November 09, 2010 19:08

Carlsen's withdrawal: reactions from candidates and readers

Carlsen's withdrawal: players reactions and a clarificationThe fan reactions to Magnus Carlsen's withdrawal from the 2011 Candidates matches has been extraordinary. Heated debates are ongoing at chess sites and here at ChessVibes it blasted our comment record to a staggering five hundred plus. It's about time for an update. We have reactions from candidates Aronian, Gelfand, Mamedyarov and Kramnik, and made a selection of your comments.

The discussion that followed upon Magnus Carlsen's letter to FIDE, in which the Norwegian announced his withdrawal from the upcoming Candidates matches, was unprecedented for this site. There are Carlsen supporters and naturally there's also criticism. However, the sheer number of comments make the quite interesting discussion almost unreadable, so below we give a brief summary of what our readers have pointed out so far.

But before that, we give the floor to four candidates who will play in the Candidates matches next year. Over the last few days Macauley Peterson spoke with Levon Aronian, Boris Gelfand, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Vladimir Kramnik, the four candidates who are currently playing in the Tal Memorial in Moscow. (The other three candidates are Veselin Topalov, Gata Kamsky and Teimour Radjabov.)

Levon Aronian

[audio: Aronian-32Khz-mono.mp3]

Levon AronianAronian: It's a pity, I think. I don't know -- I actually like the system with the Grand Prix and this candidate matches. I think bringing back this tradition is not a bad idea, but, everybody can have their own view on this. I remember once we had this big conference [call] with Illymzhinov and then we were all telling our view to the president, and then one of the players, I won't mention him, said, "oh, but I think this system is unfair. We should have two World Championships in a year, and they should be knockout." So, you know all the great players have a different kind of understanding.

Macauley: The analogy that he was drawing was with the [football] World Cup and the main substantive point was that he felt that the world champion was getting too many privileges going into the cycle. Do you think that analogy holds water?

Aronian: Somehow I think we're playing a different kind of game than football, and it takes a tradition, and becoming World Champion is -- I mean, I don't know, I will not be objective on this one, but, I think it takes much more effort. After all, it's a thing you do alone, without a -- I mean with a team as well but not with a team that plays alongside with you. And doing something that big alone is much harder, so I'm not sure that analogy is correct.

Macauley: You think it's fine for the World Champion to have the privileges of not having to compete in the full cycle with potential challengers.

Aronian: I think so. After all there are not many World Champions, and -- I don't know -- I kind of have a different view on this. Maybe I'm just too -- you know I think the World Champion is too great. But some people look on it with different eyes and they think there should be more of a challenge for everybody.

Macauley: And for the candidates matches themselves. Obviously, to a certain extent as the Grand Prix winner, in one version of the cycle you would play a match with Gelfand to directly challenge Anand, and now you have to play matches...

Aronian: Well, definitely I was unhappy, but seeing that all the players agreed, I didn't really want to start defending my interests in such manner, and especially I think that candidate matches in general are good. They are fair, and -- it's not something that, OK, you've won some event and you're the champion, no, here you have to go all the way, and show that you're made of steel in a way, to win all these matches.

Macauley: Even with the initial short four-game matches, you still think it's a good system?

Aronian: Maybe in the future the number can be changed, but I don't see anything wrong with four games as well. I mean, you know it's still a match, after all. Maybe in the next years it can be altered, but now I don't really see a -- I mean I think that six games would be better or eight games would be better, but... you should look at the financial side of it, and since I'm not one of the sponsors, I don't really care. The system is right. If you're willing to change the number of games, that's fine with me.

Boris Gelfand

[audio: Gelfand-32Khz-mono.mp3]

Boris GelfandGelfand: Very strange to withdraw from the cycle with no obvious reasons. OK, he'll be here you can ask him, but I don't see any reason. Actually it's one of the best cycles for many years. It's more or less returning to the historical cycle, what was praised also by Kasparov and Karpov, whom Magnus supported during [the FIDE election] campaign. So I don't see [an] obvious reason. I remember, lets say, seven or eight years ago there [was] no cycle whatsoever. And I am an old man, I have a good memory, yeah? While now it's a very decent cycle, so I see no reason whatsoever for him to withdraw. But it's his choice, maybe he'll be here, he'll explain.

