Carlsen loses after calling for change

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Magnus Carlsen claimed he couldn’t allow himself to be disappointed after finishing only fifth in the World Rapid Chess Championship in St Petersburg on Friday. The four-time World Chess Champion still wants to influence change in the format of the chess championships, though, hinting that otherwise he may not take part at the next round of championship tournaments in 2020.

Magnus Carlsen did not do well at this week’s World Rapid Chess Championships in St Petersburg, but still wants rapid chess to play a role in who wins the classic chess championship title that he’s held since 2013. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Carlsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after winning his latest championship title in London last month that he hasn’t felt motivated enough. “I haven’t played fantastically the past few years,” he told NRK. “At this point, I take what I can get. I have to try to improve. There’s no reason that I should be beyond learning at this point.” Right now, though, he doesn’t feel he’s reaching his potential.

He’s also dissatisfied with the World Chess Federation’s format for the world championships. During an interview with NRK between the world championship in classic chess and this week’s championship competition in rapid and blitz chess, Carlsen confirmed that he’s not sure he’ll take part in the next World Championships in 2020 under the current regulations.

NRK’s chess commentator, Torstein Bae, said he was startled by Carlsen’s uncertainty over his participation, which he also referred to in a live interview on website chess24.com. “This is a clear signal that he doesn’t think today’s system is the best, with long matches that can often end in remis (a tie),” Bae said.

Carlsen wants more action. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that Carlsen is suggesting a merger of classic and rapid chess, with each round consisting of four rapid chess games. Whoever wins more games each day would get a point.

Carlsen, who now has a certain amount of influence in the chess world, thinks good chess players should have command over all forms of chess. “I think rapid- and blitz chess are as worthy as classic chess,” he said, adding that his opinion about how the best players in the world should be evaluated is somewhat different that others’ opinions.

Norwegian chess commentator Atle Grønn thinks Carlsen’s idea of combining classic and rapid chess “is very cool” and also “very radical.” He thinks it would change classic chess forever. Bae is less enthusiastic, saying that combining rapid play with classic play would be like saying that running 100 meters is better than a marathon.

Nightmare opening
Carlsen had been expected to prevail in rapid chess play in St Petersburg, just like he’s prevailed in the classic chess championships for the past several years and in London as well. The separate World Rapid Chess Champinship began terribly for Carlsen, though, with a nightmare opening on Wednesday when he lost his first two games against much weaker opponents. On Thursday he lost one game but won the other four. On Friday he had to beat rival Hikaru Nakamura but it ended in remis and Carlsen’s points tally landed him fifth, with Daniil Dubov of Russia winning first place with 11 points, followed by Skakriyar Mamadyarov, Nakamura, Vladislav Artemiev and Magnus ending with 10.5 each.

“It’s always disappointing not to win gold, but with my opening, I couldn’t expect anything better,” said Carlsen, who remained favoured heading into the weekend’s blitz championship. He’s also expected to put pressure on the chess federation regarding his proposals for change. Carlsen wants more recognition for the status of rapid and blitz. Even though his performance arguably has slipped from five years ago, and some players are beginning to think they can beat him, he’s still the World Chess Champion, with all the stature that entails.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund