Sinquefield Cup Contenders: Hikaru Nakamura
By Brian Jerauld
Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura is the United States’ No. 1 chess player and the leading hopeful to bring America its first World Championship since Bobby Fischer. Born in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, Japan, the 25-year-old is now one of the world’s elite, currently ranked seventh on the planet with a FIDE rating of 2774.
A child prodigy in every sense of the word, Nakamura made a fast impact on United States chess by knocking down nearly every age record on his way to the top. Nakamura was at one time the youngest-ever American master in history (10 years, 79 days), the youngest American international master (13 years, 2 months) and eventually the youngest American grandmaster (15 years, 79 days) – breaking Fischer’s record by three months.
Nakamura has collected numerous titles and championships over the past decade-plus, first splashing onto the scene as the 2001 U.S. Junior Champion at 13 years old. He was on his way to becoming a prominent figure on the scene by 2004, shocking the world with a sweet sixteen appearance in the FIDE World Cup, and then grabbing his first of three U.S. Championships the following year.
He is a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship (2005), the 2007 National Open champion, and a three-time North American Open champion. He was an individual bronze medalist in the 2006 and 2008 World Olympiad, as well as the gold-medalist on the first board of the 2010 World Team Championship, where the United States placed second.
Nakamura’s first win amongst the super elite came in 2011 at the notorious Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, finishing clear first of defending champion Magnus Carlsen, current World Champion Viswanathan Anand, as well as Levon Aronian – a performance that Garry Kasparov touted as the best by an American since 1895. He is also a talented variant player, winning the Chess960 World Championship 2009 – a title he took from Levon Aronian – and one of the best blitz players in the world today.
Leading up to the Sinquefield Cup, Nakamura has continued his rise in strength in 2013. After winning the Biel Blitz Championship last year, he padded his blitz prowess as the Tal Memorial Blitz champion this past June – popping his FIDE blitz rating up to a career-best 2879. He surrendered defense of his 2012 U.S. Championship – a crown that has since been taken by Gata Kamsky – in lieu of the Norway Super Tournament, where he tied Carlsen for second place. Just before arriving in Saint Louis, Nakamura made a return to the sweet 16 in the 2013 FIDE World Cup.
Nakamura holds a losing record against Aronian, with three wins to five losses and seven draws; and he is tied with Kamsky with one win to one loss, with six draws. He remains winless against Carlsen, however, losing seven times in 20 games.