Chess world champ's shock act ahead of finals: 'Hard to believe'

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·Sports Reporter
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World No.1 chess icon Magnus Carlsen (pictured left) during an interview and (pictured right) Carlsen playing blitz chess.
World No.1 chess icon Magnus Carlsen (pictured left) has announce he won't defend his title at his year's world championship. (Getty Images)

Five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen has announced he won't be defending his title in a shock move that has shocked the chess community.

Carlsen holds the highest ranking in the history of chess, has held the World No.1 ranking for 10 years straight and has a strong claim be the game's greatest ever player.

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Last year, Carlsen defended his title defeating Ian Nepomniachtchi without losing a game.

However, in a move that has rattled the sport, the 31-year-old announced on a podcast that he would not be defending his World Championship title because he doesn't feel obliged to compete in the longer format competition.

"I feel I don't have a lot to gain, I don't particularly like (the championship matches), and although I'm sure a match would be interesting for historical reasons and all of that, I don't have any inclination to play and I will simply not play the match," Carlsen said on a Unibet podcast.

"Ultimately the conclusion stands, one that I'm pretty comfortable with, one that I've thought a lot about for a long time now, I would say more than a year... since long before the last match," Carlsen said, referring to his defence against Nepomniachtchi.

"And I've spoken to people in my team, I've spoken to FIDE, I spoke to Ian as well. And the conclusion is, it's simple, that I am not motivated to play another match."

China's World No.2 Ding Liren will step up and face Nepomniachtchi in the final.

Chess community reacts to shock Magnus Carlsen decision

The grandmaster's move has left the chess community rattled.

Not since Bobby Fischer in 1975 has a world champion given up a title, rather than defend it.

However, in 1993 world champ Garry Kasparov broke from chess' governing body FIDE to create duel world champions.

FIDE released a statement to acknowledge Carlsen's decision.

The governing body reiterated the 31-year-old wasn't retiring from chess.

"Earlier today, the World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen confirmed in a public statement his intentions to not defend his title in 2023," FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich said in a statement.

"While he has not officially withdrawn yet, as he has not been sent the contract for the match and a deadline has not been formally set, at FIDE we understand his decision is final.

Magnus Carlsen (pictured) during the FIDE Chess World Rapid & Blitz 2021 in Warsaw.
Magnus Carlsen (pictured) won't defend his FIDE World Championship title. (Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

"Magnus Carlsen deserves nothing but respect from FIDE, and from the whole chess community, in whatever decision he makes regarding his career. Only a handful of people in history can understand and assess the tremendous toll that it takes playing five matches for the title.

"Many other great champions, in other sports, have experienced something similar: with the passing of the years, it is more difficult to find the motivation to train and compete at the highest level, while the reward for the victory never feels as intense as the first day.

"His decision not to defend his title is undoubtedly a disappointment for the fans, and bad news for the spectacle," the statement added.

"It leaves a big void. But chess is now stronger than ever —in part, thanks to Magnus— and the World Championship Match, one of the longest and most respected traditions in the world of sports, will go on."

Many claimed the move was a huge moment for the sport.

Chess icon Kasparov said he admired Carlsen for making a stand to FIDE and seeking change, which he did in the 90s when he broke away from the governing body.

with Reuters

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