During the World Championship match against Ian Nepomniachtchi Magnus Carlsen regularly gave interviews to his friend Magnus Barstad. Now, after the match, Carlsen dropped a bombshell in a podcast with Barstad that appeared in Norwegian on the site of Carlsen’s sponsor Unibet:
“Those who expect me to play the next time for the World Championship, might be disappointed,” the World Champion declared.
Carlsen said that he had been thinking all year about whether the World Championship match in Dubai should not be his last. The title no longer meant as much to him as it used to, Carlsen claimed. But added that after Firouzja’s convincing win in the Grand Swiss tournament in Riga and his impressive performance at the European Team Championship, he found the idea of playing a match for the World Championship against the young Frenchman quite appealing.
But should someone other than Firouzja win the Candidates Tournament, it would be very unlikely that he would defend his title again, said Carlsen.
Carlsen claimed that he finds the goal of reaching an Elo rating of 2900+ much more motivating, and said that he was also looking forward to playing in the Rapid- and Blitz-World Championships at the end of the year.
It’s well known that Carlsen is a friend of short and very short time-controls. When Carlsen in one of the games against Nepomniachtchi had only 26 minutes left for ten moves, commentator Anna Muzychuk remarked: “That shouldn’t be a problem for Carlsen. He sometimes plays 27 games in 26 minutes.” “But only online,” added Vishy Anand who was commentating together with Muzychuk.
Shortly before the start of the World Championship match, Carlsen, alias Dr Nykterstein, was playing bullet chess on Lichess as a warm-up. Mikhail Botvinnik, World Champion from 1948 to 1963 (with interruptions), would probably shake his head in wonder about such a way to prepare for important events. Botvinnik once claimed that he had played only one blitz game in his entire life, and he often took prolonged breaks from tournament chess.
In the past Carlsen more than once criticised the current format of the World Championship matches. He would rather fight for the title in knockout tournaments, he said. He also pointed out that more and more games between the top players ended in draws and suggested to play with shorter time-controls.
It is probably fair to say that Carlsen is a player who loves the thrill which you get in games with short time-controls. A long World Championship match creates a different form of tension, opening preparation plays a much bigger role, and one single mistake can be fatal. It’s all very different in rapid or blitz. You can play almost any opening and you can take much more risks. Which Carlsen sometimes likes to do. Most of the time this approach works for him because he is such a strong and fast player. And after one of his rare losses, he knows that he can just play a new game.
The following six players are already qualified for the Candidates: Fabiano Caruana, Sergey Karjakin, Teimour Radjabov, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alireza Firouzja and Ian Nepomniachtchi. Two more players will qualify via the Grand Prix tournaments.
Carlsen has already played World Championship matches against Caruana, Karjakin and Nepomniachtchi, and having to play these players again does not promise much fun. Maybe it was a look at the list of possible challengers that spoiled Carlsen’s appetite for the next World Championship match.
This match is scheduled to take place in 2023. In 2013 Carlsen became World Champion, and in 2023 he will be holding the title for almost ten years. That is a long time, and only four of the 16 World Champions in the history of chess had a longer reign: Emanuel Lasker, Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Botvinnik, and Garry Kasparov. Anatoly Karpov’s reign as World Champion lasted for ten years, from 1975 to 1985. Incidentally, being the World Champion with the longest tenure would also be a worthwhile goal. To beat Lasker’s record, Carlsen would have to remain World Champion until 2040. Then he will be 50 years old. At that age, Kortschnoi was still playing for the title.