Ian Nepomniachtchi: A World Champion in the making

It’s been a tough experience for Ian Nepomniachtchi till now in the world championship. He won the candidates twice in a row and lost the world championship also twice in the row. And the 2024 Candidates is yet another challenge for him to win and play the world championship again.

When the 2020 candidates tournament started, Fabiano Caruana was the majority’s favorite as per chess.com’s poll to qualify for the world chess championship.

Ian Nepomniatchi, on the other hand, was backed by only 5% members to qualify for the World Championship. But he made sure that he is going to disappoint 95% of voters and be the surprise that not many expected to see in the world championship.

A part of his qualification is also down to luck. When the Candidates tournament got halted due to the severity of the Covid19 pandemic, Maxime Vachier Lagrave had caught up Nepo in the points table by beating Nepo himself.

That loss could have a huge psychological impact on Nepo but the tournament halt in between gave him the time to recover from a bad day in office and he returned in 2nd half of the Candidates well-prepared winning games after games.

Maybe you can call it fortune favors the brave and Nepo certainly was brave enough to make it through both phases of Candidates with flying numbers.

As far as the candidates’ tournament 2021 results stand, Ian Nepomniachtchi was again the winner and Anish Giri, who fought very well in the 2nd half of the tournament, wasn’t able to catch up with his Russian rival. Nepo’s score of 8.5 / 14 was enough to take him to the Candidates.

In that tournament, Nepo was even more dynamic in his play and out for more blood.

Check out the thoughts of Ian Nepomniatchi after winning the Candidates tournament in a video below:

Anish on the other hand was very sad in the post-match interview after losing to Alexander Grischuk. And the emotions were clearly visible…

What is so Special in Ian Nepomniatchi?

During the pandemic, all the top-level chess tournaments went online and Nepo being Nepo surprised the chess world with his unique style of play.

Some of his Alpha Zero Esque games blew the minds of opponents.

Although a very unique styled player almost always blitzing his moves in the opening no matter whatever the format, Nepo is known for producing scoring results, which is quite rare in top-level chess.

Check his 2 games below:

As you saw in both the games, Nepo continuously pressured world champion Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren. It can be easily speculated that Ian Nepomniachtchi has some serious chances to win the Candidates again.

If you look at his style of play, he is an oppressor, continuously grinding and setting fire to the chessboard combined with his Russian personality which makes him a unique chess player.

The most beautiful thing is that he does it in top-level chess where the margin of error is almost zero.

At least with the human standards. His technique can’t be thought or maybe he is gifted in a special way. And quite possibly he is a world champion in the making for the flare and aura he brings to the chessboard.

No chess coach will recommend his style of play. In fact, no one can because the level of engine details and preparation he comes up with is astounding.

I mean all super grandmasters do that, but Nepo is faster, stronger and more brilliant than anyone else.

The only thing bad in his play is his blunders, unlike the always draw Anish Giri, (excluding the performance of Giri in Magnus Carlsen invitational), Nepo is a player known for producing results.

If a coach starts teaching his style of play, there won’t be any chess and only arguments about how awkward this style of play is.

Nepo’s Chess Record:

In October 2016, Nepomniachtchi was ranked fourth in the world in both rapid and blitz chess. He won the 2016 Tal Memorial and 2008 and 2015 Aeroflot Open.

In March 2019, Nepomniachtchi contributed to Russia winning the World Team Chess Championship.

He qualified for the 2020 Candidates Tournament by finishing second in the FIDE Grand Prix 2019.

These are some of the indicators that if he qualified for the World Championship, he seriously is a candidate to challenge Ding for his thrown.

Career Graph:

If we look at his career graph, it is on the rise. There was a period between October 2014 and Jun 2016, when it remained steady on a level but ever since, he is on the rise and has climbed from 2700 to 2784 in 4 years.

And with recent performances, he is going to click the 2800 magical mark sooner or later.

Personal life and Chess:

Ian Nepomniachtchi is Jewish and comes from a country that takes chess as a matter of respect.

He graduated from the Russian State Social University. A big fan of video gaming. Other than Chess, he is also a huge Dota fan. Infact, his team won the ASUS Cup Winter 2011 DotA tournament.

He also served as a commentator at the ESL One Hamburg 2018 Dota 2 tournament, using the nickname FrostNova.

Other than Dota, Nepo also plays Hearthstone and introduced fellow Russian chess grandmaster Peter Svidler to the game; the two of them later provided feedback about the game to the Hearthstone developers.

Ian Nepomniachtchi’s team for World Championship:

sergey karjakin joins Ian Nepomniachtchi's team for world championship matchup against magnus carlsen

Ian Nepomniachtchi’s seconds for the world championship matchup against Magnus Carlsen were 3 super GMs Peter Leko, Iidar Khairullin, and Nikita Vitiugov.

They all accompanied GM Ian Nepomniachtchi at the World Championship event in Dubai as they faced defending champion GM Magnus Carlsen.

Apart from them there was another name that also joined which is GM Sergey Karjakin. The Russian grand master was GM Magnus Carlsen’s challenger at the 2016 Chess World Championships.

How good is Ian Nepomniachtchi in all three formats of Chess?

Below is a table of Ian Nepomniatchi’s rating and world rank across all three formats of Chess:

Classical: 2792Rapid: 2798Blitz: 2776
Rank: 5Rank: 4Rank: 6

That’s all in this article.

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