The chess world was rocked by a cheating scandal last September after former world champion Magnus Carlsen insinuated that an opponent, grandmaster Hans Niemann, had used foul play to beat him at the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, Missouri. Now, some British YouTubers have put the most outlandish theory that arose from the scandal to the test: Could someone actually use anal beads and a computer to defeat someone much better than them at chess? The answer appears to be yes.
The Josh & Archie YouTube channel just released a video showing what might happen if a novice sat down to play a grandmaster with the help of a chess computer feeding him instructions through a vibrator in his butt controlled via smartphone. Co-hosts Josh Pieters and Archie Manners, known for their pranks of celebrities and political groups, devised a code that could be used to let the person playing know which moves to make. Manners would watch a chess computer simulation and communicate what to do to Pieters who would be sitting in a mock studio playing against grandmaster Daniel Fernandez, ranked 481 in the world.
The code was simple enough. Beginning at the 1a square every time, Pieters would send one set of buzzes to indicate the location of the piece that was to be moved and then the square it should move to. Fernandez believed he was appearing on a TV show about whether people could study something enough to master it in three months. While watching the chess computer analyze the grandmaster’s moves, Manners revealed that Fernandez had played perfectly up until about the thirtieth minute when the program was then able to exploit one small mistake and ultimately checkmate him.
The anal bead theory of chess cheating originated during a Chessbrah Twitch stream last September as the hosts joked about how Niemann could have snuck a device into his match unnoticed. While never taken seriously, it always signaled just how baseless Carlsen’s insinuation of foul play seemed to be at the time. A report later surfaced detailing past cheating by Niemann on Chess.com, which led to lawsuits, counter lawsuits, and eventually a settlement, but there was never any evidence of in-person misconduct. It didn’t stop Niemann from getting generous pat downs at later tournaments, however.
The chess beads theory went on to spawn an entire episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in which Frank Reynolds, played by Danny DeVito, basically did exactly what the Josh & Archie channel did. Several other YouTubers have also explored the theory. Host Piers Morgan even asked Niemann last month on live TV whether he ever used anal beads to cheat. “Your curiosity is a bit concerning, you know–maybe you’re personally interested, but I can tell you, no,” the grandmaster replied.
We’ll never know if Niemann actually did, but at least now we know he could have.