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.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, 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.

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Comments

reality check's picture

I wouldn't go as far as calling Carlsen a "big fat liar" but he could be speaking with a "forked tongue". Which is common among western politicians.... just ask the American Indians.

Raj's picture

Agree with you that Carlsen has not only good respect but camraderie exists between both players. Just look how they discuss after the recent games at Nanjing - like team mates/buddies.

Peter Doggers's picture

To all the 'poll must be rigged' adherents: It's not. The system allows only one vote per IP and has other ways to avoid manipulation as well. Obviously most people who agree with Carlsen simply don't bother to leave a comment here.

mishanp's picture

No, as other people have said it has perhaps the worst wording of any poll in human history :) The only "reasonable" option is the last one. I disagree with it, but it's reasonable. I want to vote for it being a bad idea but don't agree with any of the wording. I know it's intended to be funny, but if it had simply had the options "bad", "good" and "I don't care" it would have been vastly more interesting!

gg's picture

Why not just pick the first "bad idea" version even if you are against the idea of Carlsen ever becoming World Champion, no one will care that much if you do anyway. But going by the arguments here I wonder if the most negative posters are even capable of actually voting :)

mishanp's picture

@gg, I've got absolutely nothing against Carlsen becoming World Champion (I'd love to see him playing in the Candidates and having as good a chance as anyone of meeting Anand). To be honest I've also got no problem with the "poll", just as long as it's treated as a joke and not a poll :)

Septimus's picture

@Peter Doggers,

One vote per ip won't work. There are too many ways around it, i.e proxy server or DHCP alone will take care of it. If it is mac address...

$ ifconfig -a | grep HWaddr
# ifconfig eth0 down
# ifconfig eth0 hw ether 00:80:48:BA:d1:30
# ifconfig eth0 up
# ifconfig eth0 |grep HWaddr

I know you rely on the honor system, but sadly a lot of @ssholes just want to clown around. BTW, I voted that it was a stupid decision for Carlsen to withdraw.

Castro's picture

@Peter Doggers,

Have you noticed that the poll may have some good humour but is very badly conceived in what a poll is is concerned?

Peter's picture

@Peter Doggers,

I just looked at the poll choices, and it's not a good poll at all. All the choices are very pro-Carlsen. For example, it's a bad idea only because either it will delay him becoming World Champion or he'll miss out on making more millions?

Look at all the comments, and you'll see other reasons why people think it's a bad idea Carlsen is not participating.

reality check's picture

You're absolutly right. I also read the questions and decided not to push any of the buttons because they were all soooo absurdly loaded in the subjects favour.
This is very unlike ChessVibes?!?

Geof S.'s picture

More obviously, it's a poorly-designed poll that doesn't have a "really bad idea that will harm chess" option.

On a scale of 1 to 10 of polls with design bias, this is about a 9. The results of such a poll are meaningless because, for a majority of people who think Carlsen's decision is wrong and bad for chess, there is no option that reflects their opinion.

Jan's picture

@Geof S., Thank you Geoff, this is exactly the issue. But Chessvibes wants to be careful not to take any position...

reality check's picture

They shd have simply asked if it was a good decision or a bad decision.

Umesh's picture

@Peter Doggers,

Poll has alreaddy been rigged by designing the questions.

A simple poll : Is this the right decision : Yes No would give you the correct results.

What you have done is designed questions to get a desired result.

Raj's picture

The poll questions have been framed to tilt responses to a particular direction. With a few silly questions thrown in between that are inconsequential. Doesn't seem fair

john's picture

what's up with this poll? almost a thousand people think it is a good idea? yeah right! lol

say_m's picture

In a Chessbase interview, he has said that his decision is based on what he thinks is best for him. I doubt he is trying to revolutionize the system in order to improve the system. More like, he finds the rigours of the cyrrent system too much to handle.

say_m's picture

Yes, the poll is rigged. There are riders attached to the two options that says Magnus has made a wrong decision. One says that he wont be a world champion till his mid-twenties, and the other says that he will be missing an opportunity to make millions. Many people who think Carlsen is wrong would disagree with both those statements, and so would not vote at all. I mean: few people care if Carlsen loses out on millions and there is no reason why we have to believe that Carlsen will be a world champion, in his mid-twenties or ever. There are other top young players: Aronian, Karjakin, Grischuk to take up the mantle once Anand, Kramnik, and Topalov are done.

Zomerschaker's picture

@say_m, I agree with you. This was the reason I didn't vote

reality check's picture

Tell it like it is!! I feel you.

Stanley Peters's picture
Septimus's picture

Pointless to withdraw. He is assuming that FIDE will change stuff because one guy is unhappy (the validity of the complains are immaterial). This shows his naivety at politics. If he really wants a change, then he should rope in the top players and build a consensus.

