GM Magnus Carlsen will not defend his world title against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi next year. Carlsen said in a podcast on Tuesday. Under current regulations, FIDE Candidates Tournament winner Nepomniachtchi will now play the World Championship against Candidates Tournament runner-up GM Ding Liren.
“I’ve spoken to people on my team, I’ve spoken to FIDE, I’ve also spoken to Ian. The conclusion is very simple: I’m not motivated to play another game,” Carlsen said. “I don’t have much to win, I don’t particularly like it and while I’m sure a match would be interesting for historical reasons, I have no desire to play and just won’t play the match.”
Carlsen thus confirmed the doubts he expressed on December 14, 2021 and later repeated: After five World Cup games, he no longer enjoyed it.
“It’s been an interesting ride since I decided to play the Candidates Tournament in 2013, which was honestly on a whim. I just decided it could be interesting and since then the world title has given me a lot and opened a lot of doors and I’m happy about that. The games themselves were sometimes interesting, sometimes a little funny.”
The Norwegian star leaves the door open to returning for a game one day but it doesn’t seem likely: “I’m not ruling out participating in the future but I wouldn’t count on it either.”
Carlsen made his statements on the first episode of the new podcast, The Magnus Effect.
During the FIDE Candidates Tournament, Carlsen had a meeting with FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich and Director General Emil Sutovsky, which apparently did not have enough impact to convince Carlsen to defend his title for a fifth time.
Speaking of that meeting in Madrid, Carlsen said: “I didn’t have any demands or suggestions for that meeting. They had a few suggestions, but the main thing was that I was there to tell them I wasn’t going to defend my title in the next WCC -Game.”
Dvorkovich told Chess.com that he respects the World Champion’s decision and confirmed that, according to the rules, there will now be a Ding Nepomniachtchi match.
As it turns out, Carlsen has never really changed his mind about a feeling he’s had for a while. “The bottom line is that I’m quite happy with it and have thought about it 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 game.”
It didn’t help that Nepomniachtchi qualified for a second match with Carlsen, who previously stated that he prefers a new generation opponent, particularly GM Alireza Firouzja. “Four championships to five – that didn’t mean anything to me. It was nothing,” Carlsen said on yesterday’s podcast. “I was happy with my work. I was glad I didn’t lose the match. But that was it.”
Carlsen also reiterated that he intends to keep playing, just no games: “Just so there’s no ambiguity here: I’m not going to retire from chess, I’m going to be an active player, I’m going 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 Norwegian team is seeded there as number four, and to Miami, that’s going to be will be one of the real highlights of the year – the FTX Crypto Cup, which is going to be awesome, and the Sinquefield Cup right after that.”
“There are a lot of feelings on my mind right now that I’m dealing with,” Ding said in a first reaction to Chess.com.
When Ding called from Barcelona, where he’s staying at a friend’s flat, he revealed that he fell ill with Covid right after the Candidates Tournament and was therefore unable to fly back to China just yet. He has already made a full recovery and will now be traveling back in about two weeks. The Chinese is surprised by Carlsen’s decision:
“I knew he had doubts but I expected him to play. But I also understand, being world champion is a lot of responsibility, there are a lot of things to deal with.”
Ding pointed to the similarities to Yuzuru Hanyu, the Japanese figure skater who also announced his retirement from the competition yesterday but vowed to pursue his goal in exhibitions instead.
The chess world has seen previous moments in history when the world champion did not defend his title. In 1946 GM Alexander Alekhine died as the reigning champion when a world championship tournament was organized two years later, which GM Mikhail Botvinnik won. In 1975, GM Bobby Fischer failed to agree with FIDE on the match format and lost his title to candidate winner GM Anatoly Karpov.
In 1993 GM Garry Kasparov left FIDE and instead played a World Championship under the Professional Chess Association. This created a split in the chess world that lasted until 2006 when GM Vladimir Kramnik won a reunion match with FIDE Champion GM Veselin Topalov.
“It’s not an ideal situation where the best player doesn’t defend their title, and starting your own organization isn’t great either,” Ding said, adding, “It’s better for the fans when 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 hopes Carlsen “will come back one day” and felt that achieving the highest possible level of competition also gives him a new responsibility: “I need to improve my English now!”