The world chess champion is only 32 years old, but in a few days he will lose the crown of his own volition. Tired of defending his title, which he has won five times, he decided to abdicate due to the lack of encouragement that supposes him to prepare for months against rivals that he knows inferior. There is some arrogance, understandableness, and no false modesty. From April 7, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren will decide who is the new champion, a king without authority, because the number one will remain Magnus Carlsen. The Norwegian removes iron: "I still have two titles," he says, to remember that he will continue as world champion of rapid and lightning chess.
The truth is that it is a tradition rooted in the boards that the champion believes himself authorized to choose a successor. Some thus dodged their most dangerous rivals to prolong their reign. Carlsen felt that temptation, albeit for nobler reasons, but the strongest grandmaster in history doesn't have as much power. Unable to change the rules, he renounced his throne. 2023 is year zero after Carlsen.
Magnus abdicated bored players of his generation and the rhythms of classical chess. The main mission of the International Chess Federation, which will turn a century old in 2024, is to organize the world championships and put an end to arbitrariness. He did not always succeed, at least without breaking the peace. Bobby Fischer refused to defend his crown in 1975 with the rules in place and we already know how it ended. Garry Kasparov caused a split in 1993 and left FIDE, allied with his rival for the title. The adventure didn't end well either.
Carlsen suggested that he would only remain at the party if the one chosen to challenge him was a representative of the new generations, if possible Alireza Firouzja. The Frenchman of Iranian origin, a phenomenon, failed in his first attempt in Madrid and the number one announced to the world to look for another actor for the role. Earlier, he tried to get FIDE to change the rules and include rapid chess games in the championship, a mixed formula in search of the total chess player. The promises and concessions made to him were not enough to hold him back.
Magnus' final days as champion have not been placid. He remains embroiled in a complex legal process after accusing Hans Niemann of cheating, who has denounced him for defamation and claims about 500 million in compensation (not only from him).
On the boards, he has just played his last games as champion, in the Norwegian league, where he collected two victories and a draw for his team, Offerspill Oslo. On NRK, which follows Mbappé more closely than French television, journalist Kaja Snare asked him if the last one was a special day. "As far as the league is concerned, yes, but about the world championship, mentally I made peace quite some time ago," he replied.
China's Ding Liren during a match against Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The World Championships will be held in Astana (Kazakhstan) from April 7 to May 1, 2023. 32-year-old Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi Nepo, just a few months older than Carlsen, and 30-year-old Chinese Ding Liren will battle for the title.
The official partner for the challenge will be the financial services company Freedom Holding Corporation which will pay two million euros in prizes. According to the list of the best players in the world, 'Nepo' is now in second place while Ding Liren is third. Out of 13 games of classical chess that 'Nepo' has played against Ding Liren, the Russian won three, lost two and drew eight. The match between them next month will be 14 games at a classic pace, so that the first player to get 7.5 points will be proclaimed new champion.
Meanwhile Ellen, Carlsen's sister, has gained some prominence by revealing that she was also harassed while playing chess. "Shocked and saddened" by Jennifer Shahade's complaint, the genius's older sister outlined on Twitter what had happened to her: "It is not right or normal for adults to communicate with minors by phone unless there is a clear practical connection to the tournament."
He then explained to NRK: "Chess is one of the few areas where children and adults compete against each other and are equal across the board, but it is very important that the division is also clear between the parties. When you're young, you think it's your fault or that you've behaved in an equivocal way. That responsibility should fall on the adult, who should not contact a young person at all. It's not right," he added.
Ellen Carlsen quit chess when she turned 20: "It wasn't what made me quit," she says, "but it made it less tempting to participate in tournaments."
His own brother told in the documentary film Magnus, from child prodigy to chess genius that he had suffered bullying as a child. He was a child prodigy with a fabulous memory, qualities that the school bullies did not appreciate.
Later, he became the best chess player in history, a condition that he will not lose although soon another will usurp his crown. In return, he will continue playing, with the impossible challenge of exceeding 3000 Elo points. We will be able to enjoy his talent even more thanks to the frenetic activity he maintains on the internet. In May we will also see him back on the boards, at Norway Chess, where he will receive at home some of the young prodigies that motivate him most, such as Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Dommaraju Gukesh and the aforementioned Firouzja. Maybe one day we will see a World Cup between Carlsen and one of them.
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