Reports | November 05, 2010 16:10

Magnus Carlsen steps out of World Championship cycle

Magnus Carlsen steps out of World Championship cycle

By declining to play in the 2011 Candidates matches, Magnus Carlsen has decided to step out of the current World Championship cycle. In a letter to FIDE Carlsen expresses his dissatisfaction with the current cycle, like "reigning champion privileges, the long (five year) span of the cycle and changes made during the cycle resulting in a new format (Candidates) that no World Champion has had to go through since Kasparov." Poll added.

The following letter, signed by Magnus Carlsen, dated November 4th, was sent to FIDE. We received a copy from Carlsen's manager Espen Agdestein.

To: FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov & FIDE World Championship Committee. Reference is made to the ongoing World Championship cycle. The purpose of this letter is to inform you of my decision not to take part in the planned Candidate Matches between March and May 2011. After careful consideration I’ve reached the conclusion that the ongoing 2008 – 2012 cycle does not represent a system, sufficiently modern and fair, to provide the motivation I need to go through a lengthy process of preparations and matches and, to perform at my best. Reigning champion privileges, the long (5 yr) span of the cycle, changes made during the cycle resulting in a new format (Candidates) that no World Champion has had to go through since Kasparov, puzzling ranking criteria as well as the shallow ceaseless match-after-match concept are all less than satisfactory in my opinion. By providing you with 4 months notice before the earliest start of the Candidates as well as in time before you have presented player contracts or detailed regulations, I rest assured that you will be able to find an appropriate replacement. Although the purpose of this letter is not to influence you to make further changes to the ongoing cycle, I would like to take the opportunity to present a few ideas about future cycles in line with our input to FIDE during the December 27th 2008 phone-conference between FIDE leaders and a group of top-level players. In my opinion privileges should in general be abolished and a future World Championship model should be based on a fair fight between the best players in the World, on equal terms. This should apply also to the winner of the previous World Championship, and especially so when there are several players at approximately the same level in the world elite. (Why should one player have one out of two tickets to the final to the detriment of all remaining players in the world? Imagine that the winner of the 2010 Football World Cup would be directly qualified to the 2014 World Cup final while all the rest of the teams would have to fight for the other spot.) One possibility for future cycles would be to stage an 8-10 player World Championship tournament similar to the 2005 and 2007 events. The proposal to abolish the privileges of the World Champion in the future is not in any way meant as criticism of, or an attack on, the reigning World Champion Viswanathan Anand, who is a worthy World Champion, a role model chess colleague and a highly esteemed opponent. Rest assured that I am still motivated to play competitive chess. My current plan is to continue to participate in well-organised top-level tournaments and to try to maintain the no 1 spot on the rating list that I have successfully defended for most of 2010. Best regards, IGM Magnus Carlsen

The next step of the current World Championship cycle is formed by the Candidates matches, which are scheduled in Kazan in the Russian republic of Tatarstan in the spring of 2011. The winner of these matches will meet Viswanathan Anand in a World Championship match, which will probably be held in London in 2012. FIDE has confirmed to have received Carlsen's letter. "Currently we have no comments on this matter. We must treat it in the World Championship committee first," said FIDE Executive Director David Jarrett of FIDE to VG Nett.

Now with such breaking news and a discussion that's going at top speed, we added something we wanted to do for a while already: threaded comments. You can now reply directly to certain comments instead of using the '@' symbol. Let's see how this works.


Share |
Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


LMedemblik's picture

@Ganesh - A real shildish reaction!

Ardjan's picture

Brave Magnus! Let's hope other top players join and together force FIDE to change the WC system - this could be revolution.

Guillaume's picture

I wish he had done this before Iliumjinov got reelected. Having a World Championship without the best player in the world is something Kirsan is used too. He didn't care when Kasparov was the undisputed number 1, why would he care now?

reality check's picture

We reccomend you read percalert's post regarding ratings vs WC title.

reality check's picture

Carlsen joins the ranks of chess chumps!! Who cares if he plays or not? He wouldn't have qualified anyway.
We all look forward to the B-match, like a B-Movie, Carlsen vs Short better yet Carlsen vs Kar/Kas. This will surely attract much needed sponsorship.

