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Sex toys, cheating and Elon Musk - Chess but not as you know it

Cheating controversy broke out this week at the elite end of chess, then the world’s richest man got involved

It came as a surprise when Elon Musk alleged vibrating anal beads may have been nefariously used to gain an advantage in elite sport. From the get-go it struck home as something that, if true, could go desperately, comically wrong.

But then experience tells us that athletes will do almost anything to cheat. It’s the debauched, fallen side of the competitive gene, one that has recently taken an unexpected detour. Top athletes are, after all, not just gods but also only as god made them. Then again, not everybody considers chess a sport.

At one stage, the game of annihilation was a demonstration event at the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) grandly recognised chess in 1999 and a year later it gained exhibition status at the Sydney games.

Subsequently there was a push in 2019 for it to be included for Paris 2024 with the International Chess Federation calling for faster formats of the traditional game, called rapid and blitz, to make it easier to schedule and televise.


The longest chess snooze was 269 moves between Ivan Nikolic and Goran Arsovic in Belgrade, 1989. The game ended in a draw and lasted over 20 hours. ‘Nuff said.

So, global masters won’t be in Paris. The pity of it all is that Musk’s novel intervention in the ongoing chess cheating controversy didn’t arrive a few years ago to hurl the game from its current space of straight-laced school library with a pretentious drift, to a scandal that has thrust the sport into the mainstream.

Joking or not, it wouldn’t be the first time a fundament was exploited for unfair gain. Throughout the golden age of rogues and roguery in sport, the 1980s, all sorts of contraband including caffeine and steroids were rectally consumed, apparently a bullseye way of getting the juice to where it needed to go.

Before the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, several US athletes, including those who participated on the track cycling team pursuit squad which won the silver medal, said they had experimented with caffeine suppositories during training to see if their performances would improve.

The recent pearl clasping in chess occurred about two weeks ago when the world champion Magnus Carlsen pulled out of a tournament for the first time in his career, after a shock defeat against an unkempt looking 19-year-old American kid called Hans Niemann.

Then earlier this week in a stunning attention-seeking move, again while playing Niemann, he resigned from a game after one push of a pawn.

Carlsen’s unusual behaviour triggered frenzied speculation in the board world with American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura adding gasoline to the flames with unsubstantiated claims that Niemann was “probably cheating” when he defeated Carlsen.

Carlsen did little to dispel the unfounded rumour when he sent a cryptic tweet - a video of Portuguese soccer manager José Mourinho in full tease mode: “I prefer really not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.”

Rushing to fill the void, commenters on the online forum Reddit suggested Niemann may have used a transmitting sex toy to receive coded messages.

The idea of anal beads as effective wireless sets vibrating to indicate what moves to make against an opponent might seem bonkers but, apparently, technically just about on the cusp of feasibility.

Before continuing, it should be pointed out the textbook advice on ‘adult beading’ is common sense. Approach your first bead encounter with patience. Discuss your interests and desires and try to cultivate an open-minded, playful approach. Oh, and have a safe word.

Musk then rowed in and tweeted a reworked quote from German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. “Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one can see (cause it’s in ur butt).”

Niemann admitted to having cheated in online tournaments when he was 12- and 16-years-old, but said he had since returned from the dark side and denied such unwholesomeness against Carlsen. He afforded the cheating allegations some air time.

“If they want me to strip fully naked, I will do it. I don’t care. Because I know I am clean,” said Niemann. “You want me to play in a closed box with zero electronic transmission? I don’t care. I’m here to win, and that is my goal regardless.”

It’s easier to get into Rikers Island Penitentiary in Queens than a chess tournament with an illegal cheat machine. Security measures to stomp out corrupt practices include “additional security in the form of ACC-certified metal detectors, x-ray machines, scanners and electronic jamming devices, manned by qualified security staff.”

Musk’s intervention in particular has drawn millions of eyes towards the car crash event. He has a not insignificant 106.6 million followers.

It is not the audience chess (whether it be a sport, science or art) wished for - a sneering social media gallery framing it as a space for brainy, whinging toy throwers with world champions walking off the stage and posting enigmatic Tweets.

They may respectfully call each other Grand Masters, but petty jealousies, wounded pride, personality clashes and bitching has drawn The Royal Game to ridicule. And that was before we even got to the anal beads.

It’s a story with no end. Likely we will never know if it’s fact or friction.