Kremlin comments on chess snub by Norwegian champion


Magnus Carlsen confirmed on Wednesday that he would not defend his title next year against Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said he is disappointed by the decision of Norwegian chess icon Magnus Carlsen not to defend his world title against Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Five-time champion Carlsen announced on Wednesday that he would not compete against challenger Nepomniachtchi for the world title next year.

Explaining the decision, the Norwegian said he was “not motivated” to play another world title match, having previously called for changes to the format.

Nepomniachtchi had earned the right to face Carlsen by winning the FIDE Candidates Tournament when competing under neutral status in Madrid earlier this month.

He will now contest the world title against China’s Ding Liren, who was the runner-up at the event.

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Carlsen has opted out of the chess clash. © Foto Olimpik / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Chess king declines world title showdown with Russian rival

Reacting to the news, Russian presidential spokesman Peskov – who is also chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Chess Federation – expressed his disappointment.

“Of course we’re sorry. This does not look good on Carlsen. We will still support Ian and wait for the crown in Russia,” said the Kremlin official, according to TASS.

Nepomniachtchi, 32, declined to comment when approached by Russian media for his views on the situation.

By coincidence, the Russian was taking on Carlsen at a rapid and blitz tournament in Croatia on Wednesday, where the pair drew their first clash.

Elsewhere, FIDE chief Arkady Dvorkovich said he respected Carlsen’s decision and that no sanctions would be imposed.

“I respectfully accepted (Carlsen’s decision). There are no sanctions and there cannot be, since no rules have been violated,” Dvorkovich told RIA Novosti.

Nicknamed ‘Nepo’, Russian grandmaster Nepomniachtchi contested the last World Championship match against Carlsen in December 2021 but was comfortably beaten by the Norwegian.

Carlsen is widely considered among the greatest chess players of all time. He first won the world title in 2013 and defended it on four subsequent occasions.

He was pushed all the way by Russia’s Sergey Karjakin in New York in 2016 before prevailing in a series of rapid tiebreaks.

Karjakin currently finds himself banned by FIDE for his public support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the military operation in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Pro-Putin grandmaster thanks West for sanctions

Ahead of next year’s World Championship, Carlsen had wanted a change from the classical match format and favored a speeded-up type of competition.

The Norwegian had been given a deadline of July 20 – International Chess Day – by FIDE to confirm his participation.

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(Miguel Pereira/Getty Images)
Russian Grandmaster sets up world title clash with Carlsen

Announcing his decision, Carlsen stressed that he was not retiring from the game.

“I simply feel that I don’t have a lot to gain,” said the 31-year-old.

“I don’t particularly like it, and although I’m sure a match would be interesting for historical reasons and all of that, I don’t have any inclination to play and I will simply not play the match.

“I’m not retiring from chess, I’m still going to be an active player,” he added.

“I’ve got a lot of chess coming up. I enjoy playing tournaments a lot. Obviously, I enjoy them a lot more than I enjoy the World Championship, and frankly I don’t see myself stopping as a chess player any time soon.” 

Nepomniachtchi will bid to become Russia’s first FIDE world champion since Vladimir Kramnik in 2006.

READ MORE: Chess ‘traitor’ row erupts in Russia after Carlsen world title win

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