Magnus Carlsen cannot bear the prospect of spending several months preparing for a new clash in April 2023 against Russia’s Ian Niepómniashi, the recent winner of the Candidates Tournament in Madrid. His demotivation is so great that he renounces the world title, although the International Federation (FIDE) has made several innovative proposals to change the format of the duel (worth two million euros in prize money). Niepómniashi will contest it with the Chinese Liren Ding.
“You gave me some suggestions. Some I liked, some I didn’t,” admits Carlsen in a lengthy statement from Chess24, the internet chess platform of which he is the largest shareholder. In December, after beating Niepómniashi 7.5-3.5 in Dubai, he resigned Norwegian: “I will only defend my title in 2023 if the winner of the Candidates Tournament is Alireza Firouzja,” the 19-year-old Iranian genius who became a France international in 2021. But Firouzja played well below his chances in Madrid, finishing sixth eight.
However, Carlsen traveled to Madrid during the Candidates Tournament and met for 40 minutes at the Palacio de Santoña with FIDE President, Russian Arkady Dvorkovich, and Director General, Israeli Emil Sutovsky. This was confirmed by EL PAÍS this Wednesday that FIDE made several proposals to the champion but did not want to reveal which ones exactly. Also Henrik Carlsen, father and representative of Magnus, did not answer this specific question.
Since his very peculiar duel with the American Fabiano Caruana in London 2018 – the twelve slow games ended in a draw and Carlsen won the fast tie-break – the Scandinavian has repeatedly asked FIDE to change the format of the duel and somehow mix the slow games with the fast ones in order to make it more attractive and attract new fans.
By admitting that he likes some of FIDE’s proposals, Carlsen is implicitly declaring that these persistent claims are secondary. The main thing is his demotivation, which goes well with what his father and representative Henrik Carlsen told this newspaper years ago: “Motivating Magnus is my most difficult task because there is nothing about number one. I explain to him that it’s very cold downstairs, but it’s still not easy.”
Dvorkovich begins a statement published an hour after the news was published on Chess24: “Magnus Carlsen deserves our respect and that of the entire chess community with every decision he makes regarding his career. Only a handful of people in all of history can understand and appreciate the tremendous price of playing five title games. [desde 2013, cuando destronó al indio Viswanathan Anand]“. And two paragraphs later he adds: “We had hoped that after a well-deserved break, Magnus would see things differently.” He then confirms the meeting in Madrid and admits: “But that wasn’t enough for me to change my mind.”
In the last paragraph, the President of FIDE, which comprises 198 countries, assesses the resulting situation: “Your decision not to defend the title is undoubtedly a disappointment for the fans and bad news for the show. Leave a big void. But chess is stronger today than ever, also thanks to Magnus. And the duel for the world championship, one of the most respected traditions in sport, continues.
Carlsen’s statement leaves no room for a change of heart: “I’m not motivated to play another duel. I don’t think I have much to gain (…). While I’m sure it would be interesting for historical reasons, I have no desire to play it and I just won’t play it.”
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