“Reprehensible, ridiculous, slanderous” – Hans Niemann’s mentor Maxim Dlugy on Magnus Carlsen’s allegations of fraud

Following the Magnus Carlsen vs. Hans Niemann cheating scandal, the most high-profile controversy to rock the chess world, a key member of the scandal has decided to speak out. Maxim Dlugy, Niemann’s childhood mentor, had been mentioned by Carlsen in the course of his allegations and had speculated whether or not he had helped Niemann cheat in the past. Dlugy himself has a tarnished reputation, having been banned from chess.com in 2017 and 2020 for cheating incidents.

In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, the Russian broke his silence and called out Carlsen for his “defamatory” claims against him and Niemann without any evidence.

“Two days before Magnus mentioned my name in the interview, an old friend had contacted me asking about my relationship with Hans. I said I wasn’t his coach, more his mentor,” he said. “He asked what I think of the fraud allegations. I said they were reprehensible, ridiculous and slanderous. There’s no evidence,” he said.

Magnus Carlsen and Hans Hiemann. (Special illustration by Suvajit Dey)

Dlugy, himself a former grandmaster, revealed that he has known Carlsen since they competed in blitz games at the Sinquefield Chess Club, as well as a few tandem games that went on until 4:30am. Having got on well with him in the past, he was surprised to hear his name was linked to the controversy.

“It was all the greater the shock that he now called my name,” he added. “I had nothing to do with Hans at the time, I just gave him advice now and then. And suddenly I’m drawn into it without Magnus thinking about what he’s doing to me. Why is he doing this?”

Dlugy went on to claim that Carlsen’s allegations may be motivated by the fact that Niemann ended his 52-game unbeaten streak – that he doesn’t like Niemann and he might be a bad loser. “Magnus was very upset that against Hans his 52-game unbeaten streak was broken. Maybe he also has a personal problem with Hans. He often behaves obnoxiously. That’s how he is. Hans is Hans,” he said.

Dlugy issued clarifications on the incidents leading to his bans from chess.com, which came to light after his emails were leaked. The first, he claimed, was a chess lesson gone wrong when one of his students used computer programs and AI to suggest moves, suggestions he eventually accepted. The second in 2020, he says, was the result of a false confession after being accused of fraud, although he didn’t.

“They told me I had 72 hours to confess. But I thought to myself: what kind of scam? Look at the games, where should I have cheated? There’s not even a reason for me to cheat on Titled Tuesday to win $500 or anything. I ask for more money for private chess lessons,” Dlugy claimed.

“But if I hadn’t confessed, my account would have been banned forever and everyone would have thought I was a scammer. I didn’t want to go through that again, so I made a fake confession, after which my account was unblocked. Chess.com told me everything was confidential.”

The Russian said the best way for Niemann to salvage his reputation is to go to court, an option he is keeping open, particularly after his emails with chess.com were leaked. Dlugy said he decided to go public with his side of the story after consulting with three different law firms.

“What Magnus did is absolutely ridiculous and very bad for chess,” he said. “(I demand) an apology from Magnus for dragging me into this. And an apology from chess.com for releasing our confidential emails.”

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