Ian Nepomniachtchi used to be an assistant to Magnus Carlsen to win the 2013 world championship. Now he has the right to challenge the Norwegian Chess King himself.

Nepomniachtchi (left) will challenge King Carlsen in November and December 2021. Photo: Chess24

Nepomniachtchi (left) will challenge King Carlsen in November and December 2021. Photo: Chess24

About seven years ago, Carlsen was a Chess King and had no match for Elo 2,882, and Nepomniachtchi was around the Elo 2,700-2,730. Any tournament that Carlsen participates in is called a “super league”. And Nepomniachtchi rarely competed with the top group. But, they are still friends. One day, Nepomniachtchi asked Carlsen, “How do I get invited to such great events?”. Carlsen replied, “Because you can’t keep your focus. You can become the best player, if you really want to.”

At that time, Carlsen wholeheartedly conquered new heights in the chess village, but Nepomniachtchi’s mind was not only on the chess board. This computer-addicted guy sometimes spends most of his day playing video games, from Hearthstone to Dota. Nepomniachtchi are both good at playing these two strategy games, but not enough to make a living.

Not long after listening to Carlsen’s advice, Nepomniachtchi focused all his attention on chess, and Hearthstone or Dota was secondary. The reason may be that he listened to Carlsen, or because he was not good at Dota 2, compared to Dota 1, or another reason. But even with a focus on chess, Nepomniachtchi spends money on his Dota team going to tournaments around the world.

The turning point of Nepomniachtchi’s chess career probably happened at the London Chess Classic in December 2017. Nepomniachtchi attended the tournament with Elo 2,729, while Carlsen was of course the number one seed with Elo 2,837. In game eight, Nepomniachtchi took the black army, unexpectedly defeating Carlsen. In the end, he scored Fabiano Caruana in the first group, but was unable to win due to a tie-break loss. After that, his Elo surpassed 2,750 for the first time. Since then, Nepomniachtchi did not fall below that mark, even progressing to 2,800 with the top position of Candidates 2020-2021.

The moment Carlsen (right) claimed to lose to Nepomniachtchi in London Chess Classic 2017. Photo: GCT

The moment Carlsen (right) claimed to lose to Nepomniachtchi in London Chess Classic 2017. Photo: GCT

Memorable milestones with Nepomniachtchi also stick with friend Carlsen. The two men competed for the first time in the European U12 tournament in October 2002, with a victory for Nepomniachtchi, helping him defend the championship. Since then, they have only met 10 more standard games, also because Carlsen soon stopped playing youth tournaments to join the top group, and Nepomniachtchi fell in the latter group.

But in the current world group, Nepomniachtchi is the only player with a better head-to-head result than Carlsen, with four wins, six draws and one loss. Nepomniachtchi’s talent is probably not inferior to any player, even Carlsen. But, as Carlsen said, Nepomniachtchi’s problem was concentration, and stability.

When commenting on a player, Carlsen usually only says a few sentences and does not have a single criticism. But, he was much more open-minded when asked about Nepomniachtchi. “He can sometimes detect combos very quickly, but sometimes he loses his focus and hits too narrowly,” said Carlsen. Chess24 April 21. “When he practiced chess together, there were good days when he played close to or equal to me. But there were days when he lost his form, I won seven or eight games. He used to be very, very affected by him.” mood A player must maintain stability In other words, raising his lower limit is just as important as improving his upper limit. very low”.

Carlsen did not hesitate to punch and rub his colleague, showing how close they were in chess. The Norwegian chess player invited Nepomniachtchi as one of his assistants, when he competed for the throne with Viswanathan Anand in India in 2013. Assistants were paid to practice and help tenants practice competition ideas and strategies. match. But Nepomniachtchi was not only an assistant, but also became friends with Carlsen.

This is the first photo Nepomniachtchi posted on Instagram on November 24, 2014, taken with his friend Carlsen.  Coincidentally, on November 24, seven years later, these two friends will begin to compete for the throne of Chess.  Screenshots

This is the first photo Nepomniachtchi posted on Instagram on November 24, 2014, taken with his friend Carlsen. Coincidentally, on November 24, seven years later, these two friends will begin to compete for the throne of Chess. Screenshots

After becoming a chess challenger on April 26, Nepomniachtchi also said that he has spent more time on chess over the years, and has improved his mentality. He said: “If you don’t work hard, your level goes down, others rise. Usually you will have to practice anytime and anywhere. Compared to when I was 20 or 25 years old, I am now.” practice much harder “.

Carlsen probably did not expect that his assistant would one day become the contender of chess with him. And Carlsen will also be surprised when the person he once advised, one day that person will come back to challenge himself.

Nepomniachtchi in Russian refers to “one who cannot remember, or cannot remember, whom they are related to”. But, Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen both remember that chess brought them together, and chess pushed them into an interesting battle.

Xuan Binh


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