional Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the land of the Siksika, the Kainai, the Piikani, as well as the Stoney Nakoda and Tsuut'ina Nations.
[00:26:33.23] [Ryan] We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Metis homeland. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge all nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play on this land and who honour and celebrate this territory.
[00:26:52.02] [Jess] This gathering place, and therefore this podcast, provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate reconciliation. The Government of Canada has not followed through on a number of the Calls to Action that have been suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
[00:27:07.61] [Ryan] Do better, Canada!
[00:27:10.01] [Music fades]

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<![CDATA[Episode 5: The Psychology]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2024 19:19:38 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/episode-5-the-psychology
[00:00:00.47] [Rooked theme music plays]
[00:00:06.04] [Julia Rios] Both of our partners have sort of teased us and alluded to the fact that chess is kind of this other woman in our relationships. I think a lot of people have that experience, which just speaks to the fact that it really does kind of feel like a love story, yeah.
[00:00:32.56] [Ryan] I think it's fair to say that anyone who invests any amount of time into becoming a better chess player is sort of doomed to have a love-hate relationship with the game.
[00:00:44.05] [Jess] Chess is a sport that requires a tremendous amount of dedication and time to be any good at it. But there's also no guarantee that you're ever going to master it.
[00:00:54.16] [Ryan] Psychology is the study of the mind and behaviour, so, arguably, we've actually already looked at psychology a fair bit in this podcast without ever putting a name to it. But today we're calling it psychology because we actually have a psychologist to explain some things.
[00:01:12.58] [Jess] But also because to call this episode Madness seems overly dramatic and insensitive.
[00:01:20.02] [Ryan] Plus the last thing we want to do on this podcast is be--
[00:01:24.43] [Singing] Overdramatic!
[00:01:25.21] [Playful chimes play]
[00:01:27.53] [Dun Dun Duuuuun sound effect plays]
[00:01:33.82] [Jess] Because this is a tale of chess, and for some, chess is a love story.
[00:01:40.56] [Ryan] This is also a tale of love gone bad, a tale of compulsion, pain, and hatred.
[00:01:47.52] [Jess] This is a tale of cheating, of lies, and conspiracies.
[00:01:54.26] [both] This is Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit.
[00:02:00.56] [Music fades]
[00:02:01.55] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:02:05.04] [Ryan] I'm Ryan Webb. I play chess and podcast.
[00:02:08.22] [Jess] I'm Jess Schmidt. I podcast.
[00:02:10.62] [Ryan] Kind of a boring intro.
[00:02:11.58] [Jess] You didn't even want to do an intro last time, so I'm keeping it short and sweet. And I can't say, "I podcast and play chess" because I don't play chess. I just like talking about it.
[00:02:21.69] [Ryan] This is what you call it keeping it short and sweet.
[00:02:23.73] [Jess] Well, you're making it longer now, and I doubt anyone finds you bullying me very interesting. So why don't you just get on with it?
[00:02:30.93] [Ryan] Fine, maybe I will. Just for the record, I think that you're actually the one bullying me.
[00:02:36.60] [Jess] What are you going to do? Call HR on me?
[00:02:39.68] [Ryan] The voice you heard at the top is psychologist, chess enthusiast, and fellow podcaster, Julia Rios.
[00:02:46.79] [Julia Rios] I'm Julia Rios. I use she/her pronouns. I am in my clinical residency for my doctorate in clinical psychology. And I have been playing chess since the summer after COVID. So the summer of 2020, which means it's been about two and a half years. Wow.
[00:03:07.52] [Jess] Julia is also the co-host of one of our favourite podcasts, chessfeels, a weekly podcast about chess culture, improvement, and psychology. Her co-host is chess player, writer, and coach, JJ Lang.
[00:03:20.09] [JJ Lang] Hi, my name is JJ. They/them or he/him pronouns. I am a chess teacher and do writing, editing stuff for the US Chess Federation, and shitpost on Twitter. Yep, that's pretty much it. I've been playing chess most of my life.
[00:03:37.22] [Ryan] We like Julia and JJ for a number of reasons, but the short list is chessfeels is a really great podcast that we think everyone should listen to for their banter alone, and they're both very excellent Twitter shitposters.
[00:03:52.50] [Julia Rios] So eventually JJ and I just realized, hey, you are a professional chess teacher and an expert chess player, as much as you want to be humble about your experience, and I'm a professional psychologist, so we've got a pretty good duo here. We find ourselves entertaining, so it's been nice to see the feedback from other people, saying that they enjoy us as much as we enjoy ourselves and each other.
[00:04:17.61] [Laughs]
[00:04:18.36] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:04:18.78] [Jess] Julia has a great story about how grandmaster Daniel Naroditsky is part of what first got her into chess, but to hear that gem, you have to listen to the very first episode of chessfeels. Go ahead. We'll wait.
[00:04:33.87] Just kidding. That episode's an hour long. But seriously, add it to your queue and listen to it as soon as you're done this episode. You do have a whole month to fill before our next episode comes out.
[00:04:44.61] [Music fades]
[00:04:44.97] [Ryan] That is, unless you pay for a Patreon subscription.
[00:04:51.02] [Record scratches]
[00:04:51.43] Just kidding. It's way too early in the episode for an ad roll. But know that it's lurking and it'll get you when you least expect it.
[00:05:00.04] [Jess] JJ did share a story with us of how they got into chess, and out of it, and into it again.
[00:05:06.68] [JJ Lang] I was lucky enough to go to a middle school that had a chess team, and a couple of my nerdy friends had their parents made them join the team in sixth grade. And then they were, like, kicking my [bleep] in lunch one day in seventh grade because they had been on the chess team for a year, and I was interested, so I joined and really fell in love with it. And the teacher was a very strong player who would just spend his weekends driving us around North Carolina to go to tournaments, and play other kids, and teach us stuff, and really shared that passion. And there was just enough growing up to stay with that.
[00:05:36.70] And I kind of fell off in college, and then grad school got to the point where the thought of starting my dissertation felt so daunting that, like, trying to get over this hump from, like, intermediate class B player into the class A expert level of chess player seemed more attractive than doing my work rather than, like, harder than anything else. So I started just getting back into chess and studying more, and was living in New York for a couple of months for this exchange program thing and teaching in New York. And so I was able to go to some of the great clubs there and play most nights of the week, and just really have been hooked ever since, and was able to make a leap as an adult.
[00:06:12.02] And that made me really interested and, like, realizing just how much informative material out there in chess is really geared towards kids, probably, or people who have very good, quick pattern recognition skills and not a whole lot of verbal processing skills. So I thought that would maybe give me an interesting perspective as a teacher who worked with adults. And here we are.
[00:06:32.30] [Cheerful music players]
[00:06:32.66] [Ryan] Listener, take note of the pattern recognition piece that JJ is talking about here. We're coming back to that later in the episode. But first we wanted to ask JJ and Julia, why do they make chessfeels?
[00:06:46.04] [JJ Lang] Well, you know, as soon as Julia and I started talking about chess, we were just having some really interesting conversations, and we're just absolutely hilarious when we banter. And we're like, who wouldn't want to listen to this? And Julia specifically was talking about how there's this very strange misconception in the chess world, and probably a lot of other intellectual to pseudo-intellectual spaces, where people are very interested in the psychology of x. And what that actually means is-- well, it's anyone's guess, but it usually means something like, how can I stop being distracted by my feelings, or how can I crush my opponents more, or how can I stop being nervous? And Julia's perspective as a psychologist is, "That's so interesting because that's not what psychology is about, and those are actually not the questions that you should be asking." So the thought was, well, what if we had a podcast that really started asking those questions, exploring that, and then selfishly, getting a chance for me to talk to Julia about my chess and experience playing as a form of free therapy or mental game coaching.
[00:07:45.36] [Julia laughs]
[00:07:45.57] [Julia Rios] I think also part of what led us to want to do the podcast was just JJ and I noticing in our own conversations not only how frequently we could hear people talking about chess in a way that did misconstrue, you know, what is the psychology of chess, but also just not even defining it at all. I just kept hearing and seeing things online about the psychology of chess, but almost that no one maybe could, like, maybe didn't have the language to, or maybe they didn't really understand what were those psychological processes that they were actually trying to describe. And I actually just felt relatively well-equipped to do that.
[00:08:27.48] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:08:27.93] [Jess] Psychology is an impossibly broad topic for us to fully tackle in just this episode. And, also, neither of us are psychologists, so what do we even really know?
[00:08:38.13] [Ryan] Mmm, not much.
[00:08:40.05] [Jess] Exactly. So here's the short list of what we feel qualified to talk about-- the typical psychology of what kind of person plays chess and why that kind of person is also seemingly more likely to be affected by mental disorders.
[00:08:55.50] [Ryan] Obviously, we're dealing with some very sensitive topics in this episode, so we'll try our best to be as respectful as possible. Feel free to hate tweet us if we do a bad job. We're still waiting for our first hate mail here at Rooked. And it could be you!
[00:09:12.06] [Jess] Believe in yourself.
[00:09:15.27] Okay, first up-- what kind of person plays chess? You'd think that it would be someone who enjoys chess. But, again, as we touched on at the very beginning of the episode, that isn't always the case. Here's content creator and YouTuber Mike Boyd.
[00:09:30.42] [Mike Boyd] I've got a complex relationship with chess. Like, I don't know if I actually enjoy chess or not. I mean, I can't stop playing, but I also just, like, hate myself for playing chess. What I should do is just do lessons and actually work and practise, but practising chess sucks. It's so much better just to play chess.
[00:09:49.14] [Ryan] So I guess we need to distinguish between someone who plays chess and someone who studies chess. Obviously, the most elite players are the ones who do both. Here's the host of the Perpetual Chess Podcast, Ben Johnson, from our interview with him.
[00:10:04.11] [Ben Johnson] You've got to play competitive games, ideally tournaments, and then you just got to pick them apart and learn from the mistakes you made. For most people, competitive tournament chess is the best form of deliberate practise, but short of that, certainly doing tactical puzzles is a good way to go.
[00:10:21.65] [Playful music plays]
[00:10:21.99] [Ryan] That's a brief summation of what it takes to be a great chess player, but if you actually want to know more on improving your own chess games, you should read Ben's new book, Perpetual Chess Improvement: Practical Chess Advice from World-Class Players and Dedicated Amateurs. We'll link it in the show notes.
[00:10:41.88] [Jess] So far, all of this seems pretty obvious. Chess players have a love-hate relationship with playing chess, and they need to spend some time studying it, too. Maybe we just need to start from square one-- Get it? Square one?
[00:10:56.22] [Ryan] Yeah, like a1.
[00:10:57.12] Yeah, like a-- like a chessboard.
[00:10:58.17] [Ryan] Oh, yeah, I get it. Steak sauce.
[00:11:00.15] [Jess] --and figure out exactly what kind of person is most likely to play chess.
[00:11:04.59] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:11:05.40] [Ryan] If you're an elite player, going back to your very first introduction to chess might be something like this. You are five years old. You can hop on one foot and dress yourself. Hopefully, you go poo-poo and pee-pee in the potty. It's okay if you don't. You might just be a late bloomer. You can throw and catch a ball, pedal a bike, and walk backwards.
[00:11:31.49] [Tom Green as Gord Brody, singing] I'm the backwards man, the backwards man. The backwards man, the backwards man. I can walk backwards fast as you can. I can walk backwards fast as you can. I'm the backwards man, the backwards man.
[00:11:40.86] [Uplifting music plays]
[00:11:41.71] [Ryan] One day your father brings out a chessboard and teaches you that the little pieces in the front row move one and sometimes two squares at a time. The cute little horses are called knights, and the ones that look like little towers are the rooks. Your father tells you you're very clever for being able to play the game at your age. Maybe he even puts you into competitions where you play against other children. You're taught that playing chess is something that smart people do. It's a game of intelligence.
[00:12:15.31] [Music fades]
[00:12:16.13] [Jess] Here's chess historian Emilia Castelao's take on what kind of person plays chess.
[00:12:21.31] [Emilia Castelao] Chess just has this allure to people that they don't really, like, understand but people want to watch people play chess, even if they don't really know how to play. And people want to, like, learn how to play chess. There's kind of this mystery of, like, really smart people play chess. People who can think beyond the standard ways of thinking are people that play chess.
[00:12:46.22] [Jess] And here's what author Brin-Jonathan Butler thinks.
[00:12:49.28] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] Well, I think-- I think chess at the highest level is an unbelievably sadistic pursuit. This is a fictional narrative that these people buy into with their entire lives, and many of the people that I interviewed sort of adjacent to chess said, "This is-- I've known drug addicts with cocaine or heroin. Nothing is as addictive as this game for a certain kind of person."
[00:13:12.95] You know, go to the Chess Forum just off of Washington Square Park, and what looked like a brigade of homeless people playing there, most of them have PhDs-- and are homeless. What's the reason? Is it drugs? No, it's chess. So it has that kind of power for a lot of people. And I think a big part of the draw is the sadism at the heart of it. So if you think that your whole life has been telescoped where you don't really know who you are in anything beyond who you are on the chessboard, and what your rating is, and what title you're pursuing, to be dispatched carries a weight to it that I think is the mental equivalent to being knocked out in public.
[00:13:56.13] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:13:56.94] [Ryan] The more you play, the more chess becomes a part of your identity. Losing games feels very personal, and winning makes you want to play more games so you can recapture that feeling again, and again, and again. Here's FIDE Master James Canty III talking about his own development in handling losses.
[00:14:20.61] [James Canty III] You lose a game, you take it very hard. And I used to do this. I used to lose games and be, like, I'm not talking to nobody for a day, or I would just sit in a room and study for the rest of the night, not even eat because I was pissed about the game. So just studying all night long, stuff like that. So now, yeah, I'll lose a game, but if I lose a game, okay, I feel a little better. How did I lose? Let's get better. Emotionally, you're better too, as well. So there's a lot to it.
[00:14:41.88] [Ryan] And here's our resident Mental Game Coach, Bill Cole.
[00:14:45.60] [Bill Cole] This is a sport you chose where, unlike other sports, one blunder can kill you. But in tennis, it never kills you, one blunder. You can always come back. Golf, you can come back. In chess, if you blunder, you might die. So you have to just accept that that's the case, but even if it does occur, view it as a challenge, and use your creativity, and see if you can hang on and turn it around, and then you're going to have an incredible story to tell.
[00:15:14.59] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:15:15.40] [Ryan] This picture we're painting here matches some chess players-- not all, since the majority of players in the sport are not ever going to be ranked among the top 100. This is definitely more of the typical path for an elite player.
[00:15:31.43] [Jess] But just given the sheer amount of studies that have been undertaken to examine the link between chess and intelligence, it's likely that even as an unrated typical chess player, you'd probably consider yourself to have better-than-average cognitive abilities, despite the fact that most of the top experts in chess argue that they themselves are not that smart or intelligent outside of chess.
[00:15:55.96] [Ryan] Here's GM Levan Aronian in an interview that took place in the wake of the 2022 Sinquefield Cup cheating accusations.
[00:16:03.45] [Levon Aronian] Well, I think it quite often happens when young players play very well, there is all these accusations towards them. I mean, all of my colleagues are pretty much paranoid, and quite often I was the one telling them, come on, guys. I mean, I know myself. I'm an idiot and I'm a good player.
[00:16:22.62] [Mellow electronic
[00:16:23.00] music plays]
[00:16:23.38] [Jess] He rushes through it so quickly you might not have caught it, but part of what Levon is talking about here is paranoia. We're going to get to that in a minute, because although it's becoming increasingly common in chess, I personally think it does belong in the category of atypical psychology. And we still need to get through the typical chess player portrait first.
[00:16:43.75] [Ryan] When it comes to studying intelligence and chess, one of the more recent fields that seems to be getting more attention lately is pattern recognition. Especially with the rise of computer assistants in chess training, the increased focus on memorizing long lines of theory has altered the way the game is played on a pretty fundamental level. The more you study and practise calculation, the easier it is for you to assess moves at any given point of any game that you play. But is this intelligence or just high-level pattern recognition? Or is it both? Here's Mike again.
[00:17:22.91] [Mike Boyd] And another thing that good chess players surprised me with was their ability to memorize the board at any particular point. I said, "Do you want to go through the game?" after we revealed our scandal that we'd pulled on Michael, and he said, "Yeah." And Kim was loading up the moves, and he was like, "Ah, no, no, no, no need." It just went through the whole game-- and it was a long game, like 40 moves or something-- and I couldn't believe that he could just do that.
[00:17:42.74] [Ryan] So back to being a typical chess player. Maybe your name is Hans. Or maybe it's Magnus. Maybe it's Viswanathan.
[00:17:52.45] [Jess] Maybe it's Wenjun or Judit. Another thing we've left out of this little picture so far is gender. But with women making up only 11% of FIDE-rated players, we have a 9 out of 10 chance in guessing that this typical chess player is likely a boy. We're going to talk more about this next episode, but for now, here's a teaser of JJ talking about how appearance and rating can make a big difference in how other players treat you.
[00:18:19.61] [JJ Lang] I don't have the experience of people default assuming I have no idea what I'm talking about based off of how I look, or my pronouns, or appearance. But there is this funny thing that happens, because chess does have these relatively universal ratings, where if I walk into any local tournament and they see that I'm playing on the top board because I'm the highest-rated person there, then that lends a sort of authority that I don't usually find myself having as a not very loud, masculine presenting, muscular, any of the sorts of things that might track being seen as authoritative or, like, on wealth class things of, like, the way I dress or any of those things. But there's just this, like, number that establishes me as having authority that I don't have to do anything for, and it's even more authority than I might usually get just being a white dude who rolls into some of these spaces.
[00:19:15.48] [Ryan] And here's Julia's thoughts, too. But again, we'll get more into this next episode when JJ and Julia return to talk about misogyny in chess.
[00:19:25.02] [Julia Rios] You can just think historically, who was able, and allowed, and trained to play chess? Men. It creates a male-dominated space and it stays a male-dominated space. I really think in a lot of ways, it's as simple as that.
[00:19:39.19] I had someone publicly trying to explain to me that the reason more women don't play chess is because chess is hard. And when I repeated that back to them as an example of a very sexist way of thinking, that men can do intellectually difficult things better than women can do them, they really had a hard time understanding why that was a sexist thing to say.
[00:20:05.32] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:20:12.91] [Ryan] So that's the baseline of a typical chess player. Probably a boy, likely intelligent, maybe a bit of a sadist, definitely competitive, and possibly not the most well-rounded. But that comes with dedication in any sport, not just chess.
[00:20:31.23] [Jess] But one of the things I was the most curious about in chess psychology, outside of the baseline of a typical player, is what sort of standard deviations do you tend to see at the highest level-- you know, things that in general don't seem super prevalent in what I would class as the typical population but that seem to be a lot more likely to happen in chess?
[00:20:56.12] [Music fades]
[00:20:59.02] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:20:59.51] [Jess] A 2019 article on the Chessentials' website titled Chess and Mental Illness: 12 Chess Players Who Suffered from Severe Mental Problems opens with this quote from chess writer and player Bill Hartston: "Chess doesn't drive people mad. In fact, it keeps mad people sane."
[00:21:17.05] [Ryan] Whether you call it madness, mental illness, or something else, unfortunately, chess players do seem to have a higher than average disposition to various disorders that fall under this umbrella. To do a full study of this topic would take way more time and research than what we've set aside here. So instead we offer you some case studies focused on paranoia and craziness in chess.
[00:21:43.79] [Music fades]
[00:21:44.28] [Ryan] Speaking of crazy.
[00:21:46.16] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:21:46.50] We'd love to introduce you to the Crazy Crows Chess Club.
[00:21:50.88] [Jess] But, Ryan, we've talked about other chess organizations like Lichess on this podcast before. What makes Crazy Crows different?
[00:21:58.92] [Ryan] I'm so glad you asked, Jess. The mission of Crazy Crows Chess Club is to bring high-quality art and utility to NFTs, and the way they're doing that is through chess.
[00:22:09.63] [Jess] What's an NFT, Ryan?
[00:22:11.34] [Ryan] I actually don't know.
[00:22:13.80] [Jess] Okay, well, I was just trying to let you have a little bit of the spotlight here, but I know what NFTs are. NFT stands for non-fungible token, meaning it's 100% unique and can't be replaced with something else. One of the problems with this newish tech is that, like a lot of art forms, the utility is not always readily apparent.
[00:22:32.73] [Ryan] Right, because people tend to think that something being attractive means it's mutually exclusive from being functional. Like me.
[00:22:41.07] [Jess] Exactly. And that's the problem that the founders of Crazy Crows set out to solve. With multiple years of experience in the Web3 and crypto space, they're pushing the boundaries of what's possible for NFTs.
[00:22:53.83] [Sombre music plays]
[00:22:54.25] By joining the Crazy Crows Chess Club, you gain access to their growing community of like-minded chess enthusiasts. And with the purchase of one of their Crow NFTs, you also get invitations to play in exclusive prize tournaments, dailies, and eligibility for a free account on chess.com.
[00:23:11.20] [Ryan] Crazy Crows also partners with other communities where having a Crow in your wallet is the only way you can gain access to exclusive content.
[00:23:19.45] [Jess] Not only is the art of the Crow NFTs very detailed and, honestly, just awesome, but by holding a Crazy Crow, you're able to participate in special events and even receive special airdrops.
[00:23:32.74] [Music fades]
[00:23:33.63] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:23:34.07] [Ryan] Go to crazycrows.club to join their Discord community and explore a new way to play chess and use NFTs. That's C-R-A-Z-Y-C-R-O-W-S dot C-L-U-B. crazycrows.club.
[00:23:49.61] [Jess] See you on the Discord.
[00:23:53.48] [Music fades]
[00:23:56.31] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:23:58.21] [Dramatic music plays]
[00:23:58.69] [Jess] Bobby Fischer's name is synonymous with being one of the greatest players who ever lived. To this day, he's still a much-admired figure in the chess world. But his name is also synonymous with extreme paranoia and madness, especially later in his career. Before we get to that, though, here's Brin again, talking about how Fischer fits into his own love of chess.
[00:24:21.61] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] As a little boy, I've just always loved objects that have enigmatic histories, and the chess board captured my attention more than any object. I love board games. I love card games and that sort of thing. But none of them allowed you to feel quite as invested personally. Something was at stake with chess that was totally different from every other game, and I felt that sort of dark power to it, that it seemed to distill you in a way that, when you won, it was such an incredible feeling to dominate somebody-- not necessarily a good feeling, either. And, similarly, to lose just felt like you'd been intellectually squashed by somebody. That's what kind of brought me into the power of chess, was a sort of ominous feeling that I intuited about it as a really little boy.
[00:25:16.28] My mother is Hungarian, and Bobby Fischer's biological father is also a Hungarian. My mother is also a Hungarian Jew, as was his father. So when I was 18, I just became totally obsessed by Bobby Fischer's story, both as a prodigy and world champion, but just as a personality, just one of the world's great characters, and became arguably the most famous face in the world for a while playing chess. And in 1500 years that chess has existed, mainly the world champions have been pretty obscure to a general audience, but suddenly Bobby Fischer-- almost seemed like the major accomplishments of the Cold War were the US getting a man on the moon and defeating the Soviets at chess through Bobby Fischer, who unlike the Soviets where there was this massive investment in their team, here was Fischer in a little Brooklyn apartment with a single mother teaching himself how to play. And he just looked so fascinating.
[00:26:19.13] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:26:19.49] [Ryan] There's no way that we can cover everything we have to say about Bobby Fischer in this episode. Expect some upcoming Patreon bonuses about him. There's some fascinating stories.
[00:26:32.42] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:26:32.78] Did you know that Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is an indie podcast?
[00:26:36.86] [Jess] Indie as in independent. We don't receive any sponsorship support. Ryan and I make Rooked in our spare time for free.
[00:26:44.24] [Ryan] And don't get us wrong. We love getting to make this podcast exactly the way we want to. But we've been thinking that maybe with some support, we could make this show even better.
[00:26:54.29] [Tim Robinson] I got to figure out how to make money on this thing. It's simply too good.
[00:26:58.16] [Jess] So, like many creators, we've joined Patreon.
[00:27:01.55] [Ryan] Can I just ask, what is Patreon?
[00:27:04.22] [Jess] Great question, Ryan. Patreon is a way for fans to join and engage with their favourite creators' community. Basically, it's a platform that allows you to support creators financially. Currently, we have two tiers open: the Pawn level, if you want to support us for 5 Canadian dollars a month-- cheaper than mailing us an envelope of loonies and toonies-- and the King level, for $20 per month. If you choose to support us at the King tier, we'll also mention you by name in the episode credits. And if you support us at any level on Patreon, you'll also be able to access bonus content, exclusive for our Patreon members.
[00:27:40.64] [Ryan] Plus, we'll send you nudes.
[00:27:42.44] [Jess] I will not be sending nudes, but whatever you work out between you and the Patrons is your own business, Ryan.
[00:27:48.47] [Ryan] Are you sure we should be doing this? Patreon looks like they stole their logo directly from Target.
[00:27:53.93] [Jess] You are the only person I've ever had to describe Patreon to, so I don't really trust your judgement here, honestly.
[00:28:00.58] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:28:00.95] But that's a good point. If you want to support us but monthly donations don't fit your budget, you can also buy us a coffee instead at buymeacoffee.com/rooked. Or we also really appreciate ratings, reviews, and shares, too, and those are free.
[00:28:15.90] [Ryan] We love making this podcast, and our motivation is listeners like you, so we really appreciate your support at any level.
[00:28:23.78] [Jess] Go to patreon.com/rooked to support the podcast. That's patreon.com/rooked. Thanks for listening.
[00:28:33.70] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:28:36.38] [Jess] Ha-ha, gotcha! Okay, back to Bobby Fischer.
[00:28:39.32] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:28:39.68] [Ryan] Bobby Fischer was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 9th, 1943. That's my birthday!
[00:28:46.64] [Jess] You were born in 1943?
[00:28:48.50] [Ryan] No, March 9th. I'm not that old.
[00:28:52.14] [Jess] He's a Pisces baby, just like you.
[00:28:53.82] [Ryan] Yay, Pisces.
[00:28:55.19] [Jess] He learned to play chess at the age of 6 and came up in the Brooklyn and Manhattan chess clubs.
[00:29:00.35] [Ryan] He became the youngest International Grandmaster, at that time, at the age of 15.
[00:29:06.17] [Jess] He reportedly had an IQ of 181, but he didn't do very well in school, eventually dropping out before he graduated high school.
[00:29:14.36] [Ryan] From the very start of his career, Fischer made a name for himself with his ruthless play, obsession with the game, and erratic, paranoid commentary.
[00:29:24.20] [Jess] Here's an excerpt from a 2017 article titled A psychological Autopsy of Bobby Fischer by Joseph G Ponterotto. Quote, "At a 1958 tournament in Yugoslavia, Mikhail Tal, a legendary attacking Grandmaster and one-time World Champion, mocked chess prodigy Bobby Fischer for being cuckoo. Tal's taunting may have been a deliberate attempt to rattle Fischer, then just 15, but already a major force in the highly competitive world of high-level chess. But others from that world, including a number of Grandmasters who'd spent time with him, thought Fischer not just eccentric but deeply troubled. At a tournament in Bulgaria four years later, US Grandmaster Robert Byrne suggested that Fischer see a psychiatrist, to which Fischer replied that 'a psychiatrist ought to pay me for the privilege of working on my brain.' According to journalist Dylan Loeb McClain, Hungarian-born Grandmaster Paul Benko commented, 'I am not a psychiatrist, but it was obvious that he was not normal. I told him, you are paranoid, and he said that paranoids can be right,'" end quote.
[00:30:34.22] [Dramatic music plays]
[00:30:34.55] [Ryan] Fischer was famous for being a loner who lived and breathed chess but thought of hardly anything else. Here's lawyer David Franklin talking about Fischer. Or is he talking about Hans Niemann? You decide.
[00:30:50.85] [David Franklin] Fischer had this one-person-against-the-world mentality, where he just was very brash, and he would say incredibly arrogant things. Now, Fischer could back them up because he was the strongest player in the world.
[00:31:05.70] [Jess] In 1972, despite-- or perhaps in part due to-- his idiosyncrasies and unusual personality, Fischer was irrefutably one of the greatest players in the world. In a game that would later come to be known as the Match of the Century, he became the first American-born World Chess Champion by defeating Boris Spassky in Reykjavik and ending the over-20-year streak of Russia's domination of the title.
[00:31:32.22] [Ryan] We'll talk more about the Soviet chess machine in our episode about the history of chess, but it's a legacy that is still felt in the sport to this day, and one that the already paranoid Fischer was highly suspect of.
[00:31:48.11] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:31:48.57] [Jess] Fischer was not shy in sharing his opinion that his inability to win the World Chess Championship prior to 1972 was due to the Communist conspiracy rather than his own skill at the game. He had for several years already been a vocal outcrier, saying that he had begun learning Russian to sniff out their cheating, and that he overheard them analyzing his games while he was playing-- which was prohibited.
[00:32:14.22] [Ryan] He also argued that the format of the World Championship tournament was problematic, as it allowed the numerous Soviet players to collude as a team and orchestrate a series of draws and fixes, claiming that this helped them save energy and dominate in the finals. By the way, we'll talk about this more in another episode, but match fixing continues to be a problem in high-level chess even today. Here's Emilia again talking about the Russian collusion conspiracy.
[00:32:45.39] [Emilia Castelao] I think that FIDE did a really good job at the time of, you know, recognizing that the Russians were colluding. There was also a few mathematicians and statisticians-- they published an academic article and they were able to, like, show that, you know, the Russians were colluding. Like, it wasn't just pure coincidences that they were getting these draws.
[00:33:08.16] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:33:08.58] [Jess] Just a couple of years later, in 1975, Fischer refuses to play the World Chess Championship challenger, Anatoly Karpov because he was reportedly offended by the chess style that the World Championship title was dictated by. Instead, Fischer advocated for what he viewed as a fairer structure by eliminating points from draws. As Fischer and FIDE were unable to reach a solution, Fischer was stripped of his championship, and it was awarded to Karpov without any games being played.
[00:33:39.06] [Ryan] Fischer was the first and only player to give up his World Championship title, until 2023 when Magnus Carlsen became the second in all of history. And if you remember from when we talked about this in our Magnus episode, he cited reasons that aren't that dissimilar from Fischer. The old rules of chess are making the game stagnant, boring, and not worth the time to play. Magnus is being as righteous as Fischer, with slightly different terms, sure, but it's easy to draw parallels between their motivations. And that's something Magnus might stand to be wary because of what happened to Fischer after forfeiting his World Championship title.
[00:34:19.00] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:34:19.21] [Jess] Which is that he basically all but disappeared from chess and from the world in general. He moves back to the Los Angeles area and then would spend the next nearly 20 years of his life on the edge of vagrancy and essentially in hiding. His eccentricities become even more pronounced. He begins to read copiously, especially anti-Semitic texts, despite the fact that his mother was Jewish. Bobby spoke often about his fear that he was being watched by the Russians, and it's thought that him keeping a low profile was to avoid their attention.
[00:34:50.86] [Ryan] In 1992, in honour of the 20th anniversary of the famed Match of the Century, Fischer and Spassky met again to play a $5 million rematch in Yugoslavia. Travel to Yugoslavia by American citizens was illegal at that time due to economic sanctions. Plus, Bobby hadn't filed or paid income tax on the little money he had made in the prior 15 years. Facing extradition to the United States to stand and potentially be jailed for these criminal charges, Fischer instead went on the run across Europe, re-entering pseudo-hiding for the second time in his life over the next decade.
[00:35:29.56] Here's an excerpt from an article published in The Guardian titled The Endgame of Bobby Fischer, summarizing his controversial views that he espoused during that time. "Ever since drawing the wrath of his government by playing that chess match in Serbia, the one-time American hero and scourge of the Soviets became almost dementedly anti-US and anti, quote, 'the stinking Jews' under whose, quote, 'total control' he said America had fallen. A vociferous Holocaust denier, he told a Philippines radio station that the New York attacks of September 11th, 2001 had been, quote, 'wonderful news,' adding that it was time, quote, 'to finish off the US once and for all.'"
[00:36:12.12] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:36:12.61] [Jess] I hope that this goes without saying, but we do not support these views, and we really hope that nobody else listening to this does, either. Fischer was really sick. I think this is evidence of that.
[00:36:25.18] Fischer would eventually give up his US citizenship after being detained at a Japanese airport in July 2004 for trying to leave the country with an invalid passport. He ends up spending eight months in jail there, before he's freed with the help of the Icelandic government in 2005, where he's granted citizenship as a thanks for putting them on the map in the 1972 Match of the Century. He lives a fairly quiet life there, occasionally speaking out against the US, continuing to spout anti-Semitic diatribes to anyone who will listen, reading books, and condemning the state of modern chess. He lives that way until his death by kidney failure on January 17th, 2008 at the age of 64. Here's some of his parting words that he gave in an interview before his passing.
[00:37:10.90] [Bobby Fischer] I hate chess. I hate chess, really.
[00:37:12.58] [reporter] You hate chess?
[00:37:13.00] [Bobby Fischer] Yeah.
[00:37:13.30] [reporter] Why do you hate chess, being probably and possibly the best chess player ever? How does--
[00:37:19.00] [Bobby Fischer] Because I know what chess is all about.
[00:37:21.67] [reporter] Yeah.
[00:37:22.24] [Bobby Fischer] It's all about memorization. It's all about pre-arrangement.
[00:37:26.14] [reporter] But creativity, creativity.
[00:37:27.94] [Bobby Fischer] Yeah, creativity is-- is lower down on the list.
[00:37:33.61] [reporter] So you don't--
[00:37:34.60] [Bobby Fischer] All chess is, you're banging your head against the wall with this theory that you are, you know-- you're trying to find some little improvement on move 18 or 20. It's ridiculous. It gets harder and harder and harder. You need more and more computers. You need more and more people working for you. You know, for what?
[00:37:59.78] [reporter] And less and less talent?
[00:38:00.32] [Bobby Fischer] Yeah, and less and less...
[00:38:03.29] [reporter] Creatives?
[00:38:04.40] [Bobby Fischer] Yeah. It's ridiculous. Everything, why, why?
[00:38:08.96] [Jess] Here's Brin again.
[00:38:10.22] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] Bobby Fischer's act after the chess board arguably made him more famous than anything he did on the chess board, by becoming the chess world's JD Salinger. I think that's where chess becomes really interesting.
[00:38:24.18] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:38:26.92] [Ryan] Fisher's story is complicated. On the one hand, he is beloved for his contributions to the game. His life and career inspired movies, TV shows, and books. He's arguably responsible for popularizing the sport in the USA, but like a lot of our heroes, he ended up dealing with some really human problems.
[00:38:50.17] [Jess] Bobby Fischer leaving the chess circuit really was kind of the beginning of the end for him. And in our opinion, his paranoia that he was being watched by the American and Russian governments ended up taking a huge toll on him mentally. And that paranoia wasn't unwarranted. He probably was on watch lists for both of those countries until the day he died. But he's not the first player to have his career impacted by paranoia. And as you're about to hear, he's also not the last.
[00:39:20.85] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:39:21.61] [Ryan] In Episode 2 Part B: the Players: Hans-- Jesus, who the hell named these episodes?-- we briefly discussed how Vladimir Kramnik recently accused Hans of cheating in an online game against him. If you'll remember, Hans jokingly took to Twitter, suggesting that Kramnik attend an in-person training camp with him so Kramnik could see his technique up close and personal. Hans also offered a $10,000 reward for anyone who had information on Kramnik cheating in the 2006 World Championship. Remember Toiletgate? Kramnik was accused by his opponent of using a chess engine on a phone in the toilet stall on a frequent basis, a.k.a. Poopie Talkie. So that's the context, and it matters now because lately it seems like Kramnik can't go a day without accusing a new elite chess player of cheating.
[00:40:12.11] [Jess] He's picked some pretty high-profile targets to finger, including world number 3 Hikaru Nakamura. You might remember from the cheating episode that we also discussed how Kramnik called out Hikaru last November when Hikaru had a winning streak of 45.5 out of 46 blitz games online. Here's one of Kramnik's chess.com blog posts from November 20th, 2023 titled INFORMATION, all caps, by the way. Quote, "Some small new piece of statistics recently noticed. A player had scored 45.5 out of 46 consecutive three minutes blitz games against approximately 2950 in average rating opposition. Few different players. Which is equivalent to 3600 plus performance in those 46 consecutive games. I believe everyone would find this interesting," end quote.
[00:41:06.26] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:41:06.71] [Ryan] If you're not part of the chess world, you might not know this, but calling a game or series of games "interesting" is basically just straight up accusing of cheating. And let's not forget that Kramnik is a former World Champion who has thousands of followers, so his accusations carry a lot of weight behind them.
[00:41:26.03] [Jess] Kramnik follows this up with another blog post a day later, this one titled On Resent Hysteria. I understand that English is his second language, so Kramnik can get a pass on resent-- recent-- but I don't know that you should be using hysteria in this context.
[00:41:44.07] [Music fades]
[00:41:44.51] Anyway, here's an excerpt from that post. Quote, "In the last few years particularly, A LOT OF PROFESSIONAL PLAYERS have either expressed to me that Hikaru is cheating or asked me if I think Hikaru is cheating. Having checked Hikaru's statistics carefully, I have found NUMEROUS low probabilities performances both of him and some of his opponents, some of which have EXTREMELY low mathematical probability according to mathematicians, way below 1% according to the calculations of those professional mathematicians. I will continue to present various TRUE statistics and couldn't care less about the names of the players involved because we chess players are in one boat equal in rights and must be treated in the same manner whatever rating on PR some might have," end quote.
[00:42:39.62] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:42:40.25] [Ryan] I'm not really sure where Kramnik gets off calling his statistics true and mathematician verified when they're just not. Or at least if they are, he doesn't actually say who verified the numbers. Kramnik's accusations even spurred chess.com to take action and release their own statement. Here's Hikaru reading part of that statement to his followers during a livestream.
[00:43:03.20] [Hikaru Nakamura] "In the case of the recent accusations against Hikaru Nakamura by Vladimir Kramnik, we can say that we have generated nearly 2000 individual reports on Hikaru's games in our Fair Play system and have found no incidents of cheating. As to the allegations about Hikaru's incredible performance streaks, including winning 45.5 games out of 46, we have also looked at the statistics behind this. Our team has done the math and various simulations of streaks where a player like Hikaru has played more than 50,000 games."
[00:43:30.87] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:43:31.69] [Ryan] So Kramnik seems to think there's something fishy with Hikaru's win rate. In chess, there's something known as farming and adopting. Adopting is when you beat a player 10 straight games in a row, and farming is choosing to play easier-to-beat opponents in order to win some rating. One of the ways Hikaru is able to go on these long streaks is by farming and adopting. To go on these streaks is not that abnormal, and Hikaru has done it dozens of times.
[00:44:01.93] [Jess] Over the course of about a month, Kramnik publishes dozens of blog posts filled with convoluted statistics that don't actually prove anything. He kind of goes off the rails a bit, making it his mission to end cheating in chess-- which, like, good on him, but this is definitely not the right way to do it. He even goes as far as making a petition for chess.com to review Hikaru's recent online activity. We've linked it in the show notes. Here's a little example of some of the comments under the Reasons for Signing section. And, obviously, these are all trolls, but I'm not sure if Kramnik actually knows that.
[00:44:42.22] [Ryan] Hans Niemann says, "Cheaters should speak for themselves."
[00:44:46.03] [Jess] Magnus Carlsen writes, "Only I am capable of this performance. Expose this fraud."
[00:44:52.15] [Ryan] Hikaru's butthole-- I'm not kidding, this is the real username-- writes, "Hikaru has wreaked havoc on me with the XXL vibrating dildos. Enough is enough."
[00:45:02.62] [Object vibrating]
[00:45:06.64] [Jess] Queen Elizabeth writes--
[00:45:07.93] [Jess, with English accent] "The integrity of the noble game of chess must be upheld. I urge thorough investigation into these allegations to preserve the spirit of fair play and honour that define our beloved game. Let us stand together to ensure that justice and integrity prevail. With concern, Elizabeth.
[00:45:29.83] [Ryan] I like how Elizabeth just got, like, older and older as you went through that.
[00:45:33.19] [Both laugh]
[00:45:33.46] [Jess] Well, she's dead now.
[00:45:34.48] [Ryan] And Kramnik himself writes, "I'm a massive clown."
[00:45:39.01] [Horn honks]
[00:45:39.98] [Jess] Following chess.com's statement in support of Hikaru, Kramnik again resumes blogging on chess.com, writing, "Calling my recent efforts on help improving anti-cheating efficiency of chess.com platform, quote, accusations of Hikaru Nakamura by Vladimir Kramnik, end quote, is a clear public disinformation, which obviously can cause a huge image damages for me, and therefore I offer the chess.com platform in 24 hours' time frame to exclude and refute this sentence from this report together with public apologies to me for this misconduct.
[00:46:15.29] [Ryan] Kramnik is basically saying that he's the one being victimized because he believes he didn't actually say Hikaru was cheating. He just wants his games to be analyzed, but, I mean, when you look at it, Kramnik is saying Hikaru is cheating.
[00:46:29.39] [Jess] Why would you ask for someone's games to be analyzed if it wasn't because you thought they were cheating? That just does not make sense to me.
[00:46:36.08] [Ryan] Yeah. Kramnik playing the victim is not really a good look.
[00:46:39.26] [Jess] It just doesn't make sense. But that seems to happen a lot when we talk about Kramnik.
[00:46:43.82] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:46:44.10] [Ryan] Unsurprisingly, chess.com did not apologize for anything, and Kramnik's 24-hour ultimatum came and went without anything ever happening.
[00:46:54.10] [Jess] So at this point, it's clear that Kramnik is losing the plot a bit. And it goes back to what we discussed last episode on sportsmanship. Accusations without proof are destructive, and the repercussions are further reaching than we can fully comprehend. Take Hans for example. We're going to get to his latest update in a minute, by the way. But first, here's what Hikaru had to say about fighting back against Kramnik.
[00:47:21.37] [Music fades]
[00:47:22.19] [Hikaru Nakamura] What's really sad about this is that Kramnik is looking at this from a very specific angle, or at least in my opinion this is, which is that Kramnik thinks I'm being loud about this because I've done something wrong. Unfortunately for Kramnik, that's not what this is about. What this is about is plain and simple. You don't get to make false accusations when you are not an expert. You don't get to make false accusations when you do not have data to back yourself up, and that is the bottom line. And also beyond that, it's not really about me. It's about a couple of other people, very clearly. They don't really have a way of responding to it. That is the bottom line. They really don't have a way of responding to it. So there's nothing they can do. So when I'm being loud about it, it's because someone doesn't get to say these things without actual proof. They don't get to falsely accuse people over and over again without having to pay a price. That's the bottom line. And so, that's the actual reason why I'm being loud about this whole situation. It's not about me.
[00:48:11.33] Kramnik simply has no respect for anybody at the end of the day. These are not my stats. These are stats from people who've worked in the field, people who know what they're talking about. Kramnik is not an expert in the field. He did not even go to high school.
[00:48:22.77] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:48:23.07] [Ryan] Suffice it to say, these real stats prove the baselessness of Kramnik's allegations and finally prompt chess.com to mute Kramnik's blog, on Christmas Eve of all days. This takes us back to the age-old question: why would someone cheat in the first place? Here's Kramnik.
[00:48:42.54] [Vladimir Kramnik] Why do people cheat online? One, actually, it's a very important one, very serious one, is Eggo.
[00:48:50.67] [Jess] It's for the Eggos, y'all.
[00:48:52.41] [boy] Hey. Leggo my Eggo.
[00:48:55.15] [girl] Leggo my Eggo, Jessica.
[00:48:58.50] [Jess] But on this point, Kramnik is right.
[00:49:00.89] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:49:01.23] Ego plays such a large role in chess, and that probably is in part why cheating seems to be on the rise.
[00:49:08.14] [Ryan] Making baseless allegations and tweeting out names of high-level GMs who should be looked into further is ultimately just making a farce out of cheating in chess.
[00:49:18.24] [Jess] Kramnik has gone as far as attacking a 12-year-old prodigy online, calling him a cheater. This kid's career could be ruined in the blink of an eye, and there's no repercussions for the accuser who's choosing to say things without supplying any real proof. This vigilantism is very much on par with how Magnus handled the whole Sinquefield scandal. And the paranoia and delusions are a bit reminiscent of our boy Bobby. And if we can take anything objective away from Fischer's tragic story, it's that it's a pretty slippery slope from paranoia to madness.
[00:49:58.37] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:50:01.25] [Ryan] One day you're a chess champion. The next day your title is stripped from you for pooping all over a hotel bathtub.
[00:50:09.05] [Jess] Okay, you need a better segue than that, because you didn't even say that we're not talking about Kramnik and Fischer anymore.
[00:50:14.39] [Ryan] Oh, yeah, sorry. Poor writing choice.
[00:50:17.36] [Jess] Okay, go on. Tell us about the pooping, then.
[00:50:20.86] [Playful music plays]
[00:50:21.28] [Ryan] Okay, so this actually happened in Chinese chess. If you know what Go is it's kind of a lot like Go mixed with chess. 48-year-old Yan Chenglong, who was a newly crowned tournament champion, had his prize rescinded for defecating in a hotel bathtub. This led to rumours that he had pulled off the win with the help of-- wait for it-- high-tech anal beads.
[00:50:45.79] [Jess] This again? This one's on you, Elon. According to the statement released by CXA, Yan Chenglong celebrated his tournament victory with a night of drinking with some friends in his hotel room in the Hainan province on December 17th, 2023. When he checked out the next day, hotel staff discovered excrement in the bathtub.
[00:51:06.63] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:51:06.97] [Ryan] I don't know about you, but that's not usually where I poop. The CXA also stated that he, quote, "Damaged the hotel's public property, violated public order and good customs, and caused a negative impact on Chinese chess, which was very bad in nature," end quote.
[00:51:25.01] [Playful music plays]
[00:51:25.28] Of course, the Chinese social media platform Weibo started spreading a theory that Yan had used wireless anal beads to cheat and later removed them in the bathtub. I don't think you'd have to shit all over a bathtub to remove [bleep] beads, but what do I know?
[00:51:40.85] [Jess] The CXA could not confirm whether or not Yan cheated, but we here at Rooked can confirm that pooping in bathtubs and just leaving it is something you should probably speak to your therapist about.
[00:51:52.16] [Ryan] And that's not even the only hotel destruction story to make it into this episode, because we can't go an entire episode without talking about chess's baddest bad boy, Hans Niemann, the bad boy.
[00:52:05.39] [Jess] On February 2nd, 2024-- so last week if you're listening to this when it drops-- the Saint Louis Chess Club tweeted the following. Quote, "The Saint Louis Chess Club is committed to providing a world-class environment for all levels of chess players to play and enjoy chess. At our competitive tournaments, participants are expected to adhere to an agreement that outlines expectations of the players, including a code of conduct. After consideration of recent events, the Saint Louis Chess Club has made the difficult decision not to extend an invitation to GM Hans Niemann to participate in any invitational tournaments organized by the club in 2024. This decision was based on GM Hans Niemann's demonstrated inappropriate behaviour, including damaging private property, rude comments, and an uncooperative attitude, resulting in a failure to fulfil contractual obligations. This decision was not made lightly, and we hope this serves as an opportunity for GM Hans Niemann to experience personal reflection and growth. We will reevaluate this determination for events in future years, assuming notable progress is achieved."
[00:53:12.08] [Ryan] Immediately, Hans responds on Twitter. Quote, "I'd just like to immediately clarify how completely inaccurate this is. I'll be posting a full detailed video going through the entire timeline since Fall 2022 and how the Saint Louis Chess Club has treated me since then. In all of 2023, I have received zero invitations to tournaments and could not even get a response to an email or call for months on end. I was assured shortly before the US Championships that I was not blacklisted by the club and would receive invitations in 2024. I was assured that my relationship with the club was fine and was never made aware of any inappropriate behaviour or rude comments. They seem to be committed to ruining the career of one of America's brightest talents. I will not let this blatant disinformation continue and will address everything in detail as soon as possible. I will not be silenced, and I will ensure that the truth prevails. Full video explanation soon."
[00:54:11.18] We're going to fully break down the 20-minute follow-up video eventually, but here's a teaser clip.
[00:54:16.82] [Hans Niemann] When they say highly inappropriate behaviour, I don't know what implication. They might hide behind this. I have no idea what they're talking about. This supposed highly inappropriate behaviour, including the rude comments, is completely news to me.
[00:54:28.10] Now, I will address, of course, the damage to private property. So this is something that's very important to address. So during a stay at the Chase Hotel at the US Championship, there was an incident, and after a very difficult tournament and difficult games, I damaged a few things in the hotel room. Now, the damage that was done was-- was-- I can give some details. There is an incident report. But the long story short is that I apologized. I paid a fine, and no damage-- you know, no one was harmed. It was simply some, you know, remotes and stuff were damaged, and some other things were damaged, as well. The details don't matter. Of course, I'm very apologetic for the damage done to the hotel room. And of course, it was a mistake and something that in the heat of the moment after a difficult chess game I sincerely apologize for. But the truth is, is that this reason for my damage to the hotel has absolutely nothing to do with why I've been blacklisted, because while they might say now and might invent this inappropriate behaviour, and use the hotel's damage-- another thing I should say about the hotel is that I was actually going to be unbanned by the hotel. The hotel-- I had reached out to the hotel. I had incessantly apologized. I paid a very large fine, very graciously.
[00:55:46.25] [Playful music plays]
[00:55:46.70] [Ryan] At least he paid his fines graciously, though. Classic Hans.
[00:55:51.29] [Jess] So, yeah, stay tuned for that full story.
[00:55:54.87] It does seem like Hans is trying to turn things around, though. Lately, his chess has been speaking for itself. He's been on a heater. His blitz rating on chess.com was number three in the world for a period of time, just under Hikaru and Magnus. And he recently won his first-ever Titled Tuesday.
[00:56:14.12] [Ryan] Not only did Hans beat Hikaru, but he also drew Magnus, both playing with an accuracy of over 99%. And if that's not memorable enough, this was also their first match-up post lawsuit. Here's what Hans had to say during their long-awaited rematch, where both players chose to play a well-known, theory-backed draw instead of just duking it out.
[00:56:40.43] [Feeling Good by Michael Buble plays]
[00:56:40.92] [Hans Niemann] Guys, this is a known theoretical draw. I'm playing normal chess. He forces a draw. This is-- I have had the same draw, you know, many times. So, guys, just so you know, if I was such a terrible chess player and I wasn't talented, top players wouldn't be so-- wouldn't be afraid of me.
[00:57:03.36] [Ryan] If you don't know who's singing that absolute banger in the background, it's Canadian pop star and drug enthusiast Michael Bublé.
[00:57:11.52] [Michael Bublé] My buddy told me this was just a microdose of mushrooms, and he was lying!
[00:57:17.36] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:57:17.70] [Jess] Despite this recent draw, it still feels like the feud between Hans and Magnus is always going to be there. Magnus promised in the resolution of the lawsuit that he'd play Hans in the future, but I'm not sure that I'd call this a game, since they both elected to draw.
[00:57:34.95] Most players are intimidated by Magnus. They fear getting paired against him because of the psychological effect he seems to have on most players. Take it from Magnus himself.
[00:57:45.78] [Magnus Carlsen] I think psychology plays a significant role, for sure. Personally, I know that people-- I mean, people play a little bit differently against me than they do against some others, maybe, like, a little more passively, a little more apprehensively at times, even if it's just-- even if it's subconscious. I think they-- yeah, definitely when I play, I try to use the sort of psychological advantages that I have, especially against players that I feel more likely to-- to sort of be bluffable. I try and, like, push them a bit harder. Other players, I might not.
[00:58:31.07] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:58:33.39] [Ryan] But the Magnus effect doesn't work on Hans. If anything, Hans thrives off of the potential of beating Magnus again. Hans wants to bruise Magnus' ego even more than he's already done, just as Magnus does to most of his opponents. Because at the end of the day, for both of these players, chess is their life.
[00:58:55.59] [Jess] But we've seen it before that chess can be a fickle mistress, especially when you've clawed your way to the top and see that there's not really any further for you to climb. We're not saying that Magnus and Hans are doomed to madness, but maybe there is something to be said in chess keeping mad people sane. You have to wonder what'll happen to them if there's no more chess left to play.
[00:59:23.30] [Music fades]
[00:59:24.73] [Mike Boyd] Magnus is a crazy guy. He does crazy stuff.
[00:59:27.17] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:59:27.56] [Ryan] So Magnus walking back his allegations at the Sinquefield Cup means that the only other explanation is paranoia.
[00:59:35.47] [Jess] But sometimes paranoia is warranted. The government really is watching you.
[00:59:42.91] [Ryan] Maybe all these accusations of online cheating are true.
[00:59:47.14] [Jess] It could be that you're being punished for trashing a hotel room, or maybe you have a target on your back because being scapegoated as a known cheater is a label that's hard to leave behind.
[00:59:59.11] [Ryan] And maybe tournament directors are just looking for a reason not to invite you because they think you're bad for business.
[01:00:06.43] [Jess] Only time will tell whether your suspicions were correct or if you were just being paranoid.
[01:00:16.72] [Bobby Fischer, synthesized voice with reverb] Everything, why, why?
[01:00:20.77] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[01:00:21.17] [Ryan] Next time on Rooked, JJ and Julia are back for our episode on misogyny in chess. They'll also be back in other episodes and bonus content, too, by the way. But we're saving our conversations on ADHD and narcissism in chess for the season finale. Should those topics have gone in this episode? Maybe. But it's our podcast, and we make the rules.
[01:00:45.18] [Jess] By the way, the next episode is going to be pretty heavy because-- I don't know if y'all know this-- but the chess world is pretty messed up. So, yeah, prepare yourself.
[01:00:56.66] [Ryan] Thank you to our King-level Patreon subscribers: Umaima Baig, Madelyn, Gord, and Maya Schmidt, Stefan Vezina, and the Colorado Avalanche Institute of New Zealand. I guess the Colorado Avalanche Foundation doesn't care about us anymore.
[01:01:11.31] [Jess] Also Thanks to our very first Pawn-level subscriber, Jeff Burrow. Normally, you don't get a shout-out at the end of the credits at the Pawn level, but we are just so tickled that we have a Pawn-level subscriber that we wanted to say thank you, Jeff. We appreciate your patronage.
[01:01:28.41] [Music fades]
[01:01:32.84] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:01:37.28] [Jess] Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is written and produced by me, Jess Schmidt.
[01:01:41.03] [Ryan] And by me, Ryan Webb.
[01:01:42.62] [Jess] Our amazing music is by the ever-talented Lorna Gilfedder.
[01:01:45.86] [Ryan] Our marketing is by media genius Bailey Simone Photography.
[01:01:49.52] [Jess] Our executive producers are Rooney and Indigo.
[01:01:52.43] [both] Speak!
[01:01:53.54] [Rooney and Indigo howling]
[01:01:56.57] [Jess] This podcast is recorded on the traditional Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the land of the Siksika, the Kainai, the Piikani, as well as the Stoney Nakoda and Tsuut'ina Nations.
[01:02:07.64] [Ryan] We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Métis homeland. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge all nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play on this land and who honour and celebrate this territory.
[01:02:26.30] [Jess] This gathering place, and therefore this podcast, provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate reconciliation. The Government of Canada has not followed through on a number of the Calls to Action that have been suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
[01:02:41.87] [Ryan] One of the Calls to Action for the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, is to make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, treaties, and Aboriginal peoples' historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students.
[01:03:04.50] When I was going to school in rural Alberta, Indigenous history was barely taught. Nobody really talked about Indigenous contributions, like how the Haudenosaunee Confederacy's Great Law of Peace influenced Democratic governing structures that continue to exist today. Or how Cree Chief and Lawyer Harold Cardinal was a leader in the movement against the 1969 White Paper, which sought to do away with Indian status and treaty rights. I didn't read Tomson Highway or Eden Robinson until I got to college, because no teachers until then encouraged me to seek them out.
[01:03:40.56] I sure hope things have improved since I was in school, because as Canadians, we need to know these things. We need to mandate that Indigenous history be taught at all levels of education so that we can crack racial biases and move towards living harmoniously together on these stolen Indigenous lands. Do better, Canada. [Music fades]

