World chess champion won’t defend title because he ‘does not particularly like it’

He has also sought to popularize the game for spectators with the launch of his own simplified cycle of world-class tournaments, the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.

Outside of chess, Carlsen spent time modeling for the Dutch fashion label G-Star Raw and has also launched a successful business empire, founding the Play Magnus Group in 2013 which provides apps and online platforms designed to teach chess and encourage players.

Carlsen is also an avid football fan and hit the headlines in 2019 when he led seven million players in the Premier League’s official fantasy football game.

The former child prodigy first won the chess title nine years ago when he ended Indian legend Vishy Anand’s six-year reign. Carlsen’s victory was heralded by Garry Kasparov and others as the start of a new era in chess with the then 22-year-old being the first new champion who had developed his game in the age of super-strong chess computers.

‘I started playing on a whim’

However, Carlsen, who went on to achieve the highest chess rating in history, revealed today he only entered the event “on a whim”.

He said: “It’s obviously been an interesting ride since the moment I decided to play the Candidates tournament in 2013, which was, to be honest, kind of on a whim. At some point, I just decided, ‘hey, I’m going to give the Candidates a try, could be interesting’ and ever since the World Championship title has obviously given me a lot, it’s opened a lot of doors and I’m happy about that.”

Carlsen, however, was scathing about his experience of defending the title against the Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi in Dubai last December.

“It didn’t mean anything to me,” he said. “It was nothing. I was satisfied with the job that I’d done, I was happy not to have lost the match, but that was it.”

Carlsen has said he will now focus on new goals such as becoming the first player to reach the 2900 rating mark and competing in elite events such as the upcoming FTX Crypto Cup in Miami.

The champion refusing to defend his title will cause a headache for the game’s world governing body FIDE which now faces having to crown a new king next year, while Carlsen remains world number one.

Carlsen’s decision is not without precedent but the last time a reigning champion vacated the throne was in 1975 when the mercurial American Bobby Fischer gave up his title rather than defend it. He was replaced by the Russian Anatoly Karpov and the title remained in Russian hands until 2000.

The title could be back in Russian hands if Nepomniachtchi, the winner of the Candidates qualifying tournament for a second time, beats China’s world no. 2 Ding Liren next year.

Carlsen, meanwhile, has said he could return – but it is not likely.

“I don’t rule out a return in the future, but I wouldn’t particularly count on it either. Just so there’s no ambiguity here, I’m not retiring from chess, I’m still going to be an active player.”

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