Carlsen, Chess.com beat Niemann’s $100 million suit over cheating scandal

(This June 27 story has been corrected to say September 2019, not September 2022, in paragraph 6)

By Jack Queen

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(Reuters) – A Missouri federal court on Tuesday dismissed U.S. chess prodigy Hans Niemann’s $100 million defamation lawsuit alleging Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen and Chess.com falsely accused him of cheating, though his lawyers said they will pursue their claims in state court.

U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Fleissig rejected Niemann’s claims that Carlsen and Chess.com broke antitrust laws by colluding to exclude him from lucrative tournaments. Fleissig also found she did not have jurisdiction over Niemann’s state law claims for defamation and breach of contract, among others.

Lawyers for Niemann, a 19-year-old whose defeat of Carlsen last year stunned the chess world, said in a statement that the decision has “absolutely no impact” on his ability to pursue his defamation claims in state court.

An attorney for Carlsen, the highest-ranked chess player in history, said in a statement that the court rejected Niemann’s bid to recover an “underserved windfall in Missouri federal court” and chill free speech “through strategic litigation in that forum.”

Lawyers for Chess.com said in a statement that the company is “happy to see an end to this saga” and “grateful that all parties can now focus on growing the game of chess.”

The legal battle stems from Niemann’s upset victory over Carlsen at a tournament in St. Louis, Missouri, in September 2022 and Carlsen’s subsequent claims that Niemann had cheated, allegations Niemann denies.

Chess.com, the largest online chess platform in the world, appeared to back up Carlsen’s claims when it said it had uncovered evidence of repeated cheating in Niemann’s online playing history. Chess.com merged with Carlsen’s online chess company in December 2022.

Niemann claimed he lost out on millions of dollars in potential winnings after being allegedly blacklisted from major tournaments by the defendants.

Carlsen and Chess.com denied those allegations, saying Niemann has still been able to compete in major tournaments.

(Reporting by Jack Queen in New York; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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