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<![CDATA[Episode 4: The Sportsmanship]]>Fri, 12 Jan 2024 17:28:12 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/episode-4-the-sportsmanship
[00:00:00.45] [Rooked theme music plays]
[00:00:01.80] [Bill Cole] A few years ago, working with a tennis kid in Florida. She was 15. This kid she was playing was 11. And the 11-year-old was really, really good, but she was only 11. And my 15-year-old was really drubbing the 11-year-old, about to win the match, and on a changeover, the 11-year-old--
[00:00:18.57] [Mimics crying]
[00:00:20.89] --starts crying. And my student was a very nice person, and her heart went out. "Are you okay? Is everything all right?" And the little 11-year-old started telling the tale of, well, if she played badly like she is, and lost the match, even, maybe, she'd not only get grounded but severely punished. My 15-year-old felt really bad for her. They went to either sides of the court, and maybe subconsciously more than consciously, the 15-year-old that I was coaching took her foot off the gas a little bit, thought to herself, "Well, she's an 11-year-old, for Pete's sake. You don't need to crush her spirit. You can beat her left handed, but don't crush her spirit." And lo and behold, the 11-year-old won the match. When the match was over, no more tears, and the 11-year-old bounced up to the net, and shook her hand, and said, "Ah, it was a big trick. I wasn't upset at all."
[00:01:12.45] So is that cheating? No. Is it a mind game? Yes. You have to ask yourself, why would somebody do such a thing, especially age 11? That kid somehow felt unbelievable pressure to win, and maybe the threat was thrown out at home-- "If you don't do this, oh, you're going to be in trouble." And now she's playing out of fear instead of out of joy, and that's why people cheat. Pressure makes us do weird things.
[00:01:43.67] [Jess] You might be wondering why this episode is late, because we usually put out the new episode the first Tuesday of the month, and this is going out, um, not then.
[00:01:53.44] [Chuckles]
[00:01:54.14] Well, it's because we both have COVID. That's why I sound kind of funny, but I feel okayish. So, sorry again, but we're human.
[00:02:06.17] [Ryan] Also, if you've been following us for a while on social media, you might notice that things are looking kind of different lately. But we'll talk a little bit more about that later.
[00:02:16.10] Okay, on to the actual episode, which, by the way, this episode in particular will be really good for you if you've managed to hang on for three episodes but somehow still don't really like chess, because now we're going to talk about other sports-- specifically, what does sportsmanship itself look like at any level? And if you don't like other sports, sorry. Because this is a tale of chess and other sports, and sportsmanship in those sports.
[00:02:51.68] [Ryan] This is a tale of ethics, morals, and accountability.
[00:02:58.46] [Jess] This is a tale of cheating, of lies and conspiracies.
[00:03:05.42] [both] This is Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit.
[00:03:11.18] [Music fades]
[00:03:12.63] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:03:16.02] [Jess] I'm Jess Schmidt, and you probably know by now that I make podcasts and I like talking about the chess world, despite how terrible I am at the game.
[00:03:24.18] [Ryan] I'm Ryan Webb. No other intro needed.
[00:03:27.75] [Jess] No, Ryan, you have to do the intro.
[00:03:29.31] [Ryan exhales]
[00:03:30.21] [Ryan] I'm only doing it this one last time, though.
[00:03:33.21] [Jess] Okay, we have, like, seven other episodes. But whatever you think.
[00:03:36.33] [Ryan] I'm Ryan Webb. I play chess for about three hours a day typically, and Rooked is my first stab at podcasting.
[00:03:44.16] [Jess] And here's our main guest for the episode, Bill Cole. He's known as The Mental Game Coach.
[00:03:50.49] [Bill Cole] So even though my company name is William B Cole Consultants at mentalgamecoach.com, I go by Bill, Bill Cole. And I'm a performance psychology coach and consultant. And I do this over multiple domains-- sports psychology, interview coaching, exam anxiety, people that freak out taking tests. Work with a huge number of physicians. Also do this in sales coaching, presentation coaching.
[00:04:15.64] It all started with a performance psychology background. I was the first person in the world to achieve an undergrad degree in sports psychology in the late '70s.
[00:04:23.82] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:04:24.28] [Ryan] Bill works with all kinds of different people, from across a myriad of sports and even outside sports, too, including-- you guessed it-- chess.
[00:04:34.48] [Bill Cole] Haven't played in a long time, but in terms of coaching chess, I've done mental game coaching and performance psychology coaching in now over 100 different sports. At one time, I didn't know there were a hundred different sports. So a hundred different sports and counting. So it seems like every month, a new sport pops in or some version thereof. Tennis and racket sports is a big one for me. Baseball. Work with a lot of chess players, and a huge amount of fencers, and a lot of divers and gymnasts, in particular, because they all seem to have similar mental problems in terms of mental blocks.
[00:05:05.38] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:05:05.74] [Jess] So why are we talking to someone who bills themselves-- get it? Because his name is Bill? --as a Mental Game Coach?
[00:05:13.42] [Ryan] I'm glad you explained your joke. Give our audience zero credit.
[00:05:17.08] [Jess] One of the things I keep coming back to in the whole Sinquefield Cup scandal is how both Magnus and Hans were able to act the ways that they did with such confidence. Just absolutely not the kind of thing that you expect from such high-calibre players. Public accusations of cheating without any proof, an unprecedented withdrawal from an active tournament, downplaying the severity of cheating itself in any arena, OTB or online, calling the reputation of the entire sport into question. We have seen and continue to see some decidedly unsportsmanlike behaviour from all sides.
[00:05:58.64] [Ryan] But I think we have it in our heads that these high-level players of any sport act with complete stature, following the etiquette of their game to the absolute letter. But there's an endless supply of examples that we could name from countless sports where the top-level players acted the opposite of how they're supposed to. If you didn't listen to the last episode of Rooked on cheating, you should go back, just at least to hear Mike Boyd talk about doping in cycling in his lovely [Ryan, with a terrible Scottish accent] Scottish accent. Scottish accent.
[00:06:29.53] [Ryan, disappointedly] Eh.
[00:06:30.37] [Jess] Right. So that's why I think we need a lesson in sports psychology and sportsmanship. And Bill is the perfect person to school us.
[00:06:40.78] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:06:41.11] [Ryan] So what is sports psychology? According to the American Psychological Association, sports psychology, quote, "uses psychological knowledge and skills to address optimal performance and well-being of athletes, developmental and social aspects of sport participation, and systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations," end quote. Which is both broad and very specific.
[00:07:06.58] [Jess] Let's just have Bill tell you a little bit more about what sports psychology is. He's been doing this for a long time, and he's great at it. Plus, he's a really good storyteller, so we would be remiss if you did not get to hear some of them yourself.
[00:07:20.30] [Bill Cole] So it was in the finals of the Erie County Tennis Championships. I was too young to drive. My friend Tim is driving me to the match in his Volkswagen.
[00:07:27.46] [Car engine humming]
[00:07:27.73] And I'm kind of daydreaming out the window, picturing how I'm going to play, imagining my shots, duh-duh-duh. What does a 15-year-old know about visualization? Which is what I was doing. But I just did it kind of inherently.
[00:07:40.24] Get there to the match. Warm up with Tim. Take a little break. Here's the opponent. Warm up with the opponent for about 10 minutes. Start the match. I'm playing really well right from the beginning. I won the first game at love so, you know, four points in a row. Trade sides of the net. Win another point at love, even though the points were not easy. This is the final after all. The guy's very strong.
[00:07:59.80] Before I knew it, I won three games in a row, and I go, "Huh, haven't lost a point. Interesting." So trade sides again at net. Win another four points in a row. "Huh, four in a row. This has never happened." Another one, 5-0, and then, believe it or not, I won the set without the loss of a point. So that never happened to me. Again, there was no name for it, 15 years old. Never read about it, but I felt something kind of special had happened.
[00:08:23.22] I proceeded to lose the next set because I was so wound up about the first set. Excited, happy, daydreaming. "Can I do this again?" I was trying to do it again, whereas in the first set, I didn't try to do anything. Second set, I forced it, and of course that's a loser style. You can't do anything if you're forcing it.
[00:08:39.54] I got to college and took my first psychology class, and everything lit up for me. And in my second class in phys ed, took a class in sports psychology, and there it was in front of me: The Zone.
[00:08:49.53] [Chiming]
[00:08:53.13] And there was no looking back, and explained everything that happened in tennis to me. Come full circle, a little bow on top with the 6-0 set.
[00:09:01.35] There is a name for that. It's called a golden set. And in the whole history of professional tennis, four times in history has that happened. Four. So that's how really special that was, and I use this story quite a bit to highlight what The Zone is.
[00:09:16.44] For years, I went out in practise and got the weakest tennis player I could find and tried to duplicate that, thinking, "I won't make a mistake," and I still was not able to duplicate that at all. I came close a few times but couldn't do it. So that talks about the elusive nature of The Zone, the finicky nature of The Zone, and the fact that you have to kind of ride that wave--
[00:09:39.68] [Wave crashing]
[00:09:41.22] --rather than forcing yourself on the surfboard. That just doesn't work. That's how I got into sports psychology.
[00:09:47.19] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:09:47.49] [Jess] I love that story. It encapsulates everything that goes into sports psychology. Sports psychology at its core is just everything that goes into supporting peak performance, including the mental and social aspects of any given game, which need to be taken just as seriously as the technical aspects. Sportsmanship is one of the cornerstones of sports psychology. So that's why we're devoting an entire episode to it.
[00:10:13.42] [Ryan] To bring it back to chess, think of Hans and his streaming career. His whole validation for cheating on chess.com was that he was trying to force his rating, push through the "easy" part that he felt he was just better than. And it completely backfired on him. It turns out the cause and effect of cheating and getting caught is that it just convinces everyone that you're a cheater. Here's a clip from our interview with law expert David Franklin about Hans' online cheating.
[00:10:42.30] [David Franklin] FIDE, the international chess body, has a cheating czar, Ken Regan, and he said there's no indication that Hans has cheated in over-the-board games. On the other hand, I guess somebody who's willing to cheat extensively online is more likely to cheat over the board. But nothing has been proven.
[00:11:01.86] And, look, he's obviously a very talented player in his own right. Even after the scandal broke, when he's been under constant scrutiny, he's been able to maintain a 2700 playing level, which is very high. So you sort of have to ask, why would somebody that talented and that promising decide to cheat? Maybe to get more quickly from a 2500 or 2600 level, to a level where he gets more invitations to top tournaments. Or maybe he's a natural 2700 player, but he thought, well, if I cheat, then I can get to 2750 or 2800, and then I can really make good money. But he would be taking an enormous risk in doing that. Maybe he's a risk-seeking personality, right?
[00:11:52.63] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:11:53.47] [Ryan] And here's a clip from Mike Boyd, the content creator we featured last episode.
[00:11:59.50] [Mike Boyd] Every sportsman who gets popped for PEDs says the same thing: like, "I'm just trying to stay competitive. I'm not trying to get an edge. I'm trying to-- I'm trying to level." But until you prove everyone's cheating, they're still-- they're still just a cheater, aren't they?
[00:12:12.13] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:12:12.49] [Jess] And just in contrast to the public perception of Hans' sportsmanship, here's what Ben Johnson from the Perpetual Chess Podcast said about Magnus' sportsmanship when we interviewed him.
[00:12:23.74] [Ryan] That's a fucking tongue twister, that sentence.
[00:12:25.57] [Jess] I know, right?
[00:12:25.99] [Ryan] You did it in one try.
[00:12:26.98] [Jess] And I nailed it.
[00:12:28.12] [Ben Johnson] Magnus, I mean, he's been in the public eye for so long, I feel like 97, 98% of the time he's been the ultimate sportsman. He's always carried himself very well. He's never been rude to an opponent that I can recall. There's been, like, one or two cases where he's been very rude in press conferences. And I think after he lost to Karjakin and fell behind in the 2016 World Championship, I think, you know, it was in the contract that he should do a post-game press conference, and I think he just didn't do it.
[00:12:58.16] You do hear occasional stories of him being, like, late for press events and stuff, stuff like that. So behind the scenes, he doesn't have a reputation of being, like, uniformly kind and over-the-top sportsmanlike, but to get to the top of the chess world, you have to be thinking about yourself all the time, and thinking about the game all the time. So it's not unusual. A lot of the greats don't have, like, these huge reputations for being empathetic people, and Magnus, I think, is actually better than most, especially as he's gotten older. So this reaction, at least in terms of recent years, was definitely a break from character, and that comes across with so many Grandmasters and Super Grandmasters who've come out and said that they admire what Magnus did, which to me seems crazy. But they're in that circle and I'm not. So their opinions are certainly valid.
[00:13:53.72] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:13:56.86] [Ryan] So The Zone that Bill talks about is kind of like the pinnacle of sports psychology in that it isn't something that you can just muscle your way into. It happens when you're skilled but not trying too hard, driven but balanced, focused and calm.
[00:14:12.60] [Jess] You can't really intend on a specific outcome when it comes to things like nailing a golden set, or even playing all the top players on chess.com. You just need to do your best and hope that you're going to get to where you need to be.
[00:14:28.53] [Ryan] Like, we didn't intend on making money when we started this podcast. But now we have a Patreon with five whole subscribers on it. We're just out here telling this story the best way we know how. Speaking of Patreon...
[00:14:44.81] [Music fades]
[00:14:45.77] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:14:47.70] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:14:48.19] [Ryan] Did you know that Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is an indie podcast?
[00:14:52.36] [Jess] Indie as in independent. We don't receive any sponsorship support. Ryan and I make Rooked in our spare time for free.
[00:14:59.68] [Ryan] And don't get us wrong. We love getting to make this podcast exactly the way we want to, but we've been thinking that maybe with some support, we could make this show even better.
[00:15:09.73] [Tim Robinson] I got to figure out how to make money on this thing. It's simply too good.
[00:15:13.57] [Jess] So, like many creators, we've joined Patreon.
[00:15:16.96] [Ryan] Can I just ask, what is Patreon?
[00:15:19.66] [Jess] Great question, Ryan. Patreon is a way for fans to join and engage with their favourite creators' community. Basically , it's a platform that allows you to support creators financially. Currently, we have two tiers open: the Pawn level, if you want to support us for 5 Canadian dollars a month-- cheaper than mailing us an envelope of loonies and toonies-- and the King level for $20 per month. If you choose to support us at the King tier, we'll also mention you by name in the episode credits. And if you support us at any level on Patreon, you'll also be able to access bonus content, exclusive for our Patreon members.
[00:15:56.00] [Ryan] Plus, we'll send you nudes.
[00:15:57.86] [Jess] I will not be sending nudes, but whatever you work out between you and the Patrons is your own business, Ryan.
[00:16:03.92] [Ryan] Are you sure we should be doing this? Patreon looks like they stole their logo directly from Target.
[00:16:09.32] [Jess] You are the only person I've ever had to describe Patreon to, so I don't really trust your judgement here, honestly. But that's a good point. If you want to support us but monthly donations don't fit your budget, you can also buy us a coffee instead at buymeacoffee.com/rooked. Or we also really appreciate ratings, reviews, and shares, too. And those are free.
[00:16:31.32] [Ryan] We love making this podcast, and our motivation is listeners like you, so we really appreciate your support at any level.
[00:16:39.20] [Jess] Go to patreon.com/rooked to support the podcast. That's patreon.com/rooked. Thanks for listening.
[00:16:49.76] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:16:52.24] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:16:52.74] [Jess] Intentionality matters in sports because intention is one of the biggest drivers of sportsmanship. If you go into a game thinking that you need to win at all costs, you're going to have a very different strategy than someone going in thinking that they just need to play the best game they can. Winning at any cost opens the door for strategies that fall outside the rules of the game, like cheating.
[00:17:16.62] [Ryan] But even if you are a player who has good intentions and is just trying to play the game the best way that they can, you can't always be sure that your opponent feels the same way. Plus, there's always elements that you just can't account for or anticipate. And that's where other skills come in, like mental strength and coping abilities.
[00:17:39.00] [Bill Cole] We're talking cheating, but we could expand it to, what would happen if the lights went out? What would happen if the air conditioning broke? What would happen if your chair started to, like, sag or squeak? What would happen if the opponent did this? What would happen? So the what ifs.
[00:17:54.31] With all my kids in whatever sport, we generate a what-if checklist. And I ask them, "What are some of the weird things that have ever happened to you in your tournament career?" And we start going down the list, and some of them are pretty funny and interesting. They have stories, whatever. The point is, you generate a list of 20 such weird things. "And now, Tommy, number one, what have you done to fix that?" "I don't know. I never knew how to fix it." I give him the answer. "How about number two, Tommy?" "Oh, I did this." So we go down the whole list where those are contingency plans, and now if any of those things happen, including cheating, we've already gamed it out, planned it out, even practised it, visualized it, talked about it, whatever. And now when it comes up, you know, it's still not desirable because it's in the middle of a game and you don't really want it to happen, but now they have a plan. [Cheerful music plays]
[00:18:45.82] [Ryan] To me, it sounds a lot like Bill would be a huge fan of Nathan Fielder's HBO hit The Rehearsal. Basically, the concept of the show is that Nathan helps people plan out how to deal with a specific scenario in advance by hiring actors and acting through every possible scenario that could possibly play out, so that these people are prepared for any given outcome. Here's a quick clip of Nathan arguing with his fake co-parent during one of the episodes, because this is our podcast and we can do whatever we want.
[00:19:18.38] [Angela Sankovich] You ate feces. You ate the child's feces.
[00:19:22.54] [Nathan Fielder] I did. Angela, it was a chocolate bar.
[00:19:24.37] [Angela Sankovich] I don't care.
[00:19:25.48] [Nathan Fielder] But sometimes I couldn't tell if we were arguing as co-parents or if she was actually mad at me.
[00:19:31.93] [Angela Sankovich] Are you aware that eating poo is actually a satanic ritual?
[00:19:37.89] [Nathan Fielder] I-- no. Maybe you should make a list for me of all the things that are satanic so that I know when I'm doing something how to avoid them. I'm going to bring home oranges from the grocery store. You're going to be like, "That's satanic."
[00:19:50.16] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:19:50.44] [Jess] Wow, how did I just know that a poop joke was coming?
[00:19:54.31] Okay, back to Bill. Now, you might be thinking, "Yeah, this makes sense." I'm sure this Tommy kid has never thought about that kind of strategy before, and Bill probably really helped him. But someone like Magnus must already know this stuff. And maybe he does, but remember last episode when we talked about Magnus playing Alisher Suleymenov at the Qatar Masters this past October? If you don't, it's okay. Basically, the gist of that story is that Alisher beat Magnus, and Magnus publicly called him out afterwards for distracting him by wearing a watch, because it could be used as a cheating device.
[00:20:30.68] Now, someone wearing a watch it at a tournament is incredibly common. It's against the rules, sure, but it's a rule that's rarely enforced. So what does it say about Magnus that when faced with a rule-breaking opponent, his knee-jerk response on multiple occasions has been to take to Twitter for justice?
[00:20:50.49] [Ryan] Even at the Sinquefield Cup, Magnus did basically the same thing. We now know he talked to the tournament directors and officials, and didn't agree with or like what they said. Otherwise, he probably wouldn't have taken to Twitter to rip on Hans. But there's just something that feels icky in making public shaming your main tactic for dispute resolution. So that was a question we put to Bill. What is the right thing to do when you are faced with what you suspect is bad sportsmanship, or possibly even a cheater?
[00:21:25.25] [Bill Cole] It depends on the sport. In some sports there are no officials. Like, in tennis, even in the junior level, there's no officials per court. It's a roaming official, so you could play a whole match, 90% of which there's no official. So now you have your personal power.
[00:21:41.40] So a kid comes to me, "What do I do if they're cheating me? Should I go get a referee?" That's a last resort. First, use your personal power. "Tony." You call Tony up to the net. "Tony, I'm hitting shots that are easily in by 10 inches and you're calling them out. I want you to do the right thing. Would you like to change your line call right now?" "No way." "All right, Tony, but you're on notice." That's interaction number 1. Ten minutes later, Tony cheats you again. "Tony, I'm not coming up to the net. Do you want to change your line call? It was definitely in." "No way." "One more time, Tony, I'm getting an official." Ten minutes later, happens again, you get the official. So that's your personal power you're putting on to Tony, because now you're actually having maybe a guilt trip on Tony because he's on notice, plus you get an extra benefit.
[00:22:33.80] People are watching your match. They can't hear everything. The match is over. "What did he say to you, Tony?" "He told me to stop cheating." So now Tony is sheepish, and my guy is, like, brave, and the word goes out, don't cheat Bill's student, because he'll call you on it. So there's many ways to handle cheating. I think personal power is one of the best ways.
[00:22:57.47] I don't know their ins and outs of a tournament in chess that well, even though I was a tournament director in tennis for years. If someone was cheating, you'd go to the tournament director and say, "Hey, we want a linesmen, or an official, or a scorekeeper, or some adult come on the court and oversee." And that's how you handle it. And it's kind of the same thing in chess. You don't accuse the person directly of cheating. You let the adults handle the whole thing.
[00:23:22.63] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:23:22.88] [Jess] I think in Magnus' own way, him going to Twitter is him expressing personal power. The problem with Magnus, though, is that, in the words of Voltaire and Uncle Ben...
[00:23:35.51] [Uncle Ben] Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
[00:23:41.46] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:23:41.91] [Ryan] Magnus has millions of fans that take everything he says at face value. And because it's the internet, it doesn't matter what the truth is, or whether there's evidence, or whether the allegations are actually provable. All that matters is Magnus is the one who levied the allegations in the first place. And because he is so powerful, in a lot of people's eyes, that makes it true, until he says otherwise.
[00:24:09.57] We're talking about a guy who has over 350,000 Twitch followers on an account that has one video and is basically dormant. He doesn't have to do anything and people still flock to him. They worship him.
[00:24:24.74] [Followers] Hail, Messiah!
[00:24:27.08] [Graham Chapman as Brian Cohen] I'm not the Messiah. Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah! Do you understand? Honestly!
[00:24:33.37] [Follower] Only the true Messiah denies his divinity.
[00:24:37.12] [Graham Chapman as Brian Cohen] What?! Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right, I am the Messiah!
[00:24:42.88] [Followers] He is the Messiah!
[00:24:46.46] [Graham Chapman as Brian Cohen] Now fuck off!
[00:24:48.93] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:24:49.32] [Jess] Another big question I had in the aftermath of the 2022 Sinquefield Cup was, where the hell was FIDE in all of this? They're who I assumed would be the adults in this situation, to use Bill's words. And, actually, that's one of the questions we asked FIDE historian Emilia Castelao when we spoke with her.
[00:25:09.54] [Emilia Castelao] Sinquefield is a FIDE-rated event, so if there is an instance of cheating or an accusation of cheating, then there are rules in the FIDE Charter and other FIDE handbooks that essentially tell FIDE, these are the steps that I need to follow in order to investigate and lay out how cheating is supposed to be dealt with.
[00:25:33.55] I think that many people were disappointed with the way that FIDE responded and investigated the scandal. I think that people wish they had been more firm about the whole situation. And so, it's kind of hard because the channels sometimes to accuse someone of cheating, like, through FIDE are sometimes unclear and confusing. And so, it overall, I think, was just a very foggy situation in regards to, like, where FIDE stood.
[00:26:05.64] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:26:06.25] [Jess] Now, we spoke with Emilia prior to June of 2023, which is when Magnus publicly announced that the lawsuit between him and Hans had been dismissed, and that he didn't think that Hans cheated at Sinquefield anymore. And we now also know, thanks to a FIDE report published on December 12th 2023, that Magnus was fined 10,000 pounds-- so almost $13,000 USD or, like, I don't know, $12 billion Canadian-- by the Ethics and Disciplinary Commission at FIDE. But that fine wasn't from the accusation Magnus made. It was from, quote, "withdrawing without valid reason or without informing the tournament arbiter," end quote.
[00:26:48.46] [Ryan] According to that same report, Magnus was found not guilty for all of the following. Quote, "for reckless or manifestly unfounded accusation of chess cheating, for the attempt to undermine honour, and for the disparagement of FIDE's reputation and interesr," end quote. This decision from FIDE came 14 months after the events at Sinquefield. And they state in their report that, even though the lawsuit didn't have any bearing on their decision, they also couldn't make any decisions until the lawsuit was settled, because they needed Hans' and Magnus' cooperation. If you can figure out how that makes sense, let us know.
[00:27:31.70] We'll get more into how messed up FIDE tends to be in a later episode that talks about the game of chess itself. And if you're worried that one will be boring, you should know that one of the prior presidents of FIDE was convinced that he had been abducted by aliens and visited another planet in their spaceship.
[00:27:49.93] [Jess] Nothing in chess is boring.
[00:27:52.33] [Hal Sparks as Zoltan] Soon, we will leave this lame planet and fly through outer space with cool aliens who like us. It is going to be awesome!
[00:28:06.02] [Ashton Kutcher as Jesse Montgomery III] Zoltan!
[00:28:09.46] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:28:09.91] [Jess] There's another grey area that we haven't really touched on yet that sits somewhere between good sportsmanship and then things like outright cheating. Bill calls this gamesmanship.
[00:28:21.43] [Bill Cole] Cheating is obviously cheating. It's against the rules. Gamesmanship is borderline but not considered illegal at all. For example, a tennis player can be playing doubles and up to the net, and I'm back there serving. My partner at the net can be moving around like crazy, attempting to distract the receiver. And that is allowable, as long as they don't whip their racket all over the place. But if they make body movements. It's kind of like a soccer player trying to trick out a defender. And if they didn't do that, it would really be a boring game, so that would be, like, just craftsmanship, not really gamesmanship so much, but a little bit that way.
[00:28:57.14] This is something that surprised me when I started working with chess players. Years ago, I would say, "So, what sort of mind games do you see, or cheating do you see, you know, when you go to tournaments?" And the kids would go, "There aren't any." "Really? You mean there really are no-- there's no cheating?" And eventually they would say, "Well, there are some bending of rules, or trying to get an unfair advantage, things like that, or unintentional breaking of regulations and procedures, but not like cheating, cheating." So, basically, I discovered that chess overall is either so tightly controlled by the tournament directors and/or the parents, or it's in the culture, or it's so obvious you're cheating that how dare you even try to cheat? So you don't. Maybe it's all of that. Therefore, I've discovered that cheating in chess compared to a lot of other sports is very pristine, although there is cheating.
[00:29:54.61] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:29:54.89] [Ryan] Okay, so much to say about this. But first, let's dig into Bill's opinion of chess as pristine and controlled, because this reflects what I think a lot of people typically view chess as, and it's one of the bigger problems that the sport is facing right now. It has this image that doesn't necessarily align with reality. Of course, you want to think that elite chess players are all good sportsmen and aren't cheating, and that they deserve the titles they hold. But if you listened to the last episode of Rooked where we detailed several other high-stakes cheating scandals, you know that's not always the case.
[00:30:33.92] Chess.com's Hans Niemann Report even states that in their 15-plus-year history of cheat detection online, they've closed down the accounts of hundreds of titled players and dozens of GMs, and they've even elicited cheating confessions from four players in the FIDE top 100.
[00:30:52.10] [Jess] And that's just for cheating. Because gamesmanship isn't illegal, we actually don't have any real numbers on what kind of gamesmanship there is going on in chess, but we can tell you colloquially what gamesmanship looks like in this sport. Before we get to that, though, I think it's also an important distinction to make that, when it comes to chess athletes specifically, Bill primarily works with kids. And it actually gives me hope that the kids Bill works with say that they themselves are good sportsmen, and most of the people that they are encountering while they're playing chess are also good sportsmen, especially since these kids primarily play OTB, and it does seem like cheating OTB is taken more seriously than cheating online.
[00:31:36.26] And while Magnus didn't follow all of Bill's rules-- like, he for sure did not let the adults handle this issue-- you can see that Magnus probably still thought he was being a good sportsman, because the honour of the game is something that Magnus seems really protective of, and the suggestions that he's made to help keep the game contemporary and above board, as it were-- Get it? Above board? --are evidence of that.
[00:32:03.24] [Ryan] But I think we need to back up a little bit here.
[00:32:05.57] [Tape rewinding]
[00:32:06.83] Because we need to talk about something very crucial and specific to chess.
[00:32:12.11] [Jess] Oh, boy, here we go.
[00:32:13.34] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:32:13.73] [Ryan] What exactly does gamesmanship and sportsmanship look like in chess? Each OTB game begins and ends with a handshake. You acknowledge the worth and dignity of your opponent by extending a hand in good sportsmanship. This doesn't really make for the greatest podcast material, but if you get a chance, you should Google "chess handshake fails." After COVID hit and chess players returned to playing masked in-person, nobody really knew whether to fist bump, or elbow bump, or shake hands, or whatever else you could think of. Truly the epitome of people trying to be polite and just, like, not really knowing how to do that.
[00:32:53.09] [Jess] Other good sportsmanship inherent to the game would be things like proper attire, but the rules for what constitutes proper attire in chess are, honestly, ridiculous. According to FIDE, quote, "it is important to promote a good and positive image of chess," end quote. So what goes against their dress code? Funny you should ask. The following are considered unsanctioned at any FIDE-rated event.
[00:33:18.97] [Clears throat]
[00:33:20.27] Beachwear slips, profanity and nude or semi-nude pictures printed on shirts, torn pants or jeans, holes, noticeable unclean clothing, sunglasses, sports caps, revealing attire, clothes such as denim shorts, short shorts, cut-off shorts, gym shorts, crop tops, tank tops, and clothes made of see-through material, or clothes that expose areas of the body usually covered, in the location where the event is taking place.
[00:33:46.91] [Ryan] Wow, FIDE fucking hates shorts.
[00:33:49.49] [Jess] This seems like a pretty exhaustive list, but keep in mind that the enforcement of the dress code is left to tournament officials, so in reality, this ends up being pretty subjective.
[00:34:01.31] [Ryan] Let's look at two examples of dress code not being adhered to, a.k.a. bad sportsmanship, according to FIDE. The first involves none other than Magnus Carlsen. During the 2022 World Rapid Championship, Magnus shows up late for his first game. The time limit is 3 minutes plus 2 bonus seconds per move, and Magnus arrives at the board with 30 seconds to spare on his clock. Nobody knew where he was, and then he just suddenly shows up wearing a sweatshirt and tracksuit trousers. Magnus would go on to win the game somehow, even though he was down so much on the clock. After the game, it was revealed that he had apparently been on a ski trip and, upon his return, he hit a traffic jam.
[00:34:45.54] Another player at the same event Ian Nepomniachtchi-- we'll just call him Nepo, everyone calls him Nepo-- was wearing a t-shirt with Spanish writing that translated to, quote, "What are you looking at, idiot? What are you looking at, Idiot? Come on, get out of here, you moron," end quote, which I guess was some sort of Football reference.
[00:35:05.57] [Messi, repeating phrase in Spanish]
[00:35:09.56] [Ryan] Anyway, both players were told to change for their next games or they would be fined, and they did just that. Compare this with the 2023 World Rapid and Blitz Championship, when Woman International Master Anna-Maja Kazarian shows up for a game wearing Burberry sneakers and is threatened with a 100-euro fine unless she goes and changes immediately. Here's what she wrote on Twitter. Quote, "One of the arbiters stopped me and asked me if I could change my shoes, because they were 'strange shoes' and considered 'sports shoes.' It hurts to even walk in those, and I definitely don't want to use my Burberry sneakers for sports," end quote. She's forced to take a car back to her hotel room and change into high heels, so that the image of chess doesn't fall into disrepute? Where's the line on what's appropriate or not appropriate? You're fucking sitting down at a chess board. Why on Earth would you need high heels for that?
[00:36:08.33] During the same tournament, Magnus can be seen wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt and nobody says anything to him about his attire. There's players in hoodies, for God's sake. Obviously, one could argue that the sport of chess is deeply sexist and misogynistic, but we're going to discuss that in greater depth in another episode. For now, here's a clip from our interview with chess coach, player, and podcaster, JJ Lang of the chessfeels podcast.
[00:36:34.53] JJ, on your website, you have a commitment to inclusivity page.
[00:36:38.55] [JJ Lang] Yeah.
[00:36:39.15] [Ryan] Why do you think diversification of the chess community is important?
[00:36:42.87] [JJ Lang] Because I think that the way to fight exclusionary spaces isn't by just being not a bigot but by actively reflecting on how to make these spaces more inclusive, and thinking about what skills or resources you have that you can offer to make that space a better space. And I think about the number of students, not even just female students, but the number of students I have who had talked about, like, having a coach as a child, or even an adult, who they didn't click with, or in particular who would kind of get upset with them-- maybe a kind of, like, stereotypically like the old Russian coach who would just kind of snap at them, or tell them that they were never going to get good or something. And thinking about how a skill that I have as a coach is my patience, is I have a lot of experience with neurodiversity particularly, but also, like, myself, I'm a very anxious person. And I've seen how that affects my chess, and how that affects my results and ability to perform under pressure. And so, just, I know I bring a lot of empathy to those conversations and create a kind of space that could be really useful for people who are maybe trying to break in but maybe didn't find these YouTube videos that are littered with misogynistic comments, or didn't find coaches who, like-- even something as innocuous as, like, maybe just like a coach uses "he" as a gender-neutral thing in their explanations, and you start to wonder if this is a person for you. And so just knowing that I can do that, and want to do that. And then also selfishly, if this is the space that I love and want to spend the rest of my life in, I want to spend it with people who I think are really cool, and that means people who probably have mostly felt alienated by a lot of the people in the space who aren't cool. And so, I personally would like more people who I want to hang out with to get into chess.
[00:38:35.73] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:38:36.23] [Jess] Okay, so before we move on, let's just do a quick rapid fire. Keeping your composure across the board? Good sportsmanship.
[00:38:43.45] [Family Feud "Good Answer" sound effect plays]
[00:38:44.66] Sneaking off to the toilets to check a chess engine on your secret Poopie Talkie? Cheating, a.k.a. bad sportsmanship.
[00:38:52.07] [Family Feud Buzzer sound effect plays]
[00:38:54.05] Keeping noise to a minimum? Good sportsmanship.
[00:38:57.38] ["Good Answer" sound effect plays]
[00:38:58.55] Staring down your opponent the entire game? A bit complicated. Your opponent will probably think that you're a weirdo, it will not probably give you any advantage, but it's not illegal.
[00:39:09.32] ["Good Answer" sound effect plays]
[00:39:10.31] However, it's also not good sportsmanship.
[00:39:13.13] [Buzzer sound effect plays]
[00:39:13.88] So that makes it gamesmanship.
[00:39:16.34] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:39:16.73] But what else is considered to be good sportsmanship? If you knock down your opponent's piece, you're supposed to pick it up. But if you want to psychologically terrorize your opponent, then you can pick up their king and rip its head off. I'm not kidding. That's actually happened. We alluded to this in Episode One, and, yes, it involves your favourite bad boy, Hans Niemann.
[00:39:40.04] [Ryan] In 2022, during Round 12 of the US Championship, Hans is paired against GM Sam Sevian, who is a very unassuming looking character. During their game, out of nowhere, Sam picks up Hans' king and removes the cross at the top of the head. He effectively decapitates it. The media following the event erupts into a frenzy trying to figure out what this unprecedented move means, because touching any of your opponent's pieces, never mind the most vital piece on the board, and breaking it, is akin to a NASCAR racer wandering over to another driver's car and hopping into it while they're stopped in the pit. It's just a completely abnormal move.
[00:40:23.58] [Jess] Wait, has that actually happened in NASCAR?
[00:40:25.56] [Ryan] Oh, I have no idea. I don't know anything about NASCAR.
[00:40:28.50] [Jess] Okay, so do you think we need to look this up?
[00:40:30.75] [Ryan] Nah, they trust anything we say at this point.
[00:40:33.12] Again, if you accidentally knock another player's piece over while moving your own, it's a common courtesy to pick it back up. But grabbing another player's king and casually popping the head off like it's a dandelion? Unheard of. Everyone immediately assumes that Sam is making a statement in the wake of Hans' chess.com cheating confession.
[00:40:57.06] Post-decapitation, a semi heated discussion begins between Sam and Hans.
[00:41:02.97] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:41:03.35] Sam motions with what appears to be a "let's take it outside" thumb gesture, and Hans eventually calls the arbiter over. Everyone is just generally confused, but eventually the game continues.
[00:41:16.73] [Mellow electronic music plays] In a post-game interview, Hans explains rather anti-climactically that it was just a misunderstanding when Sam decapitated his King. He describes that the top pin of the piece had fallen off and that Sam's intentions were to glue the piece back together, which explains his thumb motioning. When the reporter asks him to elaborate on what happened, Hans says this.
[00:41:42.37] [Hans Niemann] Ah, it was just a misunderstanding. Nothing-- nothing too serious. We had a cordial conversation after, so I assume there's no hard feelings there. But just a misunderstanding.
[00:41:50.84] [Cristian Chirila] Misunderstanding.
[00:41:51.59] [Hans Niemann] I don't want-- there's no drama. I know you guys are desperate for views, but--
[00:41:55.82] [Cristian Chirila] No, no, no.
[00:41:56.88] [Hans Niemann] No drama.
[00:41:57.94] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:41:58.19] [Jess] Why does this whole thing matter? Well, it's actually a great example of good sportsmanship from both Hans and Sam. Despite the pressure of how it looked from the outside, they both refused to let the situation get swept into some overdramatized story that made both or either of them look like bad sports-- which is important to note, especially for Hans, who has purposely curated a bad-boy image. Here's David Franklin again, commenting on Hans' personality.
[00:42:28.92] [David Franklin] I mean, he's-- he's not, to my mind, a likable figure. I just don't particularly gravitate towards brash, outspoken, controversial figures. You know, the way that he handles himself in post-game interviews, the "Chess speaks for itself" and all of the braggadocio and stuff, but that doesn't make someone a cheater, right? It may make them not fun to hang out with at parties, but that's a different story.
[00:42:55.92] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:42:59.44] [Jess] But what does this all sum up to? There is a clear sportsmanship inherent to chess. There's actually a lot of rules surrounding it that feeds into the idea that it's a highfalutin sport of decorum. But a lot of these rules are outdated, and they create more problems than they solve: sexism, gamesmanship, and focus on things that are not actually chess or even chess related. Because having a bunch of rules that only get enforced some of the time just makes it more confusing for players to know right from wrong. I guess the safest bet is that, if you're a woman, just don't ever wear any form of sneaker, even if you're in a room of hoodie-wearing men. Here's Amelia again.
[00:43:42.93] [Emilia Castelao] There is an air of tradition around FIDE. It is a really old organization. It's one of the oldest sports-governing bodies, so they very much love their tradition. They love over-the-board tournaments. They love, kind of, the prestige of players sitting down at a board and, you know, duking it out.
[00:44:02.05] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:44:02.32] [Jess] Clearly, we are not traditionalists in the same way that FIDE is, but the reason that we keep harping on this is because, more than just being annoying, there's a real cost to acceptable levels of gamesmanship-- because allowing in gamesmanship has the potential to fundamentally change the game. Here's Bill again.
[00:44:22.96] [Bill Cole] It was well known with Michael Jordan that when he was playing, like, the word went out: Do not trash talk Michael Jordan. He'll rip your head off because he'll be even more motivated to get revenge. In a lot of sports, trash talking and getting into somebody's head is a regular thing. It's not illegal. It's not cheating. It might be low class or it may not be low class, where, okay, it's part of the fabric of the sport. And everybody does it, not that that makes it right. But is there any real harm in taunting somebody or getting in their head to see if you can make them crack? In pickup games that's a really fun thing among fellow competitors, to have the banter, and the joking. And is it illegal? No. Is it cheating? No. Is it gamesmanship? Yeah. Could it evolve into cheating? It could. But it depends on the integrity of the person doing the behaviour.
[00:45:21.14] So I think if they're a person of integrity, they're not going to go down that slippery slope. But if the person is predisposed to do that, it could begin with the taunting and the trash talking. Before you know it, they're into full-blown cheating.
[00:45:35.58] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:45:36.07] [Ryan] Even at low-level online chess, gamesmanship still rears its ugly head. Players try all the time to psych out their opponents through the chat feature. This is still 100% legal. But the grey area between gamesmanship and cheating is problematic enough that players should honestly just be wary of any gamesmanship at all, because it's almost like a gateway drug. If you're willing to trash talk to try and get in someone's head, why wouldn't you be willing to look up a position or two in an engine? Next thing you know, you're hiding a Poopie Talkie at an OTB event, or shoving accomplice-controlled anal beads in your [bleep] hole.
[00:46:17.50] [Object vibrating]
[00:46:21.06] [Jess] One of the questions I had for psychologist Julia Rios and her chessfeels co-host JJ was whether they thought cheating in and of itself could somehow be addicting. I'm not sure that cheating needs any more benefits than it already offers, but I've just had a hard time wrapping my head around why so many people seem compelled to cheat. Here's what they had to say when we interviewed them.
[00:46:45.36] [Julia Rios] But we think about addiction as being this very specific sort of psychological phenomenon. I'm not quite sure for most people that that actually would have a really high potential for addictive use. So when we're thinking about would the desire to win be enough to compel people towards cheating, I imagine online chess, definitely yes. We know that, for example, Hans conceded to having cheated in blitz chess online and was very specific that it was only in this context. So even though I do think that the desire to win could certainly compel someone to cheat, potentially, in rated chess and over-the-board chess, I'm not sure that I would actually conceptualize that within a framework of addiction.
[00:47:28.68] [JJ Lang] The thing that confuses me there is thinking about, well, what would it be that you would be addicted to? And so, if we're talking about winning, okay, maybe what does that mean? Does that mean, like, the rush of winning, like, the experience of the dopamine, of getting the win? But if you know you cheated, do you get as much of that? And that's, like, a genuine question. Like, you can probably do the sort of self-deception into believing that you earned it. But I can't imagine getting that high from, like, from using assistance in order to play moves that I wouldn't have found or make decisions I wouldn't have been able to make. Like, that wouldn't do that. But maybe there's, like, other kinds of reward that are coming in, like the reward of having that rating itself as, like, a status symbol or something, or being able to show that. And so, I think those sorts of things there, yeah, but I'm not sure that that's, like, the rush of winning or, like, the dopamine hit, would be the way that I would think about that. But I definitely think the perception of being a winning chess player or a high-rated chess player could be motivating that.
[00:48:34.45] But I think it's a really interesting question. Like, do you have cheaters who are cheating at chess, they know they're cheating, and they're, like, really proud of themselves for how they played anyways, and, like, getting really excited that they're winning anyways? I think the answer is probably yes. Like, human minds are amazing, and self-deception is fascinating. I can't imagine how that would work. The answer is probably yes.
[00:48:52.99] [Julia Rios] I think that there are so many possible ways that someone could rationalize why what they're doing is not wrong. I mean, cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug.
[00:49:02.95] [JJ Lang] Top five kinds of dissonance.
[00:49:04.32] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:49:04.75] [Ryan] We've said at least a couple of times already in this episode that sportsmanship matters. But, honestly, this was a concept we hadn't thought about much until we spoke to Bill, because Bill has spent a lot of his career thinking about sportsmanship. And he's experienced his fair share of cheaters-- whether it be through his students or his own sporting career. His advice is as much practical as it is theoretical, and it made us think harder about sportsmanship in chess.
[00:49:38.53] [Bill Cole] For me, sportsmanship is a big thing. I'm also the founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association. That's at mentalgamecoaching.com. In the Free Articles section, people can go to the sportsmanship, and in that area, we have a pledge we put together for athletes, parents, and coaches and administrators. If you're interested in looking at it, I think it's a pretty cohesive, comprehensive pledge describing how people should be in their sport. If they follow that, they're going to be in a really good space. However, maybe they're going against someone who hasn't signed on to that sort of a thing.
[00:50:15.88] Let's say it happens where the middle of the match, the opponent accuses my person of cheating. I would have my kid say to the other kid or the adult, "I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm a very honest person. I'm a person of high integrity. I don't cheat. Just want to let you know that. But if it makes you feel better to go get the tournament director, go ahead. Otherwise, let's play." So you come up with a little statement that says, I'm honest and I'm not doing anything wrong, and a lot of times the person will take that at face value and just keep going.
[00:50:48.98] I teach all my kids to be-- I mean, I think they are already, but I highly recommend they're sportsmanlike, and honest, and all that. So they're not going to be being accused of something like that.
[00:50:58.64] [Piano music plays]
[00:50:58.94] [Ryan] Let's bring it back to chess again. Here's James Canty III talking to us about his experience of being wrongfully accused of cheating at an OTB game.
[00:51:08.99] [James Canty III] At my last tournament, I beat a Grandmaster in the first round and he reported me because he thought I was cheating, because I played so good. And it's the fact that, like, perfect. That's a compliment. I want more of that to let you know I'm actually working. I can explain everything that happened here. He was just mad, you know? It happens. So Hans got that-- this stuff behind him, the fire, I think. So I would just continue to work, keep myself locked into rooms and study for hours on end until I hit these goals that I want.
[00:51:32.48] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:51:32.78] [Ryan] Even in low-level online chess-- like, the kind that I play-- sometimes if I've played a great game, my opponent will message me to accuse me of cheating. Like James, I do take that as a compliment, and I suggest that they file a complaint with chess.com.
[00:51:48.71] [Jess] But not everyone in sports has experts like Bill or James to guide them. In fact, a lot of players are decidedly lopsided when it comes to training and skill development. Athletes have a tendency to focus on the hard skills of their sport. In chess, this is things like studying theory and working on your calculation skills. But when you're just focused on getting as good as you can at the sport, you're putting all your eggs in the same basket. Here's Bill again.
[00:52:20.33] [Bill Cole] So when someone is a beginner in their sport, they have no skills. Therefore, they don't really need mental skills yet. Got to learn the game. Got to learn the rules. When they go to the intermediate level, they can start learning some mental things, some basics. And then when they get to the advanced intermediate or advanced level, here's what happens. They get to the advanced level in their sport by a lot of repetition and a lot of lessons, a lot of hard work, a lot of tournaments. They've been fully engaged in their sport, correctly, and they get really darn good. But no one along the way really has said boo about anything mental. And we're not blaming their coaches. The coaches just are not trained in that. Nonetheless, the kid turns, like, 15, 16, 17, 18, and they're fantastic in their sport, but they have no mental training, then they hit a wall.
