Magnus Carlsen, the five-time World Chess Champion, on Wednesday relinquished his title as he announced that he will not defend the title he has held since 2013.
Carlsen, considered by many as the greatest player to play the game who achieved the highest rating ever in chess, has conveyed his decision to Fide, the sport’s world governing body, according to a report by Chess24.com. Carlsen won his first title in 2013 by beating India’s Viswanathan Anand in Chennai.
The 31-year-old Norwegian is not retiring and vows “to be the best in the world, and not care about the World Championship!”
His decision not to defend his title means that Chinese world no. 2 Ding Liren’s last-round Candidates Tournament win against Hikaru Nakamura has earned him a lucrative match against Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The World no. 1 had, soon after winning his fifth title by beating Nepomniachtchi in Dubai in 2021, had indicated that he is unlikely to defend his title if someone other than 19-year-old sensation Alireza Firouzja qualifies for the World Championship match. Firouzja did not qualify and Carlsen announced in a podcast interview, to his friend Magnus Barstad, called “The Magnus Effect”, that he will not defend his title.
“Ultimately the conclusion stands, one that I’m pretty comfortable with, one that I’ve thought a lot about for a long time now, I would say more than a year, probably a year and a half almost, since long before the last match. And 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,” Carlsen said in the interview.
He said that he had conveyed his decision to Fide officials in Madrid early this month when it became clear that Ian Nepomniachtchi will earn a World Championship rematch.
Carlsen is not the first World Champion to refuse his title. Before him Anatoly Karpov had done that in 2000 and also China’s Hou Yifan also refused to defend her Women’s World Chess Championship title in 2016. Both Karpov and Yifan were unhappy with the rules set by Fide for the events and thus withdrew.
The most famous case of a World Chess Champion refusing to defend his title was that of American legend Bobby Fischer, who refused to play Karpov in 1975 as his demands were not met by Fide.