Nepomniachtchi: 'I Don't Have The Tendency To Downgrade Myself'
Ian Nepomniachtchi even received a somewhat premature laurel wreath at the closing. Image: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Nepomniachtchi: 'I Don't Have The Tendency To Downgrade Myself'

| 67 | Chess Players

On Wednesday, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi was officially crowned as the winner of the 2020-2021 FIDE Candidates Tournament. Before the ceremony, he answered questions from the media.

The final press conference.

Nepomniachtchi started by thanking his team and said that they deserve perhaps even more congratulations than himself: "They are the part of the iceberg that stays under the water. I am just moving the pieces!"

Earlier, the Russian grandmaster had revealed his team members: the general coach of the Russian Chess Federation GM Vladimir Potkin alongside GM Ildar Khairullin, GM Nikita Vitiugov, and GM Peter Leko.

Nepomniachtchi and Potkin have known each other for 20 years and started working together closely in November 2007. Within a few years, this teamwork started to bear fruit.

"This cooperation improved not only my game but I guess Vlad's game as well because first, it was me who won the European Championship and then him," said Nepomniachtchi, who won that event in 2010 while Potkin took the title in 2011.

Asked whether he would be interested in adding GM Daniil Dubov to his team, he said: "He's a great chess player and a great analyst, but he also worked with Magnus and I wouldn't like to put him into a position to have to make a choice between me and Magnus."

Nepomniachtchi acknowledged that he might have had a bit of home advantage, playing the event in Yekaterinburg: "When I found out that the tournament was going to take place in Yekaterinburg, I felt rather happy. In 2013 I won the Higher League here. Memories of a city are connected to a result you achieved.

"Apart from that, I like the city, I like the Ural, although I live myself in the western part of the country. Of course, this feeling of belonging helps. There's a saying in Russian: 'When you are at home, even the walls around help you,' and I guess this is true."

Ian Nepomniachtchi Candidates winner
Ian Nepomniachtchi: "When you are at home, the world around you helps you." Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Asked whether he feels the pressure of bringing back the title to Russia, he replied: "I wouldn't say it's pressure. It's a great responsibility and a great challenge."

Some of Nepomniachtchi's colleagues have already commented on Nepomniachtchi's chances.

Grischuk: "They exist. For most players, they are a bit illusory but for him, they definitely exist. Less than 50 percent but much more than zero." 

Caruana:  "I think it's gonna be very close because he looks really strong now. Not just in this tournament. Over the past year, he has looked incredibly strong, so I think he's gonna be a very dangerous opponent for Magnus."

Carlsen: "It's very interesting. He's a very, very strong opponent. Somebody who also plays very aggressively and usually gives his opponents chances as well. In that sense, there is every chance there's going to be an exciting match."

Nepomniachtchi now commented himself about his chances: "There is this saying: 'Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.' By all means, it will be a tough match and I'm glad that my chances are assessed as high but I am a realist. I look at it in a realistic way, and I also do not have the tendency to downgrade myself."

Asked what is Carlsen's biggest weakness, he said: "In any case, I won't say. So let's say he doesn't have one!"

The closing ceremony.

Interestingly, FIDE's Managing Director Dana Reizniece-Ozola announced at the press conference that there will be another Candidates Tournament next year. This news was later tweeted by FIDE's Director General Emil Sutovsky as well and it looks like the much-debated tiebreak rules could be changed:

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