[00:53:10.80] So when you rise up in your sport, what I just described-- let's say the confluence of the hard work, and the drilling, and all the lessons, take you quite a long way. However, when you jump up a new level, like a new weight class, age group, you go from junior to high school, high school to college, college to pro, the pressure gradient is dramatically upped. Therefore, if the mental skills the person has natively, the demands of the new pressure level exceeds their ability of their mental skills. Now there's a gap and now they fail. They go into a slump. They can't win. They can't beat certain people and they get, like, a mental block.
[00:53:50.16] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:53:50.85] [Ryan] In trying to become as good as possible in the domain of hard skills, it's common for soft skills to fall by the wayside, which is why many chess players are lacking in people skills. Most Grandmasters are made by the age of 16, with some players achieving the title as young as 12 years old. The timeline for hard skill acquisition is so accelerated that there's just not much room for other skills. And there's not much emphasis on them, either.
[00:54:20.19] [Jess] But there should be, because being able to talk to the media is a soft skill. Being a good loser is a soft skill. Not being a raging asshole when you're under pressure-- that's a soft skill. A lot of players just don't have the skills to navigate the world properly when they're not seated at a chess board. Their world does not extend much beyond the 64 squares that they study day in and day out. But despite popular opinion that this is how you become a great chess player, I'm not convinced.
[00:54:53.52] [Ryan] I think there would be less assholes in chess if more people spent time outside of their little fishbowl. And it's more than just making better athletes. It actually has huge repercussions when you spend your whole career only focusing on the hard skills. According to Bill, there's a cost.
[00:55:12.25] [Bill Cole] So when somebody comes up in their sport and they're quite good, that becomes your identity. So because of that, you kind of want to protect your identity at all costs. You're confident, you have an ego, and sometimes if you're really overly wrapped up-- and this is a common problem I deal with with kids-- they pretty much are only their sport. Nothing else matters to them and that does cause problems, because it becomes rather self absorbing, narcissistic. If a narcissist gets really insulted, they get wounded, they go into a narcissistic rage. And that's bad for the people around them but good for the person to go deeper in their sport, work harder, focus more, achieve higher.
[00:55:55.24] However, as a person, that person is lopsided and out of balance. But as an athlete-- and this is true for many athletes as they go right to the end of their career, into the pros and beyond-- their pathway in their sport is extraordinarily narrow. They don't have good communication skills. They can't negotiate. They can't do this. They can't do that. So as a person, they're sort of just not very together, but as an athlete, boy, they've got it together. And this is why we see so many stories in the news of pro athletes falling apart in terms of criminality, and drinking, and drugs, and domestic violence, and so on, because they never learned the proper skills off the court to be friendly, and nice, and get along with other people. It's all about them, them, them. They feel, why shouldn't I have my way? I'm the star. So that's a big problem. Like, that's taking the ego to the extreme, and that is not good.
[00:56:56.82] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:57:00.28] [Ryan] Just ask Jason Street.
[00:57:02.41] [Jess] Where's Jason Street?
[00:57:04.30] [Ryan laughs]
[00:57:04.75] [Ryan] No, it's a person. Well, a fictional person. Friday Night Lights. We watched the whole first season together, like, not long ago.
[00:57:12.85] [Jess] Oh, right, but then we decided not to renew the Crave subscription.
[00:57:15.97] [both, with terrible Southern accents] Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.
[00:57:19.48] [Rock music plays]
[00:57:20.66] [both, with accents] Can't lose!
[00:57:21.90] [Permian Panthers team] Can't lose!
[00:57:23.28] [Ryan] So many accents on this episode. I feel like we have to renew our Crave subscription now to finish it.
[00:57:28.14] [Jess] Okay, let's put it to our listeners. If you guys think we should renew our Crave subscription so we can finish rewatching Friday Night Lights, comment that in a review on Spotify, or Apple, or whatever. Oh, okay-- and this is great-- leave us a rating that reflects how good you think Friday Night Lights is.
[00:57:44.85] [Ryan] So five stars.
[00:57:46.14] [Jess] Obviously five stars. Speaking of leaving us a review, one of our main goals for Rooked in 2024 is to get this podcast out there to more listeners. So in honour of that, here's the news about our new look that we teed up at the start of the episode.
[00:58:02.85] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:58:04.76] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:58:06.20] [Ryan] Rooked is proud to announce that-- drumroll, please...
[00:58:10.49] [Drumroll and cymbal crash]
[00:58:11.57] [Jess] We have a new member joining the team.
[00:58:14.09] [Ryan] Is it a new host? Am I being replaced? You said I was doing a good job. No Sally Bailey is joining us in the background to help with our marketing and social media.
[00:58:23.81] [Ryan] Oh, thank God. I'm terrible at that stuff.
[00:58:26.60] [Jess] I know. I am, too. But thankfully Bailey is a friggin' photography slash social media genius, and we're really stoked to have her and her expertise on board. If you want to see some of the changes that Bailey is doing to make our social media presence match how good the show is, follow us on whatever platform you prefer. And if you like what you see, consider sharing our posts and podcasts with your own network. It helps us out a lot, and we really appreciate it. Thanks.
[00:58:59.39] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:59:01.82] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:59:04.25] [Ryan] So what is it that draws so many people to the game of chess? Is it for the love of the game, the image of chess as a morally and technically pure sport?
[00:59:15.77] [Jess] What motivates an elite chess player? Is the slope from gamesmanship to outright cheating as slippery as it seems to be from where we're standing?
[00:59:25.46] [Ryan] As is usually the case on this show, in trying to answer a simple question-- what is good sportsmanship in chess?-- we've just uncovered even more questions.
[00:59:35.12] [Jess] But we have one more question that we actually thought we wouldn't get an answer to, until Bill managed to give us one that we both actually really liked. When we interviewed him, we asked Bill whether it was possible to stop cheating in chess entirely and what he thinks needs to change.
[00:59:52.76] [Bill Cole] Sunlight is the best disinfectant. So here it is all out for everybody to see, and it's being talked about. You know, there is a silver lining in the dark cloud.
[01:00:01.70] Technology is a big culprit but, you know, I'll maybe put a little bow on top and say, how many millennia has men and women been around on this planet? And technology is incredible and growing by leaps and bounds. And unfortunately, our ethics and standards maybe haven't followed along quite as closely. Because of that, I think cheating and gamesmanship are always going to be there, and a big push for me on IMGCA, mentalgamecoaching.com, is to improve sportsmanship around the world so that even if the cheating is possible, people will make better choices and they won't cheat. So an improvement in integrity, sportsmanship, and ethics I think is the ultimate answer.
[01:00:50.82] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[01:00:53.41] [Jess] Maybe not the simplest goal to achieve, but, hey, at least that's something to work towards.
[01:00:59.23] [Ryan] We solved it. Our work here is done.
[01:01:02.20] [Jess] Okay, Ryan.
[01:01:04.33] [Jess, synthesized voice with reverb] Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. Can't lose!
[01:01:09.80] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:01:11.48] [Jess] Next time on Rooked, we delve deeper into the psychology of chess, and we also try to figure out why chess players are so paranoid and prone to madness.
[01:01:21.02] [Ryan] That's right. Our boys Bobby Fischer and Vladimir Kramnik are back. Plus, we'll talk about whether Magnus is doomed to finish out his career the same way as Fischer-- though, personally, I don't know that I see Magnus living as a recluse in Iceland and hitting up foreign radio stations to promote anti-Semitism and how great he thought 9/11 was.
[01:01:44.27] [Jess] But no one really saw that coming for Fischer either.
[01:01:47.21] [Ryan] Yeah.
[01:01:53.70] [Jess] Thank you to our King-level Patreon subscribers: Umaima Baig, Madelyn, Gord, and Maya Schmidt, Stefan Vezina, the Colorado Avalanche Foundation, and the Colorado Avalanche Institute of New Zealand. Yep, we have trolls and they love the Colorado Avalanche.
[01:02:10.50] [Ryan] Thanks also to LipoSteve for shouting us out on her Discord and during one of her streams.
[01:02:16.47] [Jess] We appreciate it.
[01:02:23.70] [Rooked] The Cheaters' Gambit is written and produced by me, Jess Schmidt.
[01:02:27.51] [Ryan] And by me, Ryan Webb.
[01:02:29.52] [Jess] Our amazing music is by the ever-talented Lorna Gilfedder.
[01:02:33.09] [Ryan] Our marketing is by media genius Bailey Simone Photography.
[01:02:37.95] [Jess] Our executive producers are Rooney and Indigo.
[01:02:40.43] [both] Speak!
[01:02:42.85] [Rooney and Indigo howling]
[01:02:44.85] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:02:47.35] [Jess] This podcast is recorded on the traditional Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the land of the Siksika, the Kainai, the Piikani, as well as the Stoney Nakoda and the Tsuut-ina Nations.
[01:02:58.57] [Ryan] We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest homeland. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge all nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
[01:03:19.54] [Jess] This gathering place, and therefore this podcast, provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate reconciliation. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is a project that's been active for almost 10 years. But their mission has been in the making since the start of colonialism in Canada, which has driven disproportionate violence against Indigenous people. Podcasting has proven to be an important tool in remembering and seeking justice for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls of Canada. If you want to listen to some podcasts that are doing the important work outlined in the mission of the inquiry, visit the link in our show notes. Do better, Canada.
[01:04:02.99] [Music fades]
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<![CDATA[Episode 3: The Cheating]]>Fri, 08 Dec 2023 18:08:47 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/episode-3-the-cheating
​[00:00:00.00] [Rooked theme music plays]
[00:00:01.40] [Mike Boyd] I mean, the biggest cheating scandal ever is the road-biking one with Lance Armstrong. He was taking blood out of his body, putting it in a freezer, making more blood, and then putting that old blood back in so he had that extra pint. That's how he did it. You don't just bung it in, like, your freezer with, like, the peas and the fish fingers and stuff. There's a way to do it so that you preserve, and you have more blood in your body, which gives you a huge edge when you're cycling. Lance Armstrong, his position on it was-- have you guys seen the corrected winners of the Tour de France after cheaters were removed? Like, the guy in 19th place now won the Tour de France. And he probably cheated, too. He just didn't get caught. Why would you feel bad if everyone cheated? You're just the best cheater.
[00:00:53.09] [Jess] Finally, it's the episode everyone has been waiting for-- the one about the capital D device. But before we get into all the sordid details of the device itself, I just want to make sure that we're all aware of how wild and far-fetched this is. Like, it's really just bananas that we have a whole podcast episode dedicated to a device that in all likelihood has never existed in the context that it was born from, yet it's titillated the media, and the fascination and conversations that it's inspired in the chess community cannot be ignored. I think psychologist and chess enthusiast Julia Rios from the chessfeels podcast put it best when we spoke to her and co-host JJ Lang.
[00:01:40.92] [Julia Rios] I definitely walked into the scandal under the impression that cheating over the board would be literally impossible, and that no one ever would or could do it. It's come to my attention that there's lots of ways somebody could potentially do it, or that it has happened, or has been purported to happen in the past.
[00:01:59.20] So I think something that came up that was really interesting was this idea of the vast, seeming limitlessness of human ingenuity when it comes to cheating, and that was really I think how the possibility of using Bluetooth vibrating anal toys came into the public sphere. I guess what it really boils down to is I just have no idea.
[00:02:24.84] [Rooked theme music plays]
[00:02:26.22] [Ryan] But we're not just going to talk about the vibrating anal beads of it all. We're also going to explore cheating in general, the history of cheating in chess, why the sport is so plagued by cheating, and what it means for chess now that cheating has entered the 21st century. Plus, we're going to tell you about the new cheating scandals Hans, Magnus, and Hikaru have found themselves embroiled in since and separately from the 2022 Sinquefield Cup scandal.
[00:02:55.10] [Jess] Because this is a tale of vibrating anal beads.
[00:03:01.87] [Ryan] This is a tale told across centuries.
[00:03:08.74] [Jess] This is a tale of cheating, of lies and conspiracies.
[00:03:15.41] [both] This is Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit.
[00:03:19.69] [Music fades]
[00:03:22.63] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:03:26.56] [Jess] [Ryan] I'm Ryan Webb, and I play chess and podcast, in that order.
[00:03:30.46] [Jess] I'm Jess Schmidt, and I podcast about chess but I do not play it unless I have to.
[00:03:36.28] [Ryan] In what scenario would you have to? Like, gun-to-your-head type thing?
[00:03:41.56] [Jess] I mean, yeah, if somebody held a gun to my head, I would play chess. But also, like, if this podcast did really well, and it became popular, and we had to play chess for publicity or whatever. So just as likely as someone holding a gun to my head, I guess.
[00:03:57.25] [Ryan] That's good. That's funny.
[00:03:58.86] [Both laugh]
[00:04:00.76] [Jess] In this episode, we get to talk to someone who actually is already internet famous, much more than we'll ever probably be.
[00:04:09.25] [Mike Boyd] My name is Mike Boyd. I make YouTube videos about challenges and learning new skills. I learned how to make a chess cheat device.
[00:04:16.75] [Piano music plays]
[00:04:17.02] [Ryan] Mike Boyd, who you also heard at the top of the episode, has a YouTube following of over 3 million subscribers. They tune in to watch videos of Mike teaching himself how to do all manner of wild feats, from ripping apples in half, to rock climbing, to breaking glasses with his voice. And in the wake of the Sinquefield Cup cheating scandal, he also taught himself how to make the notorious vibrating anal beads. Well, sort of.
[00:04:50.33] [Mike Boyd] I'm not sure how I first came across it, but it suddenly just was everywhere. I think it really is the Elon tweet. That's what kind of immediately brought it into, like, the limelight for me. And then when I heard about what the suggestion was-- like, he's using anal beads-- I thought that's a crazy good idea. Like, that's so easy to do. Of course, you could do that. And then I thought, well, let's-- let's just do it.
[00:05:14.43] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:05:16.70] [Jess] Mike made a device that theoretically could fit in one's rectum, which was programmed to communicate chess moves through, essentially, a vibrated Morse code.
[00:05:28.46] [Mike Boyd] Like, I never put it up my butt. I just had it strapped to my leg. And really, I could have just had it in my pocket. I can feel it through my jacket. It's such a simple thing that people must have done this.
[00:05:37.94] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:05:38.24] [Ryan] Honestly, you should really just go watch the video, because Mike is hilarious and he does a great job of talking through the programming and engineering mechanics in a way that makes sense even for a complete noob. Seriously, go ahead and pause right now so you can watch the video titled, "Actually making THAT chess cheat device" on Mike Boyd's YouTube account. We'll wait.
[00:06:03.18] [Wheel of Fortune theme music plays]
[00:06:06.62] Wheel... Of...
[00:06:09.08] [Record scratching]
[00:06:09.57] [Jess] Oh, whoops, wrong television game show music. One second.
[00:06:14.03] [Think! (Jeopardy! Theme Song) plays]
[00:06:20.40] Great video, right?
[00:06:22.71] [Upbeat playful music plays]
[00:06:23.13] Okay, whether you watched the video or not, here's a summary. It turns out it's not that hard to make an actual device that you could put up you [bleep] with minimal coding and mechanical knowledge. Mike was able to order a vibrating [bleep] plug from Amazon. So not anal beads, but close enough-- I guess not for an aficionado but, anyway, that doesn't matter-- alter its design to transmit moves to the device remotely, and then basically let the number-one chess computer, Stockfish, feed him the best moves in response to his opponent's moves.
[00:06:53.34] It's a bit more complicated than that, and Mike graciously did answer every question that we could think of about it, but we're going to save the longer version of his interview with us for our bonus Patreon content. So if you want to hear everything that Mike had to say, subscribe for as low as $5 per month and access that interview later this month at patreon.com/rooked.
[00:07:15.75] [Ryan] Mike was able to modify the device to be basically soundless and impossible to detect when properly placed unless you used an airport scanner or submitted everyone to strip searches. And it only required one accomplice to feed the moves played on the board into the programmed Stockfish engine. In Mike's own words...
[00:07:37.00] [Mike Boyd] Because everyone has access to an engine now, and lithium-ion batteries are so miniaturized, it's such an easy thing to do.
[00:07:44.34] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:07:44.68] [Jess] As a 600 Elo online player-- a beginner, essentially-- Mike was able to receive and play the transmitted Stockfish moves so effectively that he beat an opponent who had a nearly 2000 Elo advantage on him
[00:07:59.74] [Lively music plays]
[00:08:02.51] [Michael Groves] Do you know what? This is intense as heck.
[00:08:04.34] [Chuckles]
[00:08:05.70] [Chess pieces clank on board]
[00:08:07.52] Yeah, no, I am getting a little bit sceptical now that this is a big cheating scandal exercise.
[00:08:12.22] [Mike laughs]
[00:08:12.71] [Upbeat playful music plays]
[00:08:13.70] [Ryan] The biggest pushback Mike got to the video was that commentators were sceptical as to whether the device was, in fact, not detectable. So he made another video titled, "Does my chess cheat device get past the metal detector?" Again, great video. We'll pause here so you can watch that one, too.
[00:08:33.80] [Think! (Jeopardy! Theme Song) plays]
[00:08:39.72] [Jess] Okay, we'll sum up this one, too, even if you didn't watch the video, but you really should watch it. It's very good. Basically, there are very few security protocols, even in the highest echelons of elite chess. It's mostly run on the good faith system that you're not bringing in a helper device, shall we say. And this is mostly due to the fact that chess doesn't have a lot of money flowing into it. Even being a top 100 player doesn't guarantee that you can make a living solely by playing chess. And this underfunding extends throughout all of the tournaments, as well-- from prize purses, to broadcasting, to event planning. We'll get into this more in another episode but, honestly, it's kind of ridiculous how little money there is in this sport in comparison to its popularity and following.
[00:09:24.99] [Ryan] Even when there is higher security at elite chess events, at most, they just use the battery-powered scanner wands. There's really funny photos and videos of Hans in the wake of the Sinquefield accusations having those electronic wands repeatedly waved over his [bleep]. We'll link to it in the show notes. But the main takeaway here is there's really no way to detect an electronic device if it's up your [beep] and encased in silicone. And since, again, Mike proved that the parts needed to make a cheating device are pretty small, you could easily fit them up there with the right motivation. It's very unlikely that you would be caught if you used this method to cheat, so give it a try.
[00:10:06.58] [Jess] To completely 100% eliminate cheating, chess events would need much more advanced scanners. There's even been some suggestions that players could play in a Faraday cage, an enclosure used to block electromagnetic fields, which would disable most methods of transmission to any device within the shield.
[00:10:26.68] [Mike Boyd] So I think, like, taking the metal detector seriously, and actually having a standard, and then perhaps the Faraday cage. But I don't think that's actually necessary. I think just-- just getting the metal detectors really solid would fix this.
[00:10:42.46] [Upbeat playful music plays]
[00:10:42.82] [Ryan] Or there has been suggestions that maybe players should just strip naked to play. Dehumanizing, sure, but Hans is actually the one who made the suggestion.
[00:10:54.04] [Hans Niemann] You know, I can come to the game. I can completely strip. You want to do any fair-play check to me you want. I don't care, because I know that I'm clean. And they could literally tell me the most ridiculous thing. If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it. I don't care, because I know that I'm clean, and I'm willing to subject myself. You want-- you want me to play in a closed box with zero electronic transmission? I don't care, you know? Name whatever you guys want.
[00:11:19.45] [Ryan] Wasn't willing to put his money where his mouth was, though. He turned down a cool $1-million offer from the adult webcam site Stripchat to broadcast himself playing chess live in the buff. Guess he's not that committed to clearing his name after all.
[00:11:35.08] [Jess, chuckling] Yeah, I don't think you should hold your breath for Hans' naked chess circuit.
[00:11:41.10] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:11:42.96] [Jess] You know what you don't have to wait for, though?
[00:11:45.24] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:11:45.51] The opportunity to save 10% on your very own set of anal beads.
[00:11:50.31] [Ryan] Thanks to naughtynorth.ca-- yes, they are proudly Canadian, just like us-- you can use the coupon code ROOKED, R-O-O-K-E-D, to save some of your hard-earned loonies and toonies.
[00:12:04.29] [Jess] And if anal beads don't tickle your fanny-- oh, excuse me, I mean fancy-- they have a whole lot of other products that you might like. So fill your cart, because purchases over $69--
[00:12:16.16] [Ryan, laughing] 69!
[00:12:18.36] [Jess] --qualify for free nationwide shipping across this great country we call home.
[00:12:23.11] [Ryan] This is not a gag. But you can purchase one of those at naughtynorth.ca.
[00:12:28.01] [Jess laughs]
[00:12:28.50] Seriously, though, you can really save 10% off your entire purchase by using the coupon code ROOKED at checkout. See what all the fuss is about anal beads, and let us know if your chess game improves.
[00:12:41.07] [Jess] Visit naughtynorth.ca, coupon code ROOKED.
[00:12:44.70] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:12:46.52] [Jess] Here's what's even more wild than the device itself. The lengths that Mike went to in his video are even more extravagant than what someone like Hans Niemann would require to cheat. Mike's device is like Ocean's 11-level planning. But if you're already an elite chess player, you'd only need Pulp Fiction-diner-robbery technique to pull off over-the-board cheating.
[00:13:13.59] [Tim Roth as Pumpkin] Everybody be cool. This is a robbery!
[00:13:15.42] [Amanda Plummer as Hunny Bunny] Any of you fucking pricks move and I'll execute every one of you motherfuckers!
[00:13:21.80] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:13:22.17] [Ryan] If you don't know what that very contemporary simile means, it's this: at high-level chess, the players don't need to a string of moves or even one exact move that Stockfish recommends to give an advantage. All an elite player would need is for Stockfish to tell them a moment in time throughout their game when there is a move on the board that, if played, would give them even the slightest advantage. Mike's device has been built to relay a whole entire game's worth of moves, but for a player of, say, Hans' calibre, they'd just need to know when there's a point in the match that a game-deciding move could be made-- a single buzz, not the elaborate system Mike programmed.
[00:14:05.91] [Object vibrating]
[00:14:07.99] Here's what our resident law expert David Franklin had to say about this.
[00:14:13.73] [David Franklin] So one of the interesting things that's come out during this scandal is that if you have a person who's already a really strong player, all they really need to do is get the high side, like a hand signal from an accomplice, once or twice per game-- "There's a great move in this position. Keep looking for it." And then they'll find it. So at that level, it's easy to cheat.
[00:14:37.78] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:14:38.83] [Jess] I think we need to take a second to talk about what it means to cheat in chess. You see, when cheating in chess first began, it was people helping people to cheat at chess. One of the very first recorded instances of a cheating scandal was a chess automaton known as the Mechanical Turk. I think this might be racist-- I don't really know-- but that is what it's referred to as. Sorry.
[00:15:03.79] In 1770, Hungarian inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen built a chess-playing machine to impress the empress of Austria. Say that 10 times fast. For the better part of a century, the machine known as The Turk appeared to beat many worthy chess challengers, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Benjamin Franklin. It was incredibly popular and profitable, with most who saw The Turk play across Europe, the US, and Cuba seeming to believe that the machine was beating its human opponents. Eventually, The Turk was lost in a fire, and following that, the son of the last owner of The Turk revealed the mechanics behind how the automaton worked, after almost 85 years of mystery. Perhaps unsurprising for a modern listener, The Turk was revealed to not be the first successful attempt at AI, but just a clever illusion, a device that was designed to hide an expert chess player within, and convincingly obscure them so that it appeared that it was the machine playing on its own.
[00:16:08.15] [Ryan] In sum, people pretended to be machines to gain an advantage. Now they gain an edge by pretending they're not using computers. Cheating has been a prolific force in chess from its very beginning, but the modern development of chess engines has changed the game entirely. Here's a quote from our interview with Brin-Jonathan Butler, author of The Grandmaster.
[00:16:29.75] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] The way I've looked at this cheating scandal, it has the high jinks of anal beads and that sort of exotica to go along with it. But what AI is going to mean, and algorithms in chess, is not unlike what performance-enhancing drugs are like in every sport. You know, because there's just incentives. If you want to make money at this game, you have to be at the top. And if these guys can figure out a way to get in a chess engine or an algorithm to inform their games where they're playing with the accuracy of a computer-- any computer can beat any chess world champion who ever lived.
[00:17:05.21] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:17:05.87] [Jess] A perfect game played against an engine does not ever result in a win. At best, it results in a draw.
[00:17:14.27] [Ryan] In 1996, Garry Kasparov beat Deep Blue, the world's first time-restraint chess engine. But a year later, in 1997, Deep Blue beat Kasparov. The accuracy of chess engines has developed much faster than the accuracy of humans. Humans have been playing chess for hundreds of years, and computers have been playing for not even a single century. And humans will likely never beat a computer at chess ever again.
[00:17:47.04] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:17:47.51] [Jess] To put it differently, a single computer theoretically has access to every game ever played online, while humans are much more limited to their own personal experiences and studies. A Super Grandmaster can train themselves to be able to see upwards of something like 30 moves ahead in any given game, but a computer can see to the very end, and not just the end of that 30-move line, but the end of any line if any variation takes place. We're talking about millions of possibilities. Here's Brin-Jonathan Butler.
[00:18:23.09] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] There are more possibilities for a chess game after 15 or 20 moves than there are atoms in the known universe.
[00:18:29.90] [Ethereal droning]
[00:18:39.27] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:18:39.76] [Ryan] So why are we telling you all of this? Because a human cheating at chess changes the game completely. It takes it from the level playing field of human versus human to a human versus computer-- a game that can never be won. And more than that, the feeling of the game just changes.
[00:18:59.58] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:18:59.85] [Jess] One of the parts I found especially fascinating in Mike's video is when he played against the advanced player, Michael, because Michael could tell that Mike was cheating. Yes, this was partially because having played Mike earlier, there was a clear skill disparity in the second game, but it's more than that. You can see it in Michael's posture. He leans forward over the board in a way that he just didn't in the first game. He really has to calculate on a deeper level to stay neck and neck. And while he never accuses Mike outright of using an engine, Michael's hackles are raised.
[00:19:38.29] [Michael Groves] You're definitely cheating or something, because you're holding on by a thread.
[00:19:42.52] [Mike Boyd] What do you mean, holding on by a thread?
[00:19:44.08] [Michael Groves] There's a lot of tactics that each time they just don't work.
[00:19:47.08] [Mike laughs]
[00:19:49.45] See, that doesn't feel right. It just doesn't feel right.
[00:19:52.96] [Chess pieces clank on board]
[00:19:53.87] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:19:54.32] [Jess] And this feeling that there's something nefarious going on turns out to be valid in this case. But it also points to a larger problem in modern chess. This instinct, a sense that something isn't right, may not always be correct. Your opponent might just be playing above their level for a few moves, or maybe they've played a brilliant move by accident. But when you reach a certain level in chess, you're more able to detect when moves seem inhuman.
[00:20:25.43] [Ryan] Personally, I'm as far away from being an expert in chess as I am from being, like, a farm animal or a choo-choo train conductor.
[00:20:32.99] [Steam train engine, whistle]
[00:20:35.34] [Goat bleating]
[00:20:36.30] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:20:36.81] You know, theoretically possible in an alternate dimension. But I've had my fair share of encounters with cheaters playing on chess.com, and I usually can tell when something seems, well, just, like, not right. On top of that, chess.com allows you to review your game after you've played it, using the guidance of an engine. You're given an accuracy score out of 100 based on what the engine would play at each given moment. I'm being very reductive here, and it's obviously more complicated than that, but my point is that on many occasions, in many games, I have felt this feeling that I was not playing a human being-- maybe not the entire game, but at certain times throughout. Most of the time, it's impossible to tell whether or not this suspicion is correct.
[00:21:28.02] Other players also have this feeling all the time. It's why the chess world is so completely paranoid and neurotic. Once or twice a week, I get an email from chess.com stating that I have been given back rating points because an opponent violated Fair Play Policy. However, they don't tell you which account was found to be in violation, so you have no way of knowing whether it's someone you yourself reported. Just given the numbers, I'm probably not right every time I accuse an opponent of cheating. But chess.com just doesn't have the capacity to review every single game that gets flagged on a given day. But therein lies the problem. How do you regulate cheating when there's over 100 million members on chess.com?
[00:22:19.90] And I'm not the only person who feels like this. Here's chess coach and host of the chessfeels podcast, JJ Lang.
[00:22:27.97] [JJ Lang] A lot of people cheat online. And I think it's not that far-fetched, it's not that much of a stretch, to think that at least a handful of the people you're playing every day online in casual or rated games are cheating. And then off of that, to convince yourself that you're actually not cheating-- you're just levelling the playing field. Like, my opponent probably has, like, a computer running in the background and is if not checking it every move, at the very least is making sure they're not doing anything terrible.
[00:22:58.36] It's very, very difficult to base a conclusion that they cheated off of a single game. If you're making a judgement based off of the quality of play, like, you need a pretty considerable sample size. You can probably find any particular game of mine, once or twice, that makes me look so much better than I actually am, that you would think I'm cheating. But if I suddenly go from the player I am, to doing that every single time I play, 10 games, 50 games in a row, then I'm cheating.
[00:23:24.82] [Ryan] And if you think JJ and I are just being paranoid, well, maybe. But here's world number two Fabiano Caruana talking about the extent of cheating online in his C-Squared Podcast.
[00:23:39.20] [Fabiano Caruana] When we spoke to Kramnik, he estimated that 25% of people were cheating. And I would guess it's actually much higher than that. I think it's probably over half. People will probably think I'm paranoid, but I really do feel like it is about over half who probably just very-- just very sporadically, just a little bit, here and there.
[00:23:59.89] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:24:00.38] [Jess] 50%. Approximately 50 million people. It's hard to fathom. Every second player online has cheated or is currently cheating.
[00:24:15.08] [Ryan] Imagine you're an Olympic swimmer and your opponent has been known for doping in the past. Or you're biking the Tour de France. Match fixing. Sign stealing. Deflated footballs. Catching a taxi on the way to your next marathon checkpoint. But it's not a once-in-a-while occurrence. It's literally every other player.
[00:24:37.49] [Mike Boyd, with reverb] Why would you feel bad if everyone cheated? You're just the best cheater.
[00:24:42.08] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:24:42.46] [Jess] We're going to hear a lot more from Bill the Mental Game Coach next episode when we talk about sportsmanship and some of the psychology of chess, but for now, here's his take on why he thinks people cheat.
[00:24:54.73] [Bill Cole] Pressure makes us do weird things. That's why people cheat, not because they're evil or mean. Now, they could be selfish and self-absorbed, and they could be a narcissist, and there could be no outside pressure whatsoever, but their viewpoint is, "I'm more important than you. In fact, the heck with you and how you feel. I don't care at all. It's all about me, me, me."
[00:25:20.41] [Jess] And here's some thoughts from IM James Canty III about cheating.
[00:25:24.94] [James Canty III] Back in the day, growing up in the chess world, you could listen to music. You know, I wish that would be a thing now, but because of the stuff now, people cheat. You have a person with you, they can have a device in your ear to tell you where to move when you walk away. And, like, you know, spectators are allowed, or they can be watching it from a transmission, or just be a random guy and, like, looking at that game. Okay, cool, and they go outside and say, "Hey, rook b4," and, like, you lose the game. That's why you can't even bring a phone-- if you do bring it in, you have to leave it at the table or under the table. People still find a way to cheat.
[00:25:53.45] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:25:53.90] [Jess] Cheating is not unique to chess. Cheating is just as abundant everywhere else. And it seems that there's way too many people who buy into the whole "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mind frame.
[00:26:07.64] So what's the point? If you're Magnus Carlsen, the point is that you can be the greatest of all time and hold cheaters accountable to keep the game clean, by any measures possible. Here's Ben Johnson from the Perpetual Chess Podcast in our interview with him.
[00:26:24.46] [Ben Johnson] But I do worry about the sort of downstream implications of, like, how people are going to be accused, because we can't just have the Magnuses of the world just deciding on their own who's a cheater and who isn't, and then playing them or not playing them. That sets a terrible precedent.
[00:26:41.20] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:26:41.56] [Jess] If you're Hans Niemann, the point is that you already think your skill level is supreme and cheating isn't really cheating. It's just a faster path to where you rightfully deserve to be. Again, if you can't beat them, join them. If half of everyone is cheating anyways, how far can honesty really get you?
[00:27:02.98] [Hans Niemann] I saw those-- view those games as meaningless, and they were meaningless. There was no money or anything attached to them. And, again, it was a childish mistake. I was living on my own when I was 16. I was financially independent, and I felt a lot of pressure. You know, I just simply wanted to-- to get a higher rating on the website. But I want to make a differentiation. When you talk about online chess and in-person chess, this is a very, very different thing. And you need to understand the difference between that. These online games, these are absolutely, absolutely meaningless.
[00:27:34.33] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:27:34.80] [Ryan] But if you're us, the point is this: this is not how chess is supposed to be. There are lots of situations where you would voluntarily play against an engine-- to practise, to better your game, to push yourself to think outside the box. Chess engines have done wonders for training. The new generation of chess players can play 30 moves of memorized theory because they've used chess engines to study. But, again, you will never beat a chess engine.
[00:28:07.05] Winning at chess is an innately human accomplishment. And it's a possibility that you take off the table without your opponent's knowledge when you cheat with an engine. This is what causes so much paranoia in chess, a sport already heavily marred by madness. It's nearly impossible to know at any given draw or loss whether you earned it through poor playing or were forced into the result by a computer rather than your opponent.
[00:28:40.23] [Jess] The modern development of chess has meant that you must suspect every player, every game, every move, because it might be your opponent's own, but it could just as likely be a computer's that you will never be able to win against. And the most frustrating part of it all is that you'll probably never know the truth.
[00:29:01.61] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:29:01.95] [Ryan] We'll never know if Hans cheated at the 2022 Sinquefield Cup. I mean, legally, he didn't. But the eyes of the law do not always equate to the truth. That being said, the anal beads cheating scandal was neither the first nor the last instance of cheating in elite chess. So for the sake of some satisfaction of knowing when someone did in fact cheat, we'd like to regale you with a few other chess cheating stories. We'll start with this one, which we've hinted at before-- Toiletgate.
[00:29:36.77] [Toilet flushing]
[00:29:40.68] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:29:42.15] Prior to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup controversy, this was considered the most high-profile cheating allegation in the world of chess.
[00:29:50.04] [Jess] In April 2006, World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik played a best-of-12 match against GM Veselin Topalov. After the first four games, Kramnik led 3-1, but following the fourth game, Topalov's coach and manager publicly stated that Kramnik was using the toilet in a suspicious manner and more than regularly, implying that he was somehow receiving outside assistance whilst doing so-- probably through a phone or some other kind of device. Topalov then said that he refused to shake hands with Kramnik in the remaining games.
[00:30:28.72] [Ryan] This was because Kramnik famously didn't wash his hands after pooping and had nothing to do with chess.
[00:30:35.70] [DUN DUN DUUUUN!!! sound effect plays]
[00:30:39.11] Just kidding. They actually refuse to shake each other's hands still to this day.
[00:30:43.45] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:30:43.76] Anyway, the appeals committee in charge of the event looks into the allegations and deems nothing really amiss. But they still decide that the players' separate toilets have to be locked, and they're forced to use a shared toilet while accompanied by an assistant arbiter. I'm not joking this time.
[00:31:03.35] [Jess] In response, Kramnik's manager has this to say: "The restroom is small and Mr Kramnik likes to walk, and therefore uses the space of the bathroom, as well. It should also be mentioned that Mr Kramnik has to drink a lot of water during the games. Otherwise, Mr Kramnik will stop playing this match as long as FIDE is not ready to respect Mr Kramnik's rights, in this case, to use the toilet of his own restroom whenever he wishes to do so."
[00:31:35.96] [Ryan] Kramnik refuses to play under such conditions, and, I don't know, I totally understand. I hate having to use other washrooms that aren't my own.
[00:31:45.03] [Jess] Yeah, you get really poop shy.
[00:31:46.38] [Ryan] Yeah, I hate pooping next to people.
[00:31:50.41] [Jess] Kramnik actually forfeited the next game as he awaited response from FIDE in resolving the matter. Upon consideration, the match resumed for game 6, after the original toilets were reinstated and everyone got to poop and pee in the quiet serenity of their own washroom.
[00:32:05.59] [Ryan] Kramnik went on to win the match, but that wasn't the end. In an interview with the Spanish Daily ABC on December 14, 2006, Topalov alleged that Kramnik had cheated with computer assistance during the match, that network cables had been found in the original ceiling of Kramnik's washroom, and that Topalov himself felt physically unsafe because of alleged threats that were issued, though no further details were given.
[00:32:35.17] [John Lithgow as Lord Faarquod] I've tried to be fair to you creatures. Now my patience has reached its end! Tell me or I'll--
[00:32:41.74] [Conrad Vernon as Gingerbread Man] No, not the buttons! Not my gumdrop buttons!
[00:32:45.25] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:32:45.55] [Jess] So much like the Sinquefield Cup scandal, Toiletgate still remains today a big question mark. But it's a name that still carries meaning in the sport, perhaps due to the unsolvedness of this mystery.
[00:33:01.67] [Ryan] Oh, and one more thing: Veselin Topalov, the accuser here, also ended up being accused of cheating at an event that took place a year after Toiletgate, and you'll never guess who his opponent was. Doesn't wash his hands after he poops Kramnik.
[00:33:17.59] [Both laugh]
[00:33:19.94] This is a big theme in chess cheating scandals, this narrative of the accused becoming the accuser. Tre meta, as Zuckerberg might say if we were in France.
[00:33:31.85] [Jess] Good one, Ryan.
[00:33:33.14] [Ryan] Let's put a pin in Kramnik for now, but he'll make another appearance towards the end of the episode.
[00:33:39.02] [Jess] Fast forward to 2010.
[00:33:40.28] [Tape fast forwarding]
[00:33:42.83] French GM Sebastian Feller competes at the Chess Olympiad in Russia in September of that year with the support of his teammates, Arnaud Hauchard and Cyril Marzolo. Two years later, they will all be found guilty of cheating by the French Chess Federation for their actions at this event.
[00:34:00.77] [Ryan] All three are given different sentences based on their participation in the actual cheating, with Feller receiving the longest ban of two years and nine months as punishment for accepting cheating assistance in his games.
[00:34:15.23] [Jess] During the Olympiad, the then 19-year-old Feller won the gold medal on board 5 with a score of 6 out of 9 games won, and a total performance rating of 2708. That's Super GM level.
[00:34:29.66] [Chiming]
[00:34:33.65] So here's how they cheated. And get ready, because it's way more creative than toilet phones.
[00:34:39.70] [Ryan] They should totally make toilet phones. Poopie Talkies, if you will.
[00:34:44.93] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:34:45.35] [Jess] Okay, here's how they cheated. Marzolo was in France at the time, not Russia where the tournament was being held, and he would check the best moves for Feller's games with the aid of a chess computer. Marzolo would then text the moves in coded pairs of numbers to Hauchard. Once Hauchard had the engine move, he would position himself in the hall behind one of the other players' tables in a predefined coded system, where each table represented a different move that could be played. This is wildly intricate stuff compared to Poopie Talkies Here's what chess historian Emilia Castelao had to say when we asked about the importance of this particular cheating scandal.
[00:35:25.50] [Emilia Castelao] It was a really big deal. So unlike other instances of cheating, they were caught, number one. There was hard evidence that they had been cheating, and each player involved was a legitimate, like, Grandmaster or International Master. And even though none of the other players on the French team knew what was going on, the fact that they got caught meant that FIDE had to take discernible action against them and kind of set the precedent for what they were going to do if they found evidence of cheating at especially a high-level tournament like the Olympiad.
[00:36:05.39] [Piano music plays]
[00:36:05.63] [Ryan] We haven't talked much about this yet, but this whole scandal is one of the main reasons that modern chess uses time delays on broadcasts. In fact, that's something that's been put in place sometimes halfway through the tournaments in some events that Hans has played after and including the events of Sinquefield. The idea is that with a time delay in place, remote support like what the French team pulled off isn't possible, because it disrupts the time link between the players in the midst of the game and those spectating from afar.
[00:36:39.01] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:36:39.80] Anyway, the FFE, the French Chess Federation, reportedly uncovered the scam and found that, in total, 200 text messages were sent during the tournament.
[00:36:50.43] [Jess] As a result, Feller was stripped of his gold medal and the prize money, which he just refused to give back at first until FIDE pressed him and threatened legal action, upon which, he finally returned the stolen goods.
[00:37:03.84] [Ryan] In May of 2019, Feller was given a suspended sentence of six months in prison because his behaviour was equivalent to fraud. When he arrived at prison, he was granted his one Poopie Talkie call.
[00:37:19.65] [Jess chuckles]
[00:37:20.10] [Law & Order "Dun dun" sound effect plays]
[00:37:21.45] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:37:21.90] [Jess] Okay, we're nearly caught up to modern day. Just a couple more cheating controversies. This one takes place in September 2020 during the chess.com Pro Chess League final.
[00:37:33.45] Following the end of the tournament, it was determined by chess.com's Fair Play Team that Armenian GM Tigran Petrosian had used computer assistance in the finals. The Pro Chess League is a team event, and at the time, Petrosian was a part of the Armenian Eagles, who would go on to win the event.
[00:37:52.50] [Ryan] As a quick aside, Parham Maghsoodloo, who you'll remember was named in Hans' legal document as a known cheater, was also a teammate of Petrosian's during this win. Not to insinuate that Maghsoodloo was also cheating at this time. Just merely pointing out how small the chess world is at this high of a level.
[00:38:13.11] [Jess] After it was determined Petrosian used computer assistance to win in the finals, the Eagles were stripped of their victory and Petrosian was banned for life from playing on the chess.com server. Guess THAT'S where chess.com draws the line. To be fair, there was $20,000 at stake, so I guess that's chess.com's threshold.
[00:38:34.71] [Ryan] So here's where the drama really ramps up. Current world number eight Wesley So was playing for the Saint Louis Arch Bishops team, who lost in the finals to Armenia. After his team lost, Wesley commented in the chess.com recap of the Eagles' win, writing, quote, "Yeah, Petrosian played better than Magnus Carlsen yesterday. I need to have some of that secret gin also," end quote, referencing the gin that Petrosian said he was sipping on during the match. Wesley also pointed to the fact that two of the Eagles players had not been active on chess.com since mid-April, which suggests they had perhaps been banned from the platform at some point during that same year-- maybe for cheating? Wesley provides no actual proof of cheating, but he demands a rematch.
[00:39:26.76] [Jess] Here's the best part of all: Petrosian reacts with a very-- well, we'll let you decide what to think of Petrosian's response. Here's what he posted to Twitter. Quote, "Are you kidding??? What the bleep are you talking about man? You are biggest looser I ever seen in my life! You was doing PIPI--"
[00:39:51.40] [Ryan laughs]
[00:39:52.09] [Jess, laughing] Ryan, you can't laugh. You have to leave if you're going to laugh.
[00:39:55.69] [Ryan] Okay.
[00:39:56.47] [Jess] "You was doing PIPI your pampers when i was beating players much more stronger then you! You are not proffesional, because proffesionals know how to lose and congratulate opponents, you are like a girl crying after i beat you! Be brave, be honest to yourself and stop this trush talkings!!! Everybody know that i am very good blitz player, i can win anyone in the world in single game! And 'w'esley 's'o--" I don't know what that means. "Wesley So is nobody for me, just a player who are crying every single time when loosing. Remember what you say about Firouzja!!! Stop playing with my name, i deserve to have a good name during my whole chess carrier. I am officially inviting you to OTB blitz match with the Prize fund! Both of us will invest $5000 and winner takes it all! I suggest all other people who's intrested in this situation, just take a look at my results in 2016 and 2017 Blitz World championships, and that should be enough... No need to listen for every crying babe. Tigran Petrosyan is always play Fair! And if someone will continue Officially talk about me like that, we will meet in Court! God bless with true! True will never die! Liers will kicked off..."
[00:41:30.10] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:41:30.45] [Ryan] Well, in this case, liars were kicked off, and Petrosian will forever be known as a verified cheater. A cheater and a misogynist. Armenian Don Draper, if you will.
[00:41:44.30] [Jess] Are you allowed to say Armenian Don Draper?
[00:41:47.97] [Ryan] I don't know.
[00:41:49.59] [Jess] I already feel pretty bad about making fun of Petrosian, an ESL speaker.
[00:41:54.84] [Ryan] Are we going to get cancelled?
[00:41:57.16] [Jess] I don't know because, honestly, I think the things that he's saying are so ridiculous that it's okay to make fun of him. Like, PIPI in your Pampers? That's a phrase that just stays with you, you know? That deserves to be made fun of.
[00:42:10.89] [Ryan] Perhaps there is a need to listen for every crying babe.
[00:42:14.92] [Jess] PIPI as in P-I-P-I, not even pee pee.
[00:42:19.70] [Ryan] Pie-pie.
[00:42:20.26] [Jess] Pippy in your Pampers.
[00:42:21.30] [Ryan] Pee pee.
[00:42:23.37] [Inhales]
[00:42:23.80] Hmm.
[00:42:24.22] To continue this cheater-accuses-cheater theme, let's go back for a second to five years prior to Petrosian cheating at the 2020 Pro Chess League. In 2015, Petrosian found himself opposite Georgian GM Gaioz Nigalidze during the Dubai Open. During round six of the tournament, Nigalidze kept using the same toilet way too frequently. Where have we seen this before? Anyway, Petrosian informed the arbiter, who promptly responded to the complaint. Apparently, Petrosian had already suspected Nigalidze of being a cheater after winning the Al Ain Tournament in December of 2014. Here's what Petrosian had to say.
[00:43:07.58] [Jess] You was doing PIPI in your Pampers when I was beating players much more stronger than you! Just kidding. Here's what he actually had to say. Quote, "Nigalidze would promptly reply to my moves and then literally run to the toilet. I noticed that he would always visit the same toilet partition, which was strange since two other partitions weren't occupied." Side note, I don't think that's that weird. You're lying if you don't have a preferred stall. Continuing. "I informed the chief arbiter about my growing suspicions and asked him to keep an eye on Gaioz. After my opponent left the very toilet partition yet another time, the arbiters entered it. What they found was the mobile phone with headphones. The device was hidden behind the pan and covered with toilet paper," end quote.
