Hikaru Nakamura: Rise Of The Machines!

Hikaru Nakamura: Rise Of The Machines!

| 19 | Tactics

In one of my previous articles, I compared Mikhail Tal to a chess version of the Terminator. To be fair, except for his ultra aggressive playing style, the always-friendly Mikhail Tal looked like anything but this terrifying creature played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In today's sequel, I offer you another chess personality for the role of a chess cyborg. Just like Mikhail Tal, Hikaru Nakamura is well known for his combative play, but he also has some qualities that make him look like the real Chess Terminator.  

Just imagine Hikaru wearing his trademark Ray-Bans, drinking Red Bull and doing some chess trash talk.

Or let me put it this way, if both Tal and Nakamura held semi-automatic rifles and said the same iconic phrase: "Come with me if you want to live," who would you go with?

Just like in the article about Tal, today we are going to see how Nakamura won his first national title.  There are many similarities between two of them: both Tal and Nakamura were amongst the youngest players in their tournaments, and even though both of them were already quite strong, no one really expected them to win the title.

Let's follow Hikaru round by round to see how he did it.


Round 1:

The start of the tournament was very shaky for Nakamura. Despite playing White against a much weaker opponent, Hikaru experienced some problems earlier in the game.  Even at the very end of the game where Black committed an unexplainable blunder, the logical result should have been a draw.

Round 2:

We already saw many endgames with opposite-colored bishops in the games of Mikhail Tal (for example here). Now Nakamura gives a master class in this difficult endgame.

Round 3:

The game of the eventual co-winners of the tournament is a real mystery. A draw was agreed in a complicated position where any result would have been possible. Nakamura is well known for his "no draws" approach, so why did he offer a draw after playing 25. Bxb7?

My only guess is that due to a car accident just before the tournament, GM Alex Stripunsky had to play all his games wearing dark shades. Maybe to Nakamura he looked like a fellow terminator?

Round 4:

This game is very impressive! At the time of this championship, Nick DeFirmian was still one of the top U.S. grandmasters.  He was especially strong with White pieces. So how can you beat a monster theoretician who became a grandmaster before Nakamura was born?

This game gives you an answer. After just one dubious move of DeFirmian, Nakamura creates a positional masterpiece. There are no real combinations in this game, but I give you a chance to test your positional skills.  Play like Nakamura!

Round 5:

GM Sergey Kudrin is an easy chess player to prepare for. For the last quarter of century he meets the first move 1.d4 exclusively with the Gruenfeld Defense. Nakamura did an impressive home preparation and got a pretty much winning position right out of the opening, but then miracles began...

What a game!

Round 6:

We already analyzed this bizarre game here and here.

There was a free day in the tournament before the decisive last three rounds, and most of the particpants used this opportunity to "recharge" their batteries. But cyborgs need no rest, so Nakamura spent most of the free day playing blitz!

To be continued in part two next week!


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