Karpov’s “paper” championship

Magnus Carlsen certainly wrote himself into history with his withdrawal from the world title match. But he’s not the first to do it. American Robert Fisher in 1975, after a brilliant series of victories in 1970-1972 and a three-year retreat, did not go into battle against the leader of the USSR Anatoly Karpov. Then Bobby put forward a whole series of conditions to FIDE – the match for the world championship was to be played up to 10 wins, but most importantly, with a score of 9:9, the champion retained his title. The Special Congress of the International Chess Federation was then very nervous – representatives of the USSR and the USA, as well as their satellites, fought behind the scenes for their chess players.

The US chess boss, Lieutenant Colonel Ed Edmondson, managed to push through all of Fischer’s conditions, despite the fierce resistance of his counterpart, Colonel Viktor Baturinsky. All but one. The defeat with a score of 9:9 looked completely unfair for the challenger, and despite all the pressure from the American delegation on the position of FIDE and its president Max Euwe, who tried to save the match at any cost, this condition did not pass.

Fischer bucked and refused to play. However, it is not clear whether he would have entered this fight, even if all his conditions were accepted. Karpov became world champion without a match for the crown, although in fact his final candidate match with Viktor Korchnoi copied the format of the championship battles – Anatoly Evgenievich pulled out a victory with a score of 12.5:11.5. The young champion from the Soviet Union in the West was instantly dubbed “paper”, but the imminent epic confrontation with Viktor Korchnoi, who had fled the country, made everyone forget about the failed battle with Fischer.

Magnus Carlsen did not riot

Almost half a century later, the situation repeats itself, although there are fundamental differences. On July 20, International Chess Day, Magnus Carlsen stunned the world by saying that he would not play a duel for the world crown with Ian Nepomniachtchi. Such rumors were circulating before, but most did not believe them. It was believed that the world champion was joking or trying to make fun of the participants in the candidates’ cycle, because the Scandinavian claimed that as a rival he was only interested in Alireza Firouzja, who performed rather unsuccessfully in Madrid.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen

Photo: fide.com

If in 1972 and 1975 FIDE was only thinking about how to put one of the most legendary players in history on the board, now the International Chess Federation has indicated its position in advance, writing in documents that if someone refuses to play a match for world crown, then he will be replaced by the second prize-winner of the Candidates Tournament. And they became the Chinese Ding Liren.

Unlike Fischer, Carlsen put forward only one condition to FIDE and Colonel Edmondson did not stand behind him, who would have united behind his back all the countries of the Western world to fight against Moscow in terms of fulfilling the wishes of the champion. Magnus only wanted a match for the world championship of a kind of “three sets” – mini-matches of four games, followed by rapid and blitz. Of course, such a format is clearly in the hands of the Norwegian – the multiple world champion in speed disciplines, who won tie-breaks in world championship matches against Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana. However, changing the rules in the course of the play is rather strange.

However, everything looked like this proposal to change the regulations was just a reason for a polite refusal. The Scandinavian did not rebel against FIDE, did not make statements in the press in an attempt to prove that he was right and that his format was correct. But he simply refused and went to Croatia for the next tournament, where, by the way, he will calmly play with Nepomniachtchi.

Unless something extraordinary happens behind the scenes of FIDE, Yang will face Ding Liren in 2023 for the world championship. Of course, with Carlsen alive and playing successfully, such a duel with the “World Championship Match” poster looks rather unusual, but how did it happen.

Ding Liren

Ding Liren

Photo: Miguel Pereira/Getty Images

Will Nepomniachtchi cope with the Chinese?

The Chinese grandmaster occupies the second position in the world ranking, and he is the only one, except for Carlsen, who currently has a rating of over 2800 in the world.

Dean has had a hard time lately – due to strict quarantines in the Celestial Empire, he missed a bunch of super tournaments, barely made it to the Candidates, in which he had an unsuccessful start, but then he demonstrated class and tremendous willpower, due to which he got to second place. What is very important, the Chinese Chess Federation, in pursuit of the championship title, will definitely throw all available forces to help Ding!

Of course, for Nepomniachtchi, objectively, the Chinese opponent looks more passable than the mighty Carlsen (taking into account the score of the World Championship match in Dubai in 2019). The score of personal meetings between Jan and Dean in the classics is 3:2 in favor of the Russian grandmaster with 10 draws, and the last time Nepomniachtchi won the most important Candidates opening match.

Of course, one should not rush into winning reports and declare Nepomniachtchi as the favorite of the championship match – the Muscovite himself stated that, they say, in many respects Ding Liren is not inferior to Carlsen. In addition, the Chinese is a little younger and will be quite motivated.

In the history of chess, many “second”, losing participants in the matches for the world crown have been forgotten. Zukertort, Gunsberg, Marshall, Yanovsky, Schlechter – which of the youth will now remember their names? But the winner of the match, Yang Nepomniachtchi – Ding Liren will forever enter the golden row of champions, becoming the 17th of the celestials. Therefore, the stakes for both opponents in this roughly equal chance match will be very high. It will be extremely interesting!

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