Magnus Carlsen will not defend his title of world champion
GM Magnus Carlsen will not defend his world championship title against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi next year. Carlsen announced his decision on a podcast tuesday. According to current regulations, the winner of the FIDE Candidates tournament, Nepomniachtchi, will now play for the world championship against GM Ding Liren, runner-up Candidates.
“I’ve spoken to people on my team, I’ve spoken to FIDE, I’ve spoken to Ian as well. The conclusion is very simple: I’m not motivated to play another game,” Carlsen said. “I don’t have much to gain. I don’t particularly like it, and although I’m sure a game would be interesting for historical reasons, I have no desire to play and I won’t play everything. just not the game.”
Carlsen thus confirmed the previous doubts he had expressed on December 14, 2021 and repeated later: after playing five world championship matches, he no longer enjoys them.
“It’s been an interesting race since I decided to take on the Candidates in 2013, which was to be honest on a whim. I just decided it might be interesting, and since the title of world champion brought me a lot and opened a lot of doors for me, and I’m happy about that.The matches themselves were sometimes interesting, sometimes a little fun.
The Norwegian star leaves the door open to return one day for a match, but it’s unlikely: “I’m not ruling out participation in the future, but I wouldn’t count on it either.”
Carlsen made his claims in the first episode of the new “The Magnus Effect” podcast.
During the FIDE Candidates Tournament, Carlsen had a meeting with FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and General Manager Emil Sutovsky, which apparently did not have enough effect to convince Carlsen to defend his title a fifth time.
Speaking about that reunion in Madrid, Carlsen said: “I didn’t have any requests or suggestions for that reunion. They had some suggestions, but the main thing was that I was there to tell them that I wouldn’t be defending my title in the of the next WCC match.”
Dvorkovich told Chess.com he respects the world champion’s decision and confirmed that under the rules there will now be a Ding-Nepomniachtchi match.
It turns out that Carlsen never really changed his mind about a feeling he had for a while. “At the end of the day, the conclusion is valid, one that I’m quite comfortable with, one that I’ve been thinking about a lot for a long time now,” he said. “I would say over a year, probably a year and a half. Long before the last game.”
It didn’t help that Nepomniachtchi qualified for a second game with Carlsen, who earlier said he preferred a new generation opponent, especially GM Alireza Firouzja. “Four championships to five, that meant nothing to me. It was nothing,” Carlsen said in yesterday’s podcast. “I was happy with the job I had done. I was happy not to have lost the match. But that was it.”
Carlsen also reiterated once again that he intended to continue playing, but no matches: “Just so there is no ambiguity here: I am not retiring from chess. I will be an active player. I’m leaving later today to go to Croatia to play the Grand Chess Tour. From there I’m going to Chennai to play the Olympiad, which is going to be a lot of fun, and the team Norway is ranked number four there. And in Miami which is going to be one of the real highlights of the year – the FTX Crypto Cup which is going to be awesome. And right after that, the Sinquefield Cup.
Ding Liren: “A New Era”
“There are a lot of feelings in my mind right now that I have to deal with,” Ding said in an initial reaction to Chess.com. “But I’m very excited to play a world championship game to fight for the crown next year.”
Calling from Barcelona, where Ding is staying in a friend’s apartment, he revealed he caught Covid just after the Candidates Tournament and has therefore not yet been able to return to China. Now fully recovered, he will be back in about two weeks. The Chinese player is surprised by Carlsen’s decision:
“I knew he had doubts, but I expected him to play. But I understand that too. Being world champion means a lot of responsibility, there are a lot of things to deal with.”
Ding pointed out the similarities with Yuzuru Hanyu, the Japanese figure skater who also yesterday announcement retired from competition but promised to pursue his goal in exhibitions instead.
The chess world has had previous moments in history when the world champion failed to defend his title. In 1946 GM Alexander Alekhine died as defending champion. A world championship tournament, held two years later, was won by GM Mikhail Botvinnik. In 1975, General Manager Bobby Fischer could not agree with FIDE on the format of the match and lost his title to the winner of the Candidates, General Manager Anatoly Karpov.
In 1993, GM Garry Kasparov left FIDE and played a World Championship under the Professional Chess Association instead. This led to a schism in the chess world that lasted until 2006, when GM Vladimir Kramnik won a reunification match with FIDE champion GM Veselin Topalov.
“It’s not an ideal situation that the best player doesn’t defend their title, and creating your own organization isn’t great either,” Ding said, adding, “It’s better for the fans if the best players are fighting for the world championship, and Magnus has of course been the best player over the years. We have entered a new era.”
Ding said he hoped Carlsen would “come back one day” and felt reaching the highest possible competition also gave him a new responsibility: “I have to improve my English now!”
Ian Nepomniachtchi: “Quite disappointing”
Update: Later in the day, Chess.com also spoke to Nepomniachtchi, after completing the first three rounds of the Super United Croatia Rapid & Blitz in Zagreb, Croatia.
“It was not a shock because it was surely not the first time that I had heard of his intentions,” he said. “We also chatted briefly online after Madrid, and it was pretty clear that he probably wouldn’t play. But, as they say, hope dies last. Frankly, it’s quite disappointing. The second leg was something something I was really looking forward to.”
In more general terms, the challenger thinks Carlsen’s decision is not good for the chess world. “It’s quite harmful, but at this point it’s hard to assess how harmful it is,” Nepomniachtchi said. “From a human point of view, it’s a pretty understandable decision on Magnus’ part and I totally respect it, despite my personal disappointment that it happened. However, we have this great tradition in chess of almost 150 years, and that’s something really priceless.”
Of facing Ding instead, Nepomniachtchi said, “I would say that chess-wise, overall, his chess skills could easily match Magnus’s. Ding was hands down one of the best players of the last few years. He’s also had that 100 game unbeaten streak, which is something. He’s got a very different style though, he’s a very different person, a very different player and a very serious opponent . It will be hard!”