Macauley: Well at one point in the cycle you, as the World Cup winner, would go directly into a semi-final match, and now that it was changed to the candidates -- from his letter it seems like these kinds of changes in the cycle are one reason for withdrawing, but you're happy with the candidates matches?

Gelfand: Well, OK, I would be happy as the winner of the [World Cup final] match to play with the winner of the Grand Prix. But this collision occurred because Magnus withdrew from [the] Grand Prix, so they changed this [system] to motivate him again and seat him. So, actually I won all the seats on the board, not on letters. So, that's what I'm going to do -- I'm going to prepare for the matches. I hope to know the opponent soon. Fortunately we know the place already. Of course I told a hundred times what I think about FIDE management, but again, this is one of the best cycles for many years, and to discuss what's better -- tournament or matches -- both are very decent system[s]. I, for example, proposed to shift -- once cycle to have tournament, once cycle matches, but lets say, we remember that one of the reasons Fischer withdrew from the cycle [was] because he said [a] tournament is not good. After Curacao [1962 Candidates Tournament in which the Russian players drew against each other, to conserve energy, according to Fischer. -CV] he insisted on matches. So, history repeats itself, yeah?

Update Nov. 10: As Macauley pointed out in the comments, FIDE proposed to change the cycle to include candidates matches before Carlsen withdrew from the Grand Prix in December, 2008. So clearly the change was not in any way an effort to bring Carlsen back into the cycle -- as Gelfand implied -- but rather the change became the main rationale for his withdrawing from the Grand Prix. In fact the change created the possibility to include the other top players who had declined for the Grand Prix, e.g. Morozevich and Topalov, and would later become a way for Carlsen to get back into the cycle as a rating qualifier.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

[audio: Mamedyarov-32Khz-mono.mp3]
Shakhriyar MamedyarovMamedyarov: I don't know, it really is bad news for all because he won all tournaments -- last tournaments -- but he decided not to play in world championship. It will be not easy for FIDE and for all. We will see, yeah.

Macauley: Do you agree that the cycle is not modern and not fair?

Mamedyarov: Maybe he's right about -- it's more interesting eight players and seven games. I like it because all players will play against all and it will be a good tournament like San Luis and Mexico. But now is quite OK -- for me it's very dangerous to say something, because -- I don't know -- it's the first time if I will play, and for me [it's] not easy to say something. But I think it is very bad that Carlsen [will not] play. It's very bad.

Vladimir Kramik

[audio: Kramnik-32Khz-mono.mp3]

Vladimir KramnikKramnik: I saw, yesterday I read his letter -- well it was very surprising to me... I still didn't really understand the real reason because he mentions a lot of different reasons, but I don't actually understand exactly why, so -- anyway, of course it's his choice although of course it's a pity for the whole world of chess. I guess there are a lot of fans which he has and... it was pretty surprising, I mean I didn't expect this because now it seems that at least, well, everything seems to be more or less under control -- this candidate tournament seems to be fixed, and everything is there, it's a pretty nice tournament -- OK, I see there can be different systems, but it's all right, this system is not the worst one -- we've seen worse with knockouts and everything so, it's all a bit confusing and strange. I don't know what to say about it.

Macauley: Well obviously there may be some reasons that are not stated, but at least dealing with the ones that are stated in the letter, your opinion on the privileges of the World Champion -- is that normal, or would it be better to not have them?

Kramnik: Well, I think it's OK, you know it's been like this for more than a century. We can discuss whether it can be changed or not, but it's been like this -- I don't have any problem with it. I think it's OK the World Champion has certain privileges -- I mean it's just a different structure, a different idea. In a way it's like a monarchy, a World Chess Championship is like a monarchy. In football, in soccer it's a bit different, but here the chess king has some kind of value, and he stays there, and you have to come and to beat him. This kind of general idea -- well, you might of course argue with it. You can say whether it's good or bad, but it's been like this for the whole history of chess, so I think it's OK. At least for sure, in my opinion, it's not a reason not to play the World Championship.