Skúli Bernhard's picture

You are obviously trying to defend the current system with out any arguments.

Nydrre's picture

I think the World Champion has earned the right to automatically place in the final match to defend his title. I think the Candidates should stand as is, as it degrades the position of the World Champion to make him fight for a position he has earned, and make him start at the bottom the same as any other players just coming into the tournament.

reality check's picture

The past system. The present system. The future system. All rubbish.
I can safely say that the worlds greatest players focus on playing chess and win regardless of the system in place. They are the ones (Anand for example) that are admired and respected; not those who whine and walk away.
Is that argument good enough for you skulli?

Estragon's picture

Carlsen has some leverage here. Not for this cycle, but for future cycles, if he maintains his #1 ranking - and given his age, there is no reason he should not continue to get better at a rate his older rivals cannot match.

A WC process without the world's top-rated player would lose legitimacy. So major revisions might ensue to bring him back into the FIDE process. Still, he needs to be careful with the Kasparovian power plays: remember it was only because Gazza took the title outside FIDE that Kramnik was able to duck a rematch indefiinitely.

LMedemblik's picture

@unreality check: You better think just 1 cm further then your nose is long :-)

reality check's picture

I don't get your point. Sorry.

LMedemblik's picture

Well its easy...your nose is to short...Sorry.

reality check's picture

Deep. By the way, LMedemblik, where the fk do you come from? Your sense of humour is about as dry as Carlsens "dear john" to the 2011 candidates matches.

LMedemblik's picture

I come from the Netherlands and write under my own name.
My humor is for people who have a brain to understand it.
For example;
Cursing people, like some unreality checkers, who actually produce an undefined sound, I consider to belong to the Neanderthals and its a real miracle that they know how to find the "Reply" button.

Ludo Medemblik

DjeeB's picture

The world champion have to be defeated directly. World Champion title in one tournament is not fair. Bests players have to fight against bests players to determinate who play against the world champion.

A title like football and you will never have the same champion. It's better to have a really good player like Kasparov in the top for many years consecutively, instead Kaspa WC in 90, not in 94, OKAY 98, not in 2002, OKAY in 2006.

Eivind Salen's picture

Very true. It would also be strange to let Spain and say Brazil play 12 games against each other to decide the champion. Soccer just isn't chess, so to compare them is silly. Carlsen should change his mind, and play at the board, and not by statements and claimes.

Full Name's picture

If that is your stance, shouldn't they just award the victory to Magnus then? He is the #1 player in 2010. (I know, that is just about as ridiculous as your stance on the matter).

If Magnus compares Chess to Soccer, I put more trust in his judgement on this, than yours, just sayin' ;)

Kaushik's picture


Even half a swear word is something we don't like to see here.

Kaushik's picture

oops. . . sorry for that. . . rest assured wont happen again!! :)

Tarjei's picture


"I think the boy made a stupid decision. Garry’s record of being the yougest ever World Champion is safe, and Anand has a great chance to remain World Champion till 2014-15."

I don't think that's Magnus' main focus. His main focus is to develop and become a better chess player. He knows that he is capable of beating everyone of them being number 1 and eventually he will get the chance to fight for the title, but not with the current leadership. Breaking such records would be nice, but not really something that occupies his mind.

Bob's picture

I don't think it's even his decision, he is mentally still undeveloped teenager.

ebutaljib's picture

After withdrawing from Grand Prix at the end of 2008, this is the 2nd time arlsen withdraws from the SAME CYCLE! Must be a world record :)

Bert de Bruut's picture

And perhaps FIDE will manage to get him in it for the third time, whether he likes it or not!

ebutaljib's picture

Yes, that will really make it a fair cycle that he wants ;)

ebutaljib's picture

* Carlsen

Gunner Topalov's picture

Love = *

Ganesh's picture

@TMM I dont think the cycle is too long as used to be previously... Realistically it is just 4 games each against kramnik and aronian and he is through...


