Immediately after the end of the World Championship match against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Carlsen shocked chess fans by indicating in a video-interview that this might have been his last match for the world championship.
In an article that appeared yesterday on the website of Carlsen’s sponsor Simonson Vogt Wiig, the World Champion went further. He reviewed the match against Nepomniachtchi and explained why he does not feel motivated to defend his title.
World Championship matches differ significantly from tournaments. From early youth I have always liked to compete, but chess was for me mainly driven by passion for the game. I didn’t have any longterm ambitions except for learning and developing as a chess player. Later, as a tournament favorite, I was of course focused on winning as often as possible. Still, this ambition felt mostly as enhanced focus and passion, and less as pressure. Thinking about matches prior to Chennai, I thought it would be possible to apply the same approach as to tournaments of one game at the time, try to beat your opponent, avoid being distracted by losses. (Angry yes, but not distracted.)
From Chennai 2013 onwards the value and challenge of matches has gradually grown on me. It is very special. The dynamics are so different from tournaments, you cannot pretend otherwise. I managed to stay relatively process- and passion-driven against Anand in 2013, while in the last four matches it has been all about results. The potential downside is significant. You are working heavily for months with a team of dedicated seconds/coaches and in the end it may all be for nothing. For the loser, the same could have been achieved without any efforts. In a tournament there is just one winner. In a match there is just one loser.
As discussed in a video interview shortly after the match, I found that the negative has started to outweigh the positive, even when winning. I have by now played against the previous generation and three leading players of my generation. Being result-oriented has worked out for me in these matches, but it doesn’t feel sustainable long term. Passion must be the main driver. It is unlikely that I will play another match unless maybe if the next challenger represents the next generation. (Alireza Firouzja is at 18 already ranked 2nd in classical chess and has qualified for the next candidates.)