Macauley: Presumably the way the candidates matches are being organized with very short matches immediately after each other, is another factor. As someone who will have to go through that, do you think that system is OK, or would you rather there were longer matches.

Kramnik: I think it's totally OK -- I mean longer match -- I wouldn't mind to have longer matches, but it's quite OK, it's pretty long, it's four games. Also, Magnus is stating that he would prefer a tournament, but basically I don't see any differences. Basically it IS like a tournament, more or less, it's just a slightly different format whether you play a tournament, two games with each other, lets say double-round, or you play four games with three of the players, I mean it's not a big difference, so any of these reasons, I don't find big enough not to play. But, of course, I fully respect his wish, and his choice. It's his choice of course. But again I'm a bit confused, and I would say it's a bit of a pity, because I would like to see him competing, I guess like everyone, of course.

Summary of readers' comments

In his letter, Carlsen states that he can't motivate himself enough because the current World Championship cycle A) not modern enough and B) not fair. The Norwegian supports this with the following points:

1) The current cycle is not fair because it's not a fight on equal terms; the reigning champ has one out of two tickets to the final. Carlsen suggests an 8-10 player World Championship tournament, like was held in 2005 and 2007. He doesn't like the "shallow ceaseless match-after-match concept".
2) Five years is too long for a cycle.
3) Changes made during a cycle are not tolerable.
4) At the moment there are puzzling ranking criteria.

Carlsen's first point triggered most comments, as it basically undermines the long tradition of matches to determine the World Champion. The Norwegian supported it with the following comparison: "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."

To many of our readers, this comparison is flawed. For example, Joe writes:

The comparison with soccer and the World Cup is ludicrous. Isn’t it the culture of chess that in order to be World Champion, you have to defeat the regining Champion?

To this, Dave adds:

An important distinction between chess and football is the latter is a team game. The players in a team can change, so it makes no sense to have a system where the existing champions plays challengers.

Many of our readers have made the comparison with boxing, where the World Champion has similar privileges. However, as Momomomo mentioned, there are many counter examples of individual sports with no privileges for the World Champion:

Individual sports where you have to compete from the start to finish.
1. Cycling (all kinds actually)
2. Skiing (all kinds actually)
3. Running
4. Shooting
5. Fencing
6. Any other sports except boxing.

It's an important point, that has been under discussion since Steinitz (we suggest you have a look at the famous London rules, mentioned by mdamien): should a World Champion have privileges, and if yes, to what extent? It's a complicated matter.

Our readers seem to agree with Carlsen's second point of criticism, which is that a cycle of five years is too long. However, it's not exactly clear which five years Carlsen is referring to. Stanley Peters:

He had already qualified for the 2011 Candidates and had every opportunity to clear this field and take on Anand in 2012.

frogbert responds:

It’s probably only a small matter of getting the maths wrong: Slightly depending on when in 2012 the match will be held, the cycle will have lasted for somewhere between a little less than 4 and a little less than 5 years:

2008 First games played April 21st in Baku
2009 WCC won by Gelfand
2011 Candidates (?)
2012 WC Match when?

Our readers seem to agree with Carlsen's third point of criticism, which is that changes made during a cycle are not tolerable. However, several would like to see longer candidates matches that the four-game matches currently scheduled. There has been little debate about Carlsen's fourth point of criticism, that at the moment there are "puzzling ranking criteria".

An interesting meta-discussion that's taking place is whether the chess fans have the "right" to "blame" Carlsen for "damaging chess". For example, Thomas wonders:

Maybe he isn’t unhappy with his current situation, and doesn’t want to sacrifice other things in life for chess, could or should we blame him?

cip says:

I agree that we can and should blame him for expressing such opinions and making them public. We can be disappointed by his decisions.

To end this summary of reactions to the Carlsen letter on ChessVibes, we'll mention that several people have expressed their wish to see other players follow suit, in an attempt to influence FIDE. Besides, several people share the thought that it's Garry Kasparov who's behind Magnus' decision. And, as ebutaljib pointed out, after withdrawing from the Grand Prix at the end of 2008, this is the second time Carlsen withdraws from the same cycle. The Norwegian won't be World Champion soon, but he must have scored a world record there.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


ablos's picture

Mangus is not ready in match games.

