Ian Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen…Friends or foes!

Ian Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen…Friends or foes!

Written by: Emadeldin Teama

In November 2013, Magnus Carlsen was the challenger of the world championship again the current world champion at the time super grandmaster Vishy Anand. After 10 very interesting games, Carlsen emerged victorious with 3 wins and 7 draws.

It was then revealed that grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi was his trainer and his second for the world championship matches! These young friends prepared all the lines deeply together to defeat the top grandmaster Anand and they were able to achieve a world record score for Carlsen as the first grandmaster ever in history to win the world championship at the age of 22! This was quite an achievement for Carlsen!

preparing against anand together as a team!
Here is a picture of their preparation together working as a team in 2013!

Time passes by and here we are in 2021. Magnus Carlsen is the current world chess champion for over 7 years. He defeated in his journey every challenger that came his way showing his superior play in all aspects of the game. However, this time it is clearly a different story!

The chess world was paying a very close attention to the candidate tournament held in Russia where the top players were competing very hard to be the challenger of the world championship to get the opportunity to show their abilities and try to defeat the talented Magnus Carlsen. In this fight, Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi emerged victorious showing an extremely superior strategic play and qualifying to the world championship to compete against Carlsen on the world chess champion title.

But how is Ian doing against Carlsen in classical games? Should Carlsen be too worried about the next match?

The answer is Yes! Ian has a positive score over Carlsen 4 to 1 wins and 6 draws. The psychological advantage that Ian has over Magnus is huge as well. The truth is, Grandmaster Nepomniachtchi knows how Carlsen thinks, He had access to Carlsen’s old preparations and he knows Carlsen style too deeply and too well. It would be challenging for Carlsen to choose the openings in classical games against Ian and his team better be ready for Ian preparation as well. Another point to consider is that Ian is a naturally aggressive player with a very strategic deep style. He will not play for a draw even with the black pieces.

We would like to represent a recent game for Ian with the black pieces where he crushed his opponent a fellow grandmaster without mercy!

This game was against grandmaster Evgeny Romanov a 2520 respected grandmaster. The game started with the innocent strategic French defense then things Escalated very quickly!

Let’s take a look!

Romanov,Evgeny (2520) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2602) [C12]
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4! an aggressive choice from black. The main line goes [5-…Be7]

5.e5 h6 6.Bd2 Bxc3 7.bxc3 Ne4 8.Qg4 Kf8! Black shows that he knows his stuff, best theoretical move! Black protect the g7 pawn with king and will free his h rook later with h5 and rook lift usually, white is ok. However he need to watch out for the weakness on the queenside which can prove to be severe.

9.Qf4 c5 10.Bd3 Nxd2 11.Qxd2 c4! Driving the light square bishop away to a passive position and fixing white weaknesses on the queenside.

12. Be2 Nd7 13.Nf3 Qa5 14.g4 Nb6 15.Qe3 Qa3 16.g5 Na4! 17.Kd2 how else would white protect his c3 weakness? A forced sad move with the king which would prove to be fatal in few moves.

17-..b5 18.Rab1 Bd7 19.Rhg1 Be8 20.gxh6 Rxh6 21.Rg3 Rb8 22.Ng5 b4!

opening up the queenside!

Opening up the queenside a bit. Exposing the white king and making a mess for white with the queen and knight!

23. cxb4 Qxa2 24.Rc1 Rxb4 25.Rh3 a desperate attempt to get some counter play on the kingside but it’s too late!

25-..c3+ 26.Kd1 Rxh3 27.Qxh3 Rb1 28.Nxe6+ Kg8 keep it simple while winning. Black has checkmate threats already

29. Bd3 Rxc1+! 30. Ke2 (if Kxc1 then Qa8 is a mate) Rxc2+ 31.Ke3 g6 32.Ng5 Re2+ 33.Bxe2 Qd2+ 30. Kf3 Qxg5 a piece up and a passed pawn that is going to be promoted within two moves white resigned


Here is an open link to the study of the game

On the other hand, things are not that simple for Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Carlsen Talent is undeniably great. He has a universal style and a mechine-like mind when it comes to calculations. He already has the best team in the world working for him and preparing him for this match as well. I imagine they would have a simple strategy based on statistical analysis of Carlsen- Nepomniachtchi games together.

It is noticeable for those experts that Carlsen has a big advantage over Ian in Rapid games .Magnus Carlsen did beat Ian 20 games to 10 games in rapid which is a huge score difference compared to their classical chess score. It is possible that they would suggest that Carlsen should play dry position in classical games to get a quick equality and transit to the rapid games where he would show his very deep preparations and try to score the win there having a natural talent over many in rapid chess.

There is also the psychological part for Carlsen as he is the world champion, he wouldn’t simply accept to play for draws right from the beginning and he would definitely try to win to show his superiority! This might lead the games to wild ups and downs that would be enjoyable for all chess players of all levels! I believe that both players would play their best in all phases of the match either classical, rapid or blitz!.

I believe this match would be much more interesting than the ones before it where we got less exciting games either in Carlsen- Caruana match or in Carlsen-Karjakin match.

The fide decided that the world championship match would be held in 24th of November 2021 in the beautiful city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. We would like to show you a taste of how these two players play when they meet each other. This is a game from 2019 Sinquefield cup where Magnus Carlsen played 1-d4 with the white pieces and Ian Nepomniachtchi played the aggressive strategic Grunfeld defense with the black pieces.

challenging each other in london

(1) Magnus Carlsen (2882) - Ian Nepomniachtchi (2774) [D85]
Sinquefield Cup St Louis, MO USA (7), 24.08.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Qa4+ Nd7 8.Nf3 c5 9.Be2 0–0 10.0–0 Nb6 11.Qa3 cxd4 12.cxd4 Bg4 13.Rd1 Bxf3 14.Bxf3 Bxd4 15.e5 Nc4 16.Qb4 Rc8 17.Bh6 Bxa1 18.Rxd8 Rfxd8 19.e6 Ne5 20.exf7+ Nxf7 21.Be3 Bd4 22.Qxe7 Re8 23.Qa3 b6 24.Bd5 Rc5 25.Bxf7+ Kxf7 26.Qxa7+ Re7 27.Qa6 b5 28.h3 Bxe3 29.fxe3 Rce5 30.Qb6 R7e6 31.Qb7+ Re7 32.Qb6 R7e6 33.Qb7+ Re7 34.Qb6


A safe draw by repetition for white. It is certainly an unexpected result to a totally chaotic game where black sacrificed his queen for two rooks and got an unusual dangerous position at which white had to be careful to equalize! You can directly watch the game from this study on lichess.

Overall we are expecting a big fight that we would enjoy to watch. This is definitely won’t be a dull fight and we are expecting an exciting play from both players in every single round.

Ian Nepomniachtchi is a goal oriented person who is aiming for the world champion title and he would do whatever it takes to win this match. Magnus Carlsen on the other hand, is a stubborn person who wouldn’t just want to keep the world champion title with passive play in classical games. He would try to dominate all his games classical, rapid or blitz chess whenever the opportunity is there for it and he won’t have any mercy on his good old friend Mr Nepomniachtchi !