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Carlsen Reiterates Uncertainty Of Defending World Title
Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen Reiterates Uncertainty Of Defending World Title

PeterDoggers
| 192 | Chess Players

"If anyone expects or hopes that I will say yes, I have to prepare them for disappointment," said Magnus Carlsen in an interview with Norway's biggest newspaper on Monday. The world champion repeated his earlier statements that he is not sure he will defend his title again. 

VG's own headline makes the whole story even more ominous: "Here Carlsen explains why he will probably give up the world title." After mentioning in 2018 that he might let go of the title without a fight and then suggesting at the end of 2021 that he might play his next match only if his opponent is GM Alireza Firouzja, Carlsen yesterday repeated again his uncertainty of playing another match.

"I’ll admit there have been times after the world championship where I’ve regretted what I said. Why couldn’t I just make it simple and say that I’m done?" asked Carlsen. The Norwegian star wants to make the decision later but noted: "If anyone expects or hopes that I will say yes, I have to prepare them for disappointment."

In a way, the new interview with Carlsen doesn't reveal too much new information, but it does explain a bit more why exactly he doesn't mind giving up the title without a fight. The reason seems to be that he isn't particularly enjoying chess more while holding it.

"We have to go back to the time before my first world championship match when it was simpler and better," he said. "Before the 2013 match—let’s say between 2010 and 2013—in many ways I was convinced that I was the best and enjoyed that life."

A bit later in the interview, Carlsen adds: "I felt in many ways that too much of my identity was tied to the world championship title—and I never liked that."

I felt in many ways that too much of my identity was tied to the world championship title—and I never liked that.
—Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen's mindset during his last match, against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in Dubai last year, was mostly about making sure he wouldn't lose, so that he could quit while still being undefeated. Later he shared his feelings with his team, led by GM Peter Heine Nielsen: "I told Peter and the team that I really feel like being done with this."

Nielsen commented to VG: "If Carlsen’s career as champion ends here, it really happens at the top. When you’re Carlsen’s coach, it's unavoidable to experience this amount of victories, but Dubai was the first time I felt like he got to show how good he actually is."

Dubai was the first time I felt like he got to show how good he actually is.
—Peter Heine Nielsen

Carlsen: "I've wanted to quit while I’m at the top, and it's the most likely thing to happen—but who knows. I’ve changed my mind about things before, but when I’ve felt something for this long, I rarely end up going the other way. So no, I’m no closer to playing the next world championship match than I was right after the last."

If Carlsen indeed withdraws from the next world championship (tentatively scheduled for early 2023), the match is likely going to be played between the winner and the runner-up of the upcoming FIDE Candidates Tournament as this was the procedure in case of a withdrawal for the 2021 championship.

Find the full interview (in Norwegian) here.


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