Magnus Carlsen cannot bear the prospect of preparing for several months for a new duel, in April 2023, against the Russian Ian Niepómniashi, recent winner of the Candidates Tournament in Madrid. His demotivation is such that he gives up the world title, despite the fact that the International Federation (FIDE) has made several innovative proposals to change the format of the duel (with two million euros in prize money). Niepómniashi will compete with the Chinese Liren Ding, 2nd in the world and 2nd in Madrid.
“They made me offers. Some I liked, some I didn’t,” Carlsen admits in a long statement published by Chess24, the Internet chess platform of which he is the main shareholder. In December, after beating Niepómniashi in Dubai 7.5-3.5, the Norwegian announced: “I will only defend my title in 2023 if the winner of the Candidates Tournament is Alireza Firouzja”, the 19-year-old Iranian genius turned French national in 2021. But Firouzja played in Madrid well below his chances, finishing 6th out of eight.
However, Carlsen traveled to Madrid during the candidates and met for 40 minutes at the Palacio de Santoña with FIDE President, Russian Arkady Dvorkovich, and General Manager, Israeli Emil Sutovsky. The latter confirmed to EL PAÍS this Wednesday that FIDE had made several proposals to the champion, but did not want to reveal which ones exactly. Henrik Carlsen, father and representative of Magnus, also did not answer this specific question.
Since his very particular duel with the American Fabiano Caruana at London 2018 – the twelve slow games ended in a draw and Carlsen won the quick tie-break – the Scandinavian has repeatedly asked FIDE to change the format of the duel, somehow mixing the slow parts with the fast ones, to make it more attractive and to attract new fans.
Recognizing that some of the proposals contained in the FIDE If you like them, Carlsen implicitly states that these insistent assertions are secondary. The main one is his demotivation, which is in good agreement with what his father and agent, Henrik Carlsen, told this newspaper years ago: “Motivating Magnus is my most difficult task, because above the number one, there is nothing. I explain to him that it’s very cold below, but it’s still not easy.
Dvorkovich begins a statement published an hour after the news was published in Chess24: “Magnus Carlsen deserves nothing but our respect and that of the entire chess community in any decision he makes regarding his career. Only a handful of people in all of history can understand and assess the huge record of playing five title games. [desde 2013, cuando destronó al indio Viswanathan Anand]”. And two paragraphs later, he adds: “We hoped that after a well-deserved rest, Magnus would see things differently. He then confirms the meeting in Madrid by admitting: “But that was not enough for me to change my mind.”
In the last paragraph, the president of FIDE, which brings together 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 now stronger than ever, thanks in part to Magnus. And the duel for the world championship, one of the most respected traditions in sport, will continue.
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 (…). Although I’m sure it would be interesting for historical reasons and all, I have no desire to play it, and I just won’t play it.”
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