10 November 2010

Carlsen Quits (Again)

GM Magnus Carlsen's announcement that he would no longer participate in the current World Championship cycle -- Magnus Carlsen drops out of World Championship cycle (Chessbase.com) -- sent shock waves through the chess world and shivers (déja vu style) up my spine. Instead of jumping to any conclusions as to Carlsen's motives, I decided to compile a list of similar incidents. Before I could start, I discovered I had been anticipated by the Daily Dirt (the dates in square brackets '[]' are mine):-
Alekhine dodged Capablanca [>1927]. Fischer disappeared instead of playing Karpov [1975]. Or was he taking a principled stand for rigorous rules? Shirov should have played Kasparov for next to no money. Or was it Kasparov who was dodging Shirov [1998]? Kramnik dodging Kasparov's quest for a rematch, or was he trying to restore a credible cycle [2001]? Kasparov skipping the Dortmund qualifier [2002], Ponomariov and Kasparov never playing [2003], and now Carlsen and, well, Ilyumzhinov [2010]. There are a dozen more we could add. • Carlsen Bails from WCh Cycle (Chessninja.com)

'Only a dozen more?', I thought. Here's a list I came up with after about 30 minutes, mostly spent on verification:-

  • 1948: Fine [WCC match tournament]
  • 1950: Reshevsky, Fine, Euwe, Bondarevsky [Budapest CT]; for several reasons
  • 1965: Botvinnik [CM]
  • 1964: Fischer [Amsterdam IZ]
  • 1967: Fischer [Sousse IZ]
  • 1972: Fischer [Reykjavik WCC]; will he or won't he?
  • 1975: Fischer [WCC vs. Karpov]
  • 1971: Huebner [CM qf vs. Petrosian]
  • 1980: Huebner [CM f vs. Korchnoi]
  • 1985: KK1; terminated by Campomanes
  • 1986: KK3; Kasparov threatened to quit
  • 1993: Kasparov - Short; played wthout FIDE
  • 1996: Ilyumzhinov cancels Interzonal and replaces with KOs
  • 1997: Kramnik [Groningen KO]
  • 1999: Karpov [Las Vegas KO]
  • 1998: Anand [WCC vs. Kasparov, declined]
  • 1999: Anand [ditto, cancelled]
  • 2000: Anand [ditto, declined]

There's some overlap there with the Chessninja list. I could have added more from the FIDE KOs played after 2000, but I became bored with the exercise. More challenging would have been a list of cycles where there weren't any such shenanigans. For a similar overview, see my post Troubled Matches from a few years ago. Maybe it has something to do with chess players not wanting to submit to authority.


The Chess Connoisseur said...

What about Korchnoi-Spassky, candidates finals match, Belgrade 1977?

schrottvogel said...

"Maybe it has something to do with chess players not wanting to submit to authority."

That comment struck me as very true, and I immediately associated it with the fact that the theme of Chess is regicide.

Also, chess is a single-player game. You fight for yourself and nobody else. I think that of course has correlations and consequences with how frequently chess players deny to play.

But I still think it's pretty rare that the world champion just choose not to defend his title. I think Fischer was the only one. Maybe Carlsen wanted to be part of that exclusive club :)

schrottvogel said...

P.S. At the same time, chess players also somewhat paradoxically are really fetishists of rating people and creating hierarchy based on playing strength. As I think Keres once said, "If three chess players enter a room, they'll do it on order of their Elo rating."