Wow. When I read this pop up in the news, I thought, so what. So the guy withdraws, big deal. But almost a week since that letter from Carlsen, ChessVibes is still milking the story after seeing their comment numbers break records.
The long and short of all this is that fans' reactions are mixed: some support the Norwegian, others don't, while some are just plain confused. Even I got confused for a moment when our old mate Macauley appeared to accuse Chessbase of making up an interview!
Anyway, here's my take. Carlsen obviously wants change and he wants that quickly. He could have just as easily played on and his career (apparently something he's concerned about) would have remained intact.
So, he plays chicken with FIDE. When you're number one, not necessarily continuously but definitely consistently for the foreseesable future, you can afford to do that. The guy is saying, "show me your world champ, but I'll show you who's really numero uno".
It is just now a matter of watching who'll blink first. I'd like to say and believe that it will be FIDE, for I'm with Carlsen on at least this one point that the whole system of matches is not "sufficiently modern and fair". In fact, the idea of a match (or series of matches) is just plain old-fashioned. Matches hark back to the days when men challenged other men to a duel. Time now I say to dump that idea.
I think, however, that FIDE can afford to bide their time. After all many fans, and possibly players, still believe that one-on-one contests are the very heights of chess combat. Hec, even I get excited, especially when one guy is an absolute wanker. Think Topalov. It's really that sort of polarising effect that stimulates plenty of interest.
But a World Championship series sans the best is ridiculous. I hope FIDE will accomodate Carlsen: shorten the cycle, firm up the structure and remove privileges. Too hard?