Gilgamesh's picture

I do agree with you. Kasparov made him weak and afraid of confrontations. It is a pity. So young and so weak.


AnandFAN's picture

Good for Anand... whats more... MC can assist Anand in his title defence again !

R.Mutt's picture

To take Magnus' football analogy a bit further, what would people say if four months before the World Cup Brazil would withdraw because they prefer a round robin tournament?

Francis's picture

Brazilian players have more pride and the will to become the best.

They live for football, not to destroy football. If you love the game, you play the game, not the politics !

Magnus making obvious blunders on and outside the chess board, is creating a deep sense of hatered.

He should now think a little more of his fans, and react with more maturity.
His image is obviously suffering.

daniel7472's picture

I think success twisted his mind...he is with the dark side now. Emperror Kaspartine deceived him. Gone he is....

john's picture

Kramnik seems to sum the situation up well, its not a perfect system but it is the best in a while and was going in the right direction again.

Both Aronian and Gelfand have more reasons to complain than Carlsen, but they are sticking with it because withdrawing would only cause more damage.

Big blunder from the boy wonder.

Gregor's picture

Come on Magnus, just play!!

reality check's picture

Gregor, why don't you go play with Magnus and leave us alone. We've got serious, dedicated, hard-working amatures and pro's trying to keep World Chess on track; not derail it.

Gilgamesh's picture

Well. Now i have to disagree with Magnus. He knows that this decision will provide a lot of bad influence on chess. Chess does not need something like this. But maybe we should have waited for something like because like the old guys says in my country " TELL WITH WHO YOU ARE WALKING TO AND A TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE"

It is a shame


PircAlert's picture

"Individual sports where you have to compete from the start to finish.
1. Cycling (all kinds actually)
2. Skiing (all kinds actually)
3. Running
4. Shooting
5. Fencing
6. Any other sports except boxing."

I think we are deviating from the subject but a comparison like this to an individual sport sound ridiculous.

Can a cyclist, skiier or a runner who is in an out of contention position during a race affect the outcome of the event? No. Can an out of contention player in a tournament affect the outcome. You know the answer!

How long does it take to complete an aforesaid events? And how long does it take to complete a chess or boxing?

and many more..

May be some affluent organizations are stooping low and trying to think that they can buy the title with their money when they can pressurize and make some loop holes in the format??

What equal terms are they talking? A champion reign is a continuation of a run he had during the previous cycle. You have to have a successful run in your cycle to have a competition on equal footing with the champion. And you are given same privileges during your champion reign. Nothing unfair about it when the rules applies equally to everybody. No hand-picking here so a champion does not have one out of 2 tickets if you look from where he started.

Raj's picture

Kramnik's response puts the World Championship in the right perspective. There are certain privileges that the World Champion has been given since the history of chess. One cannot compare it with other sports especially at the World Championship level. I hope Kasparaov is not trying to influence the world fraternity via Magnus Carlsen as we would all like very much to see him battle Vishy Anand for the World Champion title and thereby benefit us with extraordinary and brilliant games! I wish the super GM-level chess fraternity would have a discussion with Magnus Carlsen and convince him not to withdraw, for the good of chess.

Dilip's picture

I agree, the super-GM's and FIDE should talk to him and ask him to play for the good of the game as it will be a big letdown for all the chess fans.

Wouter Otto Levenbach aka Dave's picture

It shows arrogance the way he dismisses the entire chess world and his fans.

Please don't tell me he has other things in life than chess, this is untrue and everybody knows it. I think he could have gone through whatever it takes to get to challenge Anand, beat him and then see if he doesn't like being privileged...
The match format is more than a century old tradition and is part of chess culture...

Ganesh's picture

Great thoughts... Aronian actually prefers it to be a tough task to become world champion rather than get the title in some easy way...Kramnik easily refutes all the reasons put forth by magnus and it just proves the real reason that he is not up for the task of working hard for the title. I bet if FIDE proposes that carlsen will be seeded directly to the final with vishy , he will come and play without talking about football analogies

The regard that all these candidates hold for the world champion title shows the real feeling in the chess world regarding ratings.... its just a number..... In my opionion, any of these candidates will be worthy champions and its good for chess that the brash carslen wont be champion anytime soon....

