A Biography Of Ian Nepomniachtchi

Chess Players and History
Ian Alexandrovich Nepomniachtchi

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If you watched the Candidates tournament in 2021, you should know of the name “Ian Nepomniachtchi”, the popular Russian Grandmaster who was able to win the prestigious biennial tournament.

Emerging victorious meant earning the rights to challenge Magnus Carlsen, the highest rated player in the world for the much coveted title of world champion.

We’ll talk about that later but first we ask, who exactly is Ian Nepomniachtchi?

Who is Ian Nepomniachtchi?

Ian Alexandrovich Nepomniachtchi
Ian Alexandrovich Nepomniachtchi

Ian Alexandrovich Nepomniachtchi (also popularly known as Nepo) is a 30-year-old chess grandmaster who was born on 14th July, 1990. 

The Russian chess prodigy achieved the Grandmaster title when he was 17 years old and currently has a standard peak rating of 2795, just few points away from the legendary 2800 that few players, the likes of Kasparov, Carlsen, Ding, Caruana e.t.c. have been able to achieve.

Nepomniachtchi has won a number of tournaments which includes, Tal Memorial in 2016, Aeroflot open in 2008 and 2015, Russian superficial in 2010 and 2020, and the 2010 European individual chess championships.

He won the World Junior Chess Championship in 2006 and was runner-up in the Russian Championship in 2010.

By finishing second in the FIDE Grand Prix 2019, he qualified for the 2020/2021 candidates tournament where he emerged victorious amongst other top players like Caruana, Maxime vachier-lagrave (MVL), Anish Giri, Ding liren, Alexander Grishuk and a few others. He won with a round to spare.

Brief look At His Career

Ian Nepomniachtchi began playing chess at the age of four and a half years.

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”, we 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.

Nepomniachtchi also won the World Youth Chess Championship in the U12 division in 2002, narrowly defeating Magnus Carlsen on a tiebreak.

The 2002 U12 World Youth Championship top finishers
The 2002 U12 World Youth Championship top finishers.
(From R to L: Nepo, Carlsen, Howell, Andreikin, Nguyen, Wei Chenpeng)

2007-2009: In 2007, he earned his first grandmaster norm by finishing second in the C group of the Corus Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee.

He also won the Ordix Open, a quick chess event in Mainz, in the same year.

2010-2011: Ian Nepomniachtchi won the European Individual Championship with a score of 9/11 in Rijeka in 2010. He won the Russian Chess Championship later that year in Moscow, after defeating Sergey Karjakin in a playoff.

The World Rapid Chess Championship, held in Khanty-Mansiysk the following month, saw Nepomniachtchi come second against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Young Ian Nepo
Young Ian Nepo. Image: ChessBase

Nepomniachtchi took silver in the 2014 World Blitz Chess Championship, which took place in Dubai.

2016-2020: Ian Nepomniachtchi also won the 7th Hainan Danzhou tournament and the Tal Memorial in 2016.

In 2016, he earned a team bronze medal and an individual silver medal for Russia at the 42nd Chess Olympiad.

Ian defeated former world champion, Magnus Carlsen in a chess game at the London Super Tournament on December 10, 2017. The Russian GM also won the 46th Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting in July 2018, scoring 5/7 to finish a point clear of his closest rivals.

Ian Nepomniachtchi finished third in the World Rapid Chess Championship, which was held in Riyadh, on December 27, 2017, and competed in the Moscow FIDE Grand Prix tournament, which was part of the quaternion, in late May of the same year.

2021:  Ian Nepomniachtchi won the 2020/2021 candidates tournament with 8.5/14 points, just a little above GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who had 8 points.

World Chess Championship 2021 Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi
World Chess Championship 2021 Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi

Personal Life

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.

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.


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.

Ian Nepomniachtchi defeating Ding at the 2020 Candidates' Tournam
Ian Nepomniachtchi defeating Ding at the 2020 Candidates’ Tournament

World Chess Championship in 2021 and 2023

In 2021, 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.

However, after a keenly contested battle, Magnus Carlsen finally prevailed retaining his title and becoming a 5th world champion.

In 2022, he won the candidates again to play Magnus Carlsen who dropped out of the championship cycle due to “lack of motivation”.

So the next player, Ding Liren who finished the tournament in second place got in as a result and a match was scheduled between them in 2023.

After a tough battle in the classical section, Ding finally got the chance to defeat his opponent during the rapid tiebreaks. This made Ding Liren the new 17th World Chess Champion.

Ding defeats Nepo in the 2023 FIDE World Championship
Ding defeats Nepo in the 2023 FIDE World Championship

Playing Style

Nepomniachtchi is one of the most creative and aggressive chess players in modern chess. He plays powerful chess and somewhat relies on sharp offensive moves to unbalance his opponent.

He prefers to spot insane combinations over cautious maneuvering, and 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.

Nepomniachtchi is an expert in both rapid and blitz chess, in addition to classical time restrictions. 

Let’s see a game that depicts the typical playing style of Ian.

This one was against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the GCT Crotia.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Image: ChessBase

See the game below and a brief analysis after it.

Touch the moves or move the board around for a better interactive experience.

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 in the e- file. The pressure was simply enormous.

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