Magnus Carlsen says he will not defend his 2023 World Chess Championship title against Russia’s Ian Nepomnyashchi. The five-time winner does not retire but promises to “be the best in the world” even if that means not taking part in a great chess event.
Deng Liren, number 2 in the world in China, will face Nipomnyakhchi, from Carlsen won last year in Dubai.
I’m not excited to play another match. I simply feel I don’t have much to gain, and I don’t particularly like it, and on the Although I’m sure the match will be fun for historical reasons and all that, I have no inclination to play and I simply won’t play the match.
“In the end it remains the result, one that I feel comfortable with, one that I have thought about a lot for a long time now, I would say more than a year… long before the last game” [in which he beat Nepomniachtchi without losing a game].
“I spoke to the people on my team, I spoke to them [governing body] Viddy, I talked to Ian too. The conclusion is, it’s very simple, I’m not excited to play another match.”
Bobby Fischer in 1975 was the last great captain to give up the title rather than defend it in a match. However, Carlsen’s decision bears a striking resemblance to 1993 when Garry Kasparov split from the FIDE union, and for more than a decade there have been rival world champions.
Arkady Dvorkovic, president of the FedEx Federation, said Carlsen deserved nothing but respect. “Few people in history can understand and appreciate the enormous losses it takes to play five title matches,” Dvorkovic said in a statement. “His decision not to defend his title is without a doubt a disappointment for the fans, and bad news for the spectacle. It leaves a huge void.
“But chess is now stronger than ever – in part thanks to Magnus – and the World Championship match will continue, one of the sport’s longest-running and most respected traditions.”
Carlsen had previously said he would be willing to give up his world title unless his next opponent was Iranian-French teenager Alireza Firouzja, the world’s number three. Instead, Nepomnyakhchi set up the rematch by winning the Candidates Championship in Madrid earlier. This month with a tour to spare. Liren edged out American chess YouTuber Hikaru Nakamura for second in the Candidates Tournament by defeating him in the final round.
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