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Why did Magnus Carlsen not defend the 2023 world chess title? He claimed it was too easy, but is there a deeper meaning/reason that he chose not to participate?

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    Magnus Carlsen never said it was too easy, he said it was too much work to prepare (more than half the year in preparation). You were mislead by whoever told you he said it was too easy.
    – Max D
    Nov 10, 2023 at 19:13

4 Answers 4

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It's not that Carlsen finds the World Chess Championship too easy, but rather that he is losing interest in classical chess as a whole. The reason for that is opening preparation dominates classical chess, which means spending a lot of time looking for new ideas to gain an opening advantage. Carlsen does not find this very interesting, because it pits your computer against your opponent's computer, as opposed to your chess-playing skill against their chess-playing skill. The World Chess Championship is especially harsh on this, because the opponent will have serious support in the opening (with dedicated seconds), which means you need to do the same to be competitive.

You can see secondary effects of this fatigue from Carlsen occasionally playing moves like 1. a4 or 1. e4 g5 (as Black), to get out of well-explored opening territory as quickly as possible.

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    This is not what Carlsen himself has given as a reason, which is found in another answer. Do you have any source to verify your claims about what he thinks is interesting?
    – blues
    Nov 9, 2023 at 8:35
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    @blues chess.com/news/view/…
    – Allure
    Nov 9, 2023 at 8:40
  • @Allure good rebuttal. You should edit it into your answer.
    – fectin
    Nov 11, 2023 at 3:41
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Magnus himself stated at the end of 2021 after the Nepomniatchi -Carlsen match that he did not have the motivation to contest another challenge unless it was Alireza Firouzja as the challenger.

FIDE reported it thus

Chess media reports from chess base here and another here

News media reports from The Guardian and from CNN.

So, these are Magnus’ own opinions and FIDE and the media reports at the time. I am unaware of other speculation or opinion in the open media.

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    Just saying, an answer consisted mostly of links isn't that great. Some links (or even all at some point) might not work in the future. It's best to quote the relevant parts from those links also directly into the answer
    – Ivo
    Nov 9, 2023 at 13:51
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    In the 2022-08-27 Lex Fridman interview (#315), Magnus speaks about the pressure of the World Chess Championship from 44 min 23 secs. E.g. (my emphasis), "In terms of fear for losing, that is a huge reason why I am not going to play the World Championship." (45 min 04 secs) Nov 9, 2023 at 22:14
  • @Peter Mortensen Magnus' I listened with interest but. the original reason of November 2021 for not contesting the WCC had caries more legitimacy than fear of losing to a lesser player.
    – schweppz
    Nov 10, 2023 at 21:35
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The deeper reason for Magnus deciding not to play WC may be that he tries to use his influence to bring change to the WC competition format.

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I believe that Magnus decided not to compete in the 2023 World Chess Championship because there was more to lose than to gain. Everybody would be expecting him to win and I think that was a little too much for Magnus to handle even though he is arguably the greatest of all time and would probably win. If he didn't win everybody would think that he is falling off and may not be in his prime anymore. I hope this makes sense and hopefully helps you understand why he decided not to compete.

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    It is your opinion : but is there any evidence behind it ?
    – schweppz
    Dec 6, 2023 at 8:48

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