Thomas's picture

"Thomas wonders ..."
Thomas wondered for a moment if, when and why he wrote THIS about Carlsen :) - the quote is from another thread and referred to Bacrot.

Carlsen's situation is obviously different - for one thing, he is younger and doesn't have a family yet. Actually I really wonder whether he is all happy with his life: dealing with the hype around him and related expectations and pressure, unsure how to split his time between chess and fashion modelling. The latter may be to him what poker is for Bacrot and others - an additional source of income, albeit a more reliable or less risky one.
Of course only those who know Carlsen personally can really tell - but will wisely refrain from commenting in public.

Victor's picture

Its very sad to read some people here blaming Kasparov for Carlsen´s choice of withdraw the WCC cycle. So, really Carlsen lack of personality or character to made decisions himself? I doubt that.
So when you blame Kasparov, you are just saying Carlsen is a puppet,,so people should be careful about what to say.

daniel7472's picture

Just as he has the right to do whatever he wishes, ignoring so many fans in the process, we have the right to speak our mind.

Mikhail Golubev's picture

Why Carlsen may be obliged to play in the Candidates?
He simply does not want to play there, what indicates once again that there is something wrong with a system.
Normally, a decent venue for the tournament and big money for the world's best players should have been guaraneed long ago.
No money, Ilyumzhinov? No serious sponsorship for chess, even for the world championship's final stages? So please resign.
I am not sure that endless moral compromises with bizarre FIDE policies deserve much respect.

Adolfo's picture

I hardly think money is a relevant reason in this. Would any chess player (including yourself) have loved to be WCH, even for free? (of course, not at all to imply that they don’t deserve a lot of money for it)
Secondly, the fact that Carlsen steps out from this cycle, doesn’t necessarily mean that there is nothing wrong with this. Do you remember, for e.g., the somewhat about 130 conditions that Fischer demanded in 75 to set up a match with Karpov, and when I believe only one of them was rejected, he refused to defend the title forever? Chess players can be like this, and Magnus at only 20, has already withdrawn twice, so what does that tell you?
In third place, here there is something that we all misunderstood a little including myself: In the letter Magnus only stated clearly that he is against the WCH privileges, and that a Tournament (like 2005 or 2007) would be “one possibility” to cut off with them. Karpov, in turn, in his campaign site, did propose to not only continue but also extend them in number (“The matches must be extended, to at least 6, 6, and 8 rounds instead of the current 4, 4, and 6” ) . However, never made clear the issue about keeping or abolishing the WCH privileges; one supposes, that all of his “restoring” rhetoric should induce to think the first (keeping them). Both things tell us that perhaps Magnus would have played under the candidates system, with a 6-6-8 and longer time to rest and prepare.
Now I am starting to believe that Magnus logic is about the following: with this 4 game personal match system, he is indeed under risk of losing vs. lesser players, and moreover, to his equals. On top of that, there is, certainly, no time to prepare and recover between stages. But particularly, he knows he is getting stronger everyday, while Vishy , Kramnik and not to mention Topalov, are definitely not. By the 2012 WCH after the defence of Vishy, there could be a huge difference in strength between him and his current roughly equals, the only one by then who seems that may be able to put a fight is Levon Aronian. Unless Karjakin current success remains very steady (and even if it does) I consider that the rest of the players within about Magnus to Aronian generation (Grischuk, Mamedyarov, Radjabov, Naka, Gashimov, etc) will be even easy rivals for him by, say 2013-14.
He wants it easily and he is in a position (while fairly earned) where he can afford to do what he did. Like Gelfand said, the history is repeating itself again, and I believe that like Fischer in the middle sixties, Magnus may very well be already the strongest player, but he is still young, and waits for some years when his superiority over his contemporaries, I predict, will be just huge, and only then hit the title.



