Magnus Carlsen won't defend world chess championship title in 2023, but isn't retiring

Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian chess grandmaster and reigning World Chess Champion, won't defend or seek a sixth title in 2023.

Carlsen, 31, revealed on his podcast, "The Magnus Effect" that he spent more than a year contemplating the decision — even before he won the title for the fifth time late last year — but he's ultimately comfortable with giving up his title. However, Carlsen did say he wasn't retiring from chess and would continue to play the game he's dominated since becoming the No. 1 ranked player in 2011.

"The conclusion is — it's very simple — that I'm not motivated to play another match. I simply feel that I don't have a lot to gain [by defending the title]. I don't particularly like it [the championship tournament] 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.

"... The world championship title has obviously given me a lot. It's opened a lot of doors and I'm happy about that. But the matches themselves have been at times interesting, at times a little bit of fun ... but overall I feel like it's my time to go from the world championship matches. I don't rule out a return in the future but I wouldn't particularly count on it, either. Just so there's no ambiguity here: I'm not retiring from chess. I'm still going to be an active player."

This is a watershed moment in chess. Carlsen is the biggest name in the sport with the third-most world championship titles under his belt. His accomplishments have set chess records as well: Carlsen became the youngest grandmaster at 13, the youngest world No. 1 player at the age of 19 and his peak Elo rating of 2882 in 2014 is the highest in chess history. Carlsen first won a World Chess Championship title in 2013 and won four more in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2021. He's also a three-time World Rapid Chess Champion and a five-time World Blitz Chess Champion.

Carlsen hinted at this decision earlier this year when he said he was "unlikely" to defend his title unless it was against a younger opponent. He was scheduled to play for the championship against the 32-year-old Ian Nepomniachtchi for the second consecutive year after defeating the Russian in 2021.

Now, Nepomniachtchi will play Ding Liren of China for the outright crown in 2023. Because of the format of the tournament, champions are only crowned every two-to-three years. So when Carlsen won in 2021 his challenger wasn't decided until 2022 before the title match in 2023.

Even though Carlsen won't defend his title this year, he still has plans to play a lot of chess in the future. He mentioned multiple upcoming events across the country that he was looking forward to competing in.

"I've got a lot of chess coming up," Carlsen said. "I enjoy playing in tournaments a lot. Obviously, I enjoy them a lot more than the world championships. I don't see myself stopping as a chess player anytime soon."

Magnus Carlsen is done with the world chess championships. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Magnus Carlsen is done with the world chess championships after winning five titles since 2013. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)