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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Magnus Carlsen has decided to step down as the world’s best player. It Won’t Be Easy to Find Someone to Replace Him

Magnus Carlsen, the current bearer of the title of world chess champion, stated on Wednesday that he would forego the opportunity to defend his title in a match scheduled for next year, which implies that the title will shortly be awarded to a different player.

And in terms of chess, it could be the most difficult element. It is a very real possibility that whoever wins the world championship match in 2019, which will now be played between Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, who won the candidates tournament earlier this month to become the prescribed challenger, and Ding Liren of China, who finished as the runner-up, will be seen as an illegitimate champion, or at the very least, a champion who has been severely diminished. This match will be played between Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia and Ding Liren of

After Carlsen stated his intention to step down from the title of world chess champion, which he has held five times, Arkady Dvorkovich, the president of the International Chess Federation, which is the regulatory body of the game, accepted this fact on Wednesday.

Bobby Fischer, the erratic American who had won the championship in 1972 by defeating the Russian Boris Spassky in a match that drew the attention of the whole world since it was played against the background of the Cold War, decided not to defend his title in 1975. Fischer had been engaged in lengthy negotiations with the federation at the time, but when they were unable to reach an agreement, Fischer decided to withdraw from the competition rather than continue playing. This was despite the entreaties of a large number of people, including politicians, as well as the offer of millions of dollars for the prize fund.

As a result of Fischer’s resignation, Anatoly Karpov, who had already been qualified as the challenger, became the new champion de facto. And at first, many people had the impression that Karpov was not deserving of that distinction. But throughout the course of the next decade, he demonstrated that he was a deserving successor by outperforming his rivals. He maintained his position as the finest player in the world for about 10 years, during which time he won nine straight tournaments against the competition that was considered to be the best in the world.

An event that occurred from 1993 and 2006, when the world title was shared between opposing claims, is a better comparable to the situation that Carlsen’s successor may confront.

This is when the problem arose. Kasparov had previously beaten Karpov to become champion in 1985. Because Kasparov and Short were dissatisfied with the manner in which the international chess federation was arranging the match and the fact that it would earn a 20% part of the prize monies, they decided to create their own organisation and negotiate their own arrangement. As a form of retaliation, the federation ruled that their match was invalid, deprived Kasparov of his championship, and scheduled its own championship match between Karpov and Jan Timman of the Netherlands. Timman was the opponent that Short had defeated in the candidates final.

Both Kasparov and Karpov asserted their right to the title of world champion after winning their respective matches. Despite the fact that Karpov had the support of the federation, the majority of people believed that Kasparov should have been the king. They referred to him as the classical or lineal champion.

The public’s regard for the titleholder of the federation waned even further after it organised a series of tournaments to crown a champion. The winners of these tournaments were, for the most part, players with less distinguished pedigrees than Karpov or Kasparov. This caused the public’s regard for the titleholder to decline even further.

Only in 2006 was the rift in the chess world healed when Veselin Topalov, a Bulgarian grandmaster and the reigning champion of the federation at the time, faced off against Vladimir Kramnik in a reunification match. Topalov ended up losing to Kramnik.

Putting aside considerations of competition and legacy, there are a number of similarities between Kasparov and Carlsen that might cast a shadow over Carlsen’s successor and have an effect on the game of chess itself.

Kasparov was and still is a charismatic figure who contributed significantly to the game’s rise to prominence. Carlsen is nothing like Kasparov, but he does have a large stake in a publicly traded global chess company named after him (Play Magnus), he has been a model for a hip clothing brand (G-Star Raw), and he has staged exhibitions at technology and financial conferences. All of these things are in spite of the fact that Carlsen is not Kasparov. Even a Norwegian reality television programme had him as a contestant.

In a nutshell, Carlsen is responsible for making chess hip, and despite the fact that he has no plans to give up the game, it will not be the same without him as the world champion, as Dvorkovich referred to in his comments.

Carlsen is also the player with the highest overall rating in the world, a status he will not lose even if he chooses not to defend the championship he now holds. As long as he keeps playing, like he said he wanted to do in his statement, he will completely eclipse everyone else, just as Kasparov did in the past.

There is no doubt about the value of holding the title of world champion. It is feasible that whomever wins the championship match the next year may grow enough in status to be recognised as a credible and deserving opponent and successor to Carlsen. This would be the case if the match is played the following year. On the other hand, history seems to indicate differently.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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