(Reuters) -Magnus Carlsen will not defend his world championship in 2023 against Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi as he is not motivated to play another match, the Norwegian five-time champion said in a podcast on Wednesday.
If Carlsen does not defend his title, Nepomniachtchi is likely to face the runner up in the recent Candidates tournament, China’s Ding Liren.
“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,” he said on the podcast for his sponsor Unibet.
“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” in which he beat Nepomniachtchi without losing a game, Carlsen said.
“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,” said Carlsen, who has spent over a decade as the top-ranked player in the world.
FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich said Carlsen, who stressed that he was not retiring from the sport and would remain an active player, deserved nothing but respect from FIDE and the chess community.
“Only a handful of people in history can understand and assess the tremendous toll it takes playing five matches for the title,” Dvorkovich said in a statement.
“His decision not to defend his title is undoubtedly a disappointment for the fans, and bad news for the spectacle. 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, most respected traditions in the world of sport, will go on.”
Carlsen had previously said he would be ready to let go of his world title unless his next opponent was Iranian-French teenager Alireza Firouzja, who is the world number three currently.
Instead, Nepomniachtchi set up a rematch by winning the Candidates Tournament in Madrid earlier this month with a round to spare.
Liren edged out chess YouTuber Hikaru Nakamura of the United States for second place in the Candidates Tournament by beating him in the final round.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)