20 July 2022

An Accidental Challenger

According to my previous post, Madrid Candidates - My Resources (July 2022), 'There are still a few more actions concerning the event to be accomplished.' That can wait another week, because big news broke today: It’s official! Magnus Carlsen will NOT defend his title (chess24.com; Colin McGourty):-
Magnus Carlsen, the 5-time World Chess Champion, today ended months of speculation by announcing via his sponsor Unibet that he will not defend his title.

Unibet? Yes, Unibet: Breaking news: Magnus Carlsen will not play in the 2023 World Chess Championship (unibet.co.uk). So who *will* play the title match? Magnus Carlsen Will Not Defend World Championship Title (chess.com; Peter Doggers):-

GM Magnus Carlsen will not defend his world championship title against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi next year. Carlsen announced his decision on a podcast on Tuesday. According to current regulations, FIDE Candidates tournament winner Nepomniachtchi will now play the world championship against Candidates runner-up GM Ding Liren.

Ding Liren's participation is about as accidental as things get in the real world. First, GM Karjakin lost his place in the Madrid Candidates; for details see The Karjakin Affair (March 2022). Then Ding Liren scrambled to grab that place by rating; for those details see The Ding Liren Affair (May 2022). At the half-way point in Madrid, the Chinese star had a negative score, but finished strongly to overtake his rivals for second place.

World Champion Carlsen had already announced the possibility of relinquishing his title during last year's 2021 Carlsen - Nepomniachtchi title match (m-w.com). The players in Madrid knew that second place was worth a fight.

The table I developed for Madrid Candidates - Kickoff (June 2022) once again comes in handy. According to Chessgames.com,

Classical games: Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Ding Liren 3 to 2, with 9 draws. • Including rapid/exhibition games: Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Ding Liren 13 to 9, with 17 draws. • Only rapid/exhibition games: Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Ding Liren 10 to 7, with 8 draws.

Those results include a +1-0=1 score by Nepo against Ding Liren in Madrid, where the Russian won with the Black pieces. Advantage Nepomniachtchi?

The downside of Carlsen's move is that many fans will continue to think of him as the *real* World Champion. The winner of the forthcoming title match -- venue still unknown -- will forever have an asterisk after his name. We know from the PCA fiasco that 'two world champions are [not!] better than one'; for those details see FIDE/PCA Chronology (m-w.com; 1993-1996 and after).

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