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. Ranked ninth on the planet with a FIDE rating of 2767, Nakamura enters the Showdown in Saint Louis on a hot streak, having lost just one of his last 22 games during the 2014-15 FIDE Grand Prix. Now halfway through the cycle, Nakamura’s recent play has the 26-year-old ranked second in the Grand Prix standings, in great position for his first-ever appearance in a Candidates Tournament.
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 quickly confirmed his place as one of chess’ great elites, shocking the world with a sweet sixteen appearance in the 2004 FIDE World Cup, and then grabbing his first of three U.S. Championships the following year.
Nakamura 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 only gets better as he gets faster, gracing the top of the world in Blitz chess when FIDE began publishing its list earlier this year. He did, however, miss his chance to grab the title at the FIDE World Blitz Championship this past June, claimed instead by Carlsen. Nakamura finished with bronze in the event, and currently sits second on FIDE’s Blitz rating. He is also a talented variant player, winning the 2009 Chess960 World Championship – a title he took from Levon Aronian.