No more World Championship matches for Carlsen?

12/15/2021 – After Magnus Carlsen convincingly won the World Championship match 7.5-3.5 against challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi, the old and new World Champion seems to be tired of defending his title. In a Norwegian podcast interview with his friend Magnus Barstad, Carlsen indicated that he lacked the motivation to defend his title again. Unless the next challenger would be Alireza Firouzja. | Photo: FIDE | Niki Riga

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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.

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lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/17/2021 01:29
It's always interesting to see that some chess enthusiasts want to do away with the main form of chess and quicken the time control, change the rules, etc. How can a chess enthusiast dislike so much the main form of chess? It's like a wine taster disliking classical wine. As about chess dying out, I would really like to see some statistical facts occasionally when someone claims this. After Carlsen-Caruana 2018, the problem was that all games were drawn. I do not understand what the problem is after the current match. It was bloody and Carlsen clearly dominated it after game 6. It was as decisive as possible. So, what was the problem this time?
Masquer Masquer 12/17/2021 07:51
@leavenfish is right, this looks like big time posturing!
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 12/17/2021 02:23
In an interview, Magnus said that his bullet-playing day was not really preparation for the championship. He said he had a cold, did not feel well, was bored at home and did this just to pass time.
Minnesota Fats Minnesota Fats 12/17/2021 12:47
@a great post. by genem. i just repost the whole thing!

genemgenem 12/16/2021 10:55
Carlsen is suffering from a predictable burn-out perhaps caused by the switch from defending the Match World Chess Championship (MWCChamp) title every 3 years to nowadays every 2 years. Every second year Carlsen has to study openings to death to prepare for the title defense. The need for cram mountains of opening knowledge for this one opponent may not be much fun. This problem is probably why Bobby Fischer preferred to retire rather than defend his title in 1975, after having taken more than a year away from chess to live some other aspects of life.

Switching back to a MWCChamp match every 3 years is one idea to consider.

The chess world is not ready for chess9LX (chess960, Fischer Random Chess = FRC) even though chess9LX might solve both this burn-out problem plus the high draw rate problem.

A chess9LX match would spare the champion and challenger from months of extreme cramming of openings. The extreme opposite of cramming would be Fischer's recommendation of constant purely random start setups for every game: this is too extreme. Purely random setups produce opening play that is bewildered, and which never brings any progress in the theory tree. Discard the 'Random' from Fischer Random Chess, at least partly.

So instead of purely random start setups,...
Two weeks before the chess9LX match, announce the one sensible non-traditional start setup that will be reused for the entire match. This way neither player would have to become a monk preparing openings for months before the match. Yet the setup announcement two weeks in advance would enable the players to have some decent opening mini-systems prepared, instead of pure bewilderment from move 1. It would be fascinating to see these mini-systems improve during the match! And with chess9LX the usually very high draw rate might be nicely reduced.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 12/16/2021 08:46
'Old school Chess" is clearly not dying. Look at the viewing figures!

In any case, shortening the time control TOO much ironically means MORE emphasis on opening prep because the one getting caught out in something has far less time to steer a good path thru what his opponent already knows.
Mixing formats is right out, but shortening to say Game in 60 min with a 5 sec delay makes sense in this day and age...more games and less 'rest days'.
casperradil casperradil 12/16/2021 08:39
Carlsen is on the right path here! Old school chess is dying, we need to accept that serious games should be played with a 30 min time control and sudden death. Less and less people are willing to play with the old time controls, we are losing all the youth at a rapid rate right now.
oldsalt7 oldsalt7 12/16/2021 03:15
@genem
Cancel the final game, if the challenger is leading by one game, is an interesting concept indeed. Of course no WC would accept this!
arzi arzi 12/16/2021 02:57
@MauvaisFou, @genem and oxygenes:

chess960, Fischer Random Chess are not chess but chess variants. If you want to play variants, play chess variants, but don`t call them chess. :)
sivakumar R sivakumar R 12/16/2021 01:52
No amount of hard work (even by the super intelligent) can beat a genius... perhaps only Firouzja can challenge Magnus.
mc1483 mc1483 12/16/2021 01:12
After the Nepo disaster Carlsen is not wrong in asserting that only Firouzja would be a worthy challenger - hoping that Firouzja would consistenly stay on top, something that in recent years many others before him (Caruana himself, So, Mamedjarov, MVL) weren't able to do. But we can't let the WC choose the challenger, as Carlsen is by any means the "exception that confirms the rule" (the rule has always been to avoid dangerous challengers). So, in my opinion either we oversimplify the choice, with just a match between the two highest rated players (not counting the WC) - who could ever object? - or we go back to the old system - zonals, interzonals, matches between candidates - that for 40 years selected a worthy challenger, as the winner was always someone who excelled both in tournaments and matches, and was capable of consistedly staying on top for at least two years. But I'm afraid sponsors would not like such a system.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/16/2021 11:47
It seems that Carlsen is considering to roam the path of Fischer from 1975. He can decide not to defend his title if he wants to. But I would be much more happier to see the world champion treasure his crown. That would be also beneficial to chess. Too bad Nepo lost badly. While his attitude to the match and to his losses was very admirable, his chess was not effective against Carlsen after the 6th game.
genem genem 12/16/2021 10:57
In the previous two Match World Chess Championship (MWCChamp) title matches, the draw rate was suffocatingly high. This led to the long time-control title being won yet again in speed chess games, which is unsatisfying.

In response, Yasser Seirawan suggested a return to giving the defending champion tie-odds. But in compensation, the match should be an odd number of games, and the challenger would always be White in final game (White being a slight advantage). A very clean and sensible suggestion. Yet many fans doubted that this "one more White" would be sufficient compensation against tie-odds.

I offer an adjustment to Seirawan's suggestion, to give the challenger a bit more compensation:
Simply have the final game be canceled if the challenger is leading when the final game would start!
This way the defending champion is denied a chance to tie the match. I think Lasker, Kasparov, and Kramnik all had title defenses wherein they saved their title only by winning the final game, thereby retaining their titles thanks to tie-odds.
genem genem 12/16/2021 10:55
Carlsen is suffering from a predictable burn-out perhaps caused by the switch from defending the Match World Chess Championship (MWCChamp) title every 3 years to nowadays every 2 years. Every second year Carlsen has to study openings to death to prepare for the title defense. The need for cram mountains of opening knowledge for this one opponent may not be much fun. This problem is probably why Bobby Fischer preferred to retire rather than defend his title in 1975, after having taken more than a year away from chess to live some other aspects of life.

Switching back to a MWCChamp match every 3 years is one idea to consider.

The chess world is not ready for chess9LX (chess960, Fischer Random Chess = FRC) even though chess9LX might solve both this burn-out problem plus the high draw rate problem.

A chess9LX match would spare the champion and challenger from months of extreme cramming of openings. The extreme opposite of cramming would be Fischer's recommendation of constant purely random start setups for every game: this is too extreme. Purely random setups produce opening play that is bewildered, and which never brings any progress in the theory tree. Discard the 'Random' from Fischer Random Chess, at least partly.

So instead of purely random start setups,...
Two weeks before the chess9LX match, announce the one sensible non-traditional start setup that will be reused for the entire match. This way neither player would have to become a monk preparing openings for months before the match. Yet the setup announcement two weeks in advance would enable the players to have some decent opening mini-systems prepared, instead of pure bewilderment from move 1. It would be fascinating to see these mini-systems improve during the match! And with chess9LX the usually very high draw rate might be nicely reduced.
genem genem 12/16/2021 10:50
@MauvaisFou. In chess9LX (chess960, Fischer Random Chess = FRC), a small percentage of start setups probably do have measurably more of an advantage for White. But in a multi-game match, perhaps those are the best setups, if one dislikes the very high draw rate in title matches. In a match, the unfair advantage alternates between the two players, so that all is fair in total. Per-game unfairness does not mean per-match unfairness.