virginmind's picture

convince him not to withdraw? if he would so accept, then he would indeed appear as a primadona, or with a bit of a childish behaviour, like: "no, i dont wanna go with you anymore, it doesnt matter if its done so since 100 years and none of the grand masters ever complained - i just believe it's not fair, so i'm out. but, ok, now if you really insist...i may reconsider it, ok, i'm changing my, wait, i'm doing it only for the sake of my fans."
so i don't know...i didnt like it that he withdrew and (basically) for such a reason (all of a sudden, I, magnus carlsen, of all the champions and would-be-champions, consider it's not fair) - i mean, come on magnus, we know you're, maybe, already the best, but...invoking this AND retiring...isn't it a bit showy? a bit pushy?

fgdfd's picture

Is Gelfand right that it was Carlsen that made FIDE change the rules, removing the original regulations to instead have this format?

Hortensius's picture

I'm not sure whether or not the true reason for Carlsen to quit the WC cycle is to make a political statement towards FIDE about their organisation of the cycle. But I feel that such a political statement would be somewhat premature for someone like Carlsen who has never before competed in any other WC cycle. Let him become world champion first, I would say... But then again, I doubt that this is the true reason for quitting...

leigh's picture

Actually, Chess is a game.
I agree with Carlson, Like the other games. Olympic champion, World Tournment Champion, Championship champion. It may attract more sponsers to support this game.
Also can create a chance for great players to have a world champion title. not like today, only one world champion. not good, not fun

Castro's picture

Or even old-fox Gelfand :-)

(Not that old, by the way)

cip's picture

Oh God, I was quoted out of context! I'm not sure readers can understand what I meant in the quote. Now I have to try to put things into context again...

What I was agreeing to is the fact that we, as chess fans, may be dissapointed and may (and should) even "blame" Carlsen for expressing opinions that damage chess: opinions that damage the strength of the WCh title for example, or that promote a "bad" selection of the bearer of the title.

What I was not saying is that this is the case here. I am not sure that Carlsen's opinions damage chess in any way at this point. Whether we agree or disagree with Carlsen seems to be still up for debate and I was not prepared to take sides.

In general, I would agree with a system that diminishes the role of computer preparation, as I don't find computer preparation to be real chess as Fisher, Capablanca or Murphy played it. But I see why having matches can be more realistic and fair.
First of all, it requires that you actually beat your direct challengers.
Secondly, it avoids certain problems of arranging results. I don't know if such problems would appear in a tournament setup, but I cannot say that they would be eliminated in the same way that matches eliminate them.

As a fan, I personally find matches more exciting and more tense. But what a fan enjoys is often the opposite of what a player finds confortable.

Peter Doggers's picture

Sorry for that. Still, many felt that Magnus "damaged chess" so this aspect had to be included in the summary. But perhaps I should have quoted someone else who upheld this point.

cip's picture

This site is developing one of its best features, in my opinion - the possibility of having a discussion. I mean, journalism that allows one to state his/her own opinion, moderated of course.
So no harm done! ^_^

Castro's picture

"may (and should) even “blame” Carlsen for expressing opinions that damage chess: opinions that damage the strength of the WCh title for example, or that promote a “bad” selection of the bearer of the title."

But you're "not sure that Carlsen’s opinions damage chess in any way at this point. "???

Being bad excuses, being omissive or out of context, they don't even have to be false (or, let's say, less factual) to damage chess! In this case, they indeed do what you say ("damage the strength of the WCh title for example, or that promote a “bad” selection of the bearer of the title"), and more!

cip's picture

Wait, that is your opinion!

What you and I agree with is just that Carlsen proposes (even pushes) some changes. As people have said, they may be just as an excuse, but we cannot really know his reasons.

Proposing changes does not have to be immediately detrimental to chess. I am not sure that what he says ”damages the strength of the WCh title, or promotes a “bad” selection of the bearer of the title”. This is not immediately clear to me.

I tend to agree with your opinion, but I could also see things in the following way: his letter does not give rise to a "false world champ". If anyone does, it is the fans. He just claims what the ratings say about him - he is in the top of the list. He does not claim the chess crown. All he does is say he does not want to play, and he provides reasons, that we may consider childish. If he is to blame, it is for the reasons he gives, not for the fact that he is unavailable to play.