Rambo approach looks good in the movies. In real life, Rambos are always the first to die.

ca;vin amari's picture

Just two more quick observations. Here is another way of looking at my first point above. We are all quibbling about the cost side of a cost-benefit analysis -- the perverse candidate process this time around, a "process" that I'm certain nobody complaining about Magnus's decision can fully articulate (e.g., why is Kamsky in, and what is the basis for the seedngs and pairings?). One must weigh this against the benefits. What Magnus is saying, in effect, and there is no need for him to articulate the obvious, is that the benefit of the FIDE title simply isn't worth it. FIDE over the last 15 years has singlemindedly sought to diminish the title. I think the reason for that is that Kirsan doesn't want to cede power to a strong champion (and his recent electoral experience with the two Ks is only going to solidify his desire to avoid a champion with any strong influence).

Second point: I'm a little surprised that the poll choice, "Good idea; he'll be stepping in as soon as he's reached 2852 and crush everyone," isn't getting more traction. Magnus graciously acknowledges in his letter rough parity among the elite now. That rough parity run through a perverse competative process isn't going to yeild much that is truely telling about the relative strengths of the participants. So what is wrong with Magnus setting as a goal for himself, as an alternative to FIDE's cockamamy process, developing a clear level of separation between him and the others? I think many of us believe that Magnus shows clear signs of developing that level of separation and that he shows that ability more and more frequently, but, given his age and the fact that he has been a truly full-time professional for scarcely a year, he isn't yet where he wants to be and can be. This mostly has to do with deleloping his raw talent and taking the game to another level of understanding. But it also has to do with more simple matters. For example, to my knowledge, Magnus doesn't yet have anything near the professional support team of seconds that his peirs have.

say_m's picture

@ca;vin amari,

As for the seconds, Carlsen have had access to Kasparov's vast reportoire of opening novelities till recently. Better than anyone else's second, I should say.

The World Champion title is not worth it? Are you serious? If he is indeed saying that, then the statement is an outright insult to the chess world as a whole, no matter how ineffective or inefficient FIDE might have been. Not that I think he is saying that. I think he simply considers it wise to focus on tournaments and rankings for now, and on the more important goal of World champion when he feels prepared for it.

ca;vin amari's picture

@say_m,
Oh, aren't we being grand! The only relevant tchampionship tradition, the one that Magnus and the others today are stuck with on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, is 15 years of policies designed to demean the title. The real tradition is that Magnus is passing up the chance to secure the same historic and glorious role as Khalifman, Ponomariov and Kasimdzhanov. YHa! You may regard differences in the value and legitimacy of FIDE champions during these 15 years, but FIDE disagrees with you. You may think that the stars are finally alligned for something better this cycle, but you can't deny that this can change on one man's whim.

Ilyumzhinov painted himself into this corner. He has worked steadily to erode the championship so as not to have to yield any power and influence to a strong champion. The natural upshot of Ilyumzhinov policies is that many logically will consider the world number one rating to be as significant as the FIDE title. Magnus isn't claiming that himself, but he doesn't have to. This perception has been created by Ilyumzhinov himself. Magnus is simply acting in accord.

say_m's picture

@ca;vin amari,

First, Khalifman and co. gained their titles precisely through the kind of world championship tournament that Carlsen has suggested in his letter.

Second, you may have reasons to be unhappy with FIDE etc., but is that relevant here? In his interview to Chessbase, Carlsen has clearly stated that he is not making a special point against FIDE, but has made a decision on what he would think would be good for his career.

say_m's picture

@ca;vin amari, By the way, as far as the perception of world no. 1 ranking being more important than the world title, that is just the wishful thinking of the hardcore Carlsen supporters. Almost noone who have actually played serious competitive chess, especially at the top level, thinks so.

ca;vin amari's picture

You should re-read the letter, this time for comprehension.

If Magnus achieves an even more marked level of separation between himself and others, dominating them at every encounter, being the clear number one will be far more important than the degraded FIDE title(the match for which will probably again held in some obscure caucus that nobody can find on a map). More than anyone else, those "have actually played serious competitive chess" will respect winning. More generally, the concept of a Peoples Champion has sufficient precedent. I dont see pictures of Vishy on busses and billboards or articles about him and interviews with him in major national magazines in the West. Your definition of more important appears to be nothing more than a FIDE certificate. To the extent you believe the current system bears some resemblance to the traditional candidate system, and therefore carries some historical weight and legitimacy, you are sadly misinformed. The rules, schedule, and location of the qualifying events have been written and rewritten so many times they defy be traced in a cogent summary.

say_m's picture

I have perfectly understood the main point of your post, but your posts are riddled with incorrect assumptions and points, and seem out of touch with the thinking of chess players who grow up playing serious competitive chess since junior years, which is what I have pointed out.

First, you claimed Magnus did not have a good chess support team, which is totally incorrect. Then, you ridiculed high class players like Ponomariov, who have worked for and achieved their titles. Yet, strangely enough, you have been supportive of Carlsen's stance, who has advocated a shift to the system that allowed Ponomariov and co. to get the titles.

No, I am not "sadly misinformed". Pretty much all of us who have grown up playing serious chess from our junior days, value the title of world champion beyond any other achievement in chess. It is not that Magnus does not value it, as you would like to believe given your anger at FIDE. It is simply that he does not want to undergo the rigours of the current system to get to that title.

