Magnus Carlsen says he is ready to shock the chess world by giving up his world championship title – because defending it no longer motivates him. The five-time world champion retained the classical title in emphatic style in Dubai last week, crushing his Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi 7½-3½, but now says he has other priorities.
“It’s been clear to me for most of the year that this world championship should be the last,” he said. “It doesn’t mean as much any more as it once did. I haven’t felt that the positive outweighs the negative.
“For those who expect me to play the world championship next time, the chance that they will be disappointed is very great.”
The 31-year-old said the only thing likely to persuade him to keep defending his title would be if his next opponent was the brilliant 18‑year‑old Alireza Firouzja, who recently broke Carlsen’s record as the youngest 2800-rated player and is now ranked world No 2.
However, Firouzja still has to qualify from an eight-man candidates tournament to earn the right to play Carlsen.
“It is important for me to say that I do intend to play chess,” said Carlsen, who has hinted before that he is unhappy with the format of the classical world championship, which he thinks should have shorter time controls. “I will continue to play chess, it gives me a lot of joy. But the world championship has not been so pleasurable.”
Speaking to the Løperekka podcast for his sponsor Unibet, Carlsen said: “If someone other than Firouzja wins the candidates tournament it’s unlikely I will play the next world championship match.”
Instead Carlsen, who is already the highest ranked chess player in history, has set his sights on becoming the first man to break the 2900 barrier.
“There is so much more I can try to do,” he said. “I am very motivated to get the rating to 2900. I have never had it as a goal before, because I felt it was difficult. I have raised the rating a bit again now, to 2865, and it is at least a goal you can set. It does not feel completely impossible.”