Norway’s Chess World Champion Magnus Carlsen thinks his challenger for the title made a “cynical” and “unfortunate” choice in opting to drop out of the upcoming Norway Chess tournament. Carlsen himself will be playing in the tournament as part of his preparations for defending his title.
“It was absolutely a cynical choice,” Carlsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday, referring to the surprise announcement from the Russian chess federation last month that Sergey Karjakin wouldn’t be playing against him at Norway Chess after all. The match had been billed as their only face-off before they meet for World Championship action in New York in November.
Karjakin was registered and on the line-up of Norway Chess before he began playing in the candidates’ tournament that decided Carlsen’s challenger. “I think he should have made an evaluation (of whether to play in Norway Chess) before the candidates’ tournament,” Carlsen told NRK. “It’s wrong to say he doesn’t want to afterwards.”
Carlsen, back in Oslo on Wednesday for a sponsorship event, is ready to head for the tournament in Stavanger himself next week. Its organizers reacted angrily to the Russians’ announcement that Karjakin wouldn’t be showing up.
Calrsen called Karjakin’s retreat “unfortunate” but added he could understand it. “If I had to evaluate whether to play in tournaments after a World Championship round, or a candidates’s tournament, I’d also say ‘no,'” Carlsen said. “I wouldn’t know how the situation would be afterwards, whether I was worn out or had enough energy. He (Karjakin) should have done an evaluation like that.”
Norway’s chess champ knows Karjakin well and thinks he needs time to recover after winning the World Championship qualifier. Carlsen said he followed it closely and was “very impressed” how Karjakin tackled difficult situations. “But it didn’t scare me,” Carlsen said with a smile. The two have played against each other for years, became grand masters as children and are almost the same age, both born in 1990 with Karjakin just over 10 months older.
Carlsen said Karjakin isn’t the most unpredictable player he knows and rather is more stable. “You can beat him if you put him under pressure over a long period,” Carlsen told NRK. “Everyone makes a mistake after awhile. It’s all about maintaining a high level of precision for a long time.”
‘Make chess great again!’
Before the candidates’ tournament began in March, Carlsen had told Norway’s TV2 with a grin that he was a “big fan” of the highly controversial US presidential candidate Donald Trump. “He just shoots from the hip and it’s so fun to hear him,” Carlsen said, before his manager Espen Agdestein interrupted with a worried look and anxiously asked the TV2 reporter that “I hope you see the sarcasm here?”
“What sarcasm?” Carlsen shot back. “Trump is incredibly good at finding opponents’ weaknesses. He only talks about the candidates being stupid or smelling bad. There should be more of that in chess, too.” Then he offered some examples: “(Fabiano) Caruana looks like a nerd with his glasses, that’s not good. Karjakin is so boring! And I think (Levon) Aronian is a bit audacious.” Carlsen also offered a new slogan for his game:
“Make chess great again!”
Jøran Aulin-Jansson of Norway Chess, meanwhile, indicated that the organizers may settle their own conflict with Karjakin before play gets underway next week. Aulin-Jansson had earlier indicated that the tournament would seek compensation from Karjakin for pulling out.
He told NRK on Wednesday that a “dialogue” was ongoing but had become “a bit nicer. I think we’re heading for a good solution for both sides.”