Meanwhile, the larger the unfair advantage that one player has each time he has White decreases the draw rate for the overall match.
titiriga titiriga 12/16/2021 07:11
First Lewis Hamilton, now this...what is happening?!!
Pionki Pionki 12/16/2021 05:57
"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." - Can someone send this to Magnus, please?
thing50 thing50 12/16/2021 03:57
"It's well known that Carlsen is a friend of short" Oh really? "...and very short time-controls." ah....
Leavenfish Leavenfish 12/16/2021 03:36
I can think of some...2 Million reasons he will defend his title $!!!$

Mainly, I think he wants to have MORE $$ to play next time. Fair enough. 2nds and the training are not cheap. A slight change in format makes sense - faster time controls, say Game in 1 hr, maybe a 5 sec increment and more games.

It is that Wch Title which built and holds his financial empire together. He may be posturing right now for certain benefits, but he will not walk away from it.
Derek880 Derek880 12/16/2021 01:56
Firouzja has had some good results, but I'm still feeling that he's not yet experienced for long match play. We could be hyping this whole thing up only to see him stagnate like other young players who we thought would eventually challenge Magnus like Karjakin and Giri. To be honest, I think Wesley So would be a good next opponent. He plays with very few risks but can find ways to take care of small imbalances if an opponent is careless. I also think another Caruana match would be worthwhile. Caruana actually played a competitive strong match, in spite of losing in the tiebreaks. In a few of the games, he was actually outplaying Carlsen.
lagrigorescu lagrigorescu 12/16/2021 12:01
Understandable from Magnus. We have seen the same from top tennis players, hard to find even more motivation after winning everything multiple times. Bobby Fischer basically retired after winning the title first time. In addition, Magnus is capable to take new and exciting challenges, either in business or representing Norway in different capacities. It will be an enormous loss for the chess world if he quits, but perfectly understandable. He far exceeded his fellow World Champions by being an active, involved player year round, bringing sponsors and organizing tournaments, and having the best, constructive attitude towards chess community (compare that to the divisive Kasparov).
NoSystem NoSystem 12/15/2021 11:17
I'll believe it when it doesn't happen, if you know what I mean.
physica physica 12/15/2021 10:57
He is right to be angry at the low quality of the last WC match. And what's the cost? To play such a match once in two years, I can clearly feel his frustration. Either the most fitted challenger doesn't qualify for the WC match or the phase is just too slow for today's standards. With today's tech, one can do a ton of preparation in short time. The other thing is the mental durability, which decided the championship.

So it wouldn't make much difference if the classical WC title would be decided annually like rapid and blitz? People complain that classical is dead, no time for prep... just excuses IMO. Chess in the case of humans is a test of mental stamina. If you can't or want to compete in it, change career. Forget the fundraising and greed (for the WC), do it for the game!
karban karban 12/15/2021 10:39
Probably Magnus does do a reconaissance, just testing reactions from FIDE, sponsors, fans etc. He never hid that he won't be here like Anand or Ivanchuk - quite the opposite, he predicted fotball-like career.
Plus we have to remember that Magnus strength is stamina and that will inevitably subdue with age. He don't want be another Kramnik who, closing to forties, had to change his style to agressive, which allowed him to finish games earlier and save energy but lead to results like +3-4 in tournaments.
On the other hand, if Magnus is not interested in classical anymore then why to bother with reaching 2900 in classical?
In my opinion, he is right to indicate that his career might be well advanced in its second half and the third decade of the century should be carried on by someone else.
Time to wake up for FIDE and chess world. Magnus has elevated chess extraordinary and we should give him a credit for that.
twamers twamers 12/15/2021 09:27
Well the next match is some way off and things can change. And whoever wins the Candidates is the legitimate challenger. I can certainly understand that Firouzja could be an interesting and exciting opponent but he still has to win the Candidates - and he may well do that - but it is not certain at this time. But still if Carlsen decides he doesn't want to play any more World Championship matches at classical time controls I think that would be a great pity but I'm sure there will still be a match - he just won't be in it. And I certainly won't watch any speed/rapid/blitz chess as I just don't enjoy that - I much prefer classical.
Mr Toad Mr Toad 12/15/2021 09:12
@calvinmari
"Not everyone is going to be able to deeply focus on classical games very often, but millions will for the world championship" - that's a very profound insight.
kiaaria kiaaria 12/15/2021 09:03
WONDER WHAT SAID MAGNUS
MauvaisFou MauvaisFou 12/15/2021 08:52
to oxygenes : RandomChess has the big disadvantage of giving initial positions with quite different evaluations, so it breaks equity between players
MauvaisFou MauvaisFou 12/15/2021 08:50
I do hope Ding will qualify for the Candidates, and will be able to play it in better conditions than last time
Aighearach Aighearach 12/15/2021 08:38
The good old humble-brag.