There are counter arguments to the above, but not decisive (to use a chess term).

Castro's picture

NOT just my opinion!
Proposing changes is one thing. Trying to justify his exit at this point because he doesn't like the format is forcing logic and intuition. It could have some truth in it but it would be on the purely egotist side of things. And, of course! He would be telling us that he most propbably would NEVER be on WC cycles again. (Damage dobled) Respectable, ok, he's leaving, ok, but that thing with that reasons IS damaging chess.
By the logic of "Magnus is top of the list", two things can be drawn:
1. The damage to chess extends to diminuishing the WC title importance.
2. Fischer, on everybody's eyes, was the very best LONG time before being WC. Sure, Fischer's "sorties" were also regretable, but at least he managed to play the championship (and play games in, I think, 3 or 4 different cycles before. And he had many more and strong reasons (even if some of them just inside his head) to quit before trying!

vladimirOo's picture

I am not sure that Fischer was seen as the "very best LONG time before being WC". In fact, It was the complete opposite for his score against Spassky was awful (and even worse against Spassky's seconds such as Geller). On the contrary Spassky was tremendously strong in these years and considere a worthy champion.

Castro's picture

People simply knew it was a mere question of (little) time and opportunity.
Much more certain then about Magnus today, that's for sure!

lisa's picture

too bad, too bad.... i was soo looking forward to a match between aronian and carlsen!

Saji Soman's picture

Carlsen has to understand that chess has a tradition and history. The present champion had gone through a cycle then only he became world champion. It is a tough task and this boy is not willing for it. The comparison with Football is childish. Anyway those behind this decision is acting like Toplov's manager Danilov. From Gelfand comments, I understand that Carlsen himself arugued for this system and Fide agreed for it and now at the last state he is moving out. There is a system and everybody should feed the system so that it can be better one. Anyway it is not good for the chess. I request Carlsen to re-consider his decision.

Macauley's picture

Gelfand's comments should not be construed to mean that "Carlsen himself argued for this system." Only that FIDE was interested in bringing Carlsen back into the fold after his withdrawal from the Grand Prix series.

FIDE clearly stands to lose by not having Carlsen in the cycle, but AFAIK, there was no expectation or desire on the part of Carlsen for the cycle rules to change to a candidates match format in which he would qualify by rating.

Macauley's picture

As an addendum, FIDE proposed to change the cycle to include candidates matches BEFORE Carlsen withdrew from the Grand Prix in December, 2008. So clearly the change was not in any way an effort to bring Carlsen back into the cycle -- as Gelfand implied -- but rather the change became the main rationale for his withdrawing from the Grand Prix.

That is why, according to the Carlsens, the letter to FIDE this week ought not necessarily be regarded as a "withdrawal" at all, since Magnus had never in fact agreed to accept an invitation to the Candidates by virtue of rating.

Peter Doggers's picture

Right; I've added this point to the article. In fact the change created the possibility to include the other top players who had declined for the Grand Prix, e.g. Morozevich and Topalov, and would later become a way for Carlsen to get back into the cycle as a rating qualifier.

ebutaljib's picture

I believe this is not true. Carlsen withdrew because Grand Prix was collapsing, and because they (had to) change the venues. At that time FIDE was unsure whether they will be able to organize the whole Grand Prix campaign or not, and they started to give dubious answers, that the cycle won't change, but that there will be Candidates tournament. Ilyumzhinov himself gave such a dubious answer at least twice. But this was all after Adams and Carlsen already withdrew.

Macauley's picture

Not sure which part you're referring to as untrue. The Carlsens' letter to FIDE, November 27th, 2008, reads:

"To our surprise and disbelief we have been informed that the FIDE General Assembly has supported a proposed change of the Regulations of the ongoing cycle to the detriment of the Grand Prix players. The planned match of the winner of the Grand Prix and World Cup winners will be replaced with two spots available from each event into an 8-player world championship qualification tournament or 8-player candidate match cycle..." (

They point out that this change diminished the value of the Grand Prix winner's achievement. They don't cite the change of venues, but rather the change to the cycle itself, as the main rationale for withdrawing, the following week.

