Ian Nepomniachtchi Discusses The World Championship, Intuition, And More
Nepomniachtchi at Norway Chess in 2021. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Ian Nepomniachtchi Discusses The World Championship, Intuition, And More

| 44 | Chess Players

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi will be the challenger for the 2021 FIDE World Championship Match which begins on November 24. is his official chess sponsor, and we were able to catch up with him for this interview.

You can watch the video below or continue reading this article for Nepomniachtchi's thoughts on the upcoming match with GM Magnus Carlsen, intuition, hairstyles, and more.

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2021 World Chess Championship

Ian, do you feel ready for the match?

Am I supposed to feel ready? But, I guess when you prepare for such a major event you always feel like you could do more. We are doing some insane amount of work, so I hope we get to be ready enough.

How do you usually hype yourself up before a game? Do you have any special song which gives you energy before an important event?

I can't say I have some habit or something. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a sleepy mood and I'm listening to some hard rock music or something. So to feel the energy and feel the power, but in general, it really depends on my mood which can be different from one day to another. So it's not some kind of ritual I'm trying to stick to.

Ian Nepomniachtchi
Nepomniachtchi after a game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

So you have no rituals, or are they any?

Even if I had some, would I tell you? [chuckles] Some things should be a secret and remain a secret.

What is one thing you do better than any other elite player?

Being lazy probably. That's my superpower.

How much does intuition play a role in your chess?

I think it plays its own role, but... [chuckles] 

If I'm trying to be serious it's hard to evaluate, because in modern chess you've got to be a very universal player if you want to be successful, and you can't rely on intuition alone. So they would like to say, for example, the world champion with the best intuition ever is Mikhail Tal, but I guess he also had to calculate a lot. And for example, today if you try to stick to his playing style sometimes it will be very costly to your performance. I think intuition is always good, but sometimes you basically can't choose the move because of your calculation or your evaluation.

For example, sometimes you are given two similar opportunities and you got to pick one, and probably here the intuition comes.

... In modern chess you've got to be a very universal player if you want to be successful, and you can't rely on intuition alone.

What is your favorite victory over Magnus?

I guess it lies somewhere in the future.

What would you consider to be your best game?

I'd probably stick to the same answer... In general, when they say "what's your biggest tournament success" or something I always try to say that I hope it is still ahead. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi
Nepomniachtchi in his blazer. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

What do you think of playing 14 games in the World Chess Championship instead of 12?

I guess it's an improvement for sure because it gives you more chances to play some good chess and I don't feel like it's some completely different story, like Karpov against Kasparov who played until someone had six victories, and it's not like in 1972 Spassky against Fischer, 24 games. 

I guess it could make a small difference, perhaps closer to the final part of the match because once people get tired they normally play worse, but you never know until it happens. But in general, I don't feel any major difference.

Are you looking forward to playing with your personality bot?

Well, I didn't play my bot yet, but I played against some other bots. Hopefully, I won't lose too badly to this artificial intelligence, as they say.

How do you like the partnership with and playing in their events over the many years?

In general, is probably the best chess portal right now and it's very friendly to all sorts of chess players, especially to casual chess players. Also, there are a lot of nice events for professionals and for those who try to make their own way to the top. Especially in 2020, there were almost no events over the board, so having the opportunity to play Titled Tuesday every Tuesday was nice. Of course, there was all this controversy because it was held online but in general, I think it was very supportive towards players. Even in these dire times, you could earn money with your chess and you could play some competitive chess. And of course, some other projects which probably invite more and more people to join the chess family. It's very nice, so basically we're all doing the same thing and we have the same goal.

What do you hope to remember from this unique time in your life?

I honestly don't know what to say... Normally we want to remember the good things so I think there will be enough good stuff to remember.

So now for some fun questions. How many rating points does the man bun add? 

Over 9000.

Ian Nepo
Nepomniachtchi smiling during a press conference. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Who would win in a chess boxing world championship match, you or Magnus?

I'm preparing for chess boxing a lot, so I think I'd have a good chance.

I'm preparing for chess boxing a lot, so I think I'd have a good chance [against Magnus].

What music are you listening to these days? What is your favorite album, movie, drink, and food?

Well, I can't really remember all the finesses of this question. So first of all, what music? Any music, literally any music, so it depends on my mood. Then, movie: I guess the best one which I have seen recently was Another Round with Mads Mikkelsen and my all-time favorite movie is The Reader. Then, food: well, any food [chuckles]. Probably mostly some meat or some Italian cuisine. Drink: of course, tea! I come from Russia and we all drink tea here, yeah? Some also drink vodka, but these times are probably not for vodka, not yet. For now, it's tea time. And book: probably I can't pick one, but from Russian writers, I think I prefer Anton Chekhov and from all over the world I think it would be Jorge Luis Borges.

Ian Nepomniachtchi
Nepomniachtchi at the 2020-2021 Candidates Tournament. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

How do you enjoy your free time, if there's any free time?

Which free time?

Free time. If you have any free time

What is free time? Sorry.

Leisure time?

I have no time... It was supposed to be a joke [laughs].

Are you superstitious? Do you have any lucky items?

I used to be like this, and one of my first coaches told me "ok, it's very normal that you get to play wearing the same shirt if the tournament is going alright, don't change anything in your daily routine." But in general, I have found a lot of arguments for both takes on superstition.

If a tournament is ok, if it's going great, I would say you can do whatever you want. Just don't try to harm the way you work, the way you play, the way you prepare. But if the tournament is bad, it's very likely nothing will help you [laughs]. You can change your clothes 10 times, and change your pants or something, but it would hardly ever have any serious effect. So, in general, you have to be more realistic. Yeah, it's easy to talk like this when you're not involved in any tournament, but during the tournament, it can be very different. Well, let's see what happens.

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