[00:43:56.78] [Mellow music plays]
[00:43:57.12] I mean, yeah, that would help me in picking my preferred stall. I have a secret phone hidden in that one.
[00:44:02.16] [Ryan] I'm just picturing this guy hanging out in his porta-potty toilet fort. I don't know. It seems kind of cozy.
[00:44:10.09] [Jess] That's the end of the story?
[00:44:11.17] [Ryan] Yeah, I mean, Gaioz was kicked out of the tournament after that. But I just think it's wild that five years after that, Petrosian would turn around and also cheat. Like, I guess it comes back to that whole "cheating on chess.com isn't real cheating" mentality that a lot of people seem to have.
[00:44:29.11] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:44:29.53] All right, we're back to Kramnik now, and your favourite bad boy, Hans Niemann.
[00:44:35.71] [Jess] On September 2nd, 2023-- that was this year-- Vladimir Kramnik, who you'll remember is a former World Chess Champion, accuses Hans of cheating in a game that they play online. In their next game, Kramnik loses in four moves, showing his obvious protest by essentially mating himself in a line known as the Fool's Mate. Instead of mating Kramnik, Niemann resigns, refusing to buy into this protest. Remember, Kramnik himself was accused of cheating against Veselin Topalov during the infamous 2006 Toiletgate scandal.
[00:45:11.60] [Ryan] So following Kramnik's loss to Hans, Kramnik gives a 45-minute detailed analysis as to why he believes Hans was playing strangely in the match in question. Here's the only clip you need to listen to from that video.
[00:45:26.00] [Vladimir Kramnik] During the game, there were a few, well, moments which made me kind of uncomfortable. In what sense? That it was so unusual the way Hans was playing, in the sense of some moves, but especially the time management. With Hans, I mean, in this particular game, everything was upside down.
[00:45:48.98] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:45:49.37] [Jess] In retaliation, Hans posts a video to his Twitter suggesting that he and Kramnik attend an in-person training camp together.
[00:45:58.02] [Hans Niemann]
[00:45:58.37] [Speaking Russian]
[00:45:58.73] Kramnik. I just first of all want to say that I'm a huge fan of your chess, and I have been following your career, and you've been someone that I've looked up to for a very long time. I saw your recent videos, and I thought that perhaps a resolution to that would be to have an in-person training camp, where you'd be able to evaluate my chess on a deeper level. And I'd be happy to do whatever you'd like-- play games, look at positions-- and you could get a more nuanced understanding of my interesting style that you have talked about extensively. Any time I'm not playing a tournament. I could do it any time, anywhere. Completely up to you. And, of course, I could compensate you for your time, as well, as I would expect for any coaching that you would do. So please consider it. You can reach out to me anywhere, and I hope this is an interesting proposition for you.
[00:46:51.51] [Mellow electronis music plays]
[00:46:51.99] [Jess] Hans later takes to Twitter again and jokingly offers a $10,000 scholarship to anybody with evidence of Kramnik cheating during the 2006 World Chess Championship. The tweet reads, quote, "Announcing the Veselin Topalov Scholarship. Awarding $10,000 to anyone with evidence of Kramnik's strange behaviour and unusually strong and quick play in the 2006 World Championship," end quote.
[00:47:19.02] [Ryan] This whole back and forth is just honestly so hilarious. Shit like this is really what makes Hans the bad boy of chess. He just stirs the pot at any opportunity.
[00:47:31.15] [Jess] And just for reference, the scholarship Hans mentions is a nod to his own recently announced scholarship that he tweeted about on September 8.
[00:47:39.87] [Hans Niemann] Hello, chess world, again. I'm very happy to announce that I'll be giving away $10,000 to support young, talented chess players. I'll be selecting 5 boys and 5 girls, who each receive $1,000 and a chess lesson with me, where I'll discuss with them how they can make their dreams a reality.
[00:47:58.78] [Mellow electronic music plays]
[00:47:59.03] [Ryan] I mean, he can't be that bad if he's making children's chess dreams come true by giving them what we can only assume is Magnus' settlement money from the lawsuit? To me, it just kind of screams like this is just the first of many gestures to come from Hans in order to build back his public reputation. Obviously, the scholarship is his way of telling the world that he wants to move past this dark shadow that he's carried for the past year. But if he really wants to build back trust with the community, he might not want to publicly start a feud with Canada's most beloved chess siblings, the Botez sisters.
[00:48:38.20] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:48:38.97] [Jess] PS, we're saving Hans' spat with the Botez sisters for this month's bonus content on our Patreon. So if you don't already, you can support us for as little as 5 Canadian dollars a month at patreon.com/rooked to get access to that. Check it out.
[00:48:54.72] [Ryan] We'll circle back to Kramnik again, but we're going to do so in another bonus episode in 2024 on Patreon. And trust me, you'll want to hear this one. Kramnik has recently gone on a wild escapade where he's really trying to rid the chess world of cheating, but in the most dramatic way possible. He's not only accused Hans of cheating against him, but he recently called out none other than world number 3 Hikaru Nakamura, after Hikaru won 45.5 out of 46 games on chess.com. Remember, Hikaru was the one commenting on the Sinquefield Cup during the Hans-Magnus controversy, and he was also named in Hans' lawsuit.
[00:49:37.92] [Jess] The story is wild, and Kramnik is actually threatening chess.com with a lawsuit. Again, that minisode will be on our Patreon early next year, patreon.com/rooked.
[00:49:50.58] [Ryan] Okay, that's enough Patreon plugs. Let's circle back to Hans and discuss his most recent tournament victory, in which-- wow, you guessed it-- accusations of cheating are once again being thrown.
[00:50:04.65] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:50:04.98] [Jess] Let's set the scene. The Tournament of Peace took place in Zagreb, Croatia, on November 22nd, 2023. Hans is the second highest rated player in the 10-player round robin.
[00:50:17.43] [Ryan] After the seventh game, Hans is at 6 and a half out of 7. He's won 6 and drawn only 1. That's an incredible feat at this level, and Hans, modest as always, takes to Twitter. He writes, quote, "I like the moment when I break a man's ego," end quote. And he attaches the tournament standings. Now, if you'll recall from the last episode, this is eerily similar to what Bobby Fischer once said.
[00:50:46.59] [Johnny Carson] And what's the pleasure? What's the moment of pleasure for you? Is it when you see the guy in trouble?
[00:50:51.51] [Bobby Fischer] Ah, the greatest pleasure. Well, when you break his ego.
[00:50:54.44] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:50:54.69] [Jess] More evidence that Hans just really wants to be the Fischer of his generation. After winning the seventh round against Ivan Sokolov, the organizers of the event apparently increased the broadcast delay from 15 to 30 minutes, and had intended to increase it even more the next day. Interesting, considering that Hans actually spent over 40 minutes on move 20 against Sokolov. Not here to make any accusations, but 40 minutes is more than 30 minutes, so the broadcast delay here as an anti-cheating measure is effectively moot, because if there's someone potentially assisting on the outside and watching this event on a 30-minute delay, Hans would still have time to receive that message. Again, this is completely theoretical. We are just pointing out the ineffectiveness of current cheating prevention in chess.
[00:51:51.64] [Ryan] After round seven, the event organizer is quoted in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten as saying the following. Quote, "Niemann's performance is out of this world, but we have no definite proof that he is cheating. We have some indications, but we don't know if anyone wants to report him," end quote. Not sure if he is referring here to the 40-minute move 20, but either way, this is shocking to hear coming from the event organizer.
[00:52:21.97] [Jess] After winning the event, Hans yet again takes to Twitter. I'm not calling it X. I have not called it X this entire episode. I will never call it X. Hans posts two side-by-side pictures. One of them is him holding the event trophy, and the other is of Bobby Fischer at the closing ceremony of the same tournament. Hans' caption reads, quote, "Two lone Americans up against the world, facing immeasurable odds. Victorious 53 years apart at the legendary Tournament of Peace. 8 out of 9. 2946 performance rating. I know of no better life purpose than to perish in attempting the great and the impossible," end quote.
[00:53:07.87] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:53:08.29] [Ryan] Okay, so our suspicions are confirmed. Hans is Bobby Fischer reincarnated. Or at least he wants to be.
[00:53:17.08] [Jess] Okay, we're nearing the end, but we've still got one more cheating accusation to cover.
[00:53:21.06] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:53:21.34] Because we can't talk about cheating accusations without bringing up the man, the legend, the GOAT--
[00:53:27.09] [Goat bleats]
[00:53:27.85] --Magnus Carlsen.
[00:53:29.20] [Ryan] Besides winning basically all the tournaments, what has Magnus been up to since the Sinquefield Cup? Well, it seems he didn't really learn his lesson after all, because on October 12th, 2023, Magnus tweets after losing against young Grandmaster Alisher Suleymenov at the Qatar Masters. This comes as a shock to many, including apparently Magnus, as Alisher's rating at the time was an astonishing 300 points below Magnus. Just for reference, the point differential between Magnus and Hans at Sinquefield was about 150 points in the ratings, making Alisher's about double that.
[00:54:12.79] [Jess] After his loss, Magnus writes on Twitter, quote, "I was completely crushed in my game today. This is not to accuse my opponent of anything, who played an amazing game and deserved to win, but honestly, as soon as I saw my opponent was wearing a watch early in the game, I lost my ability to concentrate. I obviously take responsibility for my inability to deal with those thoughts properly, but it's also incredibly frustrating to see organizers still not taking anti-cheating seriously at all. No transmission delay, spectators walking around the playing hall with smartphones," end quote.
[00:54:50.95] He then tweeted, "I did ask an arbiter during the game whether watches were allowed, and he clarified that smartwatches were banned but not analogue watches. This seems to be against FIDE rules for events of this stature." After that tweet, Magnus further clarified his stance, writing, "Just to be clear, I am not accusing my opponent today of cheating."
[00:55:15.38] [Ryan] So, who is right here? Are analogue watches actually allowed? Well, later that day, Chris Bird, Chief Arbiter for the Grand Chess Tour, references the FIDE laws on Twitter. Quote, FIDE laws 11.3.2. During a game, a player is forbidden to have any electronic device not specifically approved by the arbiter in the playing venue. The FIDE anti-cheating regs also list wallets, smart glasses, pens, watches, as forbidden gadgets.
[00:55:47.64] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:55:47.98] [Jess] So it seems like Magnus is at least correct about the rules. But, again, taking to social media immediately and potentially tarnishing this young GM's future-- has he learned nothing?! I don't know. We'll let you, the listeners, decide what to think about how Magnus went about this. I don't think it's right.
[00:56:10.07] [Ryan] So what happens next? Well, the day after Magnus loses to Alisher at the Qatar Masters, the organizers introduce a number of new anti-cheat measures, including a 15-minute broadcast delay, and a rule that all watches must be left at the security checkpoint, among a long, long list of further modifications that are so boring we're not going to mention them here. Look it up if you really care that deeply. It's written on the Timeline.
[00:56:39.55] [Cheerful music plays] "What timeline?" you might be asking yourself. Well, dear listener, do we have a treat for you. Are you tired of trying to keep all the dates and names in this story straight? Do you wish there was a one-stop place where you could view every single event in this very long chess scandal? Well, look no further, because there's a really cool free resource on the rookedpodcast.xyz website. Is that our website?
[00:57:11.98] [Ryan] Yeah.
[00:57:13.20] [Both laugh]
[00:57:14.12] [Jess] That's right! For the low-low price of free, you can view a complete timeline of every single detail in this scandal in chronological order, thanks to the blood, sweat, and tears of our very own co-host, Ryan. And this timeline is live, meaning that as things continue to unfold, Ryan is still adding new items.
[00:57:37.52] [Ryan] This is all just to say that it actually did take a lot of work to pull this together, and we want to make sure you know about it. So check it out and enjoy. If you really appreciate the Timeline , show us your support at patreon.com/rooked and access paid monthly bonus content. Thank ya!
[00:58:01.26] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:58:03.71] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:58:06.16] [Ryan] It's just a fact that no one can be trusted not to cheat, and I mean nobody, period. Take, for example, the former President of the Swedish Chess Federation, Carl Fredrik Johansson, who was caught by chess.com manipulating his ratings online-- that is, purposely throwing his games to play lower-rated players, which is just against chess.com's Fair Play Policy.
[00:58:32.86] And if one president wasn't enough, let's quickly talk about the former President of the Norwegian Chess Federation, IM Joachim Birger Nilsen, who resigned from his post a day after admitting to cheating on chess.com during a match in the 2016-17 season of the Pro Chess League. Interestingly, he was part of the Norway Gnomes team, the same team as Magnus.
[00:58:58.30] [Tape scratches, rewinds]
[00:58:59.26] [Jess] Okay, I held my tongue for the Eagles. I held my tongue for the Arch Bishops. But are you kidding? The Gnomes? Who is naming these chess teams? That is the worst name I've ever heard.
[00:59:12.29] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:59:12.56] Nilsen had been assisted at the time by another player in the room. Chess.com reportedly expressed their concerns that Nilsen may be cheating to the team Captain, Jon Ludvig Hammer, but Nilsen denied the accusations and nothing really came of it until his admission of guilt years later. Which, to be fair, was unprompted, and he immediately resigned.
[00:59:36.41] [Jess] The question that I have in response to both of these instances, and really in response to all of these cheating scandals, is why would someone do that? You know cheating is wrong. And yet people continue to get caught doing it every day and at the highest of levels.
[01:00:00.60] [Ryan] People in the most powerful positions in chess blatantly game the system. And maybe you're still not convinced that cheating online is a big deal, because it really does seem like everyone is doing it.
[01:00:14.58] [Jess] An article in The Guardian by Stephen Moss titled Confessions of a Serial Chess Cheat: I'm Quite Enjoying the Carlson v Niemann Fallout was published on October 8th, 2022. This is how the article opens.
[01:00:30.77] "I have a shocking admission to make. I am a chess cheat, or at least World Champion Magnus Carlsen would brand me a chess cheat. Occasionally, in online games where I have been testing out particular openings, I have used a chess engine-- a dedicated computer program-- to look for the best moves to try to get an understanding of positions. Strictly speaking, that is cheating, and if the chess platforms on which I play found out, I would be banned. But they never have, because after the first 15 or so moves, I abandon the engine and just play on my wits, usually making the litany of blunders for which my chess is noted. Any suspicions anti-cheating systems have about my perfect play up to move 15 are allayed by my decidedly imperfect play over the next 30 or 40. I am a cheat who has got away with it."
[01:01:31.53] [Sinister synth music plays]
[01:01:31.89] [Ryan] This article highlights the exact problem with online chess cheating. People feel so comfortable doing it, they're willing to speak about it publicly. Their confidence that they won't get caught by the cheat detection and probably won't get flagged by a human opponent is so great that they feel emboldened to not just cheat, but to boast about it-- to use cheating as a guise for training and improving your game more expeditiously. To think that you're entitled to it.
[01:02:04.69] [Jess] But the trouble with that thinking is it's a slippery slope. If manipulating your chess.com rating isn't a big deal, maybe having someone give you moves in the room while you play isn't a big deal. Maybe checking an engine while you play online isn't a big deal. Maybe hiding a phone in the ceiling of the toilets isn't a big deal.
[01:02:32.83] [Mellow music plays]
[01:02:35.20] [Ryan] I guess the teetotaler theme of this episode is to push back on that and say it all has to be a big deal. Otherwise, we're going to lose the spirit of what the game of chess is actually about-- a test of will between two human opponents, whether they meet OTB or online.
[01:02:56.04] [Piracy. It's a crime. music plays]
[01:02:58.41] [Jess] After all... you wouldn't steal a car.
[01:03:02.88] [Sirens blaring]
[01:03:06.11] [Ryan] You wouldn't steal a handbag.
[01:03:10.40] [Jess] You wouldn't steal a television.
[01:03:15.09] [Ryan] You wouldn't steal a movie!
[01:03:20.59] [Jess] Cheating. On. Chess.com. Is. Cheating!
[01:03:26.79] [Music continues playing]
[01:03:29.47] [Ryan, with reverb] Cheating is against the law!
[01:03:34.99] [Music fades]
[01:03:41.48] [Jess, synthesized voice with reverb] You was doing PIPI in your Pampers when I was beating players much more stronger than you!
[01:03:49.72] [Mellow music plays]
[01:03:50.14] [Jess] In the next episode of Rooked, we talk about sportsmanship and the psychology of chess-- plus, why madness seems to be so prominent in the sport. Tune in on the first Tuesday of January 2024. Until then, happy holidays to all, and to all a good night.
[01:04:09.01] [Ryan] Special Thanks to our King-tier Patreon subscribers, Gord Schmidt, Madelyn Keane, Mya Schmidt, Umaima Baig, Stefan Vezina, and the Colorado Avalanche Foundation. Their support makes this podcast possible. If you want to hear your name at the end of the show, become a King-tier subscriber yourself at patreon.com/rooked.
[01:04:32.02] [Music fades]
[01:04:35.95] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:04:40.88] [Jess] Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is written and produced by me, Jess Schmidt.
[01:04:44.90] [Ryan] And by me, Ryan Webb.
[01:04:47.15] [Jess] Our amazing music is by the ever-talented Lorna Gilfedder.
[01:04:51.26] [Ryan] Our executive producers are Rooney and Indigo.
[01:04:54.59] [both] Speak!
[01:04:55.58] [Rooney and Indigo howling]
[01:04:58.49] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:04:58.98] [Jess] This podcast is recorded on the traditional Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the land of the Siksika, the Kainai, the Piikani, as well as the Stoney Nakoda and the Tsuut-ina Nations.
[01:05:10.53] [Ryan] We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Metis Homeland. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge all Nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
[01:05:31.83] [Jess] This gathering place, and therefore this podcast, provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate reconciliation. The government of Canada has not followed through on a number of calls to action that have been suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada.
[01:05:48.45] [Ryan] According to UNESCO, approximately 75% of Indigenous languages in Canada are endangered. To prevent the further degradation of these languages, aggressive action must be taken to protect and revitalize them. While some policies and legislation put forth by the Canadian government have begun to acknowledge the harm done to Indigenous languages, it still fails to address the fact that language revitalization is a multi-dimensional issue that requires much more than just funding.
[01:06:20.74] The long list of racist and assimilatory policies against Indigenous peoples, including the Indian Act and residential schools, have had lasting effects on language and culture. These policies created stigma and shame around speaking Indigenous languages, and created a hierarchy where French and English have taken precedence over Indigenous languages in terms of protection, funding, job opportunities, and more.
[01:06:50.62] Canada needs to take a more active role in supporting Indigenous communities' revitalization efforts. Without addressing the systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples and their languages, the limited funding that Canada provides to Indigenous nations and communities will not be as effective. Whatever path Canada takes towards addressing Indigenous language revitalization, a successful policy will require extensive consultation and continued partnerships with Indigenous communities. It must ensure that these communities are acknowledged as the experts and authorities on their own languages, and the resulting policies must reflect their concerns and ideas.
[01:07:30.70] If you want to learn more, start by reading the full op-ed this excerpt was pulled from that we've linked in the show notes. Do better, Canada.
[01:07:39.34] [Music fades]
]]>
<![CDATA[Episode 2: The Players [PART 2 - Hans]]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2023 17:40:43 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/episode-2-the-players-part-2-hans
[00:00:00.41] [Somber electronic music plays]
[00:00:01.22] [Ben Johnson] I don't know if Hans cheated over the board or not, but it just seems like, to me, possibly blacklisting this kid-- you know, I'm an advocate of innocent until proven guilty, Hans is no saint, so that makes me sad, but then also the fact that Hans is now suing makes me sad. I understand feeling aggrieved, but I had some hope that we could move past this, and now I don't think these relationships can ever be mended. I hope I'm wrong, but that's sort of my impression. I don't know if he's a narcissist, but I think his self confidence is genuine. I will say, it's not an act.
[00:00:35.66]
[00:00:39.15] [Rooked theme music plays]
[00:00:39.65] [Ryan] On the last episode of Rooked, we started this special two-part player episode delving into the main characters at the centre of the scandal. So if you don't know who Magnus Carlsen is by now you need to go back and listen to the last episode. Because we, along with our main guest, author and journalist Brin-Jonathan Butler, talked a lot about him. Also, not to brag, but it's a pretty good episode.
[00:01:05.34] [Jess] But this episode isn't about Magnus Carlsen. This is about the other player at the heart of the Sinquefield Cup scandal-- the accused cheater, the established cheater, the heel to the king of chess. Hans Niemann is a decade younger than Carlsen, but we've got just as much to say about him, if not more: where he came from, the unexpected events that brought him to Saint Louis for that fateful game, and how his career has been impacted.
[00:01:39.09] [Ryan] This is a tale of a meteoric rise brought to an almost complete standstill.
[00:01:48.26] [Jess] This is a tale that marked a turning point for not one, but two careers.
[00:01:55.13] [Ryan] This is a tale of cheating, of lies and conspiracies.
[00:02:01.98] [both] This is Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit.
[00:02:06.99] [Theme music fades]
[00:02:10.91] [Gloomy synth plays]
[00:02:17.78] [Ryan] I'm Jess Schmidt. I podcast and I follow chess, in that order.
[00:02:25.42] [Jess, mockingly] I'm Ryan Webb. I play chess and podcast, in that order. Just kidding. I'm Jess
[00:02:31.45] [Ryan] Yeah, me too.
[00:02:32.08] [Jess] No, you're not!
[00:02:33.13] [Ryan] I'm kidding.
[00:02:33.70] [Jess] You're Ryan!
[00:02:34.37] [Ryan] I'm Ryan. I was kidding.
[00:02:35.68] [Jess laughs]
[00:02:37.00] [Ryan] You know from the last episode of Rooked that there are two big names in this scandal, Hans Niemann and Magnus Carlsen. Just like always, we're going to try and give you the cold, hard facts. But we might also have a few opinions of our own.
[00:02:52.28] [Gloomy synth plays]
[00:03:04.14] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:03:05.13] [Jess] Welcome to Part Two: The Players. We continue with the so-called bad boy of chess, Hans Niemann But before we officially introduce you to our main guess for the episode, let's bring back a familiar voice. You met Brin-Jonathan Butler last episode. He literally wrote a book on Magnus Carlsen. But he has some great opinions on Hans Niemann, too.
[00:03:29.73] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] Hans Niemann looks the part of a Bond villain. Looking at him the first time, I thought he looked like the illegitimate child of Ted Kaczynski and Malcolm Gladwell. And then he has this wonderful transatlantic accent that makes no sense whatsoever. He's a bizarre character. He's very bright. He's. charismatic. He's colourful.
[00:03:48.60] A lot of the world has become not what is like pro wrestling but what is not like pro wrestling, especially in the United States, and he seems sort of like a good heel, using their parlance.
[00:03:59.83] [Ryan] We already talked about this in Part One of Episode Two. But we really do want to have the fullest picture. In order to do that, you need to understand who both players at the heart of this scandal are, and where they're coming from. Also, you should know that both of these men's paths that led them to the Sinquefield Cup couldn't be more different.
[00:04:20.66] It's not really two equals at the chess board. It's the GOAT, Magnus Carlsen, and the scapegoat, Hans Niemann, and you need to keep that at the back of your mind no matter what side you take.
[00:04:33.13] [Jess] Hans, like Magnus, is sort of a tricky person to pin down. He gives a lot of interviews, but he still seems very unapproachable in a lot of ways. Obviously, he didn't want to talk to us, and unlike Magnus, we did not even get a rejection to our request for an interview. He just never responded to any of our attempts to reach him.
[00:04:53.65] [Ryan] However, Hans did give an interview to another podcaster and titled chess player that we both respect a lot, and who did agree to talk to us. You already heard Ben Johnson's voice at the top of the episode.
[00:05:06.70] [Ben Johnson] Hi, my name is Ben Johnson. I am the host of the Perpetual Chess Podcast. I'm also a pretty good amateur chess player, but not a professional player by any means. I interview a lot of top authors, Grandmasters, content creators, and cover crazy chess stories such as the Hans Niemann-Magnus Carlsen saga.
[00:05:28.00] [Jess] Along with the Perpetual Chess Podcast, Ben also has another podcast, called How to Chess. Generally, he's an excellent resource for all things chess related, and he's a super duper podcaster, too. And not only is Ben a more experienced podcaster than us, with over 300 episodes under his belt, he's also a lot better at chess than we are, and most definitely ever will be.
[00:05:54.22] [Ben Johnson] My highest ranking was USCF Master, which, on an international scale, that would be a bit below FIDE master. It puts you in the top, say, at least 5% of tournament players, but means if I played a Grandmaster, I'd be lucky to draw, like, one out of seven games or something. They're way better than me across the board.
[00:06:16.96] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:06:17.27] [Ryan] Which also really puts into perspective just how competitive high-level chess is. But we digress.
[00:06:24.25] Oh, and if you're tired of hearing Jess and I waffle on the whole did-he-or-didn't-he cheat of it all, we're not the only ones who are conflicted. Ben said he's basically on the same page as we are when it comes to Hans in this whole controversy. And again, he had Hans on his show as a guest at one point. And we're going to talk about that more in a bit. But for now I think Ben put the whole problem of the cheating scandal quite eloquently.
[00:06:50.74] [Ben Johnson] I think more likely than not, he did not cheat. But as I've said on Perpetual Chess, like, a lot of the online arguing came from people just being sure, one way or the other, and we weren't there. I definitely don't know for sure. And I've had people who know Hans personally tell me that they think he did it-- maybe not that game, but that he has cheated over the board. There are people who know his personality who say he might have done it. So to me, it's more just that, when I look at the evidence, it's not very convincing to me, even though some people find, like, the quality of his games, a few cherry-picked games out of the 100 that he's played, as, like, smoking guns, to me, that's far from it.
[00:07:33.45] [Sinister synth music plays] So, without further ado, let's talk about Hans. At one point or another, we've both wandered into the territory of defending him. One of the most difficult aspects of this case is that it's severely lacking in hard, conclusive evidence. At most, we get moral greys, half truths, coerced confessions and apologies. But that's not for us to say-- yet.
[00:08:00.58] [Jess] I think we're getting a little ahead of ourselves, as we're wont to do on this podcast, it seems. Let's back it up, all the way back to 20 years ago.
[00:08:10.48] [Tape rewinding]
[00:08:12.99] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:08:13.42] The date is June 2003. A baby by the name of Hans Niemann is born in San Francisco, California, in the good old US of A.
[00:08:25.51] [Ryan] You sound like you're doing a voiceover intro for, like, a Hallmark Christmas movie or something.
[00:08:30.72] [Wistful Christmas music plays]
[00:08:31.30] [Jess] After 20 years away from his hometown, he returns just in time for the holidays. And despite his love of the big city, he finds himself falling for a humble breadstick baker who takes care of his family's decrepit estate, and is also the only vet in town.
[00:08:51.31] [Ryan laughs]
[00:08:51.61] [Ryan] Let's focus on Hans for now, though, Jess.
[00:08:54.41] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:08:54.75] [Jess] He's a cancer.
[00:08:55.95] [Ryan] Actually, he's a Gemini. Get your astrology straight.
[00:08:59.94] [Jess] Okay, sorry.
[00:09:01.56] According to Wikipedia, Hans lived in California until he was seven, then moved to the Netherlands for a couple of years-- that's where he started playing chess-- and then back to California. All of that is pretty normal.
[00:09:13.20] [Ryan] Hans became the youngest ever winner of the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club Tuesday Night Marathon, which is the oldest chess club in the United States, and is where he earned his United States Chess Federation Master title.
[00:09:26.97] [Jess] When he was 11, Hans played in the 2015 National Open of the Las Vegas International Chess Festival. And he was the last person to play a rated game against GM Walter Browne, who died in his sleep shortly after competing in that tournament. Coincidence?
[00:09:44.85] [Dun dun duuuun! sting plays]
[00:09:49.02] Just kidding. It is a coincidence. Hans is on trial for a much pettier crime than murder. It's just a game, after all. No disrespect to Walter Browne.
[00:09:58.80] [Ryan] But you get the picture. From a young age, Hans has been a prominent player in the US chess scene.
[00:10:04.92] [Jess] Also, this is a complete side note, but at one point, Hans was also the number 3 under-12 cyclist in the United States, and he was also, quote, "really into water polo," end quote. Those are Hans' words.
[00:10:18.21] [Ben Johnson] He was obviously a fast-rising star, but he wasn't, like, the fastest rising, so I remember thinking, there's probably some other prominent young players, fast-rising players must be jealous of him.
[00:10:30.24] We talked fairly substantially about, like, the coaching. He wouldn't say which coach he was working with, but he implied that they are helping pay for very high-level coaches, and, you know, opportunities like that can be hard to come by. I assume the relationship-- I don't know if it ended immediately with the accusations, but certainly with the lawsuit. That would end it.
[00:10:50.14] [Jess] The relationship Ben talks about here is the one Hans had with Play Magnus, because-- get this-- Hans was an ambassador for Play Magnus, and that's partially how he got funding for things like coaching. Now, we don't know exactly when that relationship ended, or even what the term ambassador entails besides being a representative of the company. That's what I was asking Ben about. Safe to say, Hans' ambassadorship was no longer being promoted on the Play Magnus website after the events at Sinquefield Cup. But up until that point, it's not like Hans and Magnus had been feuding publicly for ages. They're not the Montagues and the Capulets.
[00:11:31.30] [Harold Perrineau as Mercutio] A plague on both your houses!
[00:11:34.44] [Echoing] Houses, houses, houses...
[00:11:36.31] [Thunder rolls]
[00:11:37.29] [Echoing continues] --your houses, your houses!
[00:11:43.16] [Jess] God I love Claire Danes
[00:11:44.93] [Ryan] Do you want to fuck Claire Danes?
[00:11:46.64] [Jess] Yeah
[00:11:47.28] [Ryan] Okay.
[00:11:47.76] [Jess] Who doesn't?
[00:11:48.29] [Ryan] Well...
[00:11:49.91] [Jess] Do you not?
[00:11:50.63] No, I did.
[00:11:52.68] [Both laugh]
[00:11:53.62] [Jess] That's what Homeland Season 1 is about. Ryan fucks Claire Danes in Homeland Season 1. It's canon.
[00:12:00.32] [Ryan] Check out my IMDB page.
[00:12:01.88] [Both laugh]
[00:12:06.34] [Jess clears her throat]
[00:12:06.73] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:12:07.11] [Jess] We'll talk more about the rift between Hans and Magnus later. But, yeah, it's important to note that they were not always on bad terms.
[00:12:13.89] [Ryan] Let's skip forward a bit to 2018 and 2019, when Hans starts to really take his chess career seriously. Prior to this, Hans is a yet-to-be Grandmaster, focusing primarily on his streaming career. Hans starts streaming occasionally in the summer of 2018, but he begins streaming more regularly in the spring of 2019, and after achieving some moderate growth, his viewership skyrockets in early 2020 during the COVID 19 pandemic.
[00:12:42.66] Streaming chess almost daily, Niemann's audience grows more than tenfold, coinciding with an overall boom in the chess category on Twitch during that time.
[00:12:52.38] [Jess] Hans' streaming content is a lot like most of the other chess streamers, but it is very evident that he is a teenager.
[00:13:00.48] [Ryan] Here's a clip of Hans losing his shit after being tricked into a stalemate by Daniel Naroditsky in a chess.com online game. And, warning, it's exactly as loud as a 16-year-old losing his cool usually is, so just prepare your ears.
[00:13:20.21] [Chess.com "piece capture" sound effect plays]
[00:13:20.66] [Chess.com "piece moves" sound effect plays]
[00:13:21.11] [Hans Niemann] Okay.
[00:13:23.85] [Chess.com "game ends" sound effect plays]
[00:13:24.35] [Hans Niemann] What?!
[00:13:24.89] [Pounding on desk]
[00:13:26.27] How?! How is he so smart?!
[00:13:29.15] [Jess] That would be a great bass drop.
[00:13:31.15] [House music plays]
[00:13:32.41] # How, how is he #
[00:13:35.31] # How, how is he #
[00:13:42.45] [Music ends abruptly]
[00:13:42.94] # How? #
[00:13:44.11] # How is he so smart? #
[00:13:45.49] [Bass drops, accentuated with desk pounding]
[00:13:48.46] [Music continues playing]
[00:13:48.96] [Jess] Hans' streaming career is honestly pretty successful, and he plays well, but he also loses a fair number of computer mice. Ryan, would you care to explain, since you've also lost mice in this way?
[00:14:03.60] [Ryan] Well, sometimes you lose a game that you think you're going to win. What's on your desk? I'm not throwing my phone.
[00:14:11.49] [Jess] You're not throwing your phone AGAIN, you mean, because you got in trouble for that last time.
[00:14:16.29] [Ryan] RIP to all the dead mice and one USB mini fan.
[00:14:21.24] [Jess] So, anyways, chess rage is a pretty common thing, and Hans Niemann is no exception. And while we could break down all these clips and give you, you know, proper context, et cetera, like we usually do, I think this will be way funnier-- err, I mean, impactful-- as a supercut of Hans losing it. So here you go.
[00:14:42.66] [Hans Niemann, screaming] am I this fucking good?! Get fucking down and bow down!
[00:14:52.95] [Mouse clicking]
[00:14:53.42] [Hans Niemann] I feel kind of bad that the one thing I'm focused on right now is--
[00:14:56.92] [Screaming] No, no, no! No!
[00:15:01.22] [Breathing heavily] Literally--
[00:15:06.40] [Music plays]
[00:15:07.89] [Screaming] Yeah! Bow friggen down!
[00:15:11.49] [Jess] And here's my favourite clip. You can hear in his voice how excited baby International Master Hans is to play against the rock star of chess himself, Magnus Carlsen.
[00:15:22.47] [Hans Niemann, screaming] Chat, we're playing fucking Magnus! We're playing Magnus Carlsen! Holy shit!
[00:15:30.03] [Sombre music plays]
[00:15:30.27] [Ryan] But it's not all sunshine and roses at this time. Hans doesn't get into his choice university.
[00:15:36.78] [Jess] Where would we be if he did? Would this podcast even exist?
[00:15:43.97] [Hans Niemann] You know, one year ago, I was a Harvard reject with no potential in life. You know, I was 25-maybe-20. I was barely a Grandmaster. I had just, like, you know, got rejected from my dream school, you could say. So one year ago, things were looking pretty bleak. This is definitely, in some cases, a dream come true. The fact that I'm even a professional chess player now is a complete miracle. It would have been so easy for me to be, you know, a professional streamer, or go to college, but the fact that I've been given this opportunity to be a professional chess player I'm very grateful for and will make the most of.
[00:16:23.24] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:16:23.48] [Ryan] Interesting that Hans' measure for success is you either go to an Ivy League school, become a world-recognized chess champion, or have no potential in life.
[00:16:33.95] [Jess] We're probably fucking losers in Hans Niemann's eyes. This is what no potential looks like: you podcast exclusively about an anal beads chess cheating scandal.
[00:16:44.61] [Ryan] After undeniable success online and one college rejection, he basically stops streaming altogether.
[00:16:52.41] [Jess] We now know from the events and interviews that took place during the Sinquefield Cup that this was likely due to his chess.com account suspension, because Hans was caught cheating online.
[00:17:04.57] [Hans Niemann] So I cheated in random games on chess.com. Now, I was confronted, I confessed, and this is the single biggest mistake of my life, and I am completely ashamed. And I'm telling the world because I do not want any misrepresentation, and I do not want rumours.
[00:17:20.11] [Jess] Actually, he was streaming at one of the points where he got banned, so, amazingly, we actually have tape of his reaction.
[00:17:29.03] [Hans Niemann] Ha! I got banned. Oh-ho-ha! I got banned!
[00:17:36.50] [Inaudible] She banned me-- chess banned me! He banned me! Oh, my God! I got banned! I can't even-- I can't even joke around! I got banned! Are you kidding me? I'm going to Lichess! I'm going to Lichess! You banned me?!
[00:17:57.46] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:17:57.81] [Ryan] At this point, Hans does a complete 180. He decides that rather than pursue his career online and locally in the US circuit, he'll travel to Europe and start playing in as many OTB tournaments as he can so he can gain his GM title.
[00:18:15.39] [Hans Niemann] I have lived in a suitcase travelling around Europe playing chess nonstop.
[00:18:19.77] [Ryan] Here's another clip from Ben.
[00:18:21.36] [Ben Johnson] With Hans compared to other people, he has put forth a narrative that part of the reason he cheated online when he did, especially when he was 16-- he said 16, it turns out maybe 17, too-- was he was living on his own without financial support in New York City. Obviously, that's expensive, so he was trying to drive up interest in his Twitch viewership. The stronger the players you play, the more people want to tune in. I think he, definitely from what he said in his online cheating, it sounds like he viewed it as a shortcut. Like, "I'm this strong anyway, but let's dispense with the formalities and get my rating up there so that I can reap the rewards." If he were to have cheated over the board, I think it would have been a similar rationale, where he just felt like, "I'm trying to support myself. I'm going to be a world-class player, but I need to get this Grandmaster title as soon as possible so that I can get invites."
[00:19:15.37] I would say there's a 20% chance he cheated over the board and 80% chance he didn't, but it's not hard to come up with a motivation. And as Fabiano Caruana pointed out in the C-Squared Podcast, there are many people where you can judge their character and say they would never cheat, and obviously you can't say that about Hans, being that we know that he did cheat online.
[00:19:37.81] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:19:38.17] [Ryan] This is something we keep coming back to in comparing golden boy Magnus and bad boy Hans. We put them in the same category since they're both Grandmasters at a similar playing level at Sinquefield, and both in the world top 100 players. But that's where a lot of the similarities end.
[00:19:57.96] [Jess] Hans is twelve and a half years younger than Magnus.
[00:20:01.89] [Ryan] Well, 12 years and 163 days.
[00:20:04.89] [Jess] Excuse me for rounding up.
[00:20:06.85] [Ryan] So, anyway, Hans is born in a completely different decade than Magnus was.
[00:20:12.27] [Jess] Magnus grew up on chess books. Kasparov was only defeated by Deep Blue when Magnus was six years old, and Google hadn't even been invented yet.
[00:20:21.60] [Ryan] Hans grew up in the age of the internet, and thanks to people like Magnus developing chess apps and websites, he had access to basically any chess game from his back pocket. Not to say that Magnus didn't as well, but he didn't grow up on it. That wasn't his formative years.
[00:20:39.55] [Jess] We're going to talk more about how the game's changed with the advent and uprising of online chess, but safe to say, like most of the world, chess has been drastically impacted by the dawn of the internet. It's normalized a lot of unsavoury behaviour, up to and including cheating.
[00:20:57.12] [Ryan] Cheating at online chess wasn't really available to Magnus. A-- rounded-up-- 13-year difference isn't that significant in the grand scheme of things, but in the chess world, especially in the last 30 years, it's incredibly significant. Magnus saw the birth of online chess and knew what came before it. Hans has only known chess as the twofold creature that it has become. He has never not known the tension and struggle between these two different worlds of online and OTB chess.
[00:21:33.49] [Jess] Also, I'm not trying to apologize for Hans, but I just made so many mistakes when I was a teenager.
[00:21:39.37] [Ryan] Oh, me too.
[00:21:41.85] [Crickets chirping]
[00:21:44.67] [Jess] Okay, I guess neither of us is as brave as Hans and is just unwilling to revisit our teenaged mistakes. We can just save that for our therapists, I guess. You guys don't need to know.
[00:21:53.25] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:21:54.88] Suffice to say, what Hans did was wrong, but he's arguably been paying a way bigger price than a lot of us have for youthful mistakes.
[00:22:04.51] [Ryan] And if you think Hans needed something more severe than gallivanting across Europe as his punishment, does it make you feel better that when Hans wasn't actively playing in tournaments, he just stayed in his room and studied chess the whole time? We have the receipts, or at least secondhand receipts of the receipts.
[00:22:25.56] [Ben Johnson] It happens in a lot of my interviews. I ask them about their study routines, and it seems like days often add up to more than 24 hours. Laurent Fressinet on the Chicken Chess Club Podcast described Hans visiting some chess players when he was passing through Paris, and they're like, "Aren't you going to go see the sights?" And he's like, "No." You know, 19-year-old kid in Paris for the first time and all he wanted to do was chess stuff. So I do think he works extremely, extremely hard on his chess, probably to a fault.
[00:22:54.64] [Generic Parisian music plays]
[00:22:54.91] [Jess] Can you imagine going to Paris and sitting in your room and playing chess?
[00:22:59.29] [Ryan] Yeah, like, just, like, not going to the Louvre?
[00:23:01.99] [Jess] Actually, I could imagine you going to Paris and just sitting in your room and playing chess. I take it back.
[00:23:06.62] [Ryan] I need to see the Mona Lisa, at least.
[00:23:08.41] [Jess] Yeah, you would probably sit on a bench near the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and play chess.
[00:23:12.82] [Ryan laughs]
[00:23:13.69] [Ryan] And, like, you're going to the Eiffel Tower.
[00:23:16.72] [both] To play chess.
[00:23:17.86] [Both laugh]
[00:23:20.09] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:23:20.53] [Jess] And if you don't believe Ben-- I don't know why you wouldn't, Ben really knows his shit, and, again, he literally did a direct interview with Hans-- David Franklin, our resident law expert, said basically the same thing.
[00:23:32.89] [David Franklin] Yeah, you know, he reminds me a little bit, personality wise, of Bobby Fischer. Fischer had this one-person-against-the-world mentality, where he just was very brash, and he would say incredibly arrogant things. Now, Fischer could back them up because he was the strongest player in the world. Hans isn't there, and probably never will be, but he has a sort of similar monastic, kind of monomaniacal streak. You know, he says he studies chess 10, 12, 15 hours a day, you know, living out of a suitcase in hotel rooms. He was in Paris and didn't even see the sights of Paris because he was in his hotel room, studying chess all day. That's very Fischer-like, as well.
[00:24:16.31] [Generic Parisian music plays]
[00:24:16.64] [Ryan] I'm going to fuck around with a baguette, at least. A baguette and chess. That's like the French version of Netflix and chill.
[00:24:22.81] [Ryan] Baguette and chess?
[00:24:23.68] [Jess] Baguette and bed bugs and chess.
[00:24:25.18] [Ryan] Wow.
[00:24:25.57] [Ryan laughs] Okay.
[00:24:29.83] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:24:30.29] Why are we telling you this? Well, first of all, it's weird, and we love how weird it is. But this is also evidence that you need to file away in your little podcast mind palace. Because there's still more to come on just how weird Hans is, and it's also important to note that while in Europe, Hans did obtain the GM title that he was fighting for, and he had a meteoric rise in Elo. So, all the locking himself in his room clearly did work.
[00:25:02.84] [Jess] And when we say meteoric rise, the exact numbers are that he had an Elo of 2313 in July 2018, and two years later, in March 2022, he had a rating of 2642. Now, the difference of 329 points might not seem very significant, but remember what we talked about last episode?
[00:25:25.79] In Magnus' pursuit of 2900, we explained that at a high level, Elo increases not linearly but by order of magnitude. This is called the K value, and it goes up significantly when you cross the threshold of 2400. That's essentially the barrier between titled players and non-titled players, except for GMs, which require a rating of over 2500.
[00:25:48.27] [Jess] While Hans is not exactly close to Magnus' Elo rating, his highest rating of 2708 is nothing to sneeze at. Hans has been a top 100 player in the world since 2020, and even peaked at number 31 in May of 2023.
[00:26:03.84] [Ryan] But a year before that, and six months before the scandal at the Sinquefield Cup would take place, Ben published his interview with Hans on March 22nd, 2022.
[00:26:14.64] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:26:15.06] If you're really interested, you should just listen to the whole episode, and listen to the Perpetual Chess Podcast in general, because Ben is as good an interviewer as he is interviewee. We've linked the Perpetual Chess Podcast in the show notes, so listen and subscribe, as the kids say.
[00:26:33.69] [Ryan, synthesized voice with reverb] Smash that like button!
[00:26:37.30] [Jess] That being said, here's our favourite highlights from Ben's interview with Hans that he has graciously let us repurpose for this podcast. And trust us when we say, it was hard to narrow this down, as Hans was his strange self basically the entire interview.
[00:26:53.98] [Ben Johnson] You made an absolutely insane jump from 2021 to 2022. Your rating was about 2480 FIDE at the beginning of last calendar year, and you're over 2640 now. I mean, that's just an extremely rare feat when you're already at such a high level. So how do you reflect on this year and a half, Hans? I mean, I know you've got tournaments fresh in your mind, but when you step back, how do you reflect on it?
[00:27:22.02] [Hans Niemann] Well, I guess you could say it was a successful year. I don't know. It was-- when I look back on it, I definitely am happy, but I'm also thinking, you know, it could have happened faster. But maybe that's the greedy side of me, right? But from a mental level, I think it was one of the most challenging-- like, the mental strength that I had to have, the travelling so long alone with COVID and all of that that entailed, I think was such a an experience, that I think it really just helped me grow as a chess player, but also gave me just immense mental strength and fortitude that would really help my chess game, as well. So I think you could definitely say it was life changing, in many respects.
[00:28:10.72] [Ryan] So modest, Hans. Very good non-answer.
[00:28:14.52] [Ben Johnson] What would have to happen for you to feel like you didn't achieve your goal? Like, what goal would not be reached? I think if I don't reach the top 10, then I think I will assess my chess career as a failure.
[00:28:25.30] [Ben Johnson] Wow, that's heady stuff, man.
[00:28:27.28] [Ben laughs]
[00:28:28.30] [Hans Niemann] I think my life as a failure, as well, if you want to get deep.
[00:28:31.21] [Jess] Nuff said.
[00:28:32.40] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:28:32.68] [Ryan] We're obviously now privy to the information that Hans was guilty of cheating online and has since confessed. But at the time when Ben was speaking to him, he still had a clean slate, or at least his transgressions online were not yet public.
[00:28:48.67] [Jess] So we wanted to hear from Ben whether or not he was surprised by the allegations in the wake of the Sinquefield Cup scandal, and if there was anything in the nearly 90 minute interview that he had with Hans that gave him some kind of insight into this aspect of Hans' character.
[00:29:07.23] [Music fades]
[00:29:08.14] [Ben Johnson] Yeah, I did not have any sense. I had not heard the rumours about online cheating. Hans is not lacking for self-confidence. He comes across as sort of brash bad boy, and I think he kind of revels in that a little bit. So it didn't surprise me that it turns out he's disliked, but that was sort of the extent of my impression of him. If you had asked me, like, is there anything that you would suggest that he's so unscrupulous, that he's a cheater, I would have said no. If you had asked me, like, among my guests, who do you think might have an extensive cheating history online, I might have guessed him, only because he's so young. I just feel like anyone that age is more prone to-- to making mistakes. I certainly made some mistakes as a teenager. So in that respect, it didn't shock me, but I didn't see-- I hadn't heard anything, and there was nothing in our conversation that made me think that he would cheat whether online or OTB.
[00:30:09.46] [Ryan] Again, go listen to Perpetual Chess, and thank you to Ben for being our direct contact with Hans and being such a generous resource to us and the rest of the chess world.
[00:30:20.72] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:30:21.07] [Jess] Okay, next thing after Hans' interview with Ben in March 2022, the FTX Crypto Cup. You might remember this event from Episode One. This is where Hans drops the whole...
[00:30:32.74] [Hans Niemann, with reverb] Chess speaks for itself.
[00:30:35.11] [Ryan] But he only wins the one game against Magnus in the best-of-four set. Afterwards, in another interview, Hans changes his tune a bit.
[00:30:44.22] [reporter] Hans, to start out there, playing in a blazing speed.
[00:30:48.15] [Hans Niemann] A what? Sorry. What was the--
[00:30:49.05] [reporter] Your speed. It was going so fast there for a while.
[00:30:52.29] [Hans Niemann] Well, yeah, I'm just absolutely miserable. Like, I just would really like to just-- the fact that I have not already gone to the minibar and pulled a Magnus is like-- or the fact that I haven't, like, just jumped in the pool or... Like, the fact that I'm alive at this moment is-- is a miracle, because after I lost this first game, I think I was really just ready to just go into the ocean and never-- never come back.
[00:31:27.30] [reporter] But do you think that speed that you put up, the intuitiveness of your chess is a way of resetting and getting back to the real Hans Niemann?
[00:31:33.62] [Hans Niemann] No, no, no. I wanted to lose as quickly as possible so I could go back to my hotel room and turn all the lights off, order some-- some delivery, and watch Netflix and numb the pain until the next game.
[00:31:48.14] [reporter] I'm hoping that it's not the same mind frame you had before the game before.
[00:31:51.38] [Hans Niemann] No, no. It's the exact same. And it's going to be. And I've already-- I think my Uber Eats in this event has already-- it's I think maybe $1,000 on Uber Eats. So I have been indulging and numbing the pain with $1,000 of Uber Eats.
[00:32:07.46] [Jess] Is Hans sponsored by Uber Eats? Is that the image that Uber Eats wants?
[00:32:12.08] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:32:12.44] Uber Eats: Don't walk into the ocean. Order $1,000 worth of food from us instead.
[00:32:18.41] [Ryan] Uber Eats.
[00:32:19.12] [Voice lowered, synthesized, with reverb] Food speaks for itself.
[00:32:23.90] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:32:24.38] [Jess] Another amazing thing to come out of the FTX Crypto Cup is a picture of Hans and Magnus playing chess on the beach together. This is obviously a marketing ploy. I really cannot imagine a worse place to play chess. Very different than the standard suit-and-tie fare you get at most tournaments.
