Awarded the title of IM in 2001 and that of GM in 2003, Nakamura won the US Championship in 2004, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2019. He was the world's second-ranked player as of October 2015.
Christopher Hikaru Nakamura was born December 9, 1987 in Hirakata in Osaka, Japan, to a Japanese father and an American mother. He is the younger brother of Asuka Nakamura. When he was two years old, he and his mother and brother moved to the United States. He started playing chess when he was seven, coached by his stepfather, Sunil Weeramantry. He was the youngest player in US history to defeat an International Master (Jay R Bonin) in a USCF-rated game (10 years, 0 months), to become a National Master (USCF) (10 years 79 days), to defeat a Grandmaster (Arthur Bisguier) in a USCF-rated game (10 years, 117 days), and to become an IM (13 years 2 months), although most of these records have subsequently been surpassed. In 2003 he became the USA's youngest-ever grandmaster (15 years 2 months and 19 days), a record later broken by Fabiano Caruana and Ray Robson.
<Youth> In 2001 he won the World U14 championship.
<National> When he won the Chessmaster US Championship 2005 (2004) (on tiebreak from Alexander Yevgenyevich Stripunsky), he was the youngest player to win the US championship since Robert James Fischer. He also won the US Championship (2009) outright by half a point ahead of the joint runners-up Robert Lee Hess and Alexander Onischuk, and the US Championship (2012) outright by a full point ahead of the winner of the 2010 and 2011 events, Gata Kamsky. He won the national title for a fourth time when he took out the US Championship (2015) with 8/11, half a point ahead of the outright runner up Ray Robson.
<World championship cycle> Seeded number 87 and aged 16, Nakamura reached the final 16 in the FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (2004), defeating 46th seed Sergey Volkov, 19th seeded Aleksej Gennadyevich Aleksandrov, and 51st seed Alexander Lastin in the preliminary rounds before bowing out to number 3 seed and finalist Michael Adams in the round of 16. He qualified to play in the World Cup (2013) through his rating, and defeated Peruvian WGM Deysi Estela Cori Tello in the first round, Azeri GM Eltaj Safarli in the second round and Indian GM Baskaran Adhiban in the third round, but was eliminated in the Round of 16 (fourth round) by Ukrainian GM Anton Korobov. He qualified by rating to participate in the World Cup (2015), and is doing so although he has already qualified for the Candidates Tournament of 2016 via the Grand Prix series of 2014-15. He defeated Richmond Phiri, Samuel Shankland in the first two rounds, as well as Ian Nepomniachtchi in a third round thriller that Nakamura won in the deciding Armageddon blitz tiebreaker game after the three previous sets of rapid and blitz tiebreakers had been drawn. In the Round of 16 (the fourth round) he won against Michael Adams by 1.5-0.5 but lost to Pavel Eljanov in the quarter final, bowing out of the event.
<Grand Prix Series 2012-2013> He started the Grand Prix series with last at the FIDE Grand Prix London (2012). After bouncing back into contention with outright second in the FIDE Grand Prix Zug (2013), a poor showing at the FIDE Grand Prix Thessaloniki (2013) eliminated him from contention for the top 2 spots that would have qualified him for the 2014 Candidates Tournament. (1) He did however place 3rd behind Fabiano Caruana and Boris Gelfand in the FIDE Grand Prix Paris (2013) to accumulate 300 GP points and place 6th in the 2012-13 Grand Prix series. Subsequently, his only chance to play in the 2014 Candidates Tournament was to be nominated as the Organizer's wild card once the venue was settled, however this did not eventuate.
<Grand Prix Series 2014-2015> Nakamura competed in the first leg of the series at the FIDE Grand Prix Baku (2014), where he scored 6/11 to place 3rd-7th, half a point behind the joint leaders Caruana and Gelfand. He therefore kicked off with a GP tally of 82 points, representing the even distribution of points applicable to each place from 3rd to 7th. In the second leg of the series, namely the FIDE Grand Prix Tashkent (2014), he placed =2nd and stood in 2nd place overall, excellently situated to take advantage of the opportunity to qualify for the Candidates tournament in 2016. He took full advantage of this in FIDE Grand Prix Khanty-Mansiysk (2015), when he came =1st to qualify for the Candidates Tournament of 2016.
