Only Alireza Firouzja as title contender interests Magnus Carlsen

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Days after enjoying a front-row seat to the self-destruction of fellow challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi in the World Chess Championship, Magnus Carlsen announced on a Norwegian podcast that he wasn’t interested in battling it out in another similar iteration of the tournament again.

“It is important for me to say that I do intend to play chess. I will continue to play chess, it gives me a lot of joy. Already in the middle of the World Championship here in Dubai, I started to look forward to playing the World Rapid and Blitz Championship this Christmas. But the World Championship has not been so pleasurable,” said Carlsen on the Loperekka podcast.

The five-time classical chess champion said that unless a certain French challenger won the Candidates tournament, there was no incentive left for him to return to the traditional powerhouse tournament of the game.

Mercurial Iran-born French teenager Alireza Firouzja broke Carlsen’s record as the youngest-ever chess player to hit the 2800 ELO rating at 18 years and five months old. Carlsen said that it was during the Grand Swiss in Riga that he felt that there was now a realistic possibility of facing Firouzja.

“If someone other than Firouzja wins the Candidates Tournament, it is unlikely that I will play the next world championship match,” Carlsen said. “Then I think I can say that I am happy.”

Carlsen has in the past been unsure of continuing to play in the world championships. He had an issue with Sochi hosting the 2014 World championship and had also shown doubts before his 2018 title defence against Fabiano Caruana.

He then said that his goal now would be to achieve the holy grail of a 2900 ELO rating.

“I have never had it as a goal before, because I felt it was difficult. I have raised the rating a bit again now, to 2865, and it is at least a goal you can set. It does not feel completely impossible, but at the same time I know that I have to be at the top of my game every time I play. There is no room for error. It is something to motivate oneself for,” said the 31-year-old Norwegian.

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