[00:32:44.93] [Ryan] But this gives us a crucial insight into what we were talking about at the start of the episode-- the state of Hans and Magnus' relationship before the whole cheating scandal. Not great for podcasting, but we'll include a link of the photo of them in the show notes.
[00:33:00.95] [Jess] If I had to describe the image-- which we have to, because this is a podcast-- they just look so uncomfortable. Hans is wearing Converse sneakers, for God's sake. I can practically feel the sand in his shoes. Terrible sensory experience. But even though they both look very posed, they seem amicable?
[00:33:26.97] [Ryan] But if I had to pick a point of where the Hans v Magnus rivalry began, it would be this.
[00:33:33.18] [Jess] But why though?
[00:33:37.64] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:33:38.10] [Ryan] Because Hans' cockiness and attitude was sort of first on display here to a large audience, and on the opposite side of the board is Magnus. It's just disrespectful to say, "Chess speaks for itself," and walk out of an interview when you're asked about playing the number one chess player of all time. Magnus probably didn't care about Hans' response here, but I think it's sort of a cumulative thing. This is the precipitating event that got the ball rolling in the Hans v Magnus rivalry. The stuff at Sinquefield is the result of this snowball.
[00:34:17.13] [Jess] Here's Emilia Castelao. She's a chess player and academic who works for FIDE. She's coming back in a later episode to school us on the history of FIDE and chess, but for now, here's some of the insights she gave us when we asked her why she thought Magnus levied the cheating allegations through the methods that he did.
[00:34:36.75] [Emilia Castelao] I don't know. I guess putting myself in Magnus' shoes, I think the reason he went about it the way he did is because Hans has a history of being very eccentric online, especially in the FTX Crypto Cup in Miami, kind of, the clips that went viral from that. And so, I don't know if long term, things were really thought about that far in advance.
[00:35:04.30] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:35:07.08] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:35:07.55] [Ryan] Did you know that Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is an indie podcast?
[00:35:11.63] [Jess] Indie as in independent. We don't receive any sponsorship support. Ryan and I make Rooked in our spare time for free.
[00:35:19.14] [Ryan] And don't get us wrong. We love getting to make this podcast exactly the way we want to. But we've been thinking that maybe with some support, we could make this show even better.
[00:35:29.09] [Tim Robinson] I got to figure out how to make money on this thing. It's simply too good.
[00:35:32.93] [Jess] So, like many creators, we've joined Patreon.
[00:35:36.32] [Ryan] Can I just ask, what is Patreon?
[00:35:39.02] [Jess] Great question, Ryan. Patreon is a way for fans to join and engage with their favourite creators' community. Basically, it's a platform that allows you to support creators financially. Currently, we have two tiers open: the Pawn level, if you want to support us for 5 Canadian dollars a month-- cheaper than mailing us an envelope of loonies and toonies-- and the King level, for $20 per month. If you choose to support us at the King tier, we'll also mention you by name in the episode credits. And if you support us at any level on Patreon, you'll also be able to access bonus content.
[00:36:12.62] This month, Ryan has put together an extra episode, called Dlugy Drama, which you might remember we teed up in Episode One. Content like this is exclusive for our Patreon members.
[00:36:25.10] [Ryan] Plus, we'll send you nudes.
[00:36:26.84] [Jess] I will not be sending nudes, but whatever you work out between you and the Patrons is your own business, Ryan.
[00:36:32.90] [Ryan] Are you sure we should be doing this? Patreon looks like they stole their logo directly from Target.
[00:36:38.33] [Jess] You are the only person I've ever had to describe Patreon to, so I don't really trust your judgement here, honestly.
[00:36:45.48] But that's a good point. If you want to support us but monthly donations don't fit your budget, you can also buy us a coffee instead, at buymeacoffee.com/rooked. Or we also really appreciate ratings, reviews, and shares, too, and those are free.
[00:37:00.33] [Ryan] We love making this podcast, and our motivation is listeners like you. So we really appreciate your support at any level.
[00:37:08.31] [Jess] Go to patreon.com/rooked to support the podcast. That's patreon.com/rooked. Thanks for listening.
[00:37:18.37] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:37:21.34] [Gloomy m usic plays]
[00:37:22.82] [Ryan] Obviously, we're stringing all of these events together to find a pattern, tell a story, get to some kind of an answer. But this is all retrospective. You have to keep in mind that when the FTX "Chess speaks for itself" thing happened, it was weird but not that big of a deal. Things got placed in a completely new light once the Sinquefield cheating allegations were made.
[00:37:48.41] [Jess] So let's fast forward through those couple of weeks to the date in question.
[00:37:53.51] [Tape rewinds]
[00:37:55.97] It's the Sinquefield Cup, but Hans actually wasn't supposed to be there.
[00:38:00.57] [Ryan] That's right. Richard Rapport was originally set to play the event, but he couldn't get there due to COVID travel restrictions. So his invitation was extended to none other than Hans Niemann.
[00:38:14.60] [Jess] This doesn't really matter, but it does help to contextualize some of Magnus' comments in his withdrawal statement. Quote, "When Niemann was invited last minute to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I strongly considered withdrawing prior to the event," end quote.
[00:38:31.41] [Ryan] Part of the problem in this hindsight about the events leading up to the Sinquefield Cup is that, even with our best detective skills, we just aren't privy to what happens behind closed doors in elite chess. Here's a clip from the C-Squared Podcast hosted by world number two Fabiano Caruana and GM Cristian Chirila.
[00:38:52.23] [C-Squared theme music plays]
[00:38:56.76] [Cristian Chirila] Fabi, the Sinquefield Cup is over. This is recorded after the last game. How do you feel about the tournament?
[00:39:05.28] [Fabiano Caruana] The tournament was defined by Magnus' dropping out and everything that came with that, which kind of became a scandal, because it's unprecedented that the World Champion, or, in fact, anyone from a top level withdraws mid-tournament and doesn't give a clear reason, especially. We do have some theories about this that have gone around.
[00:39:28.77] [Cristian Chirila] What is your take on that, overall?
[00:39:30.96] [Fabiano Caruana] Well, I mean, obviously, the biggest theory is that he left because he was worried that-- that Hans has cheated in this event or in the past. Like, there's two sides of this. I think one is that cheating is such a huge problem in chess, and we have to recognize that. The other thing is that, you know, accusations, whether they're true or not, carry a huge amount of weight, and especially when it comes from someone who has a lot of influence in the chess world.
[00:39:58.32] [Cristian Chirila] The fact that Hans cheated on chess.com was not public. But do you think Magnus knew about his cheating accusations?
[00:40:05.38] [Fabiano Caruana] I know he knew.
[00:40:06.37] [Cristian Chirila] He knew. Yeah.
[00:40:07.27] [Fabiano Caruana] Yeah, it's-- you hear things and it is a small world, and things do get said and passed around.
[00:40:15.28] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:40:17.31] [Jess] So, something happened between the FTX Crypto Cup and his loss to Hans at Sinquefield Cup-- again, just a matter of weeks-- that made Magnus change his mind about being willing to play Hans. We're probably never going to know for sure what combination of things went down behind the scenes, but we can analyze what happened publicly until the cows come home. And, baby, that ain't any time soon.
[00:40:45.80] [Cow mooing]
[00:40:48.21] Oh, man, that was dumb.
[00:40:49.38] [Jess laughs]
[00:40:49.75] That's not even a funny joke.
[00:40:50.93] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:40:52.02] I guess I just mean that it might just be an endless conversation? Like, why did Magnus handle this the way he did, whether or not Hans cheated at Sinquefield, what aroused magnus' suspicions about Hans cheating? None of these questions are answerable. But I think the reason all of this is compelling despite that is Sinquefield ended up being a lightning rod for all these separate pieces.
[00:41:15.95] [Loud thunder cracking]
[00:41:19.06] For whatever reason, it transmuted into a cohesive scandal story. All of the weirdnesses just got amplified and blown up, and now it's hard to pick out what's true and what really happened. But I think one of the ways of doing that is to pay attention to all the little weirdnesses.
[00:41:39.75] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:41:41.01] [Ryan] Okay, weirdness number one: Hans' post-match analysis. We already talked about this a bit in Episode One, but honestly for us to replay that clip and analyze why it was so weird is just boring and super dense.
[00:41:54.99] [Jess] Frankly, I've watched this clip a number of times, and it is practically gibberish for a non-chess person. But here's part of it anyways.
[00:42:03.79] [Hans Niemann] But, yea, a3 is just-- with takes and c5 it's very concrete. And then I think I vaguely remember, after h6, I think even-- even a queen h4 might be a move here. What does the engine say? Okay, it's not-- not here. Not here. Not here.
[00:42:18.81] [Alejandro Ramirez chuckles]
[00:42:19.18] Okay, maybe-- I remember some queen h4, but, yeah, okay. After Bishop e6, it's just quite difficult. So I think I played really well. I was very happy, you know? I had some great-- okay, let's go there. I want to enjoy it, you know? It's really nuanced, you know?
[00:42:31.09] [Piano music plays]
[00:42:31.57] [Ryan] But even if you have chess knowledge, here's what comes out of his post-game interview. Number one, he references games that just don't exist. Number two, he played such an odd sideline so perfectly, he practically seemed to know what Magnus was going to play. But then when he was asked to analyze the position and make a move, he suggested a line where he was down 6 points of material and in a completely losing position.
[00:43:00.34] [Jess] Essentially, Hans played well, but then in the analysis afterwards, seemed to struggle to keep everything strength, to find the moves in the post-interview that had actually won him the real game.
[00:43:12.74] [Ryan] But just to play devil's advocate, Hans does know how to analyze a game. He's done dozens of post-game interviews where his analysis is very clear and coherent. That's part of what makes this analysis so weird. Here's what FIDE Master James Canty III had to say when we asked him about Hans' analysis.
[00:43:33.59] [James Canty III] I really didn't even care. I was like, bro, that's just stupid. For me, like, bro, he's like 2700, and still to this day there's no evidence. So for people to say, you know, oh, the analysis was this. Like, he could have just did that on purpose. You don't even know that. Like, you have no idea. Oh, that doesn't sound like a 2600 analysis. Bro, he could have been trolling you the whole time. And guess what? It worked, right? You know, that's what I thought. That's my thing about it.
[00:43:57.32] Like, "Did you hear the analysis?" I'm like, "Yo, but did you find any evidence, though?" And like, you know, "Well, no, but his analysis." So you're banking it off of his analysis, is what you're saying. What if he was messing with you? Oh, you don't have an answer. Like, what is that? You know what I mean. So I really was like I don't I don't believe it you know I don't believe that he's cheating, and still to this day, there is no evidence that he was cheating.
[00:44:18.68] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:44:19.83] [Jess] All right, so that's the weird analysis that Hans gave at Sinquefield. On to weirdness number two, which is a much more prolifically weird thing that you might have already picked up on in the clips that we've played of Hans. But if you didn't pick it up, that's okay, too. He's been called out and even made fun of a bunch of different times by all sorts of different sources for his, shall we say, unusual accent-- one that he has not always had.
[00:44:49.05] [Ryan] Here's what Hans says in an interview when asked directly about his accent.
[00:44:53.46] [Hans Niemann] This is just the most funny thing, because if you want me to speak like an American right now, I can't even tell. I spend so much time working on chess that I simply don't go outside and socialize with people who speak fluent English.
[00:45:04.46] [Alejandro laughs]
[00:45:05.88] This is just one thing I want to talk about. I'm just-- before I say anything. Like, I have spent the last two years not spending any time in America, and even when I'm in America, I don't go outside other than when I pick up my food. I'm just too busy with chess. So all these things saying that, like, I'm faking an accent and that, like, I'm putting on some facade, that is, like, the most ridiculous thing I've ever said, and if anyone is using my -newfound accent to make any conclusions about anything chess related, is, like, absolutely insane.
[00:45:41.19] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:45:41.68] [Ryan] Let's turn to the good folks at Reddit for this one. The archived discussion thread titled Where is Hans Niemann's Accent From? is very helpful and quite hilarious, and it also gave us a lot of amazing resources, so we'll link it in the show notes.
[00:45:58.52] [Jess] Here's an example of what Hans sounded like early in his streaming career, 2018, 2019. For context, Hans thinks he's playing a cheater here because their accuracy is surprisingly high.
[00:46:11.53] [Hans Niemann, sans accent] Wow, he just played-- I don't know what the heck even happened there. It's like everything was together and then it just collapsed. 99.4? Okay. That makes sense. I guess he just played a good game. 99.4 is a little bit high, but I don't like accusing people.
[00:46:27.49] [Jess] And here's another one where you can really hear the California in his accent from this same time period.
[00:46:34.76] [Hans Niemann, with California accent] Yeah, so Nick will get you a Diamond membership. And then you can, like, do a bunch of puzzles and stuff. You can watch the videos.
[00:46:44.67] [Ryan] Compare that with his weird Euro-hybrid accent a few years later. This clip is actually from his interview that he gave after beating Magnus at Sinquefield.
[00:46:54.09] [Hans Niemann, with Euro hybrid accent] And already he's demoralized, right? So, you know, when I played him, I noticed sometimes when he wants to assert dominance, he cracks a little smile. He wasn't cracking many smiles, maybe one or two, and that made me feel very good. Because I just-- again, of course, I grew up watching him. I grew up-- I've watched all of his interviews, and, you know, and he said once in an interview that he spent more than 10 minutes on a move, that's a very bad sign. And he did that a lot this game. Reddit user FinGoth Official says, "He's not doing an accent; he's doing Bobby Fischer," and then linked to this clip that I've condensed for brevity of Bobby Fischer on the Johnny Carson Show.
[00:47:31.26] [Johnny Carson] Now, look, you've defeated Boris Spassky now, and you're the champion chess player of the entire world. Now, what is there beyond that?
[00:47:40.09] [Bobby Fischer] Yeah, this is the big problem, what to-- how do I top it? But I figure, if I can keep the title for another 30 years, something like that, it's...
[00:47:48.13] [Johnny Carson] Just 30 years or so, huh?
[00:47:49.78] [Laughter]
[00:47:49.93] [Bobby Fischer] I woke up the day after the thing was over, and I just felt different, like something had been taken out of me.
[00:47:58.15] [Jess] Honestly, I kind of hear it.
[00:48:00.22] [Piano music plays]
[00:48:00.55] [Ryan] Reddit user TheChessLobster says, "I call it 'chess speak.' I live in Wisconsin, and I have multiple 1800 plus Elo friends who start doing a Slavic-Russian mish-mosh accent once they start analyzing games. It's honestly hilarious."
[00:48:19.69] [Jess] So, maybe this is just Hans' youth and lack of socialization showing? Some have suggested he puts it on. Either way, kind of weird.
[00:48:30.19] [Ryan] But it's not completely out of the realm of possibilities that he did develop this accent while in Europe like he says.
[00:48:36.85] [Jess] Sure.
[00:48:39.07] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:48:39.95] The last weird thing I guess we should point out isn't necessarily a Hans weird thing but more just how polarizing the post-Sinquefield interview Hans gave has been. Some people were totally convinced of his innocence based on that interview, while others were even more convinced that he cheated.
[00:48:59.21] [Ryan] Yeah, even between the two of us we experienced this. I felt like he was being really genuine.
[00:49:04.95] [Jess] But I felt like he was putting on a show. So we decided to ask some other people's opinions. And since the chessfeels podcast's whole thing is the psychology of chess, we thought Julia and JJ would have interesting opinions.
[00:49:18.95] [Whispers] And we were right.
[00:49:21.20] [Normal voice] Julia and JJ, the co-hosts of the chessfeels podcast, had a similar reaction that I did.
[00:49:27.71] [JJ Lang] In that game, do I think Hans cheated? No. I think it would be very difficult to cheat. I think that it's also very difficult to cheat without getting caught, not, like, from a physical sense of, like, someone figuring out what you're doing, but to be able to play well enough to beat the best player in the world without it being so obviously played by a computer. So I'm very doubtful that he was cheating in that game. Everything that's happened after then has been just really funny, and just delightful, and just showing how much of a mess this entire world is, and I'm here for it.
[00:50:02.17] [Julia Rios] The one thing that occurred that I think actually really helped convince a lot of people that Hans was innocent was the video, the interview that he put out after everything, where he essentially said, you know, "I didn't do this. I feel so strongly." When I read the transcript of that interview, I actually found it, like, very moving and very convincing. And then when I actually watched the interview, where he delivered that same information, but you could see his body language and the way he was talking, I had a very different experience, and it actually made me feel-- like, as a psychologist-- like what he was saying wasn't actually entirely truthful. So it was an interesting experience. This video that convinced a lot of people actually made me feel more suspicious of Hans, although that's not evidence in the slightest, but it just made me feel like the whole thing, like JJ said, is a total mess. And I didn't feel convinced or convicted that Hans has been just acting, like, totally ethically throughout his chess career.
[00:51:06.15] [Jess] Did I pick these clips because JJ and Julia agreed with me that Hans seemed sus? Maybe. But here's some other opinions about Hans that we also gathered to try and balance things out. First up, Ben again.
[00:51:19.05] [Ben Johnson] Especially because of the lawsuit, I feel like it sets the bar even higher for what he would need to do over the board in order to just silence doubters and create more opportunities, whereas before, I feel like if he had performed at a, say, you know, top 20 in the world level, maybe doors would open up with people sort of holding their noses, even if they had a negative opinion. Now I feel like he might need to be top five or something. Like, he might just need to perform astronomically to have doors open for invitational tournaments, obviously, especially, if Magnus is playing in them.
[00:51:54.55] So if you add that on top of the anecdotal evidence of people like IM Greg Shahade, and the International Master David Vigorito told me a story of, like, how impressed he was by Hans' calculation, I definitely believe what people have said about he had a natural talent for chess and, you know, finally started to apply himself. Now, doesn't make it impossible that he cheated over the board here or there, but I think even if he did, it would have been not that many games, you know?
[00:52:28.98] [Ryan] We'll hear more from Mike Boyd next episode when we go in on the cheating itself, but here's what he thought about Hans.
[00:52:35.97] [Mike Boyd] When I first heard about it my knee-jerk reaction was, he's got to have cheated, because I, along with many other people, regard Magnus as this superhuman God that never makes a mistake, and everything he says has got to be right. And then after I finished making the device, I was like, nah, there's... By the time I finished making it, he had played other tournaments and continued to dominate with the spotlight on him-- not just the spotlight of people checking him for cheating things, and it would be so audacious to cheat after that-- but he continued winning and had the pressure of the media on him, and he continued to crush everyone. So I don't think he-- I don't think he cheated in the Sinquefield Cup.
[00:53:18.57] [Jess] Whether or not you think Hans cheated at Sinquefield, we'll leave you on the whole scandal with this last clip from Ben.
[00:53:25.11] [Ben Johnson] I do feel like Hans got unfairly singled out, out of all the online cheaters. I mean, it does seem like Magnus legitimately, for whatever reason that he has or has not revealed, thought that Hans cheated in that game. But I just think wait the tournament's, over, share as much information as you can, and go from there. But there certainly-- there was no perfect solution. Like, if you're going to single someone out and you're not 100% sure, it's going to be messy.
[00:53:54.04] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:53:56.86] [Jess] And that kind of brings us up to date in terms of Hans at the Sinquefield Cup. But that was already over a year ago. And one thing you can bank on in chess is that the drama never stops.
[00:54:10.69] Hans kept his head down and has still been playing chess OTB. His career definitely slowed down, especially when the lawsuit was happening, because he wasn't invited to any tournaments and was only able to play in open tournaments.
[00:54:24.70] [Hans Niemann] But the tournaments that I've played have all been open tournaments, where I have been the top or second seed. So playing in these tournaments, like, is like suicide for your rating. Like, it's really, really difficult to gain rating. No players of my rating play in these tournaments. And if you look at, let's say, last year, last year I played invitationals in Saint Louis. I have not been invited to a single tournament in Saint Louis. Like, literally, Saint Louis doesn't even respond to my emails. They don't invite me to any tournaments. And that's, like, in America. But if you're talking about, like, outside of the US, all the invitational tournaments that I played before, I got no invitations.
[00:55:07.51] [Jess] In fact, from February to April of this year, 2023, Hans didn't play in any tournaments at all.
[00:55:14.41] [Ryan] But since the lawsuit has been resolved, it seems like Hans is being invited to tournaments again. Thanks to Magnus' forgiveness, Hans' shadow banning from chess events has now been lifted. Does this mean that the pettiness between Hans and Magnus has been resolved? Absolutely not. Here's another great tidbit from Emilia about this.
[00:55:38.39] [Emilia Castelao] The meme culture around it all is what gave it its virality, you know? It's what made people outside the chess world so interested in what was going on inside. We had the chess boom after The Queen's Gambit. Since then has been kind of the biggest chess boom again after. And so, I don't know, it's a very strange dynamic to look at.
[00:56:04.91] [Upbeat, playful music plays]
[00:56:05.81] [Jess] Which brings us to the juiciest, most recent offering in this scandal.
[00:56:11.42] [Ryan] On September 25th, 2023, Hans and his lawyer, Terrence A Oved, are interviewed by Piers Morgan in a tell-all regarding the recent cheating scandal with Magnus Carlsen. This interview is completely absurd, and we're going to break down the highlights for you in this episode and others. But if you have 20 minutes to spare, you should just watch the whole thing.
[00:56:35.57] [Jess] Make some popcorn. Popcorn's good.
[00:56:39.15] [Jess laughs]
[00:56:40.06] I don't know-- I don't know if you know, but popcorn is, like, delicious.
[00:56:44.41] [Ryan] Are you-- are you selling popcorn on the side?
[00:56:47.25] [Jess] Today's episode is sponsored by Big Popcorn. That's Jiffy. That's for sure just Jiffy.
[00:56:51.09] [Jess] Fuck you, Orville. Give us money.
[00:56:54.86] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:56:56.22] [Ryan] First off, Pervy Piers just seems to be way too infatuated with the whole anal beads thing. Just listen to this.
[00:57:04.26] [Piers Morgan] You're accused of cheating in a particularly fascinating manner, which is the allegation was that your coach had basically instructed you to insert anal beads inside yourself, which he would then send remote signals to.
[00:57:19.59] [Ryan] I mean, this isn't really what the original accusation was. Also why did Piers describe it this way?
[00:57:27.00] [Jess] Even after Hans' response, Piers doubles back to the device. I love how Hans responds, just completely writing off the ridiculous prodding.
[00:57:39.09] [Piers Morgan] But again, to be clear on the specific allegation, have you ever used anal beads while playing chess? Not a question I ever thought I'd ask a guest, to be honest, but...
[00:57:52.09] [Hans Niemann] Well, you know, your curiosity is a bit concerning, you know? Maybe you're personally interested, but I can tell you no.
[00:57:58.09] [Ryan] Anyway, here's what Hans has to say about chess.com's Hans Niemann report. We discussed this in Episode One, but just a refresher. This is a 72-page report in which chess.com pointed out that it was likely Hans cheated in over 100 online games, though there was no hard evidence.
[00:58:18.22] [Hans Niemann] Well, let me just clarify that the chess.com report where they accused me of cheating over 100 games is completely defamatory and, you know, as outlined in my lawsuit, you know, the person who actually wrote that report, Danny Rensch, told me himself that they knew that I had never cheated while streaming, and the most serious accusations in that report happened while I was streaming live on Twitch. And the only reason that they banned me, you know, was because they were finalizing a merger with the Play Magnus Group, and their new, you know, star ambassador was making a mockery of himself, and they needed to back up his accusations and discredit me. So chess.com's report accusing me of 100 games of cheating is frankly ridiculous. And the timing that they decided to ban me, you know, only during this merger and only after this accusation, you know, it's absolutely ridiculous, and that report should not be taken seriously whatsoever.
[00:59:08.60] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[00:59:09.00] [Jess] This is something we've alluded to before, but Hans addresses it outright here, which is that chess.com was acquiring Play Magnus at the exact same time as these cheating allegations were hurled at him. Hans' lawyer calls it a hit piece. Basically, the implication is that chess.com created the Hans Niemann Report to back Magnus, and either fudged the numbers or cherry picked them by finding games in their database that seemed fishy.
[00:59:37.49] [Ryan] Hans seems to be implying that chess.com already had their conclusion and were essentially working in reverse to conduct their experiment, which breaks rule number one of conducting an experiment, which is to not be biased. It's like a backronym, an acronym made in reverse, like Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD.
[00:59:58.89] [Music ends abruptly]
[00:59:59.25] [Jess] Wait, what? I really thought that it was just a weird coincidence that Seasonal Affective Disorder spelled SAD. It makes me sad to learn that that's a backronym.
[01:00:08.21] [Ryan] Yeah, of course it's fucking sad. It's 40 below in Canada and we all live in igloos.
[01:00:13.63] [Melodic saxophone music continues]
[01:00:14.06] Anyway, there's a few other things to discuss about this particular interview, in this episode, at least. The first is that Hans outright calls Magnus a bully.
[01:00:23.21] [Hans Niemann] This is simply a case of where bullies are going after someone because they threaten their business interests and you should be looking at the fact that--
[01:00:30.42] [Piers Morgan] So is Magnus Carlsen a bully?
[01:00:33.34] [Hans Niemann] Of course, he's a bully. He used his entire empire. He used his connections at chess.com. He leveraged the fact that there's a merger happening, and he got all of these people to attack me, and it was-- it's a bully. It's a simple thing, but, you know, I don't need to let people bully me. I'm going to stand up to him, and I stood up to him, and, you know, I look forward to competing with him and against the board again.
[01:00:52.90] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[01:00:53.74] [Ryan] To me, Magnus being a bully is just the other side of the coin of Magnus being a vigilante for chess justice. The way Magnus went about accusing Hans was ridiculous and should have been done behind closed doors. But maybe he thought it was the only route available?
[01:01:12.31] [Jess] I think that scapegoating someone is a bullying tactic. Whether or not he intended to, Magnus handpicked Hans out of this seemingly endless bag of cheaters, and chose to throw his entire existence into the limelight for everyone to make a mockery of.
[01:01:31.12] Okay, back to the Piers interview, because this is probably the juiciest part.
[01:01:35.45] [Ryan, laughing] I mean, considering Piers' comments, it seems to me that Piers thinks the juiciest part is Hans' ass.
[01:01:43.19] [Jess] Ryan, come on.
[01:01:44.48] [Ryan] Where he poops from.
[01:01:45.74] [Jess] If you're not going to take this seriously...
[01:01:47.57] [Ryan] Just one poop joke. You said I get to squeeze one out every episode.
[01:01:50.99] [Jess] Oh, my God. I'm going to talk now, and you can have a time out and think about your life choices.
[01:01:56.10] So the juiciest part is that Hans addresses that the lawsuit is now resolved. Here's that exchange.
[01:02:04.33] [Music fades]
[01:02:04.77] [Piers Morgan] Are you still suing him for $100 million?
[01:02:07.70] [Hans Niemann] No.
[01:02:08.48] [Piers Morgan] You dropped that?
[01:02:10.04] [Terrence A Oved] The case has been resolved, Piers.
[01:02:12.20] [Piers Morgan] Yeah. Did he-- did he pay any money, or...?
[01:02:16.10] [Terrence A Oved] We can't discuss that.
[01:02:18.94] [Piers Morgan] Okay.
[01:02:19.75] [Melodic saxophone music plays]
[01:02:20.02] [Ryan] Yeah, we keep saying that we're going to get to the lawsuit in another episode, but I just want to say this: the terminology being used here is interesting. The case has been RESOLVED, but Hans can't discuss if Magnus paid him any money. To me this just means the case had to be settled with some sort of compensation.
[01:02:41.78] [Jess] Yeah, it's really unfortunate that we will probably never know the answer to how much money Hans received, assuming he did receive a payout, which seems more than likely. It is so anticlimactic to just be, like, well, the lawsuit's resolved now. It's very annoying to not be privy to the behind the scenes because of the law and the legal things. But despite how anticlimactic that is, at least that's not nearly the end of this story. We keep saying it, but there is actually more to come.
[01:03:15.30] [Music fades]
[01:03:17.74] [Gloomy music plays]
[01:03:22.15] [Ryan] So, where does this leave us? Hans Niemann is for sure a weird guy. But how much of the weirdness is just him being young? How much of it is a calculated persona he's adopted in making himself out to be chess' baddest boy?
[01:03:38.85] [Jess] You can hear it in his voice in the many clips scattered throughout this episode, and you can see it in the videos, too. He has this smirk on his face, like he's trolling everybody, and loves that we're falling for it. Just like Magnus, he's also become a caricature of himself.
[01:03:59.64] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[01:04:00.03] Maybe he didn't deserve to be the scapegoat for all cheating in chess, but on the flip side, we know that he's cheated online and doesn't seem to think it's a big deal. Maybe he did cheat at the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, and maybe he didn't. We'll probably never know.
[01:04:18.39] [Ryan] The resolution of the lawsuit is that, legally, Hans didn't cheat. But, really, only one person knows the truth. And it's not Magnus. It's not FIDE. It's not chess.com. Hans is the only one who can tell us, and one look at that smirk tells me that he probably never will.
[01:04:47.38] [Music fades]
[01:04:49.32] [Ryan, synthesized voice with reverb] Smash that like button!
[01:04:51.95] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:04:56.37] [Jess] On the next episode of Rooked, we talk about what I'm sure you've been waiting for-- the device! We discuss all things cheating: a history of how cheating has impacted chess throughout time, the technical and technological ramifications, and, of course, anal beads.
[01:05:13.62] [Object vibrating]
[01:05:16.41] [Ryan] Oh, and one last thing: we'll talk about how Magnus has publicly accused yet another up-and-coming young player of cheating over the board, this time with a watch.
[01:05:37.29] [Jess] Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is written and produced by me, Jess Schmidt.
[01:05:40.83] [Ryan] And by me, Ryan Webb.
[01:05:42.87] [Jess] Our amazing music is by the ever-talented Lorna Gilfedder.
[01:05:46.62] [Ryan] Our executive producers are Rooney and Indigo.
[01:05:50.10] [both] Speak.
[01:05:50.85] [Rooney and Indigo howling]
[01:05:54.04] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:05:54.49] [Ryan] This podcast is recorded on the traditional Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the land of the Siksika, the Kainai, the Piikani, as well as the Stoney Nakoda and the Tsuut'ina Nations.
[01:06:06.16] [Jess] We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Metis nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Homeland. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge all nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
[01:06:25.93] [Ryan] This gathering place, and therefore this podcast, provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate reconciliation.
[01:06:33.92] [Jess] Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right, yet there are 28 long-term drinking water advisories on Indigenous reserves across Canada, including some that have been in place for more than 25 years. The Parliamentary Budget Officer of Canada identified a $138 million per year deficit in funding for the maintenance and operation of drinking water systems on reserves. The lack of clean, safe drinking water for all Canadians is a clear violation of the UN-recognized human right to water and sanitation.
[01:07:07.44] So what can you do? The first step is to educate yourself. Check and see how close you live to the nearest drinking water advisory, and take action. Write an appeal to your local and federal governments to ensure that clean drinking water is accessible for all Canadians.
[01:07:24.58] [Music fades]
[01:07:25.83] Because water is a human right.
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<![CDATA[Episode 2: The Players [PART 1 - Magnus]]]>Tue, 03 Oct 2023 18:13:32 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/october-03rd-2023
[00:00:00.00] [Gloomy synth music plays]
[00:00:00.29] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] Even on 60 Minutes, Magnus Carlsen, one of the funniest things he said-- he asked Magnus, "When do you think about chess, like, when you're not playing it? How often do you think about it?" And he said, "I'm thinking about it right now. I'm solving a problem."
[00:00:11.00] [Bob Simon] Do you ever stop thinking about chess?
[00:00:12.98] [Magnus Carlsen] Sometimes, but right now I was actually thinking about chess. I was thinking about something specific in my preparation for my game tomorrow.
[00:00:21.44] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] He's in a very different place than most people are mentally. He can certainly demonstrate a degree of focus that looks bordering on the occult, but the rest of the time, I've heard his personality has not endeared himself to a lot of people.
[00:00:38.12] [Rooked theme music plays]
[00:00:39.50] [Ryan] If you listened to episode one, which we hope you did, you already know the bones of this scandal. Two elite chess players play a game of chess. One player accuses the other of cheating. All hell breaks loose.
[00:00:53.12] [Jess] But to truly understand the scandal and its potential impact on the future of chess, you need to understand why these players at the centre of it matter. They represent the best and the worst aspects of the game, and even the way that chess itself has developed in the last 20 years. So, in this two-part episode, we're going to do a deep dive on who these players are: where they came from, what led them to this moment where they sat across the board from one another, and how their respective futures have been changed by this one game.
[00:01:30.39] [Ryan] Because this is a tale 0of perhaps the greatest chess player of all time.
[00:01:37.10] [Jess] This is a tale of one man taking the honour of the game into his own hands.
[00:01:44.28] [Ryan] This is a tale of cheating, of lies and conspiracies.
[00:01:50.90] [both] This is Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit.
[00:01:55.88] [Rooked theme music fades]
[00:02:01.76] [Gloomy synth plays]
[00:02:07.64] [Ryan] I'm Ryan Webb. I play chess and now I guess I podcast, too.
[00:02:12.56] [Jess] I'm Jess Schmidt. I podcast, and sometimes I begrudgingly play chess. But I always love to talk about it.
[00:02:20.57] [Ryan] You know from the last episode of Rooked that there are two big names in this scandal-- Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann. They both have a role to play here and in the chess world at large, but our job is to just try and present the facts and get out of the way so you can form your own opinion. So here's part one of this two-part episode. We begin with the GOAT--
[00:02:41.42] [Goat bleating]
[00:02:42.17] --the greatest of all time, if you choose to believe it: Magnus Carlsen.
[00:02:53.86] [Jess] But before we get started, I just want to acknowledge that, obviously, I'm an interloper in chess. Like, I literally only became interested because of this story.
[00:03:04.72] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:03:04.96] I do not care about strategy. I don't even really like playing chess. I truly am just here for the drama. But I want to understand that drama as intimately as I can. And one of the things that I've been researching and trying to understand is Magnus.
[00:03:23.02] I knew who Magnus was even before all this. He's one of those famous people. You might not know exactly why or where you know him from, but you for sure know his name. Ryan would talk about him sometimes-- games he was playing, other amazing accomplishments he somehow has had the time to rack up outside being World Chess Champion. But one of the things I've learned in undertaking this project is that, even though it seems like Magnus was destined from the start to be one of the greatest chess players of all time, it hasn't come without sacrifices and concessions... and a lot of hard work.
[00:04:01.22] He has a sort of effortless and aloof vibe, but it's one that I think he has spent a lot of time curating. I think after all our digging and contemplation, the one thing I'm sure about when it comes to Magnus is that he is very good at keeping his personal and public personas separate. And even the public persona can only be known at arms length.
[00:04:23.09] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] Magnus is on The Simpsons. Magnus was a fashion model. Magnus is selling his chess app for tens of millions of dollars to chess.com. He occupies a very unusual role outside of chess. Chess is a very insular game, and despite having, you know, upwards of 500 million people playing it, it's a hermetically sealed game that generally has hermetically sealed champions. And Magnus, I think it's fair to say he still is that. He's still a pretty enigmatic figure, but he's gotten more publicity than just about anybody since Bobby Fischer.
[00:04:58.22] [Ryan] We're going to talk more about Bobby Fischer later, but first, I want to introduce you to the voice you've just heard and that you've also heard at the top of the episode.
[00:05:06.72] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] My name is Brin-Jonathan Butler. I'm the author of three books, and I'm a journalist working and living in New York City.
[00:05:13.16] [Ryan] So I think I just need to rewind a bit here.
[00:05:16.21] [Tape rewinding]
[00:05:17.44] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:05:17.85] I've been obsessed with chess for around three years now, and Magnus Carlsen is still an enigma to me. I was scrolling through TikTok a while ago, and I stumbled upon some dude recommending a book about Magnus Carlsen, and I was like, "Hey, I know that guy." Honestly, the cover drew me in right away, and I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I'll do whatever the fuck I want, book!
[00:05:40.94] You just need to look up The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match that Made Chess Great Again by Brin-Jonathan Butler. Tell me that you're not immediately ordering it based on the cover alone. I honestly can't describe it enough to do it justice.
[00:05:55.09] Anyway, I gave [bleep] my money and immediately ordered it for next-day delivery. The book fascinated me for so many reasons. Brin writes with such poeticism when he talks about chess. It isn't just, "this piece goes to this square and captures this piece." It's a battle, a war being waged between two minds, and the cost of losing can range from the $5 you bet on the streets of New York to the very essence of your being. Brin captures the gravitas of high-level chess, and he did it while giving us a glimpse into his relationship with chess. The book doubles as a sports biography and a memoir, and the result is a case study on what makes Magnus such a compelling character, chess or no chess.
[00:06:40.30] [Upbeat music plays]
[00:06:40.63] [Jess] The content of the book ostensibly deals with the 2016 World Chess Championship, but Brin also goes into his own family history, the political climate in America at that moment, Magnus' background, Sergey Karjakin, who was Magnus' opponent in that match, as well as a bunch of other awesome chess and chess-related stories. You just need to read the book. It's great. Especially if you want to learn more about Falafel Backgammon, which you should.
[00:07:07.75] One of the best things Brin does in The Grandmaster-- for our purposes, especially-- is he really captures how uncapturable Magnus Carlsen is.
[00:07:17.50] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] I got a chance to speak with him I think after the book came out, or maybe right around the time it was coming out. He came to the UN and played, and my friend was a journalist who-- I think he was one of 20 people who got to play him. So to make that journalist laugh, because I was completely unable to interview Magnus-- I always have a notebook in my back pocket-- I begged Magnus like a fanboy, "Could you please sign my book?" So that's the exclusive engagement I've had with Magnus Carlsen, is asking him to sign-- I don't remember even what the book was anymore, or where the autograph was-- but I just wanted to have the silliness of finally engaging him.
[00:07:54.59] But I did engage many people around him. So the book, in many respects, was sort of more Frank Sinatra's Got a Cold in terms of interviewing his dad, and his coach, and many other Grandmasters that knew him, or photographers that had spent time with him on the way up to becoming a world champion.
[00:08:14.99] It's interesting because I have the same agent at CAA as Magnus Carlsen and still was not able to get access to him. These guys are not all that inclined to have an outsider profile them, which is something that I've been doing for 10 years, is profiling a lot of pretty famous people. But Magnus, no, totally shut me down.
[00:08:36.14] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:08:36.47] [Ryan] Brin wrote a 200-page book about Magnus Carlsen, and even he never got a chance to speak with him. Magnus is a fucking wall when it comes to journalists.
[00:08:46.70] In The Grandmaster, Brin talks about a Vice article that was written by Stephen Keefe about Magnus in 2014 titled Magnus Carlsen, World Chess Champion, is Kind Of a Dick. Keefe details his harrowing experience of trying to relate to Magnus in any capacity, while Magnus just totally stonewalls him. And here I mean to delay or block-- a request, process, or person-- by refusing to answer questions or by giving evasive replies, not the chess opening thought to have first been played between Howard Staunton and John Cochrane in London 1842, you fucking nerds.
[00:09:22.88] [Jess] Here's an excerpt from the article. "What? But he's the greatest chess player ever. It can't be his fault. I'm the loser that asked stupid questions and embarrassed myself in front of my hero. Right? I was so embarrassed, I wanted to punch myself in the face, or tie a belt around my neck and choke myself out, but not in the sexy way I usually do it. Then I started to think about it. What if we had been two people forgetting all the labels and their associated expectations? Well, then he'd be a dick. Sure, I am probably one in a long parade of nosy people who want to pry into his life, and maybe he'd spent most of his morning fielding dumb questions. But does his mastery and fame give him the licence to be dismissive and antagonistic? Probably not. I had made the mistake of holding Carlsen to a higher personal standard because he is famous and good at chess. There's no reason that he should be any better at handling a bad day than the rest of us. He was a dick to me, like we all are sometimes."
[00:10:24.70] [Ryan] Despite all this, Magnus is somehow one of the most beloved players in the history of the game. And I think that really says as much about chess as it does about Magnus.
[00:10:35.41] [Jess] There's something about Magnus that really toes the line between exceptionally dry, sarcastic humour, and just being full of himself.
[00:10:44.05] [Magnus Carlsen] I mean, I wouldn't call myself an arrogant bad boy, especially the bad boy part I'm not so sure about. Arrogant, I'm very happy with.
[00:10:52.96] [Laughter]
[00:10:53.28] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:10:53.59] [Jess] I think this is what appeals to the chess audience the most, outside of the chess itself. It's his wittiness, his ability to paint the caricature of himself that he hams up a bit, but also believes at least a little bit, too.
[00:11:07.98] [Ryan] For example, here's Magnus being interviewed by Rainn Wilson. You may know Rainn as Bill Hudley from the 2003 Rob Zombie hit House of 1000 Corpses, or maybe even as Gargamel in Smurfs: The Lost Village.
[00:11:21.17] [Rainn Wilson, as Dwight Schrute] Don't be an idiot.
[00:11:22.49] [Jess, chuckling] Actually, he's Dwight Schrute from The Office. Why are you wasting our time with this joke that's not even really funny? Okay, here's the clip.
[00:11:30.44] [Rainn Wilson] What would the first sentence of your autobiography be?
[00:11:33.29] [Magnus Carlsen] "I'm not a genius."
[00:11:34.34] [Rainn Wilson] And what would the title of your autobiography be?
[00:11:36.80] [Magnus Carlsen] Magnus Carlsen: Chess Genius. I don't know
[00:11:38.96] [Rainn laughs]
[00:11:40.31] [Ryan] Okay, yeah, Magnus is funny. He's playful. Here's an exchange a bit later in the video.
[00:11:46.07] [Rainn Wilson] People think about chess geniuses as hanging out in their basement and obsessively, like, chewing on their own skin and, you know, maybe bodies hidden somewhere in the house.
[00:11:56.28] [Magnus Carlsen] Well, you know, I'm only 21 years old, so give me some time to develop the crazy, you know?
[00:12:00.92] [Rainn laughs]
[00:12:01.16] [Jess] Yeah, clearly Magnus is quick-witted, able to think on his feet. He touches on the, quote, crazy, as he puts it, which is kind of a thing in and of itself when it comes to chess. We've all heard stories of chess players losing their minds a bit, for lack of a better term. And if you haven't heard about this, then classic Rooked line: we're gonna get to it in a later episode, so hold tight.
[00:12:23.90] [Ryan] I would say Magnus really isn't one to shy away from being a touch braggadocious, to put it generously. When asked who he thinks is the best player of all time, this is his response.
[00:12:35.15] [Magnus Carlsen] I would say my favourite player from the past is probably myself, like, three, four years ago.
[00:12:41.84] [Audience erupts in laughter, applauds]
[00:12:48.52] [Jess] And if that's not enough to gain a bit of insight into Magnus' personality and how he views himself, then listen to this.
[00:12:55.32] [Magnus Carlsen] In terms of being entertaining, obviously, I'm an extremely entertaining person. Like, my-- my jokes are drier than wood.
[00:13:05.49] [Gloomy piano plays]
[00:13:05.94] [Ryan] Magnus clearly has a sense of humour. But sometimes this humour comes across as a bit arrogant.
[00:13:12.27] [Jess] Phhh, a bit.
[00:13:13.77] [Ryan laughs]
[00:13:14.88] [Ryan] Here's Magnus' response when asked about a game he played against Fabiano Caruana during the 2018 World Chess Championship.
[00:13:21.82] [reporter] So when did you understand that this was a draw?
[00:13:28.04] [interviewer] So, Magnus, I think the question for you. You know, why were you playing on so long? When did you understand it was a draw? I mean--
[00:13:37.27] [Magnus Carlsen] When did I understand it was a draw?
[00:13:39.83] [Audience chuckles]
[00:13:41.20] [Magnus Carlsen] I understood it immediately.
[00:13:43.09] [Audience erupts in laughter]
[00:13:44.59] [Magnus Carlsen] That doesn't mean you shouldn't play.
[00:13:46.21] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:13:46.63] [Ryan] Magnus is clearly upset with the question. It's like he's offended that the reporter is bringing into question his calculating abilities, when that's clearly not the reporter's intentions. But you sort of get the sense that Magnus is able to say "Magnesian" things without any repercussions. And, yes, Magnesian is actually a common adjective used in the chess community to refer to anything that comes across as Magnus-like. And it has nothing to do with rocks, or minerals, or magnesium, even. So, please, leave if that's why you're here. We don't fucking talk about rocks on this podcast, okay? We're not here to talk about thunder eggs or oolitic limestone.
[00:14:25.30] [Jess] Ryan, this is why you do not write unsupervised.
[00:14:28.52] [Ryan laughs]
[00:14:28.97] Is this a stupid bit?
[00:14:29.78] [Jess] Yeah, definitely, but it's fine.
[00:14:31.33] [Ryan, laughing] Okay.
[00:14:31.83] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:14:32.19] [Jess] Anyway, as you probably gathered, in every one of those clips, the audience-- whether it was just Magnus and an interviewer or a room full of spectators, media, and other players-- everyone eats it up. It's just a simple and true fact that Magnus is a truly beloved figure in the chess world... even if he sometimes comes across as a bit blunt
[00:14:56.79] [Music fades]
[00:15:00.17] What else can we tell you about Magnus Carlsen? We were really tempted to just give a ChatGPT infodump here about Magnus' bio, just to, like, flesh out how Magnus became Magnus. But, honestly, it was so boring and you deserve better than that. So here are the things that we actually care about for Magnus' background and that we think are relevant to this story.
[00:15:23.03] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:15:23.48] Magnus' birthday is November 30, 1990. He's a Sagittarius.
[00:15:28.79] [Ryan, sighing] How the fuck is that relevant?
[00:15:30.44] [Jess] Okay, what a Piscean thing to say! Those who know, know. And will not be taking any further hostile questions on this.
[00:15:38.67] [Ryan] Okay, this podcast is cancelled.
[00:15:40.79] [Jess] No, astrology is low-hanging fruit to make fun of, Ryan. Do better.
[00:15:44.33] [Ryan] Okay, well, guess I'll just delete all my poop jokes later on, then.
[00:15:47.69] [Jess] Mmm-hmm, I'm sure you will.
[00:15:49.24] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:15:49.55] [Ryan] Magnus is Norwegian. That's important because, contextually, he's, like, one of the most famous people in Norway. There's one of the members of ABBA, the guy who painted The Scream, and Magnus. Just kidding, that's very reductive and insulting to Norway, but you get the picture. He's a household name globally, but also a national hero and icon.
[00:16:12.09] [Jess] Magnus started playing chess when he was five years old, which seems very precocious, but apparently that's typical for a lot of high-level chess players. There's a cute story-- whether it's true or something he invented for the media, I don't know-- about how he discovered an old chess set in his family's attic and started his career by playing against and learning from his father. Five years old, guys. What were you doing when you were five, Ryan?
[00:16:36.15] [Ryan] Honestly, probably pooping my pants.
[00:16:39.39] [Crickets chirping]
[00:16:42.55] [Jess] Hmm, guess that one didn't get deleted. I can't believe that out of the two of us, you're the better chess player. From pooping your pants to podcasting-- you've made it.
[00:16:51.16] [Ryan] Yeah, this truly is a rags-to-riches story. What were you doing when you were five?
[00:16:56.11] Mm, I actually was precocious in my own way, and my mom had to put me in school early so that I would have other people to talk at instead of just her. And here I am, 25 years later, still talking at people. I was a prodigy at talking shit.
[00:17:10.06] [Ryan] And I was a prodigy at making it.
[00:17:12.55] [Jess] Okay, you stand by this joke? You're doubling down on this joke?
[00:17:15.55] [Ryan] Yeah, I'm not gonna change who I am for this podcast. Everybody poops, and it's funny to make jokes about, okay? After Rooked is done, our next project is all about pooping.
[00:17:27.17] [Jess] Mmm-hmm. I Would never yuck another person's yum, but I will not be participating in that project. Thank you.
[00:17:33.23] [Ryan, synthesized voice with reverb] Everybody poops.
