The Blind Chess Cheater
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The Blind Chess Cheater

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In the past couple of months, we have had our fair share of chess cheating- There was the Hans Niemann cheating allegations, drama at the Flordia State Championships, and the male Kenyan player who pretended to be a woman. 

This story is not as recent as the other ones, it happened around eight years ago, and it started when Stein Tholo Bjørnsen, a blind Chess player, created a stir in the Chess world with his sudden rise to tournament fame.

Despite his visual impairment, Stein was able to showcase his incredible skills on the board and win over many tough opponents. However, his Chess career was short-lived as a result of multiple cheating incidents that led to his downfall. In this blog, we will be going over the biggest chess-cheating event in Norwegian history, and how Bjørnsen got away with it. 

The Beginnings

Bjørnsen's first OTB tournament happened in 2015. Since he was blind, Bjørnsen was allowed to play with two special things- a miniature chess board to easily feel where the pieces were, and a little earpiece. Bjørnsen describes it as "It's my note-taking tool. I go through the motions when I need to. And I am allowed to do this according to FIDE's rules"

Bjørnsen can be seen using an earpiece and a miniature board here

His games were quite stunning for a player who had never gone to a tournament before. In his very first tournament, he was tactically outplaying his opponents in a near-perfect style, securing Bjørnsen an undefeated 8/9 score, and winning the rating section he played in. 

He then played in more tournaments, with the same results. He won or drew every single game he played, getting a performance rating as high as 2200, and racking up a 64 undefeated game streak, with an average accuracy of 96%, which at the time, was 10% higher than GM Magnus Carlsen's average Accuracy. 

It may seem very obvious that he was a cheater, a 50-year-old blind man with this type of progress, who wears an earpiece at all his games, but for some reason, no accusations were made. It was not until a year later in 2016 that people started to call him out on his perfect play

Getting Caught

When the Cheating accusations started raining down, Bjørnsen's story entered the mainstream media, even capturing the interest of Carlsen himself-  "Really a unique talent, if everything is correct, and I hope it is." Much like the Han Nieman scandel.

Bjørnsen claimed that his success in chess was due to his endless dedication, which involved spending between 10 and 12 hours every day practicing the game for the past two years, honing his skills and instincts to a level of pure excellence, which he believed is why he had such great success in tournaments and matches.

Bjørnsen even appeared on a TV interview, where he publically denied all cheating accusations, saying that there was no way he was cheating because his equipment has been checked and it can't be used for cheating at all. 

"I haven't done anything wrong. The judges sat 20 centimeters from me the whole time during all the games, and the recorder I use was checked during the tournament. The accusations also come from people who were not present during the tournament. I really cannot understand what they think I should have done. I can play naked or in shorts. They can give me a new dictaphone if they wish. As I said, all my equipment has been checked 100 times. "

But when two Noregion tech people went and checked his earpiece, they discovered that it actually can not connect to a recorder, and it was in fact a Bluetooth earpiece that fed him moves. 

Bjørnsen still denied the accusations of cheating against him, despite the earpiece breakthrough that had just happened, believing that he was being framed for something he did not do, and even went so far as to undergo a chess test to prove his innocence, where Bjørnsen would solve puzzles without his earpiece. 

The result were not in his favor, as he failed miserably in the test, which only added to the mounting evidence against him. As a consequence of his actions, Bjørnsen was handed a temporary ban from participating in tournaments.

The end?!

Two years later, Bjørnsen was allowed to play in more tournaments. This time, Bjørnsen was not permitted to use an earpiece, and he was under high watch by the tournament directors to make sure he did cheat a second time, but he had surely learned his lesson and never cheated again and everybody lived happily ever after.


Haha nope. 

His first tournament back, in a game against a nine-year-old girl, Bjørnsen hid an earpiece in the palm of his hand. When it was his turn, he would rest his hand on his head and listen to the moves. Unfortunately for Bjørnsen, the father of the young girl was suspicious of his behavior and recorded the entire incident on his phone. 

The Father went over to the tournament directors, showed them this footage, and then the TDs stopped the game before he could cheat anymore. But despite literally being caught red-handed, Bjørnsen still would not admit to cheating, saying that there was indeed a device in his hand, but he never used it to cheat. 

But nobody believed him, and Bjørnsen was banned from participating in future tournaments and his reputation as an underdog was severely tarnished by his repeated cheating. But as one last trick in his hat, he told everybody that he was not born blind and he got shot in the eye as a kid, and he now has cancer as a way to make everybody feel sorry for him.

It didn't work.


The incident prompted discussions on how to prevent cheating from occurring in the future since the Norwegian chess federation really let this guy run free for a year without losing a single game, and never getting caught. It was an excellent way to force them to upgrade their cheating defense.

Also if you liked this post, consider joining my two clubs, one of which, Apes United, I post Dwayne Johnson and Tom Holland rap battles there, and in the other, we have stimulating debates about trees. 

And if you see any grammar mistakes in here, let me know cause I sort of rushed this out. Thanks