Magnus Carlsen will not defend his title against Ian Nepomniachtchi in 2023. The confirmation came from Carlsen during a podcast on Wednesday.
The World No. 1 had said last year that he would be defending his crown, which had been sitting firmly on his head since 2013, only if the prodigious Alireza Firouzja qualified as his challenger. The Norwegian felt there was no motivation for him to play another match for the World championship otherwise.
But Alireza had a poor Candidates tournament at Madrid, where he finished sixth. It was won, for the second time in a row, by Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi, who thus earned the right to play Carlsen for the World Championship match, scheduled to be held next year.
Now the match has to be played between Nepomniachtchi and China’s Ding Liren, who had finished second in the Candidates tournament. Carlsen, the world’s strongest chess player of all time, scored a crushing victory against Nepomniachtchi in the World championship match at Dubai last year.
He had won his first World title beating Viswanathan Anand at Chennai in 2013 and then defended it against the Indian in 2014. He retained the crown after defeating Sergey Karjakin of Russia in 2016 and then Fabiano Caruana of the United States in 2018.
Grandmaster R.B. Ramesh said Carlsen’s decision wasn’t totally unexpected. “But I thought he could have waited for some more time,” he told Sportstar.
“There is a possibility of Anand becoming part of the administration at FIDE and some new ideas would have emerged about the conduct of the World championship. I hope Carlsen will come back to the World Championship cycle in the future; he is the game’s biggest draw.”