I totally agree that trying to read the tea leaves re: Niemann's accent, post-game analysis, etc is essentially an exercise in confirmation bias. And Niemann definitely comes off as believable to me in this video.The whole affair is a fascinating exercise in conformation bias. Many people idolize Carlsen and so they leap to the conclusion that he would not have implied cheating without having some evidence. Many think that Niemann's fake accent is goofy and so he is a fake, and he couldn't have beaten Carlsen over he board, and therefore must have cheated and his fast rise is suspect.
But there are other possible explanations. Carlsen has acted rashly in the past (walking out of press conference in Fabi match), and perhaps he did so here because he lost to a kid, and cant believe it happened. And so he casts blame on Nieman rather than accept the loss (and the possible start of the erosion of his grip on he chess world).
By contrast, the fact that Nieman cheated online at 12 and 16 can be attributed to the rash actions of a child. Its fa harder to pull that off at a premier over the board event. And so perhaps his recent rise and defeat of Carlsen show a ate blooming talent.
Agaard's take on all this resonates with me
OTOH, Aagaard is obviously full of shit when he claims that Nakamura's is “void of an actual accusation of cheating”. Hikaru starts off hemming and hawing, but by the end of that stream he has explicitly said that Niemann cheated in the past, and has all but said that he thinks he's cheating now. The real problem there is that Hikaru's a fucking blowhard who has a history of making provocative claims with no evidence.
I don't really believe that Carlsen cares about his grip on the chess world at this point. If he did, he'd be defending his title. He's fully in DGAF moment with respect to the greater chess world now. Hell, listen to him on the Fridman podcast recorded before this incident but that came out today: he honestly sounds like someone who wants people to challenge him and beat him, even advocating for a tournament where top-10 players play each other anonymously so that nobody's intimidated when they play him.*
And he didn't go off the rails when other young players beat him in the past (Aagard acknowledges this with Praag); he's been around for a couple of decades and this is unprecedented. I think he truly believes something is up. But his withdrawal is the only real piece of evidence we have in this case, and that could very easily be mistaken or confused.
Niemann's prior cheating is problematic; dismissing it is unrealistic. Yeah, it could be dismissed as the rash actions of a child. Alternatively, one could argue that he's a proven cheater over a more than 5-year span, most recently less than 3 years ago, and even his explanation of it in this video had internal contradictions that didn't make sense (as I said above, I think that's attributable to simple misphrasing, but it's still there). I get why that's something that sticks in people's craws, and it certainly doesn't earn him the benefit of the doubt.
To me, his denial in the video rings true. If no other evidence comes out, I'm inclined to believe him.
But that's a big if. We're still super early in the process, as much as the Internet has lit itself on fire and micro-analyzed everything in a manner that seems like it's taken forever. It's basically up to whether either Magnus turned over any actual evidence and/or an investigation finds anything concrete.
Sidebar: GothamChess, Eric Rosen, and Naroditsky have been level-headed throughout this. Danya did mention during stream that cheating in live chess events is far easier than people think, but that was in a pretty abstract manner and was followed up quickly by a statement that he doesn't have any evidence that Hans did so. And he ended his discussion saying Magnus “needs to shit or get off the pot.” All 3 of them have , thus far, avoided big hot takes. Levy kind of had to address it since he's recapping the tournament and has one of the biggest chess platforms, but he did so without fanning the flames:
*Magnus from that interview:
...the only world championship after that that I really enjoyed was the one in 2018 against the American Fabiano Caruana. And what made that different is that I'd been kind of slumping for a bit and he'd been on the rise, so our ratings were very very similar. They were so close that if at any point during the match I'd lost a game, he would have been ranked as number 1 in the world...
...right before the World Championship match, there was this young player, Alireza Firouzja who had a dramatic rise. He rose to second in the world rankings, he was 18 then, he's 19 now. He qualified for the Candidates, and it felt like there was like at least a half realistic possibility that he could be the challenger for the next World Championship. And that sort of lit a fire under me. I liked that a lot. I loved the idea of playing him in the next World Championship… So that made me think, "you know, this actually motivates me."...
...I think people would play a lot better if they played against an anonymous me. I would love to have a tournament online where let's say you play 10 of the best players in the world, and for each round, you don't know who you're playing.
It is quite fascinating that all those years ago, they created the knights and the bishop without probably realizing that they would be almost equally strong with such different qualities.