In 2005, he won the 7th Foxwoods Open (2005).
In 2007, he won both the National Open (2007) that was held in Las Vegas and the Casino de Barcelona (2007).
The following year, he beat Bu Xiangzhi in the play-off to win the Gibraltar Chess Festival (2008) Masters Open with 8.0/10.
Nakamura tied for first with Evgeny Najer at the World Open (2009) after taking two last-day byes, each worth half a point and won the Donostia Chess Festival (2009) in tiebreak over Ruslan Ponomariov.
In 2010, he came =4th at Corus Group A (2010), and was equal top scorer in the victorious Rising Stars team in the Rising Stars - Experience (2010) tournament. He scored 5/9 (+1 -0 =8) at the Tal Memorial (2010), placing =4th, and finished the year with =4th place in the London Chess Classic (2010).
Nakamura began 2011 by taking clear first place at the A-Group of the prestigious category 20 Tata Steel Group A (2011) (formerly Corus) with a 9/13 score (+6 -1 =6) and a 2880 performance rating, ahead of a powerful field including the world's top four players: World Champion Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian and former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. In June 2011, Nakamura placed =3rd in the Bazna King's Tournament (2011), in July he scored 4.5/10 at Dortmund Sparkassen (2011), in August he came =1st in the 2011 US Open Championship with 7.5/9 and in October he came =3rd in the Grand Slam Chess Final (2011) with 5/10. The following month, he suffered a lapse in form at the category 22 Tal Memorial (2011), scoring 3/9 and coming last but recovered to finish 2011 with second place behind Kramnik at the category 20 London Chess Classic (2011), scoring +4 -1 =3 (TPR of 2887).
He started 2012 by coming =2nd (4th on count back) at the Reggio Emilia (2011), half a point behind Anish Giri, and then came =5th at Tata Steel Group A (2012), scoring 7.5/13 (+3 -1 =9). He followed up in April 2012 with 1st at the 6th Annual Grand Pacific Open held in British Columbia. He competed in the Tal Memorial (2012) held in June, scoring 4/9. In July/August 2012, Nakamura placed a solid =3rd at the Biel Chess Festival (2012), but underperformed at the European Club Cup (2012), although in October 2012, he recovered to some extent by winning the 4 player double round robin 16th Unive Tournament (2012) (crown group) with 4.5/6 (+3 -0 =3). Nakamura finished 2012 with a strong 3rd placement in the London Chess Classic (2012) behind Carlsen and Kramnik, adding enough rating points to restore him to the top 10.
2013 started with a modest 7/13 result for outright 6th at the Tata Steel Group A (2013) event. He then followed up in May 2013 with equal 2nd at the Norway Chess (2013) with 5.5/9, half a point behind Sergey Karjakin and 3rd on tiebreak behind Carlsen; he also placed =2nd with 6/9 at the preliminary Norway Chess (Blitz) (2013) held to determine the draw for the main tournament, and earned the right to play with the White pieces in 5 games out of 9. In June 2013, he contested the category 22 Tal Memorial (2013), and was outright leader after 6 rounds. However, he lost the last 3 game to place 6th with 4.5/9, winning more games (4) and losing more games (4) than any other player in the tournament. Soon after, he came =3rd in the Houston Open in July 2013. In September he played in the quadrangular double round robin category 22 Sinquefield Cup (2013), and was in contention for first place until the last round, when he drew against Gata Kamsky finishing second with 3.5/6 (+2 -1 =3; TPR 2863) behind Magnus Carlsen.