And no, even if the currently no.2 Carlsen manages to be say 30 points above the rest , it would not come close to being World Champion. Not in his eyes, and not in the eyes of chess players. Maybe in the eyes of his fans and the people who have not grown up playing competitive chess.

Thomas's picture

"the degraded FIDE title(the match for which will probably again held in some obscure caucus that nobody can find on a map)"
It seems that London is (was?) seriously interested in holding the WCh match ... .

"I dont see pictures of Vishy on busses and billboards or articles about him and interviews with him in major national magazines in the West."
Well, Carlsen fits G-Star marketing strategies - not just because he is very good in chess, but also because he is a westerner and has the right age and "aura". Vishy Anand wouldn't fit those criteria even with Elo 3000 - but I guess there are articles and interviews with him in Indian magazines.

Nydrre's picture

Ratings are pretty meaningless compared to the Champion title, and Magnus has shown that he can't stand up to the pressure of winning one on one matches against the very best contenders. He might be able to wrack up points in tournaments but when push comes to shove he just can't take it. Anand is the true World's number one... because he is the World Champion.

Castro's picture

@gg,

The biggest problem is that the great majority that think it is a bad BAD idea (me included) simply CANNOT VOTE on that bad BAD poll.

None of the 5 alternatives serves (they just make us smile, and that is far from the point here)

Castro's picture

The poll just serves the monomaniac anti-FIDE, election-frustrated, point of view.
Don't cry, baby!
(And note that I'm a severe FIDE critic myself! I'm just not blind...)

philidor_position's picture

Poll was a great idea, but it couldn't be worded worse. What's with the "bad" options, they aren't the least relevant to the core of the decision, and they didn't make me laugh or smile, if that was the intention. I normally LOVE chessvibes reports, but this was a disappointment. Just wanted to share.

Keep up the good work at Tal Memorial.

xand's picture

A World Chess Champion wears the crown until death, retirement, or being beaten by a successful challenger.

The title of World Champion is well worth fighting for, and even more worth defending.

If Magnus had withdrawn because he simply wanted a fair, stable and non-political way of choosing the challenger, then I would support him completely.

But please, who truly wants to replace a proper, exciting, head-to-head fight with just another round-robin elite tournament?

Eivind Salen's picture

There is no such thing as a fair, stable and non-political way of choosing the challenger. There will always be discussions, politics will always be involved, and one can't just withdraw if one isn't satisfied with the results. It is a very strange descission Carlsen and his staff has made, bad for him and for chess.

Anonymous's picture

Well said.

gg's picture

1500 votes and still huge support for Carlsen, nice :)

philidor_position's picture

@gg,

that's partly because the poll is very badly worded. For example, I think the decision is a very "bad idea," but not for the mentioned reasons. "Bad idea because he'll be missing out the opportunity to make millions in the coming years".

Come on...

Castro's picture

@philidor_position,

Yes, funny it is, but... ridiculous. Frustration driven, they seem, indeed.
And where are options like "Bad because hurting chess", "Bad because hurting the present and next champions images", "Bad because he is very needed in the exact present moment of the WC cycle", or "Bad, because even for Carlsen as a chess top player, that is an oportunity he absolutely should not miss".
What about "Bad because giving great importance (as he says and as he now must) to the Elo ranking over WC is ridiculous, and putting himself and others down."? And so many other options wiser than those of the poll...

gg's picture

Aw, come on some of you, you're not just feeling bad because an overwhelming and decisive majority of the chess world applauds Carlsen today? :)

Thomas's picture

@gg, At this moment 1579 people participated in the poll, which is how many percent or permil of "the chess world"? Beyond other weaknesses (which Castro and others pointed out) the poll certainly cannot claim to be representative - and doesn't even try or pretend.
"decisive majority" - LOL which decision does it support or imply??

gg's picture

The chess world keeps standing united as one man, cheering Carlsen's correct decision, it's almost touching to see even if naturally quite expected!

Thomas's picture

If you interpret the poll in such a way, keep living in your fanboy world. Let's say that some people disagree with Carlsen's decision - maybe half a man or less - AND pointed out that they cannot participate in the poll because "their" answer isn't one of the options.

Castro's picture

@gg,

In what galaxy has that hapened? Lol

reality check's picture

Quite honestly gg, most of us are simply turned off by all the hype and mis-representation.

Nydrre's picture

If you read one of the previous posts it gives a simple code to allow anyone to vote on this pole as many times as they like... it could be potentially bunk, especially compared to the actual responses here

reality check's picture

Where can i cast my vote? I'm totally against this juvenile delinqents decision.

Jan's picture

Ladies and gentlemen, Carlsen is is in fact just like Fischer. Great player, but more than a little too great in his own view compared to others. I hope he withdraws from chess alltogether, goes modeling and ends up blowing in Hollywood or something.

Castro's picture

@Jan,

Your comment shows the (poor but) main acomplishment of Carlsen's move:
Talking about him to the extend to compare him to Fischer! Incredible and undeserved.
Magnus could be (fooled but) satisfied :-)

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