World chess champion Magnus Carlsen gives up crown
Magnus Carlsen, the world chess champion, has decided not to defend his title and admitted he was “not motivated to play another match”, ending a decade-long reign at the top of the game.
The Norwegian, 31, world chess champion since 2013 and the world’s number one player since 2011, has the highest rating in the history of the game and lays a strong claim to being the best player of all time.
The announcement, made on Wednesday on a podcast for his sponsor Unibet, comes after months of speculation over his future. Carlsen has long expressed frustration with the biennial world championship format — a grinding, weeks-long series of lengthy games — and suggested his 2021 championship might be his last.
“The conclusion is . . . very simple, that I am not motivated to play another match,” Carlsen said. “I simply feel that I don’t have a lot to gain, I don’t particularly like it, and although I’m sure a match would be interesting for historical reasons and all of that, I don’t have any inclination to play and I will simply not play the match.”
The announcement was met with regret by the world chess community. “[Carlsen’s] decision not to defend his title is undoubtedly a disappointment for the fans, and bad news for the spectacle,” said Arkady Dvorkovich, president of Fide, chess’s international governing body.
Dvorkovich also noted “many other great champions” who struggled to find motivation having conquered their sports.
Tennis star Ashleigh Barty retired abruptly this year aged 25 while she too was the world’s number one player. “I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level any more,” Barty said at the time.
Carlsen, born in the town of Tønsberg in south-eastern Norway, learned the game when he was 5 years old and was a grandmaster by the age of 13. He topped the world rankings at 19, becoming the youngest player to do so, and claimed the world title at 22.
He is the first world champion to have grown up in the era of superhuman chess computers and once called a particularly powerful programme his “hero” for its swashbuckling play.
Carlsen is also the closest thing that chess has to a celebrity, having appeared in modelling campaigns and as a documentary subject.
The next world chess championship is scheduled for early next year, although no dates or details have been set. The 2021 world championship offered a €2mn prize fund, with 60 per cent going to the winner.
The challenger for the chess championship is determined via a Candidates Tournament, which concluded this month in Madrid. In Carlsen’s absence, the world championship match will be contested by its winner and runner-up: world number two Ding Liren of China and Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, the world number three.
Nepomniachtchi lost badly to Carlsen in 2021. This will be Ding’s first world championship match.
“It’s hard to believe! I need to calm down a little bit,” Ding told the news site chess24.
In recent weeks, Carlsen has been indulging other interests. He played in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, watched the NBA summer league and took lessons in paddle tennis. But he assured fans that he will still play his best game.
“Just so there’s no ambiguity here, I’m not retiring from chess, I’m still going to be an active player,” Carlsen said.
Roeder, O. (2022, July 20). World chess champion Magnus Carlsen gives up crown. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/582cbe9c-8d1f-479c-9000-c8a33f8514f4