Nakamura's first event in 2014 was the category 20 Tata Steel Masters (2014) where he scored 5/11 (+2 -3 =6) to shed a few rating points for FIDE's February rating list. He next competed in the category 23 Zurich Chess Challenge (2014) in which he placed 4th with 2/5 after coming agonisingly close to defeating World Champion Magnus Carlsen. He came 2nd with 3.5/5 in the Zurich Chess Challenge (Rapid) (2014) which followed the standard time event, to remain in 4th in the overall event with the results of the standard and rapid events combined. In April, he participated in the inaugural Gashimov Memorial (2014), a category XXII 6-player DRR event inaugurated in honor of the late Azeri grandmaster, scoring 5/10 and placing =3rd behind Carlsen and Caruana. At the London Chess Classic (2014), he scored 2.5/5 to place 4th.
Nakamura's start to 2015 was to win the powerful Tradewise Gibraltar (2015) with 8.5/10 (+7 =3), and return a PB on his live rating and his new FIDE rating due in March. Despite cracking the 2800 barrier in the live ratings during the RR category 22 Zurich Chess Challenge (2015) held in February, he placed outright 2nd in the standard portion of the event behind Anand, ahead of Kramnik, Karjakin, Aronian and Caruana respectively. His second place in the Zurich Chess Challenge (Rapid) (2015) with 3/5 made him =1st with Anand in the overall event, but he won an Armageddon tiebreaker with the former World Champion to win first prize. His good form continued at the category 22 Norway Chess (2015) event, where he was undefeated to place =2nd (3rd on a narrow SB tiebreak), behind Topalov and alongside Anand with 6/9 and a TPR of 2900. In September he competed in the second leg of the inaugural Grand Chess Tour at Sinquefield Cup (2015), and finished equal second with 5/9 behind Aronian in what amounted to a par for rating performance. October saw Nakamura compete in the lucrative Millionaire Chess (2015) tournament, which he won after battling through a complicated tiebreak system that involved a playoff to decide a playoff for fourth, and then winning a knockout rapid game semi-final that was called after round 7 of 9 of the main standard time event. He finished the year with a poor performance at the London Chess Classic (2015) where he came in toward the bottom of the field after scoring 4/9.
He started 2016 with an upbeat result at the Tradewise Gibraltar (2016), winning first prize after a rapid and blitz game tiebreak that ended in an Armageddon victory against runner-up Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
<Olympiads> Nakamura has represented the U.S. in the Olympiads of 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, helping his country to the bronze medal in 2006 and 2008. He scored 6/10 during the Chess Olympiad (2010) on top board for the USA and a performance rating of 2741 and 6/9 in the Chess Olympiad (2012), coming in fourth on top board. His overall score in Olympiads is 31 points accumulated in 49 games played.
<World Team Championship> Nakamura played board 1 for the USA at the World Team Championship (2010), scoring individual gold and team silver. He also played top board at the FIDE World Team Championship (2013), winning individual silver and helping his team to 4th place in the event.
<European Club Cup> He played top board for the SK Husek Vienna in the European Club Cup (2009) and top board for the Italian club Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova in 2012 and 2013, second board for the Italian club in 2014 and board 3 for the same club in 2015. He scored individual bronze in 2013 and 2014.
Nakamura is one of the world's best rapid and blitz players, and the world's best bullet (one-minute) player. He regularly plays on the internet, usually at the ICC where he is the highest rated player (userid <Smallville>), and at Playchess, where he is known as <Star Wars>. He has set many rating records under different categories. In 2008, he challenged and broke blitz king Alexander Grischuk ’s record at ICC of 3737, reaching 3750. Grischuk subsequently challenged Nakamura to a 20 game 3 minutes blitz match, which Nakamura took out convincingly by 14.5-5.5. (2) He also won the first ICC Open in 2011 ahead of over 2000 other contestants. (3)
In 2007, he won the annual Corsica Masters (2007), defeating Rustam Kasimdzhanov in the final. One of the most convincing demonstrations of Nakamura’s ability as a rapid player was when he won the Cap d'Agde (2008), defeating Bu Xiangzhi, Anatoly Karpov and Vassily Ivanchuk in the playoff matches to take first prize in a field that included Carlsen. Nakamura also defeated Carlsen to take out the BNbank Blitz (2009). He was runner-up to Ivanchuk at the Cap d'Agde (2010) in the playoff. He also defeated Rising Stars team mate Anish Giri for the right to play at Amber 2011.
