he came to Trinidad in 1999 to play in the Caribbean Open,
eleven-year-old Hikaru Nakamura created something of a sensation.
Here was a child who should have been seeking honours in
the junior ranks but playing in an open tournament that
attracted, among its 52 contestants, six grandmasters, five
international masters, three FIDE masters and a group of
top local and regional players. While Nakamura did not finish
among the winners, his youthful charisma and zest for the
game was endearing.
As Double Rooks recalls, his most memorable performances
were not against his tournament rivals but in the relentless
victories he scored against all comers in the blitz play
room every evening. He delighted in the excitement of rapid
chess and was unbeatable even in one-minute games.
The tournament, the first FIDE-recognised international
event held in T&T, was made more memorable by Nakamuras
amiable presence. It was obvious even then that he was another
prodigy destined to achieve great things in the chess world.
Since then, he has impressively fulfilled that promise,
earning the Grandmaster title at the age of 15 years and
79 days, breaking by three months the record of Bobby Fischer
for the youngest American to achieve this distinction.
On June 20, 2005, the young Japanese-American was selected
as the 19th Frank Samford Chess Fellow, receiving a grant
of US $32,000 to further his chess education and competition.
This fellowship is another indication of the high regard
that many civilised societies hold for the sport of chess
and those who excel in it.
In reporting on the recent 16th annual North Åmerican
Open, Chess Life hailed Nakamura as ranking second only
to Gata Kamsky in the US. After the smoke and dust
of battle cleared, the magazine recounted, one
man was left standing above all the others in the 78-player
Open Section. Hikaru Nakamura, showing a handsome, mature
face despite his tender age of 19, was the clear cmhampion.
He pocketed $6,940 as the lions share of the Open
On the FIDE ratings list of January 2006, Nakamura had an
ELO rating of 2644, ranking him 65th in the world and then
third in the US behind Kamsky and Alexander Onischuk. This
rating also placed him sixth in the world among junior players
and behind only Teimour Radjabov, Magnus Carlsen and Sergey
Karjakin among players born in 1987 or later.
As of January 2007, Nakamura had a FIDE rating of 2651,
54 points behind Kamsky.
The young Japanese-American is regarded as an aggressive
player who is reluctant to draw games early, having once
said in an interview that there is no point in taking
draws. He prefers instead to exploit all prospective
winning chances, giving him a style of play described by
the US Chess Federation as marked by astonishing creativity...relentless
determination...the making of unexpected moves and the will
to win. He says the bishop is his favourie chess piece.
Nakamura has endeared himself to the US chess world not
only by his uncommon enthusiasm for the sport but also for
being much more approachable than other players of his ability.
Just as he did in Port-of-Spain, he played numerous one-minute
games with all comers in the lobby of the tournament hotel
after winning the US Çhampionship in 2004. He is
regarded as easily the best blitz player in the US, and
one of the best in the world.
Nakamura finished the event without a loss, scoring seven
out of nine points, and defeating GM Gregory Kaidanov, then
the USs top-ranked player.
The 19-year-old GM was born in Osaka, Japan, to a Japanese
father and an Åmerican mother and moved with his parents
to the US when he was two years old. He began playing chess
at age seven and was coached by his Sri Lankan stepfather
FIDE Master Sunil Weeramantry.
Although chess dominates his life, Nakamura has not given
up his academic studies. Å student of Dickson College
in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he expects to graduate in 2010.
Those who remember the 11-year-old blitz juggernaut at the
Hilton eight years ago, will be following his chess career
with great interest.