Wednesday 18th April, 2007

 

After Nakamura’s visit to Trinidad...

Child prodigy beats Fischer in GM race

 
 
 
 
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WHEN 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 Nakamura’s 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 lion’s share of the Open Prize.”

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 US’s 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.

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