5-Time World Chess Champion Won't Defend Title, Doesn't Care Anymore

·2-min read
Magnus Carlsen stands with a trophy.
Magnus Carlsen stands with a trophy.

31-year-old Norwegian chess champion Magnus Carlsen announced he will not be participating in the World Chess Championship 2023, which he has won five times. Now Carlsen is emphasizing passion over victory, and said in the first episode of his new The Magnus Effect podcast that, when it comes to participating in the Championship, “I simply feel that I don’t have a lot to gain, I don’t particularly like it.”

Carlsen had begun sowing doubts about his participation in the Championship in 2021, writing in a blog post that, “I found that the negative [of championships] has started to outweigh the positive, even when winning.” He added, “Being result-oriented has worked out for me in these matches, but it doesn’t feel sustainable long term. Passion must be the main driver.” In the first episode of The Magnus Effect podcast, which was released July 20, Carlsen put the chess world’s will-he, won’t-he to rest and confirms to cohost, friend, and fellow Magnus, Magnus Barstad, that he is not interested in defending his title.

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“Although I’m sure a match would be interesting for historical reasons and all of that, I don’t have any inclinations to play, and I will simply not play the match,” he said.

But this isn’t a retirement. Carlsen continued to say he would still be an “active player” in chess, and has a few matches ahead of him, including the Grand Chess Tour in Croatia, the Olympiad in Chennai, and the bitcoin tournament FTX Crypto Cup, at which Carlsen won some cash and bitcoin last year. All is well in Carlsen’s chess world, he’s just, by his own admission, more focused on personal drive and reaching another “big goal”: Making a 2900 rating, which evaluates player strength. The Guardian likened the 2900 rating to climbing Everest, and in January, top player Sergey Karjakin played Carlsen to a draw, pulling his rating down. At the time, many considered it to be a controversial troll move. But Carlsen is continuing his slow inch toward the top, and currently has a rating of 2864.

With Carlsen out of the World Chess Championship picture, the highest ever rated Chinese chess player and number-two chess player in the world, Ding Liren, will be able to go up against Russian grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi, chess24 notes. This is The Queen’s Gambit with less eyeliner.

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