Grandmaster Chef: Ian Nepomniachtchi

by Alexey Root
11/29/2020 – Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi is Russia’s number one player and the fourth highest-rated player in the world. National Master Mike Walder prepares a recipe inspired by an Instagram post and annotates Giri-Nepomniachtchi from the 2020 Candidates, a tournament where Nepomniachtchi is currently one of the co-leaders. WIM Alexey Root tells why Ian Nepomniachtchi is a Grandmaster Chef honoree, using four-letter words as headers. | Photo: Alina l’Ami

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.



Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi’s nickname, at least among Americans, is “Nepo.” For us, Nepo is easier to spell and say than Nepomniachtchi. While currently attention is focused on Nepo for being a co-leader, with Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, of the postponed 2020 Candidates, Nepo has a long history of excellent chess results.

His website prominently features three of his accomplishments, all of which are covered in ChessBase articles too: Winner of Dortmund 2018, 2010 Russian National Champion, and 2014 World Blitz Championship silver medalist. Nepo is part of the online 2020-2021 Champions Chess Tour, and played in its inaugural tournament, the Skilling Open.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Magnus Carlsen

Nepo sharing a laugh with world champion Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Pascal Simon


Even when Nepo loses, he is a gentleman with a sense of humor. For example, after losing as White to World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen during the 2019 Grand Chess Tour, Nepo put the kings on the white squares, signifying a win by White to the arbiter. Nepo and Carlsen exchanged smiles as they got up from the board. After losing and drawing games to players in the bottom half of the field at the 2019 Tata Steel tournament, Nepo tweeted that he was sharing points, like Robin Hood.


Besides Nepo and gent, another four-letter word describing Nepomniachtchi is DOTA. As Nepo’s Twitter bio states, “Chess grandmaster, Hearthstone & DOTA fan.” Nepo also plays DOTA under the name FrostNova. One Reddit thread states that Nepo has occasionally sponsored DOTA tournaments, websites, and teams on occasion. Nepo is described as a “very good guy actually, one of the pillar[s] of the Russian Dota community.” During the afore-mentioned 2014 World Rapid & Blitz, where Nepo took second, he wore a DOTA 2 shirt.

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Nepo wearing his Dota 2 t-shirt at the 2014 World Blitz Championship in Dubai


Normally this section would be titled “recipe,” but “dish” fits the “four-letter words as headers” theme. The dish was inspired by an Instagram post that showed Nepo celebrating Maslenitsa by cooking Russian pancakes. Walder slightly modified this blini recipe, then created toppings. For his two roommates and himself, Walder served the dish and toppings with sides of yogurt berry parfait, 2 espressos, and an americano. 

Blini by Mike Walder


  • Whole Buckwheat Flour, 1 1/3 cups
  • Warm Water, 1 1/2 cups
  • Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk, 2 Tablespoons
  • Instant yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons 
  • Eggs, 2 large, separated
  • Milk, 1/2 cup
  • Sugar, 1 teaspoon
  • Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Butter (unsalted), 4 Tablespoons, melted


  • Smoked salmon, 4 oz.
  • Crème fraîche, 3-6 Tablespoons
  • Caviar, as much as you like (optional)

Alternate topping

  • Ripe fruit, as many ounces as you want
  • Sweet Ricotta Cheese, 3-6 Tablespoons


  1. Mix the whole buckwheat flour, warm water, dry milk, and instant yeast together in a medium bowl. This combination is called “the sponge.” Cover and let rest for 1 hour.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, milk, sugar, and salt. Then mix this egg yolk combination with the sponge and let it rest, covered, for 45 minutes. While the batter rests, let the egg whites come to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°F and the stovetop surface or burner to 375°F (medium heat).
  4. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
  5. Just before cooking, whisk the melted butter into the batter, then fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.
  6. Cook the blini in a lightly-greased griddle or heavy skillet, placed on the stovetop surface. Use 3 Tablespoons of batter for each blini. Cook as you would pancakes, until the edges look dry and bubbles form that do not break. Flip and cook the second side for about one minute. Move the cooked blinis to the oven, add more grease to your griddle or skillet if needed, and repeat until you have used all the batter. Hold the blinis in the oven until ready to serve.
  7. Plate 3-4 blinis on top of each other, cover top blini with 1-2 Tablespoon(s) crème fraîche, put a slice of smoked salmon on top of the crème fraîche, and, optionally, add caviar on top of the salmon, as shown in the photo. Alternate topping not pictured; the berries shown are a side dish. Serves three people.


Analysing Giri v Nepomniachtchi from the 2020 Candidates after 24.Qb1-d3 while enjoying the dish and toppings with sides of yogurt berry parfait | Photo: Elliott Winslow


Grandmaster Anish Giri versus Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi from Round 1 of the 2020 Candidates tournament ended in a 73-move win by Nepo. The game was annotated in a previous ChessBase article; National Master Mike Walder annotates it here with cooking allusions.


Master Class Vol.11: Vladimir Kramnik

This DVD allows you to learn from the example of one of the best players in the history of chess and from the explanations of the authors (Pelletier, Marin, Müller and Reeh) how to successfully organise your games strategically, consequently how to keep y


Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register