Bio

Hikaru Nakamura

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2767
Residence: 
USA
Age: 
27
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

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.

Levon Aronian

Title: 
Grandmaster
Rating: 
2797
Residence: 
Armenia
Age: 
32
Status: 
Accepted
Bio: 

Grandmaster Levon Aronian is a walking celebrity and the pride of chess-strong Armenia, having been declared Sportsman of the Year twice, Honored Master of Sport in 2009 and the 2012 Person of the Year by a leading national magazine. The 32-year-old is just the sixth player in history to cross the elite 2800 threshold, and reached a career-best 2835 earlier this year. Ironically, Aronian’s arrival to the Showdown in Saint Louis -- currently ranked No. 4 in the world and rated 2797 -- comes as part of a slump by his own exceptional standards: It is the first time Aronian has been out of the world’s top-3 since November 2010.

Taught to move the pieces at 9 years old, Aronian was quick to appear on the world stage, winning the 1994 World Youth Chess Championship U12. In 2002, at 20, he won the Armenian Championship and later the World Junior Championship in India. But his mainstay in the world’s elite was marked in 2005 when he won the World Cup in Russia and cracked the world’s top-10 for the first time. Since then, Aronian has collected a staggering amount of elite titles.

He played the first board on three gold-medalist Armenian Chess Olympiad teams (2006, 2008 and 2012), also grabbing the individual gold in 2012. He has won the FIDE Grand Prix twice, the prestigious Tal Memorial three times, and the Corus/Tata Steel Chess Tournament four times, including the 75th anniversary of the event earlier this year where he beat out the rest of the field by 1.5 points.

Not just confined to classical chess, Aronian was the 2009 World Rapid Champion as well as the  2010 World Blitz Champion, though both titles have since been claimed by the now triple-crown World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Aronian is also a talented chess variant player, becoming the Chess960 World Champion in 2006. He successfully defended the title to Viswanathan Anand in 2007, though lost it in 2009 to Hikaru Nakamura.

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