If he can get to 2900... golly, what's been holding him back? Did he just now learn about ratings, and realize he could get a higher rating by winning more?
Theochessman Theochessman 12/15/2021 07:03
Yeah right....that's what he says now.
This statement has the same feel as when Kasparov stated that he will retire because he felt no oppostion from anybody.
The reality was that he felt it was time to quit before getting dethroned by the upcoming younger generation at that time.
Hurinnl Hurinnl 12/15/2021 06:56
Alas the candidates will be weak again. Duda ( n013) Radjabov ( no14) and Karjakin ( no18) are no match for Carlsen.
From the current FIDE top 10 list only 3 players qualified yet. It means that for the 2 places left at least 6 top 10 players are fighting for it. F.i Ding, Giri, So , Aronian, Grischuk, Mamedyarov. Not to mention MVL . I tnink it is a pity.
Michael Jones Michael Jones 12/15/2021 05:47
While, of the candidates known so far, Firouzja is probably the one with the best chance of dethroning Carlsen, that doesn't mean any of the others would be a pushover. Duda was the one who ended Carlsen's record unbeaten run, then knocked him out of the World Cup; beating him in a 12- or 14-game classical match is less likely, but he would definitely have a chance. Ding would be another who could potentially give Carlsen a tough time, although he hasn't qualified for the Candidates yet.
chessgod0 chessgod0 12/15/2021 05:33
If he doesn't want to defend his title in a classical match against the winner of the Candidates Tournament then he can simply step aside.

Everything else is just noise.
fixpont fixpont 12/15/2021 05:09
he will defend for the 6th times to equalize Kasparov and Lasker there is no doubt about it
Chess Gator Chess Gator 12/15/2021 04:18
The WC does not pick their opponents! We have a pre-match to determine the opponent. This was done to prevent what happened with Alekhine v. Yefim Bogolyubov... TWICE!!

Carlsen should stop being such a whiny b*tch. He needs the WC to keep his sponsors happy and he knows it!!

CG
e-mars e-mars 12/15/2021 03:55
Did he not slip something similar prior to the 2020 candidates right after beating Caruana? It could be just a phase...
oxygenes oxygenes 12/15/2021 03:32
If you want more creativity on board, not deep computer's preparation, there could be match 12-16 games at Fisher random chess format. Position set could be drawn before game.
calvinamari calvinamari 12/15/2021 03:32
There are no doubt all manner of chess fans, including those that like the mere spectacle of blitz chess, but there are many, perhaps more, that seek more understanding of what is happening on the board, which closing observing a classical match provides. Not everyone is going to be able to deeply focus on classical games very often, but millions will for the world championship. I'd like to see the online viewership statistics for world championship matches versus the world rapid and blitz championship. Ditto for international press coverage.

Apart from which format yields more insight into the beauty of chess, even from a pure competitive perspective the world championship match is a true battle of titans fighting on equal terms, whereas everyone understands that rapid and blitz is more random. What would beating Botvinnik in a blitz event have proved? Certainly not that you were better at chess.
chamishavolkov chamishavolkov 12/15/2021 02:48
First, I'm sure there is an amount of money for which he would sit down to defend his title (against whoever may qualify). Second, assuming that's true, what he might be saying is that there are organizations that would happily chip in to the prize fund - but only if it's a Carlsen-Firouzja title match. That said, if, say, an American player qualified and arranged sponsors to double to prize fund from the Dubai match, Carlsen would likely participate.
siciliov siciliov 12/15/2021 02:29
these kind of talking are just a "mind game"... easy to understand... combination of Humility, ecstasy, war cry, and who's next...