[00:17:36.31] [Jess] Okay, next interesting Magnus thing: he's played a lot of chess. He's very tactical and smart. He became a Grandmaster at the age of 13 years, four months, 27 days-- yes, they do measure it in days-- which makes him the eighth youngest ever at the time of this recording. That's pretty cool.
[00:17:54.74] Honestly, after winning the 2023 World Cup, Magnus has won every major chess event at least once, which no other player has done. Not to say that others like Kasparov or Karpov didn't win them all back in the day, but years ago, there was not nearly as many tournaments as there is now.
[00:18:12.50] Here's what Brin had to say when we asked him about Magnus' success compared to someone like former World Champion Bobby Fischer.
[00:18:19.46] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] I still don't think he has anywhere near the purchase culturally that Fischer had. I don't think that's an opinion. It's just bared out. If you go back to read the New York Times during Fischer at the 1972 World Championships, that news dominated Watergate and it dominated Vietnam. And that was certainly not the case when I was covering Magnus Carlsen here in New York City after Trump was elected. It was a footnote. And I'm not trying to take anything away from his achievement there, but very, very different than what Fischer represented in his time with the Cold War.
[00:18:54.80] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:18:56.27] [Ryan] Regardless of whether or not you agree that Magnus is truly the greatest player of all time, in terms of career achievements, Magnus has basically done everything you can do in chess. Brin put it really well in our interview with him.
[00:19:09.89] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] Chess is a game of obsession of status, of ratings, of measurement. Almost every Grandmaster I ever met, within five seconds they tell me they were a Grandmaster. And the analogue I use to that is Mensa. I've never met anybody who is a member in Mensa who didn't lead with that they're a member of Mensa. They want it to speak for them. It's a weird thing, because it's status obsessed but it also seems very defensive and insecure. A chess Grandmaster sounds like it's a Knight from Arthur's Round Table. And you're like, yeah, but if I was 1,500th in the world at Parcheesi, I don't know that I'd go around bragging about it. I don't know that anybody would necessarily care. So I just think there's a lot about what encompasses the genius of Magnus Carlsen.
[00:19:57.35] Half of it, we're obsessed with how it illuminates the watermark of his personality and the nature of his mind and genius, and the other half is we're trying to see a reflection of ourselves and understand ourselves as a species better. And chess for 1,500 years has continued to maintain that relevance.
[00:20:16.04] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:20:16.52] [Jess] The point of chess, at the highest level, anyway, is to do exactly what Magnus has done: win, have the highest rating, collect all the trophies and prizes, and sit on the throne comfortable that these things prove you are the best. You're supposed to hold that position until the next greatest player comes along to usurp you. Or maybe you go sort of mad, or you die before then, but that's basically how it usually goes.
[00:20:42.56] Magnus has even said on a number of occasions that his own personal goal is to amass an Elo rating of 2900, which is so statistically unlikely for a non-computer to achieve, it's considered an inhuman feat. If you're better at math than we are, you can read more about this in a paper titled, On the Probability of Magnus Carlsen reaching 2900 that was published last year. And also if you read that paper and can explain to us what it's saying, we would appreciate it. We will even bring back the prize bucket from episode one.
[00:21:13.71] [Prof. Gerald Lambeau, from Good Will Hunting] So without further ado, come forward, silent rogue, and receive thy prize.
[00:21:18.32] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:21:18.65] [Ryan] What it boils down to is this. Because Magnus is at the top, he has to win every game he plays in order to not lose rating points. When chess is played by two equally matched computers, it results in a draw 100% of the time. That means that chess at its absolute base never has a clear winner or loser. Even a human player playing their best against a computer results in a draw if it's a perfectly executed game. Most of the time, a draw doesn't lose a player points, and it can even potentially earn them points, depending on the disparity between their rating and their opponent's rating.
[00:21:55.71] [Jess] But because Magnus is so far ahead of the rest of all the other players at this point, even a draw results in Magnus losing points.
[00:22:03.95] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:22:04.29] [Jess] To put this in perspective, if Magnus wins, say, seven games in a row and then loses the eighth game that he plays, he's back to exactly where he was in terms of his rating before the very first game was played. He'd have to win an exceptionally long string of successive games to reach the goal of 2900.
[00:22:25.20] [Ryan] Magnus has had a sequence of 125 undefeated consecutive classical games. But even that wasn't enough to get him over the 2900 threshold. The closest he's come is 2882, but the difference between 2882 and 2900 is like jumping from a 5 to an 8 on the Richter Scale. It's an order of magnitude that's measured exponentially, not linearly. Again, we're bad at math, so someone who knows better, please, correct us. But just for reference, the current best Stockfish computer engine has a rating of something like 3550. To echo Hans' sentiment...
[00:23:05.49] [with reverb] Math speaks for itself.
[00:23:08.13] [Jess] So why does this nearly impossible goal of 2900 matter? Why are we going on and on and on about it? Because it's the only thing Magnus has left to accomplish. He's achieved every single other standard for success in this sport. It's like he's at 99% completion in a video game and he just has this one ridiculously difficult side quest left.
[00:23:34.24] [Electronic video game music plays]
[00:23:37.15] It's like in Tears of the Kingdom where you can finish the whole "defeat Ganon" plotline, but if you didn't find all the fucking Bubbul Gems in every fucking cave first, you don't get 100% completion.
[00:23:48.55] [Music cuts out]
[00:23:49.45] [Ryan] Did you get 100% completion?
[00:23:51.46] [Jess] You know that I didn't, Ryan, so shut up.
[00:23:53.79] [Video game fail music plays]
[00:23:56.37] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:23:57.76] [Ryan] Even outside of the pie-in-the-sky 2900 rating goal, in Magnus' career he's played a bunch of tournaments and has beaten a bunch of really good players-- all of the game's elite, in fact.
[00:24:10.65] [Music fades]
[00:24:11.90] [Jess] In sum, here's what we know about Magnus Carlsen.
[00:24:14.31] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:24:14.80] As we already said, he's done pretty much everything you can do in chess.
[00:24:19.12] [Ryan] We know he's considered to be one of the greatest chess players of all time.
[00:24:23.08] [Jess] We know that he has a girlfriend that he doesn't really talk to the media about.
[00:24:27.28] [Ryan] We know that he has three sisters and that his parents are both engineers.
[00:24:31.36] [Jess] We don't really know who his friends are other than the other people in the chess community that he occasionally streams with, like Aryan Tari, who-- fun fact-- is also named in the lawsuit for gallivanting the streets of Austria defaming Hans. Great story, but we're going to get to it in a different episode.
[00:24:48.92] [Ryan] His favourite drink while playing chess is orange juice mixed with water, I guess. Just watered-down orange juice like our mothers used to do to us in sixth grade to cut back calories, because instead of playing outside with the other kids we were playing Yu-Gi-Oh, and we just opened the pack that contained the Left Leg of Exodia, and-- fuck yeah!-- we'll be the coolest kids in school, but we just need to spend the next six hours building a better deck to play with! That kind of juice.
[00:25:16.19] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:25:16.57] [Jess] And that's all we know about Magnus' private life. Professionally, we know that he plays chess brutally, exceptionally, and with extreme concentration.
[00:25:26.08] [Ryan] If you want to improve your own game, chess or otherwise, here's a tip from Magnus himself.
[00:25:31.63] [Magnus Carlsen] Sit at the chessboard and play with yourself.
[00:25:34.99] [Object vibrating]
[00:25:38.47] [Paino music plays]
[00:25:38.97] [Ryan] So I think you should also know that Magnus isn't just great at chess. He's also kind of great at making chess great. Not in a Trump kind of way, but in a good way. He's inspired a tonne of young players, and it's in part thanks to him that chess has gotten so popular. Obviously, chess has also grown a lot because of shows like Queen's Gambit and some really smart marketing geared towards the social media generation. We'll get more into Mittens the chess bot in another episode. But before all that, Magnus' charisma and coolness charmed the chess community.
[00:26:12.45] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:26:12.81] [Jess] He's also done a lot to improve the accessibility of chess in the last 10 years. He brought chess to a whole new player base in the form of Play Magnus, an online chess app and website. Play Magnus merged with chess24 in 2019 and was acquired by chess.com in 2022. It's arguable as to whether accessibility is really helped by participating in a monopoly, but what do I know? I'm not an economist, just a passionate anti-capitalist. All this to say, Magnus has played a big role in classical and online chess, and he's been one of the big names in chess for the better part of nearly two decades, both playing and shaping the game.
[00:26:52.84] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:26:54.96] [Ryan] We've talked so much about chess.com and Play Magnus.
[00:26:58.56] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:26:58.95] But did you know there is other chess websites?
[00:27:01.56] [Jess] And some of them are completely free.
[00:27:04.26] [Ryan] One of my personal favourites is Lichess. Lichess.org is a free open-source chess server powered by volunteers and donations. All you need to sign up is an email address.
[00:27:15.90] [Jess] On Lichess, you can play chess in all of its variations. They also have free puzzles.
[00:27:21.36] [Ryan] Not, like, picture puzzles. Like, chess puzzles where you have to solve a position or problem. They work on donations. They don't have the budget to send people flipping 100-piece picture puzzles.
[00:27:32.94] [Jess] You can study, practise, watch your favourite streamers, and even chat with other players.
[00:27:38.72] [Sombre music plays]
[00:27:39.09] [Ryan] Best of all, they have publicly stated that they will no longer cooperate with both the Saint Louis Chess Club-- yes, the same ones who host the Sinquefield Cup-- and the US Chess Federation, quote, "due to serious concerns about their lack of accountability," end quote, in the wake of multiple sexual assault and harassment allegations. Lichess is also not advertising their events.
[00:28:03.88] [Jess] We love the messaging they're putting out in support of this decision. Here's a quote from one of Lichess' blog posts. Quote, "Women and girls in chess already face an uphill battle. They deserve a safe and supportive environment, but too often, they encounter abuse, harassment, or worse. And too often, they feel powerless to report it or seek justice. It's time to help break the silence." End quote.
[00:28:33.48] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:28:33.92] [Ryan] So we don't get anything from this. But we support Lichess and their values, and you should too. Visit lichess.org and add RookedPodcast, all one word, to your friend list, so I can kick your [bleep] See you there.
[00:28:48.41] That's lichess.org.
[00:28:50.42] [Jess and Lanny McDonald] And tell 'em Lanny sent ya!
[00:28:52.61] [Eastside Dodge jingle plays]
[00:28:56.03] [Comical slide whistle plays]
[00:28:58.47] [Piano music plays]
[00:28:58.96] [Ryan] Even though he's arguably the greatest chess player of all time, Magnus' public life does sometimes extend beyond the chess board. For instance, he's also played in high-profile poker tournaments, with his winnings amounting to over 20 grand. Not that he does anything for the money, but that's nothing to sneeze at.
[00:29:17.68] Magnus is also an incredibly talented fantasy football player. If you don't know what that is, you pick a lineup of players from across the entire football league-- soccer, if you're North American boors like us-- and make a team of your own, scoring points depending on how the players do in their real games. In Magnus' first year in the Fantasy Premier League, he placed 85,781. But after having played for three years, he managed to make it to within the top 2,400.
[00:29:47.47] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:29:48.34] Do you want to guess out of how many players altogether?
[00:29:51.34] [Jess, sighing] I don't know. A million? I know even less about fantasy football than I do about chess.
[00:29:56.01] [Ryan laughs]
[00:29:56.56] [Ryan] Yeah, you know less about fantasy football than you do about regular football, and you know nothing about that. It's higher.
[00:30:03.83] [Jess] 100 million?
[00:30:05.21] [Ryan] That's way too high! I'm just going to tell you that at the time, it was around 10 million.
[00:30:10.67] [Jess] I mean, that's still impressive, though.
[00:30:12.29] [Ryan] Yeah, you're right.
[00:30:13.37] In December of 2020, mid-season of the FPL, Magnus managed to rise to the number-one spot, and he modestly tweeted out, "Bio needed an update," attaching his profile which read, quote, "World Chess Champion, the highest-rated chess player in the world. Current live number-one Fantasy Premier League player." End quote. He didn't end the season at the top, but honestly, to do this all while being the number-one chess player in the world-- it's such an incredible achievement.
[00:30:42.19] [Cheerful music plays]
[00:30:42.59] If I were number one at anything at any point ever in time, I would literally tattoo it on my face for everyone to know how fucking cool I was.
[00:30:51.68] [Jess] I mean, unless it was something that's just stupid to be number one at.
[00:30:55.01] [Ryan] Like what?
[00:30:56.48] [Jess] I don't know. Number-one segue racer in the world.
[00:30:59.33] [Ryan] Mmm, honestly, that's still pretty dope.
[00:31:01.58] [Jess] Anyway, Magnus is good at a lot of stuff, but you get the feeling that he does all of these other things in and around his first love of chess.
[00:31:09.49] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:31:09.95] Or, at least, chess was the big love of his life until recently. In the last couple of years, it's become more and more apparent that specifically classical chess does not hold the same appeal that it used for him. And that's a problem because a lot of the elite tournaments in chess are predominantly played in the classical format.
[00:31:30.08] [Ryan] For instance, 2023 was the first year since 2010 where Magnus was not named the World Chess Champion. But it's not because he lost. He just refused to defend his title. His reasoning is that the classical game format that the World Chess Championship is defined by is old and stale, and there's been no movement from FIDE to make any of the updates that Magnus and other players have suggested.
[00:31:55.67] [Piano music plays]
[00:31:56.15] Now, this all has come after the events of Sinquefield Cup, so it's still possible that the scandal has weighed in on his choice. But Magnus has said for a while now that he doesn't want to play long-form chess when it's crushingly dull, and that's what he considers the World Chess Championship format to be-- too boring and not enough of a challenge.
[00:32:16.20] [Jess] And it's not just the World Chess Championship. Here's a clip featuring Magnus a few months later at another classical event, Fact Check Tournament.
[00:32:23.71] [Ryan laughs]
[00:32:24.17] [Ryan] Oh, shit, I forgot to write it down, but it's the 2023 World Cup, which he actually went on to win.
[00:32:29.90] [Jess] Get it together, Ryan. The listeners are going to find out that we're just flying by the seat of our pants here.
[00:32:35.37] [Magnus Carlsen] What am I doing here? Like, why am I spending all this time playing classical chess, which I just find, you know, stressful and boring?
[00:32:49.73] [Ryan] Now, if Magnus were the king of cool, if he never got fussed about anything, not only would this make for a much less entertaining podcast, but he'd also be kind of an alien in the chess world. Ironically, Magnus himself thinks he has one of the more even temperaments in the game.
[00:33:06.74] [Magnus Carlsen] In terms of sanity, you know, I have my moments, good and bad.
[00:33:13.40] [Chuckles]
[00:33:14.12] Overall, I think it's-- I'm somebody who can certainly be very upset after games. Usually, it doesn't-- doesn't last. There haven't been any too egregious moments so far.
[00:33:31.85] [Piano music plays]
[00:33:32.09] [Ryan] But if you ask us, and obviously our opinions matter way more than Magnus Carlsen's because it's our podcast here, Magnus isn't an outlier when it comes to his temperament. Everyone has their moments, Magnus included. Maybe it wasn't fair to play that clip of a kid having a temper tantrum in episode one. But I don't necessarily consider it unfair, per se. For instance, here's a clip of an interview that Magnus gave during the 2017 Paris Grand Chess Tour after winning the game on day three.
[00:34:01.59] [Maurice Ashley] Well, we're with the King of Rapids. Magnus Carlsen has taken at least that title, not that it means anything as far as this tournament is concerned, but at least he's shown that he is indeed the best player in the world and starting off the Grand Chess Tour quite well. Magnus, you seemed to have some hiccups earlier today. You didn't have really smooth performances. And this game wasn't that smooth either. It looked a little bit unclear. What was your feeling overall as the game was transpiring?
[00:34:31.98] [Magnus Carlsen] Okay, I mean, what do you want me to do? So, I mean, I take-- I take the piece and then... I mean, of course, he hasn't done anything particularly wrong. Of course, he's not going to be lost. I mean, what do you-- what do you want from me?
[00:34:45.82] [Maurice Ashley, laughing awkwardly] I don't want anything. I just want to see just chess getting played.
[00:34:48.99] [Magnus Carlsen] Yeah, but, I mean, you're talking about-- I mean, that the game wasn't smooth. And, again, what do you-- what do you want me to do? I mean-- yeah, sure.
[00:34:58.74] [Maurice Ashley] Oh, well--
[00:34:59.31] [Magnus Carlsen] I mean, do you want me to get a huge advantage from the opening and then to push it all the way? Is that the only way you can win a smooth game? Is that your point?
[00:35:08.67] [Maurice Ashley] Oh, not at all, Magnus. But certainly the game was tricky enough. Let me get your thoughts on how you've done so far--
[00:35:14.43] [Magnus Carlsen] Yeah, I'm just feeling that the whole, you know, the whole-- the way you're approaching it is trying to belittle the whole thing. That's my only issue.
[00:35:23.46] [Maurice Ashley] My apologies, Magnus. We definitely have respect for you as a World Champion. So don't take any offence to what we're trying to say. We're just trying to do commentary.
[00:35:30.87] [Jess] If you don't completely understand what's happening here, this is the context.
[00:35:34.57] [Piano music plays]
[00:35:35.05] Magnus is mad because the interviewer, Maurice Ashley, says that his games, quote, could have been smoother. And Magnus finds that offensive because he did win his games. I honestly can see Magnus' side because he's really just being put on a pedestal here. He's expected to play every game not just to win, but to win perfectly, without any errors. Winning isn't enough. Everyone expects him to dominate. That's how the chess world views Magnus. He's the golden child, almost godlike in his prowess, and they expect nothing less. But at the end of the day, Magnus isn't a God. He's a humble human like the rest of us. And to be human is to err, as they say, and inevitably Magnus does make mistakes.
[00:36:24.03] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:36:24.43] [Ryan] Not that God hasn't made any mistakes. Have you ever seen a snake? No fucking feet! No arms or legs! Some lay eggs and some have live babies? Make up your mind, snakes! And worms, too. They can survive even if you chop them up? They just turn into more worms! Are they a new, different worm or a clone worm? What about eels? We don't even know where the fucking eels come from! Science literally doesn't know and they have, like, actively tried to track them and they keep losing them. Where are you going, eels?
[00:36:57.79] [Jess] Actually, they do know where eels come from as of last year. And, of course, it's the Bermuda Triangle. I need to look into this more.
[00:37:07.15] [Ryan] Okay, podcast number three-- following the poop podcast, obviously-- eels!
[00:37:12.01] [Jess] If you guys just don't really care about Hans and Magnus the way that you care about eels, let us know. We will take this podcast and full 180 it into an eel podcast. We don't even have to finish the Hans-Magnus thing if you guys care about eels more. Let us know.
[00:37:25.01] [Ryan] But for now, we'll just keep talking about Magnus.
[00:37:27.55] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:37:27.85] In all honesty, this is really kind of the end of the hard facts about Magnus.
[00:37:32.05] [Jess] Yeah, like, most of the things we've talked about so far you could also just find by googling.
[00:37:36.28] [Ryan] Guess that's the end of the episode, then.
[00:37:38.46] [Rooked outro plays]
[00:37:40.78] [Tape rewinding]
[00:37:41.71] Just kidding. We have a lot more to say.
[00:37:43.86] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:37:44.15] [Jess] Yeah, but from this point onwards, it's mostly our speculations of why we think Magnus is acting the way that he is and our best guesses as to what his mindset is about the whole scandal. But I feel like these postulations aren't totally off base, because it just makes sense that, obviously, Magnus isn't a God, but there's all these expectations from the chess community that Magnus is supposed to act like he is the God of chess. And maybe if he was having a good time doing that, there wouldn't be any of these issues. But one of the other interesting things about chess is that it's not a game you play by yourself. You play it against someone, and some of the best moments in chess history are born not necessarily from one player ruling them all. It comes from the contest, the head-to-head of two well-matched players who are sharpening their wits against each other.
[00:38:37.09] [Ryan] Kasparov's immortal against Topalov. Fischer versus the Russians. Morphy's Opera Game. All these chronicled and well-referenced games are as much about the competition as they are about the victor. A knife can only be sharpened when it's met with the proper resistance to hone it, and though Magnus has seen a number of challenges in his career to get to where he is now, the current problem is that there's not really anyone who can take the title of GOAT from him... At least not at this moment in time.
[00:39:07.94] [Magnus Carlsen] In terms of rivals, there are tiers. The first tier is, like, no rivals.
[00:39:14.24] [Jess] It begs the question, what happens when you can't live up to the pressure and expectations of perfection?
[00:39:20.92] [Sinister synth music plays]
[00:39:21.29] And on top of that, what do you do when the reality of unattainable perfection just becomes too lonely and boring?
[00:39:28.49] [Ryan] Here's what Brin had to say about Magnus during his 2016 World Chess Championship against Karjakin.
[00:39:34.85] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] You can feel the heart rate of the people escalating, and their nerves, and how you deal with pressure. Watching Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin was like watching two guys in a torture chamber. They could age 10 years by the end of the night. I ended up just having an extraordinary respect for what it takes to maintain your composure for that period of time. I can't think of many tasks that require that level of focus and concentration, and just dealing with nerves. If you make one blunder, just how quickly you're going to be judged so incredibly harshly.
[00:40:09.21] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:40:10.44] [Jess] There's so much pressure to be the best-- not just the best, but the greatest to ever play the game. And then on top of that, there's the expectation to not fuck up. What kind of mental toll does that take on a person? We'll get more into the psychology of this kind of thing in a later episode, but for now, here's Bill, the Mental Game Coach.
[00:40:32.70] [Bill Cole] A kid will say to me, "Oh, I'm really nervous about playing," and they're going to a higher level tournament. I ask them, "So between you down here and them up there, who has the pressure?" "Oh, I do, I do, I do." "Do you really?" "They could really embarrass me and kill me and--" "But who really has the pressure?" And they think and they go, "Oh, I see. They're expected to win. I'm not." And they go and they play well because nothing to lose.
[00:41:00.56] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:41:01.16] [Ryan] So it makes sense, then, that once you've reached the very top of the game, you've won it all in terms of events and honours, that you would start looking for other avenues to improve the game, and maybe also to entertain yourself. Again, this is just pure speculation, and it could be neither of those things, but this whole story makes sense to me as to why Magnus might go through all the effort of making Hans into a villain... or at least a scapegoat, the all-encompassing, Capital C Cheater. And with Magnus' notoriety and clout in the chess world, Hans is necessarily the Hester Prynne of chess, because Magnus says so.
[00:41:41.67] But why Hans and not someone else. And why haven't we heard their names, too?
[00:41:47.53] [Brin-Jonathan Butler] Any computer can beat any chess World Champion who ever lived. So the question that I think has not been asked yet is chess.com has called out Hans Niemann as being a repeat offender of cheating. What they haven't been asked is who else has been cheating? Like, I think what you need, like what baseball had, was a Mitchell Report, to see the extent to which everybody is cheating. And I think the same is true in chess. You have all the incentives to do it. We just don't have much transparency to go on. Historically, Magnus Carlsen has not called out everybody who's beat him. I don't think he's ever done it before, to say that they were assisted in beating him, except in this instance, and this guy has a history of cheating. So it seems to reflect much more on Hans Niemann than it does on Magnus Carlsen's character, in my view.
[00:42:36.10] [Jess] Let's just back up a bit to the game in question where Hans allegedly cheated. If you don't remember, it's the one that took place at the Sinquefield Cup where Hans beat Magnus with the black pieces, and then he was all like...
[00:42:47.38] [Hans Niemann] I think he was just so demoralized because he's losing to such an idiot like me, you know? It's just-- it must be embarrassing for the World Champion to lose to me. I feel bad for him.
[00:42:56.38] [Ryan] Now that we have a better understanding of who Magnus is, we might be able to answer some of our original questions that we kind of left hanging in episode one.
[00:43:05.01] [Eerie music plays]
[00:43:05.26] Like why did Magnus call out Hans for cheating?
[00:43:08.26] [Jess] Why this game? Why this way? Ghosting from the tournament with a mysterious tweet that snowballed into a media frenzy clusterfuck that eventually left Hans's career in tatters. We're going to get more into Hans' side of things next episode, by the way. We wanted it to be this episode, but this episode is too long. Sorry, not sorry. But here's a teaser from lawyer David Franklin. This is what he had to say when we asked him what he thought about how Magnus dealt with the events at Sinquefield Cup.
[00:43:38.29] [David Franklin] So Magnus recognizes that he's the strongest player in the world. He's the biggest name in the sport. And he has to do it sparingly, but if he says, I'm not going to play this guy because I don't think he's on the up and up, organizers are going to side with him. They're not going to side with number 50 in the world, who's, you know, a mere 2700 player. So guess I have mixed feelings about it. I think it's a good thing that Magnus is shining a light on the cheating problem. I just don't think that this was the right way to go about doing it.
[00:44:12.89] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:44:17.33] [Ryan] Option one is maybe Magnus let his so-called godly chess powers go to his head and he made a questionable call to bring justice to the game, namely to scapegoat Hans Niemann as the face of cheating in chess. At least, that's how it looks from where we're sitting. And now we're using our much lowlier podcast powers to question whether that was the right thing for Magnus to do.
[00:44:39.74] [Jess] Because we now know in the wake of the Sinquefield scandal that Hans has cheated before, at least online. And we know that there's other big players who have also been caught out cheating since then. Again, we're going to have a whole episode on cheating, so that's when we're going to talk about it more.
[00:44:56.68] [Soft synth music plays]
[00:44:56.97] And this is not the first instance of cheating in chess either. It turns out that cheating is, unfortunately, not a small part of elite chess culture. So it could be that Magnus is aware of how fucked up and prolific cheating in chess is, got sick of it, and saw Hans as the easiest target to bring the issue into the spotlight. Even if Magnus was being motivated by the spirit of vigilante justice, a la Batman, most people are in agreement that the way Magnus quit the tournament and threw Hans under the bus was not the right way of doing things. Even if he was righteously motivated, he is not the hero chess deserves.
[00:45:37.08] [Robert Pattinson as Batman] I'm vengeance.
[00:45:38.34] [Jess] Here's what FIDE Master James Canty III had to say when we asked him about Magnus' reaction and whether or not James thought Hans cheated.
[00:45:46.89] [James Canty III] He threw a hissy fit there. I think Magnus, actually, bro-- I think he was in the wrong, to be honest. But a lot of people think that. A lot of people think that, but it is Magnus, and some people side with him. A lot of people sided with him, and because they sided with him, you have to understand and respond to that. You got to be like, okay, well, that makes sense. I mean, it really does. It makes sense that if these strong players are siding with him, then you actually have to take it very serious. But if there's no evidence at the end of the day, like they say, innocent until proven guilty. That's really what it is. Really, this is going to come back to bite you if you are wrong. Like, if you say, oh, he is cheating, oh, he cheated before, of course, he's cheating. But then when it comes out he didn't, how do you look now? Like, I understand you're entitled to your opinion, but you actually don't have all the information. You actually really don't know. You're just going off of what your opinion is. So I believe it's always good to stay, like, just neutral there and innocent until proven guilty, for both sides.
[00:46:38.11] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:46:39.85] [Ryan] So, option two is exactly what Magnus stated in the letter he released weeks after leaving the Sinquefield Cup. He believes that Hans cheated and he doesn't want to play against cheaters. It just so happens that because he is Magnus Carlsen, he has more clout than any other player in the world, and he can get away with it. Here's a quote from Hans' lawsuit. Quote, "Carlsen, having solidified his position as the King of Chess, believes that when it comes to chess, he can do whatever he wants and get away with it." End quote.
[00:47:11.38] [Jess] I'm sure there are a lot of players who are truly honest and never cheat, and also don't want to play against cheaters.
[00:47:19.09] [Soft synth music plays]
[00:47:19.30] But if anyone else pulled what Magnus did, they probably would have been fined or even barred from future events. What Magnus did is generally considered bad behaviour in chess, even if Hans did cheat. So if it is just the case that Magnus was frustrated that Hans cheated, and just kind of was allowed to blow up Hans' career as a result, it's kind of bananas that everyone let him do it. And they didn't just let him. In the case of chess.com, they fully got on board.
[00:47:51.34] [Ryan] To me this whole argument of Magnus just not wanting or willing to play cheaters doesn't really hold up, especially if you take into consideration what Hans' lawyers have claimed. Quote, "In fact, Sebastian Feller, a European Grandmaster who was caught cheating at the 2010 Chess Olympiad tournament and subsequently banned from participating in FIDE-sanctioned events for nearly three years, is currently playing in the same tournament as Carlsen, the 2022 European Club Cup, with no objection whatsoever from chess.com or Carlsen. Magnus recently played a FIDE-sanctioned game against Parham Maghsoodloo, who was banned from lichess.org for cheating. Likewise, chess Grandmaster Teimour Radjabov has been repeatedly boycotted by players for allegedly cheating, and Danny Rensch has claimed that chess.com algorithms confirmed that he cheated. Yet to this day, Radjabov is allowed to compete in prize money events on chess.com, including the Global Chess Championship, from which Niemann was uninvited." End quote.
[00:48:51.79] [Jess] So if Hans' lawyers are to be believed here-- which, I mean, you probably shouldn't document falsified claims in such a high-profile case, but who knows?-- isn't Magnus necessarily a hypocrite for continuing to play against documented cheaters?
[00:49:08.14] [Ryan] Yeah, and furthermore-- I bet you never saw this coming-- there's a clip on YouTube of Magnus himself cheating in an online tournament against Daniel Naroditsky.
[00:49:18.88] Magnus is in a room with a few friends, one of them being GM David Howell. On the 11th move, Naroditsky blunders and Magnus has the opportunity to trap his queen. Magnus doesn't see it until David points it out, and then Magnus plays the move. Listen to this clip from the Chess Press YouTube channel.
[00:49:38.91] [David Howell] Wait, you can trap it.
[00:49:40.26] [Laughter]
[00:49:40.71] [Magnus Carlsen] How? Oh, fuck.
[00:49:42.64] [David Howell] Sorry, I shouldn't--
[00:49:43.38] [Magnus Carlsen] Oh, cheating! Cheating!
[00:49:48.28] [David Howell] I was talking about Tinder. You can trap it by if you click, swipe right.
[00:49:51.91] Yeah
[00:49:52.72] [Magnus Carlsen] Cheating!
[00:49:53.53] [David Howell] If you win now, I will--
[00:49:56.65] [Magnus Carlsen] Oh, boy. These backseat gamers. That's a ban. That's a ban.
[00:50:01.96] [Ryan] And here's Daniel's response during a stream after the tournament.
[00:50:05.83] [Daniel Naroditsky] When I found out initially after the tournament, I was at first a little bit salty, just sort of instinctively. But not like I'm going to do anything about it. I just sort of rolled my eyes. But obviously upon reflection, it's completely innocuous, Magnus just having a good time. And I know from firsthand experience, when you're watching someone's game it's sometimes almost impossible not to say something. It's like an instinct. He clearly was not being malicious or ultra-competitive or anything like that.
[00:50:31.79] In addition, it was only the first game of the streak. I mean, if this was the last game of the tournament, you know, maybe I'd be a little bit more peeved.
[00:50:38.62] [Piano music plays]
[00:50:39.07] [Ryan] Now, obviously, as Naroditsky points out, this was clearly not malicious cheating, but it was still technically cheating, according to the rules. As we'll learn in the next episode when we discuss more about Hans and his potential mentor, Maxime Dlugy, this little distinction of other people naming moves and then the player making those moves can actually have giant repercussions, like account banning. So clearly there's grey areas in regards to cheating, but at the end of the day, it seems like Magnus has also cheated onlind... Even though he didn't necessarily mean to.
[00:51:15.54] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:51:18.93] [Jess] Option 3, and this is what Hans and his lawyers have argued, is that Magnus' defeat at the hands of Hans-- say that 10 times fast-- made Magnus big mad because it gets in the way of his 100% game-finishing chess completion that we were talking about earlier.
[00:51:36.39] [Electronic video game music plays]
[00:51:38.69] Here's another quote from the lawsuit. And don't worry, we're going to revisit the lawsuit again in its own episode. This is just a sneak peek into how ridiculous the lawsuit is. Quote, "Niemann's upset victory effectively dashed Carlsen's two remaining statistical ambitions, namely, achieving a 2900 FIDE performance rating for the first time in history, and breaking his own world record unbeaten streak in FIDE-sanctioned events. These accomplishments, if achieved, would have solidified Carlsen as arguably the greatest chess player of all time, and made his burgeoning chess empire even more valuable." End quote.
[00:52:15.47] [Ryan] Okay, what? Let's break this down. First, the 2900 thing. Hans' lawyers are suggesting that by losing to Hans, Magnus will never achieve 2900. That just doesn't make any sense. By losing to anyone, Magnus is set back from the 2900 goal, because as we already said, it's really not achievable. Yeah, okay, Magnus was probably set further back than usual in losing to Hans, since Hans' rating was high 2600 at the time of the Sinquefield Cup.
[00:52:47.10] Remember, he was a last-minute invite to Sinqeufield, because Richard Rapport, a higher-rated player than Hans, dropped out. Hans was the lowest-rated player on the field, and thus least likely to upset the highest-ranked player. Still, though, this is just a ridiculous claim.
[00:53:05.89] [Jess] Second, the world record FIDE streak. The person who holds this record currently is Magnus.
[00:53:13.36] [Upbeat piano music plays]
[00:53:13.81] They're arguing that Magnus is upset that he can't beat himself? What does that have to do with Hans? Also, Magnus will probably never play that number of classical chess games again in his lifetime because, again, he says that they're boring and not worth his time. So to say that in order to become the best chess player of all time, you have to not only hold the top records, but also be able to beat your own all-time records, is frankly just fucking stupid.
[00:53:46.33] That's like saying Taylor Swift can only be the number-one pop performer of our generation if she keeps outselling her tours. Eras is making a billion dollars. Even if her next tour doesn't make a billion dollars again, she's still one of the top-earning performers. She doesn't need to keep breaking the records she herself is setting to prove that.
[00:54:09.02] [Ryan] And she's still our fucking queen!
[00:54:11.48] [Jess] Sure, maybe breaking your own records, quote, solidifies you as the greatest player of all time. But this is really just some hat-on-a-hat bullshit. Magnus is already on record as one of the greatest players because all he has left is inhuman chess feats. Number 3 I think is not super valid. Hans just thinks that he is very important, or at least his lawyers do.
[00:54:38.96] [Sombre electronic music plays]
[00:54:39.44] [Ryan] Okay, option number 4-- and this is something that I wouldn't have even considered until our interview with Mike Boyd-- but maybe Magnus threw the game... on purpose.
[00:54:51.20] [Mike Boyd] I think that it's possible that Magnus deliberately threw the game to rid the chess world of Hans because he has cheated in the past on chess.com. And some people think once a cheater, always a cheater. And I think that he's so-- his view of chess is so pure and so, it should be this pure thing that has no imperfections, and the pool of competitors should be this honourable group that all want the best for chess, that he would actually go through this debacle to rid the chess world of someone like Hans and make an example of him, saying, "I have the power to destroy your career if you cheat, on chess.com or in competitions." And I think that it's plausible that he actually made that decision.
[00:55:47.69] [Piano music plays]
[00:55:49.90] [Jess] I don't know if I can really see Magnus throwing it on purpose. It just kind of goes against everything he believes in, really. And it's morally out of character for him. But, honestly, who knows. Interesting theory nonetheless.
[00:56:03.19] [Ryan] I mean, maybe Mike is on to something, though. Perhaps his theory becomes more likely if you remove the intent behind it. It's possible Magnus unconsciously threw the game. Here's lawyer David Franklin again.
[00:56:18.42] [David Franklin] My read of the situation is that Magnus was suspicious about Hans already, even before their game. And I think Magnus went into that game already psyched out.
[00:56:30.27] Magnus is a sort of odd character in that he has enormous sporting strengths. He's by far the strongest player in the world, but he can sometimes be his worst enemy. He gets into his own head a bit, and I think he did that in this case. He was on the back foot psychologically from the start. And so, Magnus played well below his usual level in that game. Hans played really well, but not freakishly well.
[00:56:58.66] And so, in Magnus' official statement when he says that "Hans wasn't tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions while outplaying me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do," that just struck me when I read it as self-justifying bullshit for Magnus, to be honest. He got outplayed because he was psyched out and he was playing a good player.
[00:57:24.72] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:57:27.60] [Ryan] So where does this leave us? We've sort of debunked all of the options we could think of.
[00:57:33.94] [Jess] I guess this is the problem with this story. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle of all of these options, or it's something that we couldn't even possibly fathom.
[00:57:44.26] [Ryan] If we take Magnus at his word, I think we can say for certain that he thinks Hans cheated and he didn't want to play a cheater, at least in that moment on September 4th, 2022. But that still leaves lots of questions unanswered.
[00:57:58.54] [Jess] Yeah, like, why is he still playing other known cheaters? He probably realized retroactively that he abused his clout and was biting off way more than he could chew by trying to single-handedly take down all cheating in chess.
[00:58:11.86] [Soft synth music plays]
[00:58:12.19] [Ryan] We don't really want to give anything from the lawsuit episode away. But I will say this. As of August 28, 2023, chess.com announced that the lawsuit had been resolved. Magnus' statement in that announcement reads in part, quote, "I am willing to play Niemann in future events should we be paired together," end quote.
[00:58:34.01] [Gloomy music plays]
[00:58:34.45] [Jess] This might seem anticlimactic, but don't worry. The drama is not yet over. We're going to get into how the lawsuit was, quote, resolved, and we say "quote, resolved" because it's still super messy, and there's a lot of other questions that need answers.
[00:58:52.06] [Ryan] But I guess for this episode, here's the best conclusion we can come to. Magnus has a lot of pressure on him to be the greatest at chess, and for the most part, he is. But part of the reason this whole scandal came about is because, despite perhaps being a chess God, Magnus is just a human being.
[00:59:12.58] [Jess] And though Hans is playing out as the villain in this story, he's also just a human. At the end of the day, these are two players with incredible passion for a board game. They aren't victims and prosecutors, or at least they're not supposed to be. And our purpose is to uncover what has transpired to make these two the symbols of a battle that is waging for the very heart of the game.
[00:59:42.76] [Ryan, synthesized voice with reverb] Everybody poops.
[00:59:45.28] [Rooked outro plays]
[00:59:49.55] [Ryan] Next time on Rooked, we basically do the same thing we just did in this episode but for Hans.
[00:59:54.44] [Jess] That's right! Now it's Moriarty's turn! We put the heels of the biggest heel in chess to the coals! We're going to talk about why everyone so easily believed Hans is a cheater, some of the weird shit he's done in his short life, and how completely fucked his career was by Magnus' allegations.
[01:00:11.33] [Ryan] And now because you know that the lawsuit is officially over, we'll talk about Hans' return to chess, and the newest scandals that have arisen involving him.
[01:00:21.56] [Jess] The devil works hard but Hans Niemann works harder.
[01:00:30.84] [Rooked] The Cheaters' Gambit is written and produced by me, Jess Schmidt.
[01:00:34.41] [Ryan] And by me, Ryan Webb.
[01:00:36.45] [Jess] Our amazing music is by the ever-talented Lorna Gilfedder.
[01:00:40.17] [Ryan] Our executive producers are Rooney and Indigo.
[01:00:43.89] [both] Speak.
[01:00:44.42] [Rooney and Indigo howling]
[01:00:47.59] [Rooked outro plays]
[01:00:48.05] [Ryan] This podcast is recorded on the traditional Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the land of the Siksika, the Kainai the Piikani, as well as the Stoney Nakoda and the Tsuut'ina Nations.
[01:00:59.72] [Jess] We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Metis Homeland. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge all nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.
[01:01:19.49] [Ryan] This gathering place and therefore this podcast provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate reconciliation. The Government of Canada has not followed through on a number of the Calls to Action that have been suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. One of the Calls to Action is for the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code. Section 43 states that every school teacher, parent, or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child as the case may be, who is under his care if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances. The defence of lawful correction or reasonable chastisement appeared in Canada's first Criminal Code in 1892, and the content has remained virtually unchanged since then.
[01:02:08.29] Altogether, over 130 residential schools operated in Canada between 1831 and 1996. Think about that. 1996 isn't that long ago. No doubt, Section 43 enabled and justified the actions of some teachers in residential schools. Child physical abuse is obviously considered an adverse experience, and the effects of the stress that generates can have long-lasting destructive impacts into adulthood.
[01:02:37.24] [Music fades]
[01:02:37.68] Do better, Canada.
]]>
<![CDATA[Episode 1: The Scandal]]>Tue, 05 Sep 2023 03:44:02 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/episode-1-the-scandal
[00:00:00.01] [Rooked theme music plays] 
[00:00:01.42] [Jess] September 4th, 2022-- two elite chess players sit down at a chess board. In the third round of action, the number one classical chess player in the world loses to a 19-year-old Grandmaster who's been making his name as the bad boy of chess. 
[00:00:18.22] [Ryan] The World Chess Champion accuses his opponent of cheating, and this ends up being the first domino to fall in what would soon become one of the most outrageous scandals to shock the chess world. 
[00:00:34.43] [Jess] This is a tale of a $400-million lawsuit. 
[00:00:41.17] [Ryan] This is a tale of unprovable allegations. 
[00:00:48.16] [Jess] This is a tale of cheating, of lies and conspiracies. 
[00:00:54.99] [both] This is Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit. 
[00:00:59.81] [Rooked theme music fades] 
[00:01:03.71] [Gloomy synth plays] 
[00:01:11.54] [Jess] I'm Jess Schmidt. I'm a pretty good podcast producer and a terrible chess player. 
[00:01:17.09] [Ryan] And I'm Ryan Webb. I'm an okay chess player and first-time podcaster. 
[00:01:22.58] [Jess] I feel like as we wade deeper into this story, it becomes more tangled. I came into this thinking I knew for sure who was lying, who was cheating, and who was right. But I don't know if I think that anymore. 
[00:01:38.69] [Ryan] Yeah, before we started thinking about this podcast, you couldn't have given, like, less of a fuck about chess. 
[00:01:45.32] [Jess] I don't know that I do care about chess, actually. But I care about this story, because this story isn't really about chess. I mean, it is about chess, but it's also about justice and the internet... and anal beads. 
[00:02:01.19] [Object vibrating] 
[00:02:05.78] [Ryan] I do care about this story because it's about chess, but it extends far beyond simply playing the game well. People's careers are at stake. The sport itself is facing a turning tide. We're in the middle of a chess revolution, and in order for the game to maintain the growth it's been experiencing while also upholding some sense of fairness, there are some things that need to drastically change. 
[00:02:30.29] [Jess] But I think we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here. 
[00:02:35.89] We're going to get to all of that eventually, but I think we need to start at the beginning. It's just-- 
[00:02:42.49] [Sighs] 
[00:02:42.80] It's a really long story, and it's kind of hard to even know where to begin. 
[00:02:48.38] [Ryan] Chess is a game with 32 pieces on a board with 64 squares-- 
[00:02:52.79] [Jess] Okay, I don't think we need to go that far back, at least not right now. I do want to talk about the history of chess in another episode, but for this episode, it really is just one game that set all this mess in motion. So I think what you need to know is this: There are two main players at the heart of this controversy. Magnus Carlsen has been the world number one classical player for almost a decade and is considered by many to be the greatest player of all time, the GOAT if you will. 
[00:03:22.49] [Goat bleating] 
[00:03:23.90] [Ryan] Hans Niemann is now a 20-year-old Grandmaster who's had a meteoric rise to breaking into the top 50 players in the entire world. We'll get more into what being a Grandmaster means and about both of these players later, but for now it means that Niemann is also just a really good chess player in his own right. 
[00:03:42.60] [Jess] This is what the scandal is at its core. Magnus and Hans play a game at a tournament called The Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, Missouri. This is considered one of the most prestigious and well-funded tournaments in all of chess. In the start of the third round, Magnus has the white pieces and Hans has the black. 
[00:04:00.78] [Upbeat piano music plays] 
[00:04:01.11] This means that Magnus plays first and has a slight advantage. 
[00:04:05.79] [Ryan] They play what is known as the g3 Nimzo-Indian. It sounds complicated, but all you really have to know is while it's been seen before in top-level chess, it isn't what's considered a main line. Magnus is basically trying to get Hans out of his preparation that he likely would have studied ahead of the game. This is what's known as theory. This tactic is typical for Magnus, and it's how he's won countless games in the past. 
[00:04:31.75] Both Hans and Magnus play fairly regular moves, but Hans seems to be gaining a slight advantage in the middle game. They trade off a bunch of pieces and go to an endgame, which the engine thinks is better for Hans, but Hans doesn't have the best pawn structure, meaning that his pawns aren't ideally positioned on the board. That could be enough for Magnus to come back and draw the game, as he's considered the best endgame player of all time by most in the chess world. So he should be fine, right? 
[00:05:00.69] To try and come back, Magnus sacrifices a pawn to create counterplay. But it's just not enough. Hans outplays Magnus in the endgame and is about to turn one of his two pawns into a queen by racing them down the board. There's literally nothing Magnus can do to stop him, so he resigns. Hans takes the sole lead of the Sinquefield Cup and crosses 2700 ELO, which makes him what is known as a Super Grandmaster-- 
[00:05:25.60] [Chiming] 
[00:05:26.34] --of which currently there are only 39 in the entire world. 
[00:05:30.45] [Jess] Okay, that was a lot of chess speak. 
[00:05:32.25] [Chuckles] 
[00:05:32.67] Here's what I think Ryan just said. 
[00:05:35.10] [Upbeat piano music plays] 
[00:05:35.49] Hans and Magnus are playing a fairly typical game of chess. There's a little bit of atypical theory going on, but for the most part, this is still normal, because Magnus usually tries to push opponents into just playing chess instead of regurgitating memorized theory. Hans holds his own and leads at least slightly for most of the game. But it's not a done deal, because Magnus is an amazing closer. Despite Magnus' best efforts to draw the game in a tie, Hans ekes out a forced win. Magnus loses. 
[00:06:07.83] To put this in perspective, Hans is the 20th player to have ever beaten Magnus with the black pieces... EVER. In an interview later that same night, Hans is less than gracious at this unexpected win. 
[00:06:22.14] [Hans Niemann] He just-- he played quite poorly, so I didn't do anything special. He just went-- well, okay, I think I played quite well. I think he's just so demoralized because he's losing to such an idiot like me, you know? It's just-- it must be embarrassing for the World Champion to lose to me. I feel bad for him. 
[00:06:37.86] [Ryan] This whole interview is actually very weird, like, more than usual for Hans. But the standout points of exceptional oddity that will be important later are this. 
[00:06:49.37] [Jess] First, when Hans is questioned about his choice of opening, he says this. 
[00:06:54.20] [Hans Niemann] Also this a3-- there was a game, Chigaev, Sarana at Sharjah. He played against Wesley So in the London Chess Classic 2018. 
[00:07:03.29] I was actually very fortunate that this opening came on the board and I looked at this today. For some miracle, I checked this today. And it's-- like, it's such a ridiculous miracle that I don't even remember why I checked it. I just, when I saw, I just remembered h6 and everything after this. And I have no idea why I would check such a ridiculous thing. But I checked it, and I even knew that the bishop b6 is just very good. Like, it's so ridiculous that I checked it. 
[00:07:34.34] I remembered this game because I was there and I was watching it. I never even checked it, so I was like-- even I played this g3 Nimzo myself, like, even five years ago. So it's not like-- maybe he should have checked my white database to see how familiar I would be. 
