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Grandmaster(GM) Ian Nepomniachtchi: Who Is He?

Ian Nepomniachtchi
World Chess Championship 2021 Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi

Being one of the prized jewels stemming from the dominance of the now-defunct Soviet Union is no easy task. Trying to pronounce Ian Nepomniachtchi’s last name might induce headaches to the chess world, but the Russian has not failed to make up for it with a meteoric rise to the top. As we speak, he is currently playing the biggest match of his career, and while we follow his moves over the board, we can also follow his moves off the board. Who is Ian Nepomniachtchi?

Personal Life

Ian Nepomniachtchi—or Nepo, to save from stress, is a 31-year old super grandmaster from Russia who has fully caught the eye of the chess world. He was born in Bryansk, a city not too far from the federation’s capital, Moscow. You can stay in touch with his social side @lachesisq (with an L for Liren, not an I for Ian) on Instagram and Twitter. If you’re vintage and you wanna take a peek at Ian from Facebook, then his real name represents his official page. We’re uncertain if Nepo is single or not, and we also don’t know if he has kids. If he has a wife and a kid or kids, then he’s doing great at keeping it private. He does own pets though; a cat and a dog. His net worth is around $4 Million. He’s reportedly Jewish.

Nepo relishes a game of soccer/football in his spare time. He is a supporter of the Russian club, Spartak Moscow first before the Spanish giants with shaky feet, Barcelona. It might break the heart of many chess fans, but chess isn’t Ian’s first love. Young Ian was so obsessed with Defense of the Ancients(DotA) that being a professional chess player couldn’t dwindle his love for the video game. He was part of the team that won a DotA tournament in the winter of 2011. His chess buddy, Peter Svidler got sucked into the video game universe, and they both enjoy Hearthstone. Hearthstone is similar to DotA.

Education

Ian is a graduate of journalism, and we can confirm that he studied at the Russian State Social University. His primary and secondary education is also unknown, but we will be on the lookout.

Chess career

Ian Nepomniachtchi defeating Ding at the 2020 Candidates’ Tournament. Image: onlinegambling.com

Barely 5-year old, Ian learned to play chess from his grandfather Boris. He was later trained by his Uncle Igor and some stronger players including grandmaster Sergei Yanovsky. Ian Nepomniachtchi was a prodigy who was the talk of the town and by “town”, I mean the entire chess world! As a young child under the age of 12, Ian won the European Youth Chess Championships three times in different categories. One of his landmark years was 2007 when he scooped all three norms to become a grandmaster. His GM title didn’t stop him from striving to be more than just a regular GM. He went on to attain the seventeenth highest rating in chess history as of the time of writing. He achieved 2792 standard Elo rating in May 2021. The 2792 Elo rating is a figure worthy of a player who is a two-time Russian champion.

World Chess Championship 2021

World Chess Championship 2021

Ian Nepomniachtchi has a plethora of silver medals in World Championships and international tournaments. He would hope to go one better in November/December 2021 when he plays the match of his career against the formidable Norwegian, Magnus Carlsen. Ian qualified for the right to challenge for the World Champion title when he convincingly won the 2020/2021 Candidates Tournament with a round to spare. He goes into this match with vivid memories of his last encounter with the World Champion in a similar stage. Ian bested Magnus Carlsen in the 2002 World Youth Chess Championships for the U-12 category. Can he repeat the feat 18 years later?

Young Ian Nepo. Image: Chess Base

In an interview with Match TV, Ian stated that the result is much more important than the prize when the prize of the World Chess Championship was compared with the prize won by him and his former DotA teammates in an international tournament. His physical preparation for the match is undeniable as Ian has notably lost 10kg. The only slight hiccup about the showpiece event is that Ian Nepomniachtchi will not be entirely made to feel at home, as his federation flag will not be displayed due to a ban on Russian athletes by the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS). The ban was imposed in 2020 for World Championships and was a result of a doping scandal with Russian athletes. Ian will play with a neutral flag, which is the FIDE flag at the event.

Playing style

Ruy Lopez

Ian Nepo is a player that prefers to spot insane combinations over cautious maneuvering. He loves to play the Ruy Lopez or Scotch Game with White and mainly the Sicilian against 1.e4 and Gruenfeld against 1.d4 with Black. Nepo is not one to sit back and wait for the opponent to make a slip. Instead, his attacking pressure forces a slip from his opponents. Being an attacking player doesn’t make Nepo oblivious to defense as he’s been able to salvage draws in disadvantageous positions.

Sample game

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Vs Ian Nepomniachtchi

GCT Croatia 0-1

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Image: Chess Base

Not often do we see Black dictate the tempo in the opening stages of a top-level game, and that was the exact case in this game. Nepomniachtchi went for the Indian defense in this game against the Azerbaijani legend. Nepo’s King’s Indian Defense seemed to be paying off as he already had a mate-lusting queen attacking his opponent’s kingside at move 17. Offering pawn gifts and making White’s Queen scramble around the board for a few moves gave Ian the tempi he needed to neutralize Shakhriyar’s Kingside defense. 27…h3 marked the beginning of the end for White as Black aimed to eliminate the final pawn in White’s kingside. Mamedyarov finally tucked his tail after 32…Bh6. Many question this resignation decision, but the threats were probably too enormous. No f and g pawns, a weak h pawn, a no-go-zone e file. The pressure was simply enormous.

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