Breaking news: Magnus Carlsen will not defend his title!

While this wasn’t the first time he had expressed reservations about World Championship matches, many didn’t quite believe it would come down to that. Even Garry Kasparov recently expressed doubts that it would happen.

“[…]If Magnus plays, and I can’t believe he doesn’t, we’ll probably see a tougher game.”

Even so in a podcast that aired on Tuesday, Magnus Carlsen put an end to speculation once and for all as he explained that he had already met with FIDE and announced his decision.

the decision

“[…]I’ve spoken to people on my team, I’ve spoken to FIDE, Ian too. And the bottom line is, yes, it’s very simple, I’m not motivated to play another game. I just feel like I don’t have much to gain, I don’t particularly like it, and while I’m sure a match would be interesting for historical reasons and all that, I don’t feel like playing. and I just won’t play the game.”

He did go further explaining that the stress of the matches, more than even boredom, as many have opined, Magnus included, has weighed on him. The many books on past matches certainly give credit to this. Readers will recall the stories of hypnotists and coded yogurts in Karpov-Korchnoi, the endless backstage battles in the 1972 match between Fischer and Spassky, and the Toiletgate scandal between Kramnik and Topalov in their 2006 reunification match for to name just a few.

“But the games themselves have been sometimes interesting, sometimes a bit funny. The most fun game was probably the one in 2018. At least that was the most interesting, and probably for me it had the least stressful moments as well. […]”

No retirement

Magnus Carlsen was quick to assure that it was not a repeat of the Fischer incident almost 50 years ago. Although he won’t defend his title, he won’t give it up like Bobby Fischer did, and more importantly, he won’t retire from chess, or even take a step back from active play.

“Just so there’s no ambiguity here, I’m not retiring from chess, I’ll still 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 Olympics, which will be very fun […] Obviously, I enjoy them a lot more than the World Championship, and frankly, I don’t see myself stopping being a chess player anytime soon.”

The next title match

Ultimately, this means that according to FIDE rules, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren will face each other for the next title bout and the winner will become the new world champion. What does that mean if the world number 1 and the world champion are not the same person? This is not a unique situation, and even after losing the 2000 match to Vladimir Kramnik, who now held the title, Garry Kasparov remained the dominant Elo player for years to come.

Statement by the President of FIDE, Arkadij Dvorkovich

As published in FIDE official website

Although Magnus Carlsen has not yet officially retired, as he has not been sent the contract for the match and no deadline has been formally set, we at FIDE understand that his decision is final.

In light of this, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich has issued the following statement:

Magnus Carlsen deserves nothing but respect from FIDE and the entire chess community, in whatever decision he makes regarding his career. Only a handful of people in history can understand and appreciate the enormous cost of playing five games for the title.

Many other great champions, in other sports, have experienced something similar: as the years go by, it becomes harder to find the motivation to train and compete at the highest level, while the reward for victory never feels as intense as it did on day one. .

We hoped that, after a well-deserved break, Magnus would look at it differently. Sports legends like him are always fighting for goals and records. He is still young and could possibly have added more classic titles to his already outstanding career, as he will surely test it in the Rapid and Blitz modes, which he favors.

Since publicly expressing its doubts, FIDE has been open to dialogue and to raising concrete proposals to change the format of the World Championship. In May some of these ideas were discussed with Carlsen and other top players, and in Madrid we had a meeting where all concerns were discussed openly and in detail. Unfortunately, it didn’t change his mind.

His decision not to defend his title is certainly a disappointment to the fans, and bad news for the show. It leaves a big void. But chess is now stronger than ever—thanks in part to Magnus—and the World Championship Match, one of the longest and most respected traditions in the world of sports, will continue.

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