Three years ago, the Russian magazine 64 asked former world champions how world champions should be chosen.
Vasily Smyslov, who won the title in a match, said the ideal format was a match. Veselin Topalov, who won it in a round-robin, said a round-robin tournament. Ruslan Ponomariov, who won it in a knockout, said . . . well, you know.
Now Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, who has never won a significant match, wants to ditch the current match format and is refusing to play in the championship cycle.
Carlsen had been given a free ride into the final year of the five-year cycle, without having to win anything like the World Cup or Grand Prix. But to become champion he would have to play as many as 26 games. He said didn’t have “the motivation” for that in light of the rules.
One rule he doesn’t like is the “privilege” that allows a champion to defend his title in a match. In effect, Carlsen, 19, criticized virtually everything his mentor Garry Kasparov and other great players said was essential to the world championship.
But he has learned something from Kasparov: how to make spectacularly bad decisions.