Magnus Carlsen will not defend his World Chess Championship title in 2023 | Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen says he will not defend his World Chess Championship title in 2023 against Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi. The five-time winner is not retiring but promising “to be the best in the world” even if that means taking no part in chess’s showpiece event.


China’s world No 2, Ding Liren, will now step up and face Nepomniachtchi, who Carlsen beat last year in Dubai.

The 31-year-old Norwegian grandmaster, who has spent over a decade as the top-ranked player in the world, said in a podcast for his sponsor Unibet: “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.

“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 … since long before the last match” [in which he beat Nepomniachtchi without losing a game].

“And I’ve spoken to people in my team, I’ve spoken to [governing body] Fide, I spoke to Ian as well. And the conclusion is, it’s very simple, that I am not motivated to play another match.”

Bobby Fischer in 1975 was the last Grandmaster to give up the title rather than defend it in a match. However, Carlsen’s decision is more like in 1993 when Garry Kasparov broke from Fide, and for more than a decade there were Rival world champions.

Fide’s president Arkady Dvorkovich said Carlsen deserved nothing but respect. “Only a handful of people in history can understand and assess the tremendous toll it takes playing five matches for the title,” Dvorkovich said in a statement. “His decision not to defend his title is undoubtedly a disappointment for the fans, and bad news for the spectacle. It leaves a big void.

“But chess is now Stronger than ever – in part thanks to Magnus – and the world Championship match, one of the longest, most respected traditions in the world of sport, will go on.”

Carlsen had previously said he would be ready to let go of his world title unless his next opponent was the Iranian-French teenager Alireza Firouzja, who is the world No 3. Instead, Nepomniachtchi set up a rematch by winning the Candidates Tournament in Madrid earlier this month with a round to spare. Liren edged out chess YouTuber Hikaru Nakamura of the United States for second place in the Candidates Tournament by beating him in the final round.


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