Nail It Like Nepo!

Ian Nepomniachtchi's road from grandmaster to becoming Magnus Carlsen's challenger in 2021 has been long. GM in 2007 and champion of Russia for the first time in 2010, Ian only reached the elite in recent years. His victory in Ekaterinburg came in his first Candidates tournament.

In this book, Grandmaster Zenon Franco analyzes Nepo chess, played one at a time”, through its 30 best victories and several fragments, considering its style, its strengths, as well as its weaknesses and how it has overcome them.

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I'm pleased to present my book of Ian Nepomniachtchi's greatest victories. As soon as I embarked on the rewarding task of writing it, I naturally studied Nepomniachtchi's career more deeply than I had in the past. I was impressed by the originality of his play and his ambitious attitude. Nepomniachtchi's career is already quite long and successful, but until recent years he was overshadowed by other great players of his generation.

Their often excellent results were sometimes followed by poor performances. However, things started to change in recent years: their results are now much more stable and winning the 2020-2021 Candidates Tournament is obviously a big leap forward.

In writing this book I included, as I do whenever available, comments from the players themselves, as they are an important source of information. I must say that for this book I found fewer direct comments from the protagonist than in some of my previous works, but the ones I did manage to find are particularly enlightening. Nepomniachtchi is an excellent commentator: he offers clear explanations of his thoughts, both from the standpoint of the chess situation on the board and from other factors. We'll see how important the practical side of the game is to him.

His initial preparation for the games is remarkable. It has several ways of handling openings, as we shall see. For example, he usually makes unexpected decisions for his opponent. Some of your "surprises" are new ideas, while others are just moves that sometimes cause your opponent to react in a questionable way. On other occasions he prefers to play in the secondary lines, or even bets on continuations that are not so familiar to him (and that sometimes are not even in his repertoire), agreeing to discuss the opening in the theoretical terrain of his rival.

This book contains 30 complete pieces and a series of excerpts that give more context to each commented grief. It is written in a play-by-play format: readers are challenged to solve exercises in relevant and instructive pieces of the game, and the author will also answer questions from a hypothetical student.

I think this is a good way to study chess and also to teach.

It has been a pleasure to write about the creative style of "Nepo" and I hope the reader appreciates the games of the 2021 World Championship challenger as much as I do.

GM Zenon Franco Ocampos
Ponteareas, July of 2021
Dedicated to Judea

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Zenon Franco
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