In 2012, Nakamura won the trifecta of silver medals at the SportAccord World Mind Games (Men's Rapid) (2012), the World Mind Games (Men's Blitz) and the World Mind Games (Men's Blindfold) events. He closed out 2013 by winning the London Chess Classic (Knockout) (2013), defeating Gelfand in the final by 1.5-0.5, after qualifying for the final by winning the preliminary London Chess Classic (Group C) (2013).
In June 2014, he competed in both the FIDE World Rapid Championship (2014) and the FIDE World Blitz Championship (2014) that were held in Dubai. In the former, he scored a relatively meager 8.5/15, losing 40 rapid rating points, while he was much more successful in the latter, scoring 16/21, being the runner up by a point behind the winner Magnus Carlsen. His blitz rating skyrocketed to over 2900. Subsequently he competed in the Super Rapidplay Open that was a companion event to the 2014 London Classic (see above), winning the event with an almost perfect score of 9.5/10. He also competed in the London Elite Player Blitz that was the other companion event, and placed =1st with 6/10.
The 2016 edition of the Zurich Chess Challenge was a two-part event, which kicked off with a preliminary Zurich Chess Challenge (Opening Blitz) (2016) to determine who had three whites in the five rounds of the Zurich Chess Challenge (2016) (rapid). Nakamura placed first in the Opening Blitz earning the use of the white pieces in three of the five rounds of the first section of the actual tournament, the round robin rapid event where he placed equal first alongside Anand. Nakamura playing the black pieces three times in the second section of the event, the Zurich Chess Challenge (Blitz) (2016), again placed equal first with Anand to tie the overall score, but won on tiebreak to take first prize.
He has authored the book Bullet Chess: One Minute to Mate.
In December 2004, Nakamura played the best-of-six game Karjakin - Nakamura Match (2004) in the "Duelo de los Jovenes Prodigios" (Duel of the Wonder Boys) in Cuernavaca, Estado de Morelos, Mexico, winning 4.5-1.5 (+4 -1 =1). In May 2011 at the St Louis chess club, he won the Nakamura - Ponomariov Match (2011) by 3.5-2.5 (+2 =3 -1). In June 2014, he played for the Cez Trophy Navara - Nakamura Match (2014) in Praha, Czechia, which involved a 4-game standard time match against David Navara. He won the match by 3.5-0.5.
In August 2009, Nakamura defeated Aronian in Mainz, Germany to become the 960 world champion and remained unchallenged as such until Carlsen defeated him in a match in February 2018 by a margin of 14-10.
Ratings and rankings
Nakamura's highest ranking as a Junior (U20) was #3 in April 2004 and 2005. He first broke into the world's top 100 in October 2004 when he was still 16 years old, and has remained in the top 100 continuously since that time. He reached the world's top 10 in January 2011, and has remained in that elite group continuously since January 2013. In September 2015 his rating reached 2814 despite which he was still ranked world #4 behind Carlsen, Anand and Topalov respectively. However in October 2016, his ranking reached its highest point so far, 2816, when his ranking was world #2, his highest ranking so far.
Sources and references
(1) Wikipedia article: FIDE Grand Prix 2012–2013 (2) http://dod.ru/chess/game/Crest/Smal...; (3) Further details are at this post: Hikaru Nakamura; (4) https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast... (podcast interview by Ben Johnson through iTunes); Live rating list: http://www.2700chess.com/; Wikipedia article: Hikaru Nakamura