Magnus Carlsen, who is in Dubai to take part in the Global Chess League, addresses a press conference. Image Credit: Supplied

Washington: A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed American chess player Hans Niemann’s $100 million lawsuit against, former world champion Magnus Carlsen and others, after Niemann accused the online chess platform and several prominent chess figures of conspiring to defame and blacklist him.

Audrey G. Fleissig, a judge in US District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri, dismissed Niemann’s antitrust claims with prejudice, meaning they are permanently dismissed and cannot be retried. Fleissig declined jurisdiction over Niemann’s other claims, including that the defendants had defamed Niemann.

Strategic litigation

“We are pleased the Court has rejected Hans Niemann’s attempt to recover an undeserved windfall in Missouri federal court, and that Niemann’s attempt to chill speech through strategic litigation in that forum has failed,” Craig Reiser, an attorney for Carlsen, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

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Niemann’s representation did not immediately return a request for comment.

In the lawsuit, Niemann, 20, portrayed a conspiracy between the popular online chess platform and Carlsen to bar Niemann from professional competition in retaliation for Niemann’s defeat of Carlsen, the world’s No 1 player, at an event this past September.

'Niemann cheated more frequently'

After Niemann’s upset, Carlsen hinted that wrongdoing had occurred. Niemann, a Grandmaster, subsequently said he had cheated in matches on when he was 12 and 16 years old, but insisted he had not since then. Carlsen later accused Niemann of having “cheated more — and more recently — than he has publicly admitted.” released a 72-page report in October saying Niemann “likely cheated” on its site more frequently than he has publicly acknowledged, and that he had done so as recently as August 2020. Niemann was banned from the site and online events. At the same time, said its investigation failed to turn up an abundance of “concrete statistical evidence” that Niemann cheated in his win over Carlsen.

Creating monopoly across competition

A Norwegian Grandmaster, Carlsen won his first world championship in 2013, and later co-founded Play Magnus the same year. Play Magnus began as a chess app that mimicked Carlsen’s playing style at various stages of his life, but later evolved into a company that offers an online playing site and a book publishing outlet. In December, Play Magnus was acquired by for nearly $83 million.

Niemann filed his lawsuit in October, alleging that Carlsen, and others effectively created a monopoly across top chess competition, and defamed him with the September cheating allegation. In her decision, Fleissig said Niemann “fails to plausibly allege an antitrust injury … Nor can Niemann plausibly allege an antitrust injury resulting from’s merger with Play Magnus.”

Magnus Carlsen, who remains the world's top-rated player, pulled out of the World Championship title match. Image Credit: Supplied

FIDE report to be delayed

The International Chess Federation, the sport’s governing body, known as FIDE, completed its own investigation into the matter in February and initially said its findings would be published in April. FIDE said last month the report would be delayed “until at least October of this year pending possible further developments in the civil suit between the parties.”

Niemann has continued to play chess since the dispute caught widespread attention last fall. He is currently ranked No. 36 in the world. Carlsen, who remains the world’s top-rated player, announced this past July that he will not defend his world championship title, which was claimed last month by China’s Ding Liren.

“We are very pleased with the court’s order dismissing Hans Niemann’s claims,” said Nima Mohebbi and Jamie Wine, attorneys for Latham & Watkins, which represents “Our clients are happy to see an end to this saga, and are grateful that all parties can now focus on growing the game of chess.”