[00:07:48.92] [Jess] Now, Magnus has hardly ever played this opening, and according to chessbase.com, which is the official game database for all over-the-board, also known as OTB chess, the game that Hans references doesn't actually exist. 
[00:08:03.95] [Sinister synth music plays] 
[00:08:04.85] [Ryan] And second, the post-game analysis that Hans gives for the match can only be described as unhinged. And this is the general consensus backed by many top-level players and not just us. 
[00:08:16.49] [Jess] For example, this is commentary from Eric Hansen, a Canadian Grandmaster. 
[00:08:21.29] [Eric Hansen] But when I say the analysis is bad, like, legit, is just, like, it was incoherent. Not only was it incoherent. He was incoherent in trying to give incoherent lines. There's no luck or randomness, like, in these top-level games where you're just drifting into playing 2800-level chess. 
[00:08:44.51] [Jess] And here's a clip from Hikaru Nakamura. He's an American chess Grandmaster, Twitch streamer, and YouTuber. We're going to talk about Hikaru more a little bit later, but for now, here's this clip. 
[00:08:57.50] [Hans Niemann] I don't even need to show variations. You just look at the position. Like, okay, let's say-- 
[00:09:01.41] [Hikaru Nakamura] Wait, did he just literally say, "I don't need to show variations"? He's never played the g3 Nimzo ever. Wait, whoa, wait a second. I mean, he's never played g3 and Hans is claiming that he-- Hans is claiming that he prepped it up to move 20 before? I'm really, really sus, actually. I'm, like, more sus than I've been before. 
[00:09:18.78] [Ryan] Now, Hans has beaten Magnus before but never in a classical game. 
[00:09:23.36] [Upbeat piano music plays] 
[00:09:23.73] In case you don't know what a classical game of chess entails, it varies, but the standard for most major events, including the Sinquefield Cup, is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with an addition of 30 seconds per move, starting from move one. 
[00:09:41.97] [Jess] If this means nothing to you, basically, the players have a lot of time in classical chess compared to other formats where the time limits are drastically reduced, like rapid, blitz, bullet, or hyperbullet, where the games range from an hour to 30 seconds, for the entire game. 
[00:09:58.53] [Ryan] Something else you need to know is that Hans' dramatic and provocative comments after beating Magnus at Sinquefield aren't unusual for him. This was his response a month before Sinquefield in Miami right after beating Magnus in game 1 of a round of four at the FTX Crypto Cup. Not sure who's going to sponsor next year since FTX has since been outed for being completely fraudulent, but that's a whole other podcast. 
[00:10:26.13] [reporter] Hans, yesterday was a terrible day for you, and today you start out with a masterpiece. How would you summarize it? 
[00:10:32.10] [Hans Niemann] Chess speaks for itself. 
[00:10:34.08] [reporter] Is it something special doing this against Magnus, Hans? 
[00:10:37.11] [Faint footsteps fading] 
[00:10:40.43] [Door opens] 
[00:10:42.34] [Jess] In case you can't tell from the audio, instead of answering the reporter's question, Hans just walks away. To be fair, he pretty much tanks the rest of this tournament and was clearly disappointed in himself overall, but still, that's a pretty rude catchphrase. 
[00:10:58.18] [Hans Niemann, with reverb] Chess speaks for itself. 
[00:11:00.79] [Sombre electronic music plays] 
[00:11:01.19] [Ryan] So to sum up September 4th-- Hans, the underdog, beats Magnus, the World Chess Champion. Hans gives a pretty weird but not totally out of character interview, and everyone just kind of chalks it up to Hans being Hans. But it's safe to say that the chess world goes to bed that night somewhat surprised about the day's events and eager to see how the rest of the tournament will play out. 
[00:11:26.77] [Music fades] 
[00:11:29.93] [Jess] The next day, September 5th, Magnus does not show up for his next fourth-round game. 
[00:11:35.60] [Sinister synth music plays] 
[00:11:35.99] Instead of playing, he tweets this: Quote, "I've withdrawn from the tournament. I've always enjoyed playing in the Saint Louis Chess Club and hope to be back in the future," end quote. The tweet is accompanied by a cryptic video clip of Jose Mourinho, the head coach of the Italian Roma football club. Here's that clip. 
[00:11:56.69] [Jose Mourinho] I prefer really not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble, in big trouble. And I don't want to be in big trouble. 
[00:12:05.91] [Ryan] The commentators at the Saint Louis Chess club are visibly shocked when they get the news of Magnus' withdrawal mid-livestream. 
[00:12:13.45] [Yasser Seirawan] Um, I'm told we have breaking news. It would appear that a certain World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, has decided to not play today's game. And, uh, oh, my goodness. The clock is going to be started. There's a 10-minute rule that if you don't show up by 10 minutes, you're forfeited. And Magnus is not going to play. 
[00:12:41.15] [Peter Svidler] Yeah, I'm sitting here-- I'm sitting here in a bit of a stunned silence. I don't really know how to react to this. You know, there will be some developments, I assume. 
[00:12:53.36] [Jess] Indeed, there have been more developments. Good assumption. But first, why is this so shocking? 
[00:13:00.02] [Ryan] Withdrawing from a chess tournament of this calibre is just unprecedented. It only happens in extreme circumstances. We're talking death of a close family member, not rage quitting. But that's exactly what it looks like. 
[00:13:14.96] [Jess] From an outside perspective, it looks as if the world's foremost chess player is upset that he lost and is throwing a hissy fit. 
[00:13:22.85] [Baby crying, screeching] 
[00:13:27.47] In videos of Magnus losing other games, you can see his disappointment clearly from his body language. He's known for slamming his fist on tables, roughly shaking opponent's hands. Sometimes he curses. He is the opposite of composed in these clips, just like any human chess player can be after a disappointing loss. And while he does not do any of this when he loses to Hans at Sinquefield, we do know that there's been other times where Magnus has not been a good loser. 
[00:13:56.83] This is what Bill Cole had to say about sportsmanship in chess. He's known as the mental game coach. We're going to hear more from him in a later episode. 
[00:14:05.29] [Bill Cole] And you have to be comfortable managing conflict, and mediating it, and all that stuff. And if you don't have the skills, you're really uncomfortable, then you kind of shut down. If you have the skills, you're more powerful, you're more focused, you're more grounded. You can self-regulate. You keep your act together if you have the skills. 
[00:14:24.79] [Upbeat piano music plays] 
[00:14:25.12] [Ryan] Now, there's something else you need to understand about chess. All of what we've been talking about so far has been what we referred to earlier as OTB, which, again, stands for over the board. This is how elite chess games have been played for the 2000 plus years that it's existed in some form or another. Two players sit at a chessboard and battle it out in person. 
[00:14:47.24] [Jess] But this is not the only medium for playing chess. Since even before the dawn of the internet, there's been computerized chess in some form or another. And now, not only is online chess continuing to grow in popularity, streaming has also been a huge game changer. This is a quote from James Canty III. He's a streamer, and he also holds the title of FIDE Master. That's a pretty big deal. We're going to hear more from him in another episode. But for now, this is what he had to say about streaming. 
[00:15:18.56] [James Canty III] There are people that are not good at chess, just period. But they are good at streaming. They're good at entertainment. So there's money there. There's money there. There's an avenue there. So it's a TV show. People want to see their TV show-- like Walking Dead at the time, when that was a thing. It was like, they know that Walking Dead comes on Sunday at 9pm Eastern every Sunday. And so, they look to see you. It's a show. So same thing at Twitch, it's entertainment and it's a show. 
[00:15:41.21] So the worst streams are the ones that you're only looking at the board and that's it. You're not talking to the chat. You're not being interactive. Like, it's an interactive thing. People want to be talked to. 
[00:15:52.72] [Ryan] Chess streamers garner millions of views online, mostly on Twitch and YouTube, and this world of chess encompasses way more than just gameplay. Big players talk strategies, techniques, and theory. They review major and minor games, and commentate on events as they're unfolding. 
[00:16:10.09] The world of online chess is mostly separate from OTB chess, and we'll get into more of the nuance of that later. But all you need to know right now is that there is over-the-board chess and there's online chess, and they're governed by separate bodies. 
[00:16:24.13] [Jess] At an event like the Sinquefield Cup, even though the games are played OTB, spectatorship stretches way beyond the limit of who can fit in the room. It's streamed, with chess influencers watching games live on camera. And they have a huge following while they do it. 
[00:16:39.70] [Ryan] One of the biggest names in chess streaming is Hikaru Nakamura. He's currently ranked as the world number five classical chess player at the time of this recording. He considers himself a streamer first and a chess player second. 
[00:16:53.89] He was watching the Sinquefield Cup, and he even did some live commentary for the tournament on the Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube channel. 
[00:17:00.37] [Upbeat piano music plays] 
[00:17:00.85] [Jess] Hikaru sees the game between Hans and Magnus. He sees Hans' interview afterwards. And, in fact-- here we go, now we're on track again for the story-- Hikaru was commentating when Magnus didn't show up for the next match. 
[00:17:14.75] [Ryan] In a flurry of confusion, the chess world realizes altogether what has just happened, and they're shocked beyond words. This is what Hikaru says on his livestream when his viewers notify him of Magnus' withdrawal tweet and he reads it for the first time. 
[00:17:30.20] [Hikaru Nakamura] Did Magnus make a tweet? I doubt it. But you guys could be having some fun. Wait, what?! Mag-- Wait, what the heck? Wait. Wait, what the heck? Magnus made a tweet? What the heck? Wait, whoa, whoa, what the heck is this? Wait a second! 
[00:17:47.78] Oh, my gosh. I can't-- I mean... Oh, my gosh, what am I-- what am I even supposed to say? I'm at a loss for-- I'm at a loss for words, too. 
[00:18:01.71] I'm not speculating. I am not speculating. I'm not speculating either on the topic right now. Not speculating. 
[00:18:08.25] [Hikaru Nakamura, synthesized voice with reverb] Wait, what the heck? 
[00:18:09.99] [Ryan] This is, in fact, not the only thing Hikaru had to say on this topic. He then goes on to say to his viewers... 
[00:18:17.01] [Hikaru Nakamura] This is probably something I should not say, but I will say this anyway, which is there was a period of over six months where Hans did not play any prize money tournaments on chess.com. That is the one thing that I'm going to say. And that is the only thing that I'm going to say on this topic. My lips are sealed. That's the only thing that I'm going to say for right now. 
[00:18:34.38] [Ryan] Did you catch that? Here it is again later in the same stream. 
[00:18:38.13] [Hikaru Nakamura] I told you the one thing already, which is 100% clear, which is that there was a period of time when Hans was not allowed to play tournaments for prize money on chess.com. That is the one bit that I said earlier in the stream. I'm saying it again, and, I mean, I think you guys understand what that means. 
[00:18:54.36] [Jess] If you don't know what it means, the reason Hikaru is being so cagey is he's implying that Hans was banned from chess.com for cheating. And that's true. We know that's true, because Hans admits it in an interview. 
[00:19:08.99] [Hans Niemann] So, first of all, there's the situation with chess.com. Now, people have said that my chess.com was banned twice. Okay. So this is what happened. When I was 12 years old, I was with a friend, and I was playing Titled Tuesday. And I was playing, and he came over on an iPad with an engine, and I was 12 years old, and he said, you know-- he started giving me the moves. I was a child. I had no idea what happened. 
[00:19:34.06] Now, this happened once in an online tournament. I was just a child. And nothing happened then. 
[00:19:43.07] [Upbeat music plays] 
[00:19:43.45] [Ryan] There's so much to unpack in this clip. Firstly, Hans mentions Titled Tuesday. This is an online chess.com event that happens-- you guessed it-- every Tuesday. The winner doesn't get a tonne of money, but it matters that it is a paid tournament, which Hans highlights. This is where he says he cheated with an engine. We'll get more into chess engines later, but basically, it's using a computer to give you the best moves in any given instance. This is straight up just cheating, he is banned as a consequence, and Hans writes this moral failing off to just being a 12-year-old kid who didn't know any better. 
[00:20:22.93] [Jess] The second instance of banning Hans addresses in this interview was when he was 16 and had a streaming career. 
[00:20:29.08] [Hans Niemann] But other than when I was 12, I have never, ever in my life cheated in an over-the-board game, in an online tournament. They were in unrated games. And I'm admitting this, and I'm saying my truth, because I do not want any misrepresentation. 
[00:20:40.06] I am proud of myself that I learned from that mistake and now have given everything to chess. I have sacrificed everything for chess, and I do everything I can to improve. 
[00:20:48.86] So I'm going to get started. Basically, I wanted to gain some rating. You know, I just wanted to get higher rated so I could play stronger players. So I cheated in random games on chess.com. Now, I was confronted, I confessed, and this is the single biggest mistake of my life, and I am completely ashamed. And I'm telling the world because I do not want any misrepresentation, and I do not want rumours. 
[00:21:10.26] I have never cheated in an over-the-board game. Other than when I was 12 years old, I have never, ever, ever-- and I would never do that, that is the worst thing I could ever do-- cheat in a tournament with prize money. Now, I made that mistake, and this is not something I was doing consistently. Never when I was streaming did I cheat. Never did I misrepresent my strength. 
[00:21:28.67] So I made this mistake. I was confronted by chess.com. I fully admitted, and I stopped playing on chess.com. 
[00:21:34.64] [Jess] He clarifies that when he cheated at this point in time, it was never while streaming, so no witnesses, and not for titled or paid games. He says that even while he was cheating, he never misrepresented his actual skill level. 
[00:21:49.19] Now, this is possible. It can take a long time and a lot of games to naturally increase your rating, even if you're a great player. That's just how most rating systems work. However, this is still cheating. 
[00:22:03.68] [Ryan] The last banning Hans talks about is much more recent. 
[00:22:07.73] [Hans Niemann] After the game against Magnus-- obviously, Magnus puts his tweet, clearly some insinuations-- and then everyone starts to pile. I get an email from chess.com saying that they've privately removed access to my chess.com account. 
[00:22:21.56] [Ryan] The standout detail of this third banning is that unlike the other two instances, Hans doesn't think he's done anything wrong. He even calls it an attack. 
[00:22:30.32] [Hans Niemann] Unfortunately now, there has been a targeted attack, and this is after I have already fully admitted. And they have the best cheat detection in the world. They know that I'm not a cheater and that I have given-- I give everything to chess. I work so hard, and I-- chess is my entire life. Okay? Now, if they are going to try to think that I'm going to be silent about what has happened, it is completely ridiculous. 
[00:22:52.67] [Sombre electronic music plays] 
[00:22:58.15] [Ryan] I honestly find it hard not to believe him. The way he talks is just very convincing to me. 
[00:23:04.75] [Jess] See, and I just think he's a narcissist. I don't know if I believe anything he says, and I really just feel at this point that I don't know what to believe. 
[00:23:13.37] [Ryan] Regardless of whatever your opinions on cheating are, I think the prudent facts here are that, yes, Hans has cheated online, and, yes, he says he was just a kid when he did it. And most importantly for our purposes, this all happened online. There's more on this to come, but chronology matters, so a pin in this for now. 
[00:23:34.09] [Jess] Put the chess.com cheating revelation together with why Magnus is withdrawing from the rest of the Sinquefield Cup after losing to Hans and you get a better picture of what's happening between the lines. Hikaru thinks that Magnus is accusing Hans of cheating in their round three over-the-board game, without actually saying the words. 
[00:23:53.53] [Ryan] This distinction is actually quite important, because there's a $400-million lawsuit still to come that basically hinges on this exact moment. 
[00:24:04.12] [Jess] And Hikaru is not the only one to weigh in immediately on the withdrawal with a thinly veiled implication. This is what the Director General of FIDE, Emil Sutovsky, tweeted 25 minutes after Magnus' original tweet. Quote, "No matter how his tournaments went, Magnus Carlsen never quit. He must have had a compelling reason, or at least he believes he had it. Don't call him a sore loser or disrespectful. I shall not speculate on the reasons of his withdrawal but probably would expect the Tournament Director to air them," end quote. 
[00:24:39.14] [Ryan] The Tournament Director for the Sinquefield Cup is Tony Rich. He's also the Executive Director of the Saint Louis Chess Club. Disappointingly, he doesn't really talk about the reasons for Magnus' withdrawal. 
[00:24:50.99] [Tony Rich] Magnus' decision to withdraw from the event are his personal decisions, and until he makes a public statement on the matter, we feel it's best to honour his wishes, and we've accepted the fact that he's withdrawn from the event, as well. I think, ultimately, it's Magnus' decision to come out and give his reasons. I don't want to put words in his mouth, so I'll let him speak on his own behalf. 
[00:25:08.91] [Jess] However, he does say this. 
[00:25:11.51] [Tony Rich] Since Magnus made the decision to withdraw before the halfway point of the tournament, his results in the previous games will be annulled, and his results against future opponents, the games just won't occur. So it's in essence, this is a tournament of nine players and the results will be out of eight points total. So each day, one player, whoever would have faced Magnus, will have a bye, a zero-point bye for the round, and at the end we will see who the victor is based out of eight games. 
[00:25:36.41] [Ryan] This is the exact reason that we covered the difference between OTB and online chess. The Sinquefield Cup is, again, an over-the-board event, and is governed by the International chess regulatory body known as FIDE, or... 
[00:25:50.45] [Nikki Bel] Federation Internationale des Echecs. 
[00:25:53.30] [Ryan] Thank you, Nikki Bel of forvo.com. 
[00:25:56.30] FIDE is like the UN of chess. It has no allegiance to one particular country and is the impartial enforcer of chess rules to keep the game fair and unified. 
[00:26:06.74] [Jess] Here's a clip from Emilia Castelao, a chess historian, who spoke to us about FIDE, among other things. You'll hear the rest of her interview in a later episode. 
[00:26:16.01] [Emilia Castelao] FIDE is the international governing body of chess. They set the standard for how chess is played, and they also manage the ELO rating system, which determines player titles, so, like, Grandmaster, International Master, Women's Grandmaster, so on and so forth. It's kind of hard because the channels sometimes to accuse someone of cheating, like, through FIDE are sometimes unclear and confusing. And so it overall, I think, was just a very foggy situation in regards to where FIDE stood. 
[00:26:54.72] [Jess] On the other side of the aisle is online chess. There's hundreds of chess websites, but the biggest one right now is chess.com. We already talked about them. That's the website Hans says his account got cancelled on after his allegations of cheating in the game with Magnus. 
[00:27:09.69] Chess.com has been gobbling up other chess websites left, right, and centre over the last few years, and at the time of the Sinquefield Cup, the next acquisition on the horizon is the website Play Magnus. If you can't guess from the name, Magnus Carlsen has a vested interest in this. 
[00:27:26.47] [Ryan] So why does this matter? Well, it matters because the cheating that Hikaru is pointing to, or at least that Hikaru thinks Magnus is suggesting, is from Hans' defunct chess.com account. But herein lies the problem. Chess.com and FIDE are totally separate. It's a logical fallacy to say Hans cheated online; therefore, he cheats over the board. 
[00:27:51.67] [Jess] It's kind of like saying, I fibbed a little when I filed my taxes; therefore, I am a bank robber. Both of these things are about money, but these are different institutions, and also one is way more serious than the other. 
[00:28:06.02] [Ryan] I think the real question we should be asking here is if there was real proof that Hans cheated over the board, why would Magnus even bring up the fact that Hans cheated online? 
[00:28:16.39] [Sombre electronic music plays] 
[00:28:18.49] [Jess] It's safe to say that at the official end of day two of this scandal, we're just totally rocked. The unprecedented withdrawal by Magnus Carlsen that says nothing and everything, the comments from the event coordinators as well as from other players and streamers, Hans's admission of online cheating in his post-game interview-- this was a big day, to say the least. 
[00:28:42.99] [Music fades] 
[00:28:46.73] This is what GM, Grandmaster, Wesley So says the aftermath felt like. 
[00:28:52.79] [Wesley So] It was hard for me to sleep last night because of the drama and whether whatever is happening is true or not. 
[00:29:00.20] I remember six years ago, 2016, all the top players were just preparing on classical chess-- classical chess and all that. But now we have online, we have rapid, blitz, and now we have all this drama. So it just makes it a bit difficult to concentrate. 
[00:29:17.57] [Ryan] And yet somehow the rest of the Sinquefield Cup continues and finishes somewhat normally. And the chess world, still astir with rumours and allegations, is left in limbo, waiting to see what will happen next, and when the other shoe will drop. 
[00:29:34.73] [Shoe drops] 
[00:29:35.84] [Jess] There's still a lot of rumblings in the days after the events of the Sinquefield Cup, but they're mostly within the bounds of the chess community. Some people are siding with Hans, others are siding with Magnus, but no one really knows what's happening. 
[00:29:50.55] [Sinister synth music plays] 
[00:29:51.03] And amidst the fog of trying to sort out what the fuck actually did happen, there's a lot of feelings. Some are enraged. Some are curious. Some are just trying to figure out how Hans could have even cheated. It feels like a big deal but no bigger than any of the other cheating scandals in chess history. And don't worry, we're going to cover Toiletgate in a later episode. 
[00:30:14.22] [European toilet flushes] 
[00:30:16.59] So sit tight. 
[00:30:17.94] [Ryan] Is that pun intended? 
[00:30:19.44] [Jess, playful voice] Maybe! 
[00:30:20.63] [Ryan laughs] 
[00:30:21.66] [Ryan] It sort of looks like the whole thing might just blow over and be forgotten in the shuffle of whatever controversy is to come next. That is, until the soon-to-be despot of Twitter chimes in. On September 8, Elon Musk tweets, quote, "Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one can see," parentheses, "cause it's in ur butt," end quote. He credits Schopenhauer, who if you don't know, is a pessimistic philosopher from German romanticism. 
[00:30:56.10] [Jess] This is the tweet that sets off a veritable shit storm. 
[00:31:00.87] [Ryan, chuckling] Is that pun intended? 
[00:31:02.94] [Jess] You can just assume that all of my puns are intentional. 
[00:31:05.97] [Ryan chuckles] 
[00:31:06.84] [reporter 1] Chess has been in the news because of a huge cheating controversy. It's almost been part soap opera, part whodunnit, and we still don't know all the answers. 
[00:31:15.54] [reporter 2] There was recently a match where one of the players was accused of using anal beads to electronically stimulate the right answer for chess. Like-- 
[00:31:27.27] [Laughing] 
[00:31:28.03] Like, whoa! 
[00:31:29.07] [man] People were speculating that Niemann could have cheated with the use of vibrating anal beads which sounds ridiculous but it went absolutely viral. People talking about it people asking how he could have done it. 
[00:31:40.66] [Trevor Noah] I get why someone would use vibrating anal beads to cheat, you know, because even if you lose, you still kind of win, you know? 
[00:31:47.05] [Cheering and applause] 
[00:31:50.50] [Ryan] So how did this tweet get twisted into what everyone now knows as the anal bead theory? 
[00:31:56.98] [Jess] As is usually the case for shit on the internet, it's hard to trace the exact source. As far as our very professional research has turned up, backed by our team of hard-working, well-paid fact checkers who for sure exist, this theory got picked up because Musk was responding to a tweet that referenced a Reddit thread that joked-- we think it was a joke-- about how the only way Hans could have cheated was by using vibrating anal beads. So, ipso facto, news media was like, Elon said it-- it must be true. 
[00:32:34.33] [Stephen Colbert] Anal bead while, the chess world has been rocked by rumours of anal beads. 
[00:32:39.70] [Laughter] 
[00:32:40.66] They call it "casseling." 
[00:32:42.34] [Lex Fridman] I have anal beads that are communicating with Stockfish via Bluetooth. 
[00:32:47.23] [Levy Rozman] It's actually scary how many people think that's a real thing, by the way, which is the danger of the internet. 
[00:32:51.41] [Lex Fridman] I tend to believe that people believing a thing that's hilarious at scale will make that thing a reality. I'm with Elon on this. 
[00:33:00.81] [Jess] Pretty much overnight, the Hans-versus-Magnus cheating scandal is everywhere, and the headline is that, apparently, everyone thinks Hans did cheat, and he did it by shoving vibrating anal beads up his [bleep]. 
[00:33:14.98] Now, you might be thinking, how the fuck is that even possible? And we have an answer to that but-- you've already guessed it-- we're going to get way deeper in another episode. For now, here's a clip from Mike Boyd, like, Mike from Mike Tries Things on YouTube. We couldn't believe he wanted to talk to us either. 
[00:33:31.90] [Mike Boyd] Because it's so simple and so easy. Like, I never put it up my butt. I just had it in my pocket. I can feel it through my jacket. It's such a simple thing that people must have done this, especially when they're streaming the game live. 
[00:33:43.99] [Jess] We'll get into the rest of his interview in a later episode. 
[00:33:47.08] [Comical slide whistle plays] 
[00:33:49.77] [Jess] You know what you don't have to wait for, though? 
[00:33:52.08] [Upbeat music plays] 
[00:33:52.35] The opportunity to save 10% on your very own set of anal beads. 
[00:33:57.15] [Ryan] Thanks to naughtynorth.ca-- yes, they are proudly Canadian, just like us-- you can use the coupon code ROOKED, R-O-O-K-E-D, to save some of your hard-earned loonies and toonies. 
[00:34:11.13] [Jess] And if anal beads don't tickle your fanny-- oh, excuse me, I mean fancy-- they have a whole lot of other products that you might like. So fill your cart, because purchases over $69-- 
[00:34:23.18] [Ryan laughs] 
[00:34:24.18] [Ryan, singsongy] 69! 
[00:34:25.17] [Jess] --qualify for free nationwide shipping across this great country we call home. 
[00:34:29.98] [Ryan] This is not a gag, but you can purchase one of those at naughtynorth.ca. 
[00:34:34.95] [Jess laughs] 
[00:34:35.34] Seriously, though, you can really save 10% off your entire purchase by using the coupon code ROOKED at checkout. See what all the fuss is about anal beads, and let us know if your chess game improves. 
[00:34:47.91] [Jess] Visit naughtynorth.ca coupon code ROOKED. Okay, back to the scandal. 
[00:34:53.65] [Comical slide whistle plays] 
[00:34:56.43] [Ryan] All of a sudden, everyone with even a passing interest in chess becomes an armchair data analyst. There's a glut of people putting together quote-unquote reports that are quote-unquote analyzing quote-unquote not-cherry-picked data from Hans' game history that quote-unquote prove that he cheated more than he's admitted to. Everyone and their dog has an opinion on what happened, why Magnus withdrew, and if Hans actually cheated. 
[00:35:25.77] [Jess] If you really want to get into the specifics, Ryan, with the help of Reddit Chess, has put together an astonishingly comprehensive timeline of the events. Like, I really had to fight him to figure out the main things that mattered for this episode; otherwise, this would be, like, at least ten hours longer than it already is. Seriously, if you have any questions, go to rookedpodcast.xyz/timeline. That's rookedpodcast.xyz/timeline. 
[00:35:57.03] [Sinister synth music plays] 
[00:35:58.43] [Ryan] Something else really big happens on the same day Elon tweets that fateful tweet. Chess.com breaks its silence about the cheating scandal, and they're decidedly Team Magnus. This is their official statement from September 8th. Quote, "Dear chess community, the last few days have been tumultuous for many in the chess community. At this time, we have reached out to Hans Niemann to explain our decision to privately remove him from chess.com and our events. We have shared detailed evidence with him concerning our decision, including information that contradicts his statements regarding the amount and seriousness of his cheating on chess.com. We have invited Hans to provide an explanation and response with the hope of finding a resolution where Hans can again participate on chess.com. We want nothing more than to see the best chess players in the world succeed in the greatest events. We will always act to protect the integrity of the game that we all love," end quote. The tweet is credited to Danny Rensch, Chief Chess Officer at chess.com. 
[00:37:04.35] [Jess] Remember the name Danny Rensch. He's one of the parties named in that $400-million lawsuit that's still to come. 
[00:37:11.40] Chess.com officially wading in is a big deal, because as we've stated before, online chess is governed by websites like chess.com or whoever hosts it, and OTB chess, at this level, anyways, is governed by FIDE. So, again, if FIDE doesn't have anything to say about Hans' behaviour and/or the alleged cheating at the Sinquefield Cup, why is chess.com chiming in all of a sudden? 
[00:37:37.59] Sit tight. We'll have some more clues soon. 
[00:37:40.86] [Sombre electronic music plays] 
[00:37:44.33] [Ryan] So, at this point, nothing really happens for over a week. Sure, there's still rumbling within the chess community regarding the Hans-Magnus affair, and the fallout of the anal beads thing takes up way more space on the airwaves, internet, and in the brains of anyone who even vaguely follows chess. That is, until the sixth round of the Julius Baer Generation Cup on September 19th 
[00:38:08.20] [Music fades] 
[00:38:09.50] This is an online event with a 16-player field and a $150,000 prize pot. Not too shabby for picking up differently shaped pieces from a square and putting them down on a different square repeatedly. 
[00:38:24.29] [Crickets chirping] 
[00:38:26.96] During this tournament, guess who is set to play Magnus in round 6. 
[00:38:31.37] [Jess] Is it Hans? 
[00:38:32.42] [Ryan] Nope! 
[00:38:33.38] [Jess] Oh. Umm, okay, who is it, then? 
[00:38:35.92] [Ryan] Oh, no, it is Hans. You were right. 
[00:38:37.81] [Jess] Okay. 
[00:38:38.44] So the way these online tournaments work is that each player has to stream themselves while playing, partly to ensure that they're not cheating, but also for spectators and commentators to see their reactions at different times throughout the game. Basically, it's for the entertainment value. 
[00:38:52.73] [Upbeat music plays] 
[00:38:53.15] [Ryan] All right, so the game begins. Hans has the white pieces this time and Magnus has the black. Hans plays a central pawn. Magnus plays a knight out. Normal move that can lead to, like, countless variations. It's all been seen many, many, many times before in high- and even low-level chess. Hans plays another central pawn. 
[00:39:14.13] Nothing strange so far, except you may be wondering why I'm going on about nothing dramatic in a podcast that is specifically about drama. Well, here it is. After Hans plays his second pawn out, Magnus immediately cuts his video feed while shocked onlookers begin to discuss what has just taken place. 
[00:39:33.75] [Jess] Interestingly. Hans seems relatively unfazed, judging from how he looks on camera. Unfortunately, he doesn't say anything, but here is a clip. 
[00:39:43.50] [Kaja Snare] The game started and Magnus has logged off. What has happened? 
[00:39:48.24] [David Howell] Magnus has resigned. 
[00:39:50.34] [Kaja Snare] Magnus has resigned the game against Hans Niemann. 
[00:39:54.15] [David Howell] Yes. At least, that's what it says in our transmission. 
[00:39:57.00] [Alejandro Ramirez] He made one move and resigned? 
[00:39:59.67] [David Howell] Yes. It looks that way. 
[00:40:03.27] [Kaja Snare] Wow! 
[00:40:04.41] [Ryan] If you're not exactly sure what happened, it's this. 
[00:40:07.29] [Cheerful music plays] 
[00:40:07.68] Magnus takes the loss on purpose, even though he's leading the tournament and it could potentially affect his overall score. He's just outright refusing to play Hans in any capacity. The difference from Sinquefield is that Magnus only resigned from this particular game and not the whole tournament. What's even more interesting is that there's still a possibility Magnus and Hans could meet up later in the tournament, as this is only the prelims. 
[00:40:37.53] Magnus ultimately ends up winning the tournament and Hans comes third. They don't face each other in any other games. 
[00:40:44.55] [Music fades] 
[00:40:46.26] [Jess] As a side note, you might ask yourself why Magnus didn't just resign from the game outright, or even before it began. We're pretty certain this is because a lot of these online tournaments require a player to make at least one move before resigning. It's just not really a possibility to withdraw before that. 
[00:41:04.53] [Ryan] Following Magnus' tournament victory, he gives his first interview since the Sinquefield Cup. He really doesn't say much. 
[00:41:11.92] [Kaja Snare] I think the whole world is wondering. Magnus, what was the reason you withdrew from that game? 
[00:41:17.00] [Magnus laughs] 
[00:41:18.30] [Magnus Carlsen] Yeah, unfortunately, I cannot-- cannot particularly speak on-- on that. But, you know, people can draw their own conclusion, and they certainly-- certainly have. And I have to say I'm very impressed by Niemann's play, and I think his mentor, Maxim Dlugy, must be doing a great job. 
[00:41:53.94] [Jess] The one interesting Timbit-- sorry, tidbit-- my Canadianness is showing-- to come out of this interview is something that the average, non-fanatic chess watcher would absolutely overlook: 
[00:42:05.00] [Sinister synth music plays] 
[00:42:05.49] Magnus' name drop of Maxim Dlugy. It's debatable whether Maxim Dlugy is actually Hans' mentor. Hans will later clarify that he had one three-hour session with Dlugy, which I think we can all agree does not a mentor make. But in an earlier July 14th photo from Dlugy's Facebook page, he congratulates his quote-unquote "student"-- his words-- Hans Niemann for breaking top 50 in the world and being awarded the Samford Fellowship. 
[00:42:34.98] So maybe at one point Hans considered him a mentor. In any case, he has a good reason to distance himself from Dlugy now because-- do you want to guess why? If you said because Dlugy has also been banned from chess.com for cheating, then you were right! You get a cookie! 
[00:42:52.76] [Kids cheering emphatically] 
[00:42:55.19] [Ryan] I honestly think it should be something better than a cookie. 
[00:42:57.74] [Jess sighs] 
[00:42:58.25] [Jess] Okay, you get to pick out of the kids' prize bucket at the pediatric dentist. Is that better? 
[00:43:02.76] [Ryan] Yeah. I guessed right, so I got a broken kazoo and a Paw Patrol sticker. 
[00:43:08.15] [Warbly kazoo plays discordantly] 
[00:43:16.47] [Jess] Okay, that seems not better than a cookie. But anyways, we're going to get into what Dlugy probably considers the nuance of his cheating in episode two, but for now, maybe Hans and Dlugy have a relationship. Maybe they don't. Obviously, the commonality here-- cheating on chess.com-- is something Hans is trying to distance himself from, and something Magnus seems intent to pin on him, however veiled his attempts are. 
[00:43:41.81] [Sombre electronic music plays] 
[00:43:44.96] [Ryan] Fast forward a week to September 26th. Magnus finally releases a statement of value. This is what it reads. Quote, "Dear chess world, at the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I made the unprecedented professional decision to withdraw from the tournament after my round-three game against Hans Niemann. A week later during the Champions Chess Tour, I resigned against Hans Niemann after playing only one move. I know that my actions have frustrated many in the chess community. I'm frustrated. I want to play chess. I want to continue to play chess at the highest level in the best events. I believe that cheating in chess is a big deal and an existential threat to the game. I also believe that chess organizers and all those who care about the sanctity of the game we love should seriously consider increasing security measures and methods of cheat detection for over-the-board chess. 
[00:44:40.37] When Niemann was invited last minute to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I strongly considered withdrawing prior to the event. I ultimately chose to play. I believe that Niemann has cheated more, and more recently, than he has publicly admitted. His over-the-board progress has been unusual, and throughout our game in the Sinquefield Cup, I had the impression that he wasn't tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions while outplaying me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do. This game contributed to changing my perspective. 
[00:45:17.31] We must do something about cheating, and for my part going forward, I don't want to play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past, because I don't know what they are capable of doing in the future. There is more that I would like to say. Unfortunately, at this time I am limited in what I can say without explicit permission from Niemann to speak openly. So far I have only been able to speak with my actions, and those actions have stated clearly that I am not willing to play chess with Niemann. I hope that the truth on this matter comes out, whatever it may be. Sincerely, Magnus Carlsen, World Chess Champion," end quote. 
[00:45:54.25] [Sombre electronic music plays] 
[00:45:55.09] [Jess] This is a big statement with some bold accusations. The biggest seems to be that Magnus is outright calling Hans out for cheating, without tiptoeing, hinting, or forcing people to read between the lines. He's declaring without any uncertainty that he thinks Hans is a cheater, he's cheated more than he's admitted to, and there is no place for cheating in chess. 
[00:46:20.40] [Music fades] 
[00:46:23.72] [Ryan] This is what author Brin-Jonathan Butler-- a guest you'll hear from next episode-- had to say about Magnus' reaction. And, spoiler, he has a lot of insight about Magnus, because Magnus is the topic of one of his books. 
[00:46:37.34] [Brin Jonathan Butler] Historically, Magnus Carlsen has not called out everybody who's beat him. I don't think he's ever done it before, to say that they were assisted in beating him, except in this instance, and this guy has a history of cheating. So it seems to reflect much more on Hans Niemann than it does on Magnus Carlsen's character, in my view. 
[00:46:54.35] [Jess] Magnus is still playing some things close to the chest, like the fact that he says he allegedly considered dropping out of the Sinquefield Cup as soon as he heard that Hans was being last-minute invited. This implies that Magnus has harboured doubts about Hans' honesty for a while, and it also distances him from the idea that he rage quit from the Sinquefield Cup after losing. He's making it seem like the withdrawal was premeditated. But would he have withdrawn if he'd beaten Hans? 
[00:47:23.49] [Cheerful music plays] 
[00:47:23.94] [Ryan] In this universe, we don't know the answer to that question. But I like to think that on our alternate-universe podcast, where Hans and Magnus actually wanted to talk to us, we all sit down together and really get to the bottom of this. And also in that universe, I have 20% less grey hair than I do now, and I get to eat all of the hot sauce I want, and I don't have high cholesterol and blood pressure. 
[00:47:50.15] [Jess laughs] 
[00:47:51.54] [Jess] I think that you have the right amount of grey hair, but wish you didn't have high cholesterol. 
[00:47:57.18] A detail that I find hilarious in this statement is that Magnus, A, implies he's holding back, and B, wants permission from Hans to speak openly? Maybe this is just a cultural gap and I'm a dumb Canadian, but I think calling someone out for being a cheater is pretty fucking open, no? 
[00:48:15.60] The chess Twitterverse explodes when this statement drops. 
[00:48:19.38] [Birds twittering] 
[00:48:20.33] [Loud explosion] 
[00:48:22.23] Twitter user @chessproblem tweets, quote, "Okay, but can you be clearer?" end quote. 
[00:48:28.41] [Jess] GM Maurice Ashley tweets, quote, "Magnus finally states he believes Hans has cheated but there are many questions still hanging in the air. It's mystifying why he needs Hans to give him permission to say more after dropping bombs on the young man's head. Will the full truth ever come out? Sad time for chess," end quote. 
[00:48:50.37] [Ryan] @tarjeijs tweets, quote, "Pretty sure that Niemann will never play a game of chess against Carlsen again. That kind of limits his opportunities in top tournaments," end quote. 
[00:49:02.31] [Sombre electronic music plays] 
[00:49:02.75] [Jess] And then it explodes all over again on October 4th, when chess.com releases the Hans Niemann Report. We're not kidding. That's literally what they titled it. This impressive 72-page report contains the chess.com findings on Hans Niemann's play on the website over the course of his career. If you don't want to read, like, 20 pages and look at 50 pages of graphics that don't really make sense unless you're a mathematician, their conclusion is this: 
[00:49:29.54] [Music fades] 
[00:49:30.56] Hans has cheated way more online than he's admitted to, and that's why he's been banned. Chess.com states that they were not pressured by Magnus to ban Hans, nor did Magnus pressur chess.com to revoke Hans' access to play any tournaments that he was already scheduled to play in in the future. 
[00:49:47.81] [Ryan] The one thing that's conspicuously missing from this report is any evidence that really nails Hans to the wall. But short of Hans admitting to cheating, this is as close as we can possibly get. 
[00:50:00.74] Chess.com presents the argument that it seems very likely that Hans has been cheating, and they make some comments about Hans' quote-unquote "unprecedented rise in ratings." But in the entire report, chess.com makes a point to not address any OTB cheating, explicitly stating that OTB is not in their purview. 
[00:50:20.48] [Jess] We're going to dig into the report later on. But for now, here's two quotes that really stand out. First from page five. Quote, "Overall, we have found that Hans has likely cheated in more than 100 online chess games, including several prize money events. He was already 17 when he cheated in some of these matches and games. He was also streaming in 25 of these games," end quote. 
[00:50:46.85] Next is from page 8. Quote, "Chess.com's online cheating detection system is well known. In our 15-plus year history, it has been used to close the accounts of many non-professional online players, hundreds of titled players, dozens of GMs. It has elicited cheating confessions from four players in the FIDE top 100. To quote Hans himself: They, chess.com, have the best cheat detection in the world," end quote. 
[00:51:17.34] [Ryan] By the way this report is signed off by chess.com co-founder and CEO at the time Erik Allebest, the Fair Play Team at chess.com, and that guy we told you earlier to remember. 
[00:51:28.42] [Cheerful music plays] 
[00:51:28.83] Did you remember? 
[00:51:30.48] [Jess] If you did remember, this time the prize bucket gives you a bouncy ball you immediately lose and a slinky that does not slink. 
[00:51:38.46] [Ryan] For those of you who did not win a delightful prize, it's Danny Rensch, Chief Chess Officer of chess.com. Again, he'll be in the lawsuit when we get to it. Try to remember him this time. 
[00:51:50.16] [Jess] The chess.com report is met with scepticism and laughter, but also, there's some fairly convincing data. More than anything, it really shows chess.com's hand. Clearly, they're trying to shine a light on Hans Niemann's past cheating. It's hard to see the report as anything but retaliatory. 
[00:52:09.96] Hans opened a can of worms by going public about his account being banned in the wake of Sinquefield, and chess.com is finally breaking their silence. They're dragging Hans forward being an out-and-out liar. 
[00:52:21.97] [Sombre electronic music plays] 
[00:52:23.50] [Jess] In the next two weeks after the report, there's drama, but it's not as significant in the bigger picture. Magnus faces a withdrawal of his own, a king gets beheaded-- 
[00:52:33.49] [Ryan] In the game of chess, not in real life. 
[00:52:35.56] [Jess] Yeah, it's business as usual in the kingdom of chess. Until October 20th when the news breaks via Twitter that Hans is filing a complaint against Magnus, Play Magnus, chess.com, Danny Rensch, and Hikaru Nakamura. 
[00:52:48.81] [Music fades] 
[00:52:49.96] The allegations he lays out include slander, libel, civil conspiracy, and violation of the Sherman Act, whatever that is. Honestly, the drama written into what would normally be a very boring legal document rivals even what we've done so far in this episode, and I don't think we've been undramatic. 
[00:53:08.84] [Sinister synth music plays] 
[00:53:09.22] Bottom line, it's a ridiculously large sum, and this again draws headlines and eyeballs from the chess and even non-chess communities. 
[00:53:17.74] [Ryan] There's lots more to say about this lawsuit, but unfortunately, neither of us are lawyers or even anything close to legal experts. 
[00:53:25.33] [Jess] I mean, I personally have watched a lot of Law & Order. 
[00:53:28.27] [Law & Order "dun-dun" plays] 
[00:53:29.41] But as we mentioned before, we do have some real experts who are going to help us fill in a lot of the blanks. Here's a clip from Professor David Franklin. He's an Associate Professor of Law who agreed to speak to us about the lawsuit. He also loves chess and is a great player. 
[00:53:45.04] [David Franklin] Well, this is what makes this scandal such an interesting and, dare I say, pod-worthy story, because I really don't know. And I think anyone who says that they do know other than Hans himself or his confidants, if he has any, I just think those people shouldn't be trusted, because nobody knows. 
[00:54:05.83] [Jess] We'll hear more from David in our episode on the lawsuit, so for all you legal buffs out there, get excited and hang tight. 
[00:54:12.58] In the meantime, I just want to take us down a little avenue, because there's a few other scandals that happen around the same time as Magnus and Hans have their spat, but neither of them are directly involved. See, I very quickly got frustrated by the fact that, up until this point, this story, and so then by extension this podcast, doesn't pass the Bechdel test, meaning there are no women speaking to other women about a topic that is not men. The Bechdel test is by no means the high watermark for good feminist content, but the reason I'm bringing this up is because there are no women in this story so far. Period. And I'm a woman and a feminist, so I was just like, why? Why is that? 
[00:54:57.10] Yeah, I love chess, but I'm also a feminist and it's really unfortunate that it's still a predominantly male-centric sport. Women just have not really been given the chance to participate the same way men have. And that's not to say that women don't play chess. There's some really great female, trans, and non-binary players who have and continue to revolutionize the game. But chess has a history of being a sexist sport, and as we'll get to in later episodes, we'll see that it still remains a very sexist sport. 
[00:55:28.18] [Jess] Here's a clip from Julia Rios and JJ Lang. They host the chessfeels podcast. We love them. And they had a lot to say when we spoke to them about feminism and intersectionality in chess. 
[00:55:40.81] [Julia Rios] But it is interesting how any time I try to talk about it online, or point it out, I will receive a large number of men telling me that there is no sexism in chess. So, I mean, I definitely wouldn't say, oh, it's a thing that we all agree on. But it does seem fairly obvious. 
[00:56:02.17] [JJ Lang] I think there's absolutely raging misogynists in chess. What's worrisome is that for every raging misogynist, there's probably dozens, if not hundreds of men who play chess who vaguely agree that, like, it would be cool if those raging misogynists weren't such raging misogynists, but also take utter offence at the suggestion that anything they do or could do would make the chess space less safe for women, or even the idea that, like, the reason more women don't play chess is because there's any problems with the space as a whole and not just with this one bad individual. 
[00:56:38.12] [Jess] You'll hear more from Julia and JJ in a later episode. 
[00:56:40.90] [Cheerful music plays] 
[00:56:41.36] In the time since Hans and Magnus' dispute kicked off at Sinquefield, there's been a number of troubling revelations that have come to light in the chess community, but also rampant misogyny and deeply disturbing allegations of sexual assault from well-known players in positions of power. And while on the Magnus v. Hans thing is causing a lot of divisiveness and negativity amongst the community, the silver lining that everyone seems to agree on is that it's allowed the opportunity for a light to be shone on the grossness and depravity lurking in the shadows. 
[00:57:14.93] We owe it to the women who have been abused by this sport to tell their stories, from inappropriate game commentary to criminal acts. Women are not being treated equally or equitably in chess, and it needs to be talked about. 
[00:57:30.12] Here's a quote from Ben Johnson, who hosts the Perpetual Chess Podcast. You're going to hear more from him later in the series. 
[00:57:37.23] [Ben Johnson] Something needed to happen. There did need to be a triggering event for cheating to be taken more seriously. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Bringing it to light will help eventually solve the problem. 
[00:57:47.97] [Sombre electronic music plays] 
[00:57:49.98] [Ryan] We've covered a lot of ground here. But basically this is the story. Two dudes play a chess game. One guy says the other guy cheated, and the guy being accused says, "Nuh-uh." That, along with everything else we've just told you, are the basic facts. And if you think that's all you need to know, then great. You can just stop listening here. 
[00:58:14.44] [Music fades] 
[00:58:16.21] [Sinister synth music plays] 
[00:58:16.66] [Jess] But believe us when we say that this story is bigger than what we can fit into just this one episode, and it deserves more than just our voices. That's why we pestered everyone we could think of to give us their opinions and expertise about not just these events but also what's going to happen to this game that some of us really love and some of us really love to talk about. 
[00:58:39.63] [Ryan] There's still a lot more to say here, about the players, the cheating, the lawsuit, the game, the psychology, the misogyny, and the future. And we're going to talk about all of that and then some. 
[00:58:52.98] [Jess] We want to try and figure out who the real villain here is, and failing that, what the future of chess is going to look like, because these events that we've just told you are changing the course of the sport. And it remains to be seen whether that's for better or worse. 
[00:59:11.29] [Hikaru Nakamura, synthesized voice with reverb] Wait, what the heck? 
[00:59:13.85] [Rooked outro plays] 
[00:59:17.21] [Ryan] In the next episode of Rooked, we do a deep dive into the main players of this controversy and attempt to figure out if what we know about Hans and Magnus as people can give us any insight into their motives and what the real truth might be. 
[00:59:33.19] [Jess] Rooked: The Cheaters' Gambit is written and produced by me, Jess Schmidt. 
[00:59:37.18] [Ryan] And by me, Ryan Webb. 
[00:59:39.25] [Jess] Our amazing music is by the ever-talented Lorna Gilfedder. 
[00:59:43.18] [Ryan] Our executive producers are Rooney and Indigo. 
[00:59:47.14] [both] Speak! 
[00:59:47.82] [Rooney and Indigo howling] 
[00:59:50.58] [Music fades] 
[00:59:52.03] [Jess] This podcast is recorded on the traditional Treaty 7 territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, which includes the land of the Siksika, the Kainai, the Piikani, as well as the Stoney Nakoda and the Tsuut-ina Nations. 
[01:00:04.24] [Ryan] We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Homeland. In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge all nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory. 
[01:00:24.01] [Jess] This gathering place, and therefore this podcast, provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate reconciliation. The Government of Canada has not followed through on a number of the Calls to Action that have been suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. One such action is for justice. In the city that we live in, Calgary or Mohkinstsis, Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately represented amongst the victims of deadly force by police officers compared to their share of the overall population. And this is the same across much of Canada. 
[01:00:58.44] If you want to learn more, we suggest you check out the documentary No Visible Trauma at novisibletrauma.com. Awareness is the first step, but holding your local police department accountable for perpetuating colonial violence is just one goal that needs to be achieved by allies to actually do the work of reconciliation. 
[01:01:20.84] [Music fades] 

