Although this was not the first time he had voiced reservations about the World Championship matches, many did not fully believe it would come down to this. Even Garry Kasparov recently expressed his doubts it would happen.
“[…]If Magnus plays, and I can hardly believe he will not, we’ll probably see a tougher match.”
Yet in a podcast that aired Tuesday, Magnus Carlsen ended the speculation once and for all as he explained he had already met with FIDE and made his decision known.
“[…]I’ve spoken to people in my team, I’ve spoken to FIDE, I spoke to Ian as well. And the conclusion is, yeah, it’s very simple, that I am not motivated to play another match. 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.”
He did go further to explain that the stress of the matches, more than even boredom, as many have opined, Magnus included, has weighed down on it. The many books on past matches certainly lends credence to this. Readers will recall the tales of hypnotists and coded yogurts in Karpov-Korchnoi, the endless behind-the-scenes battles in the 1972 match between Fischer and Spassky, and the Toiletgate scandal between Kramnik and Topalov in their reunification match in 2006 to name but a few.
“But the matches themselves have been at times interesting, at times a little bit of fun. The most fun match probably was the one in 2018. At least that was the most interesting one, and probably also for me it had the least stressful moments […]”
Magnus Carlsen was quick to assure this was not a repeat of the Fischer incident nearly 50 years ago. While he won’t defend his title, nor is he resigning it as Bobby Fischer did, and more importantly he is neither retiring from chess, nor even taking a step back from active play.
“Just so there’s no ambiguity here, I’m not retiring from chess, I’m still going to be an active player. I’m leaving later today to go to Croatia to play the Grand Chess Tour. From there on I’m going to go to Chennai to play the Olympiad, which is going to be a lot of fun […] Obviously, I enjoy them a lot more than I enjoy the World Championship, and frankly I don’t see myself stopping as a chess player any time soon.”
The forthcoming title match
Ultimately this means that per the FIDE rules, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren will face each other for the next title bout and the winner of it will become the new World Champion. What does this mean should the World no.1 and World Champion not be the same person? This is not a unique situation, and even after the 2000 match loss to Vladimir Kramnik, who now held the title, Garry Kasparov was still the Elo dominant player for the years to come.