Stavanger, Norway is officially out of the bidding process for the 2020 world chess championship, organizers announced.
Magnus Carlsen's father, Henrik Carlsen, asked the Stavanger organizers to withdraw the bid in a Facebook post on Thursday.
"Contrary to most other sports, playing at home is for Magnus absolutely not an advantage," Henrik Carlsen wrote.
In the post, translated from Norwegian, the Carlsen camp for the first time gave insight as to why the world champion has been against playing in Norway:
The pressure of playing at home can be almost inhumane. A World Championship match is by far the most demanding challenge for a chess player, and if the player at the same time feels the match must be won, the pressure is almost inhumane in the weeks that the match takes place, and before. Making the decision whether to play the next WC match has since Chennai been difficult, one that Magnus has taken in the third quarter before the World Championship. The assessment around a WC match is possibly hard to understand for outsiders. You have to trust Magnus, who knows what is necessary in order to perform as a chess player.
Just an hour later, the organizers issued a press release, saying:
With the recent statements from Carlsen, we no longer see the point of continuing the process of getting the World Championship to Norway in 2020. It will be impossible for us as an organizer to work towards this goal when there is a lot of uncertainty around whether the World Champion is going to play in Norway or not.
The organizers had already secured local funding of around $3.5 million from sponsors and the municipality of Stavanger. The news has been received with disappointment by the local authorities.
Stavanger mayor Christine Sagen Helgø and Rogaland County mayor Solveig Ege Tengesdal issued a joint statement:
We are very disappointed with this outcome. The Rogaland region has been united behind this initiative and worked hard to secure that the next World Chess Championship will be in Stavanger. We are impressed by the very professional efforts of the organizers behind Altibox Norway Chess and are proud of what they have been able to establish in our region.
While Carlsen won Norway Chess in Stavanger in 2016 and 2019, some of his most disappointing results have come in the events in Norway's third-biggest city.
In March, Stavanger was chosen by the Norwegian Chess Federation as its official bid for the match, in a fierce battle against Oslo, Baerum and Kragero. While Carlsen's team made it clear that it has nothing against Stavanger, it expressed disappointment with how the federation decided the host city and said it told the federation that it preferred Oslo or Baerum:
To play a World Championship at home in Norway is in one way a unique dream and opportunity that can come true at some point, but basically a considerable sports-wise disadvantage due to more exposure and more pressure from high expectations. Magnus felt that with a complete home court in Oslo (with the opportunity to stay in familiar surroundings and a great network around him), and partial home court in Baerum (where he lived most of his life), would compensate for at least some of the disadvantages.
Henrik Carlsen said the team was so eager to find a solution that it even contacted FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich to negotiate a compromise, playing half of the match in Stavanger and half in Oslo or Baerum.
"Strangely enough, the board of the Norwegian Chess Federation would make the decision on the official host in Norway and it's baffling that Magnus would not be formally heard before making the decision," Henrik Carlsen wrote.
Henrik Carlsen also noted that the team has "the utmost respect and gratitude" for the work the organizers in Stavanger have done and that Carlsen would fully support other FIDE events hosted in Stavanger, such as the World Rapid and Blitz Championship.
The president of the Norwegian Chess Federation, Morten L. Madsen, called it "a tidy press release" by the Carlsens, in a comment to Chess.com:
The Norwegian Chess Federation chose the organizer that we felt would do best in the competition internationally, and at the same time have good preconditions to be a success financially, and strong political support in the city and county. We have likely not fully realized the amount of pressure for Magnus playing in Norway, and that it would be better for him to play closer to his home.
Madsen added that he hopes the Stavanger organizers in the future are willing to host the World Rapid and Blitz Championship.
Emil Sutovsky, general director of FIDE, said in a brief comment to Chess.com that the World Chess Federation expects other bidders to appear for the 2020 world championship match.
"I can confirm that we were not putting all eggs in one basket, expecting Stavanger to bid—and we think that some of the potential bidders who were unsure about their chances with Norway in, will intensify their efforts now," Sutovsky said.