If he had already gone through the cycle many times previously and feels frustrated it may be understandable...but it is just the beginning of his career.... so to me it looks childish on his part to do this....There is no way the format will change as of why pull out now and cause people to dispute the credibility of the world champion because carlsen was not there....

TMM's picture

It's not just the 4 games against Aronian and Kramnik. The cycle started long ago, including a World Cup. So for example Gelfand first had to win the World Cup and now also has to win the Challengers tournament to get a chance to challenge Anand.

Ganesh's picture

Carlsen qualified by virtue of his rating... so for him it is not so arduous

Vhomas Topalov's picture

the point about the lenght of the cycle is that the last one was in 2007, so if the next WCC is in 2012 we have five years in between, but I must not be forgotten that the 2-years-plus has been caused also by 2 semi-revenge (and not so clearly legittimate from some points of view) matches (kramink 2008, topalov 2010), let's say that is the ultimate aftermath of Gazza's scisma in 1993.
I still don't think is a great choice to withdraw the cycle.

Eivind Salen's picture

It's a strange argument to withdraw because the cycle is too long - and wait for the next cycle! What is he actually wanting? If he had played, and won, everybody would understand if he gave away his title to play in a tournament, like he now wishes Anand to do. It is a very strange descision which has to be reversed.

LMedemblik's picture

Why are there so many Cro-Magnon people here on ChessVibes?
Do they not see the deeper meaning behind Carlsen's decision?

grasjeroen's picture

No, I don't. Can you perhaps elaborate?

LMedemblik's picture

You're just half way reading..just continue till the bottom and maybe you get enlightened.

Gunner Topalov's picture

Cro-Magnon...too many Basque people here?????????

.Cro-Magnon were anatomically modern, straight limbed and tall compared to the contemporary Neanderthals. They also differ from modern day humans in having a more robust physique and a slightly larger cranial capacity. The Cro-Magnons had long, fairly low skulls, with a wide face, a prominent nose and moderate to no prognathism, similar to features seen in modern Europeans. Several works on genetics, blood types and cranial morphology indicate that the Basque people may be the descendents of the original Cro-Magnon population.

iLane's picture

I don't see the logic here. First he withdrew from the Grand Prix where he had chance to qualify. Then he did qualify anyway by rating and he withdraws again for a reason I don't understand. Finally the WCh cycle was to be settled and it was planned as a 2 year cycle, not 5 years. The current system as far as I understand is the following:
Odd years (2011, 2013, etc): they play candidate tournaments
Even years (2012, 2014, etc): the winner of the previous candidate tournament plays against the reigning World champion
What's the problem with that? With all due respect to Ponomariov, Khalifman, Kasimdzhanov I don't think that a 10 player tournament would be the best to decide who's the world champion. I'm really diappointed by this letter of Magnus. :(

Zeblakov's picture

It seems to me that I understand the reason: he wants that the world champion participate in the potential WCC tournement, !!! and possibly in a case of match, the world champion statrts with say -2 score. Fischer claimed +2 for the WCC.

Thomas's picture

I think Ganesh has a point - I wouldn't say Carlsen has "very little chances" in the candidates event", but I would estimate his losing chances in a semifinal match against Kramnik at 51-60%. For some people (at least for Carlsen fans) voluntarily dropping out of the WCh cycle might look better than playing unsuccessfully? Maybe I am a Cro-Magnon, but for me this is the most likely "deeper meaning" behind Carlsen's decision.

What happens now to the candidates event? Carlsen should be replaced by Grischuk (3rd in the FIDE Grand Prix series). If Topalov after all refuses to play in Kazan/Russia, will he "out of the blue" be replaced by Jakovenko, 4th in the GP series?

gja's picture

I don't think you know Magnus at all if you think he's done this through fear of losing.