McGuigan97's picture

Let's not forget that Magnus is young. That doesn't change his arguments, but gives perspectives. Typically young people:

- Care less about history or tradition
- Are more change-ready, i.e. it is easier for them to change
- Are less tolerant of problems that have to do with "that's the way it is"
- Are more likely to choose absolute postions (right/wrong) vs. relative positions (the best it has been in a while).
- Feel they have forever to get what they want

If Magnus is typical, his perspective will change as he ages. Expect him to return to FIDE after some period.

reality check's picture

Are you Carlsens Therapist?

fun's picture

Carlsen is better than Fischer. Fischer retired after the win of the worldchampionship , but Carlsen retired already befor the win of the worlchchampionship:) great! cool.

reality check's picture

I just read the Aronian interview; this guy has got class!!

reality check's picture

I just read the Gelfand interview; this older guy still has got class!!

Bureaucrat's picture

Very classy to present as "truth" the exact opposite of the truth and make someone look bad.

Listen, they did not change the system after Carlsen withdrew in 2008, it was the other way around. This is order of events back in 2008:

1. Carlsen was taking part in the Grand Prix, the winner of which would play the World Cup winner in a match for the chance to face the world champion.

2. Then, in the middle of the Grand Prix series (when Carlsen was leading) and by hijacking the FIDE general assembly, Kirsan et al introduced the candidate tournament/matches for eight players, seriously devaluing the Grand Prix and World Cup and giving privileges to a bunch of players.

3. Carlsen withdrew from the Grand Prix in protest of that change.

Gelfand says FIDE introduced the candidate matches because Carlsen withdrew from the Grand Prix, in order to get him back in. It is complete and utter nonsense. He should know better, and I am sure he does.

No class at all.

ebutaljib's picture

I believe this is not true. Carlsen withdrew because Grand Prix was collapsing, and because they (had to) change the venues. At that time FIDE was unsure whether they will be able to organize the whole Grand Prix campaign or not, and they started to give dubious answers, that the cycle won't change, but that there will be Candidates tournament. Ilyumzhinov himself gave such a dubious answer at least twice. But this was all after Adams and Carlsen already withdrew .

Rafiq's picture

Carlsen's withdrawal was a little bit expeccted because of following reasons:

1)Carlsen's style of play suits well only for tournaments(.i.e) Going for a kill against varity of opponents.

2) Fear of getting easliy defeated by Kramnik,Aronian or even Gelfand in Championship style of matches .so can easily lose his No.1 place.

3) He is highly influenced by Garry Kasparov.So if Karpov have won the FIDE Presidency ,Garry would have allowed Carlsen to participate in Championship cycles. Garry wants to do some damage to the championship cycle running under Illymzhinov.

reality check's picture

I just read the Mamedyraov interview; this guy shd work on his english but i wish him well in the Candidates matches.

Coco Loco's picture

A thoughtful discussion on champion's privileges would be ideal, but who would be knowledgeable enough and also not have any vested interests? Nunn, Seirawan, Ljubo (and surely others) have played a role so far, and I hope they will continue to do so.

Regarding the "aura" around the champion and the value of tradition, and comparisons to popular sports, here is another thought: the tradition in soccer and baseball (let's say) has been built over many years (though not as many as in chess!) and countries and clubs like Brazil, Germany, FC Barcelona, AC Milan, the NY Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, etc. have left a mark on history through their continued success at the very top. A chess player can leave his/her mark on history not by renewed successes over many decades but by a relatively short period of dominance. A champion who needs to win another 128-player knock-out tournament has very little chance of doing so even if he is the best. It follows that if we wish to preserve the value of the championship title, the reigning champion should be seeded somewhere near the final match - last 2, last 4, or last 8.

On the other hand, in an individual sport, one has a certain time window to leave their mark. We all regret that many great players did not get a decent chance to become champion. To this end, a regular cycle spanning over a relatively short period of time is crucial. If the focus is on having a good shot at the title, and not just on getting to the final, seeding the champion into the candidates' matches at some point prior to the final would also be needed. (A simple calculation of probabilities gives a large advantage to the champion in the traditional system.)


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