GM Magnus Carlsen will not be defending his world title against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi next year. Carlsen announced his decision on a podcast on Tuesday. According to the current regulations, the winner of the FIDE Candidates Tournament, Nepomniachtchi, will now play at the World Championship with Grandmaster Ding Liren, who took second place in the Candidates Tournament.
“I talked to people from my team, I talked to FIDE, I talked to Jan. The conclusion is very simple: I have no motivation to play another match,” said Carlsen. “I don’t have a big win. I don’t particularly like it, and although I’m sure the match would be interesting for historical reasons, I don’t have any inclinations to play and I just won’t play a match.”
Thus, Carlsen confirmed the doubts he had previously expressed on December 14, 2021, and later repeated: having played five world championship matches, he no longer enjoys them.
“It’s been an interesting ride since I decided to play the Candidates in 2013, which, to be honest, was kind of a whim. I just thought it might be interesting and since the world title has given me a lot and opened a lot of doors and I’m happy about it. The matches themselves were interesting at times, a bit fun at times.”
The Norwegian star is leaving the door open to return to the match one day, but it’s unlikely: “I don’t rule out future participation, but I wouldn’t count on it either.”
Carlsen made his statements in the first episode of the new Magnus Effect podcast.
During the FIDE Candidates Tournament, Carlsen’s meeting with FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and CEO Emil Sutovsky did not seem to have enough effect to convince Carlsen to defend his title for the fifth time.
Speaking about this meeting in Madrid, Carlsen said, “I didn’t have any demands or suggestions for this meeting. They had a couple of offers, but the gist of them was that I was there to tell them that I would not defend my position. title in the next WCC match.”
Dvorkovich told Chess.com that he respected the world champion’s decision and confirmed that the Ding vs. Nepomniachtchi match would now be legal.
As it turned out, Carlsen never changed his mind about the feeling he had for a while. “Ultimately, the conclusion suggests itself, which I quite agree with, which I have thought about a lot for a long time,” he said. “I would say more than a year, probably a year and a half. Long before the last match.”
It didn’t help that Nepomniachtchi went into the second match with Carlsen, who had previously stated that he preferred a new generation opponent, in particular GM Alireza Firouzja. “Four championships against five – it meant nothing to me. Nothing,” Carlsen said in yesterday’s podcast. “I was pleased with the work done. I was happy that I didn’t lose the match. But that’s all.”
Carlsen reiterated that he intended to continue playing, not matches: “To avoid ambiguity: I am not leaving chess. I’m going to be an active player. I will go to Croatia to play the Grand Chess Tour. From there I’m going to go to Chennai to play in the Olympics which will be a lot of fun and the Norwegian team is seeded number four there. And in Miami, which will be one of the highlights of the year, the FTX Crypto Cup, which will be amazing. And right after that, the Sinquefield Cup.”
“There are a lot of thoughts in my head right now that I have to deal with,” Dean said in an initial reaction to Chess.com. “But I’m very excited to play the World Championship match to compete for the crown next year.”
Calling from Barcelona, where Ding was staying with a friend, he said he had contracted the coronavirus just after the Candidates Tournament and was therefore unable to return to China yet. Now fully recovered, he will be heading back in about two weeks. The Chinese is surprised by Carlsen’s decision:
“I knew he had his doubts, but I expected him to play. But I also understand it. Being world champion means a lot of responsibility, you have to deal with a lot of things.”
Ding pointed to a resemblance to Yuzuru Hanyu, a Japanese figure skater who also announced his end of competition yesterday, but instead vowed to pursue his goal at exhibitions.
The chess world has already seen moments in history when a world champion did not defend his title. In 1946 Grandmaster Alexander Alekhine died as the defending champion. The world championship tournament organized two years later was won by grandmaster Mikhail Botvinnik. In 1975, GM Bobby Fischer was unable to agree with FIDE on the format of the match and lost the title to the winner of the Candidates, GM Anatoly Karpov.
In 1993, Grandmaster Garry Kasparov left FIDE and instead played the World Championship under the auspices of the Professional Chess Association. This led to a split in the chess world that lasted until 2006, when GM Vladimir Kramnik won a unification match against FIDE champion GM Veselin Topalov.
“It’s not an ideal situation where the best player isn’t defending his title and having your own organization isn’t great either,” Dean said, adding: “It’s better for the fans to have the best players fight for the world championship and Magnus of course was the best player for many years. We have entered a new era.”
Ding said he hoped Carlsen would “come back one day” and felt that reaching the highest possible competition also placed a new responsibility on him: “Now I have to improve my English!”
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