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<![CDATA[Episode 0: Trailer]]>Thu, 03 Nov 2022 05:09:44 GMThttp://rookedpodcast.xyz/transcripts/s1e0-trailer-speaks-for-itself
Jess  00:00
If you know anything about the scandal currently rocking the chess world, it's probably this...
 
Reporter 1  00:05
[music plays] Chess has been in the news because of a huge cheating controversy. It's almost been part soap opera, part whodunnit, and we still don't know all the answers.
 
Reporter 2  00:14
There was recently match where one of the players was accused of using anal beads to electronically stimulate the right answer for chess. [laughing] Like-- like-- whoa!
 
Reporter 1  00:28
People were speculating that Niemann could have cheated with the use of vibrating anal beads, which sounds ridiculous, but it went absolutely viral. People talking about it, people asking how he could have done it.
 
Trevor Noah  00:39
I get why someone would use vibrating anal beads to cheat, you know? Because even if you lose, you still kind of win, you know? [audience laughs]
 
Jess 00:49
Like most headlines, this barely scratches the surface of the story that's unfolding here. [music plays] A story of cheating, betrayal, scandal, and lies that runs so deep into the core of professional chess I truly don't know if the truth is able to be found amongst the statements, matches, history, and facts of this tale. [music cuts out] But that's what we're here to do. [music plays] We're on a mission to uncover the real story of what the [bleep] is happening in elite chess.
 
Ryan 01:21
Yeah, first and foremost, I think the purpose of this podcast is to examine cheating and its repercussions as it pertains to the game of chess,
 
Jess 01:30
Right, but we're also trying to find an answer to some big picture questions, too. Like, can true facts and honesty still exist in the age of the internet?
 
Ryan 01:40
Why are we talking about anal beads?
 
Jess 01:42
Why should anyone care about cheating in chess? These are all great questions, some of them better than others, that we intend to get to the bottom of-- no pun intended. [music stops]
 
Ryan 01:54
[laughs] Before we answer any of these questions, let's start with the hosts. We can get to the sex device in episode one. [music plays]
 
Jess 02:05
I'm Jess Schmidt, and I'm a podcast producer. I know pretty much nothing about chess. But luckily, I'm joined by my boyfriend, Ryan Webb, who's an intermediate chess player. Say hi, Ryan.
 
Ryan 02:18
Hi, Ryan.
 
Jess 02:20
Ryan, why do we have the hubris to think that we should be the people to tell this story? I mean, my logic is that you spend so much time thinking about chess.
 
Ryan 02:30
Yeah, when I'm not studying or playing online, I'm watching game recaps or looking at the latest chess news.
 
Jess 02:36
And most of the time, you don't talk to me about it anymore. Because even though I initially tried really hard to get into it, I just do not see what makes it so compelling. [music fades out] At least, until now. [music plays] As of a couple of weeks ago, Ryan has started filling me in on a big scandal. And despite my general disinterest in chess, I've started to find this particular story very interesting indeed. This story is all we've been able to talk about, and it's formed a kind of bridge between Ryan's world of diehard chess fandom, and my world of unsolved mystery loving. So, if either of those sounds good to you, then stick around-- we're going in deep. [music stops]
 
Ryan 03:23
Insert anal bead joke here. And in all seriousness, as much as you really don't know anything but what I've told you about chess, you are a really talented podcast producer and storyteller. And you did write this part of the script, [Jess laughs] but I really believe that.
 
Jess 03:40
Thanks.
 
Ryan 03:41
In the course of this series, we're going to introduce you to the key players of the scandal, lay out the timeline of what's happened so far, delve into a brief history of chess that's led us to this moment, and posit what this story could mean for the future of chess-- if there still is one.
 
Jess 03:58
[music plays] We both have our own convictions on what the real truth of this story is, and who is the hero, versus who or what-- ominous little breadcrumb there-- is the villain of the tale. But we want you, the listener, to be able to draw your own conclusions. [music stops] So, we'll do our best to just give you the pure hard facts so you can decide for yourself.
 
Ryan 04:24
[theme music plays] It won't just be our voices telling this story, though. As two smalltime Canadians, we're going to do our best to talk to as many people as we can, from experts to other enthusiast, and anyone else that can help shine a light on what's actually happening here.
 
Jess 04:45
So, buckle up, because this is a tale of anal beads.
 
Ryan 04:49
This is a tale of Elon Musk.
 
Jess 04:54
This is a tale of cheating, of lies, and conspiracies.
 
Ryan 05:00
This is a tale of the game of chess, and the potential collapse of its future.
 
Ryan and Jess in unison  05:07
This is Rooked. [music fades out] [slide whistle plays]
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