This decision looks fairly straightforward to me. With his quality, it's not unreasonable to expect him to dominate chess for a long period. So this is his attempt at influencing what sort of champion he becomes: the champion of a debased system that has spoilt top-line chess for decades, logical only in FIDE's ivory tower, or the champion of something fairer, simpler and more reasonable.

He's at a position in his career when take this sort of stand without hypocrisy. I hope it has some effect.

Thomas's picture

Of course I don't know Magnus, do you know him (personally)? If I am right (and several others wrote roughly the same), it has nothing to do with "fear of losing", but rather with weighing pros and cons:
- How big are my chances to win the candidates event and, in that case, a WCh match against Anand? vs.
- How much do I lose if I don't succeed?

I am not that sure that he can defend his #1 spot in the coming months and re-establish a big gap with the #2, let alone that he will be undisputed #1 "for a long period" - other players also have further upward potential, e.g. Karjakin and, in due course, Giri. But in the short run, Carlsen's chances improve if he can play freely in tournaments while his current competitors have to hide their preparation for WCh-related events.
It's a choice he made, once again I just say that, IMO, it doesn't deserve unconditional praise and doesn't make him a hero.

Full Name's picture

We can all agree to disagree. I think his motives are to change a flawed system, so the underdogs have a chance. I don't think he did this from a personal motive.

I also think the organization finds this to be a big detriment, and may force their hand to start thinking about the process, and how to correct it. He is the #1 player, and is also very high-profile. Losing him is a big problem to them.

Skúli Bernhard's picture

The deeper meaning is obviously the one Carlsen states. Everybody sees clearly that the current system is bad. Its stuck in some political deadlock it has been in for ages.

Antonius's picture

I see a certain logic behind this.
I know our tradition of World Champions, and how it worked for the most part of all our history.
But if you really think about it, you will understand that it is completely unfair.

The WC should play in the next cycle like everyone else and win again to mantain his title, not to have the great privilege of just playing the challenger.

If it is worth to leave the cycle for this reasons... well I don't know, probably it's just a waste of a great opportunity, and maybe there is something else behind it!

harami's picture

@LMedemblik , I am trying to understand the reasons behind Carlsen's decision. Can you please tell me how can this decision to quit in any way help the Chess World? on the contrary, he is advocating a tournament?! type of World Championship cycle. I thought FIDE was finally moving in a right direction by bringing in all the top players to contest for the highest title, now Carlsen does not think that he should even so much as earn his right to play the finals?

I agree the number of games is not satisfactory, in which case he should have atleast mentioned that instead of just withdrawing! I am not sure this is a good call on Carlsen's part... unless he thinks he is not yet ready, which is ofcourse a different story..

Zeblakov's picture

Would MC take this decision if Karpov won the FIDE presidency???

noi that van phong's picture

I think he still opts out. Karpov to be FIDE chief doesn't make something new. He was born in the time of old World Championship format which actually was longer than now (3-year cycle I think).

mangesh's picture

i think magnus is showing his childish thoughts.To get the world champion title you have to fight it indivisually against reigning world champion.In a tournament you cannot claim these title by defeating under rated players & making draws with anand the way magnus did it in nanjing.magnus can defeat anybody in the world but he has to defeat world champion in a match format to claim the title!!

grasjeroen's picture

Why? Only because this is the way it is currently done, and he does not like that way. Quite simple.

ebutaljib's picture

Why "out of the blue"???

The regulations clearly say that ANY replacements come from the Grand Prix. So yes, Jakovenko is next in line.

Thomas's picture

"Out of the blue" in square quotes didn't mean to imply that it would be arbitrary to include Jakovenko in the candidates event - like it would be to nominate, say, Nakamura. It rather referred to two things:
- It is rather rare that a second runner-up might get a chance after all.
- Jakovenko is currently not in the spotlights and has left the absolute world top (he was world #5 back in July 2009). Grischuk's case is different, his recent results and corresponding Elo make him a "rising star".


Latest articles