Hikaru Nakamura's Most Brilliant Moves On

Hikaru Nakamura's Most Brilliant Moves On

| 68 | Chess Players

Happy birthday to GM Hikaru Nakamura! The mega chess star has been entertaining fans online for two decades and counting and his bullet and blitz skills are legendary. He has set the world record for most bullet victories against unique players in an hour, he has won far more Titled Tuesday tournaments than anyone else, and he has won three consecutive Speed Chess Championships from 2018-2020.

Hikaru Nakamura
The last three SCC main events have all been won by Nakamura.

Nakamura is the biggest chess streamer on Twitch and was the first to reach a million followers on the platform. He also has one of the top Youtube channels in the chess world. is celebrating by highlighting some of Nakamura's most brilliant moves he has played on the site. Every one of these moves you see below received the coveted double-exclamation mark from our Game Review chess engine, rather than a human annotator.

We also know from our new Insights feature that between blitz and bullet, Hikaru has made more than 5,000 brilliant moves in his time on This means there were a lot of games and moves to run through and choose from, so this is by no means a complete collection, but here are some of our favorite recent brilliant moves from Hikaru.


Crushing Queen Sacs

One of the best feelings in chess is giving up the most powerful piece in exchange for immediate victory. If you give Hikaru a forced checkmate, he will find it, even if it requires the queen sac.

We begin with a devastating final move against GM Daniel Naroditsky, reminiscent of the famous Levitzky-Marshall game, where pristine pawn cover in front of the king was also no match for a queen.

This finish against GM Srinath Narayanan may be a bit simpler, but it is still a striking conclusion to a sharp game.

The discovered check here against IM Liam Vrolijk that follows adds another layer to the mate. Still no problem for Hikaru.

Even when his opponent has two queens, Hikaru will calmly give up his own when called for. IM Mahammad Muradli may have expected 36.Bxc1 and the game continues, but routine recaptures sometimes don't cut it.

Hikaru Nakamura
Giorgio A. Tsoukalos has aliens; Nakamura has queen sacs. Photo source: Maria Emelianova/

Tactical Force

Hikaru has routinely dazzled his Twitch audience with his speedy and incredibly deep calculations which he streams live, but even if you don't catch his tactics live, his crisp calculation of forcing variations and clean tactics is always apparent.

Here is a surprise promotion tactic in one-minute bullet against bullet specialist GM Andrew Tang.

Far from the only time Hikaru's dominated at bullet.

If a bullet whiz like GM Tang couldn't withstand Hikaru's tactics, what chance does an anonymous master have?

Even GothamChess is not immune from Hikaru's tactical blows. IM Levy Rozman began this game in a position from the Immortal Game, with an extra move for White to boot, creating a +5 starting edge. Hikaru won anyway and saved his best move for last.

Tactical Finesse

Sometimes stunning tactics don't win instantly, but are instead they lead to some major positional gains. For example, see the positional pressure applied here to GM Jose Martinez thanks to a fork threat.

Hikaru Nakamura
You'd smile too after playing tactics like these. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

When it comes to the story of, you can't tell it without either Hikaru or GM Robert Hess. In this game, however, the "World Hess Hampion" finds his position in trouble due to a pin on the long diagonal.

Finally, GM Velimir Ivic's position is hit by back-to-back deflection tactics against his back rank, reminiscent somewhat of Adams-Torre 1920.

Resourceful Defense

While Hikaru's attacking skills have been on display thus far, it is perhaps his defensive skills that really separate him from the rest of the elite online field. Hikaru constantly finds tenacious defenses with seconds on his clock. Getting a winning position against Hikaru is hard, but actually winning a winning position is multiple times harder.

No defensive resource makes quite the same impression as turning a dead loss into stalemate, like Hikaru does here against GM Zbigniew Pakleza.

Defense comes in other forms, too. Sometimes returning material is the best way to hold onto the chances in a position. This one comes from Hikaru's speed run to a 3000 rating on his "Trix" account.

Here a desperado queen sac instantly turns a complex position into a winning endgame against IM Minh Le.

h3 Will Make You Pay

This is a unique one, but when you have White against Hikaru, you need to watch out for that h3-square. He will make you pay if you don't and we already saw one example in his queen sac against Danya. Here are two more examples—neither checks nor captures, but they lead to a win.

Hikaru Nakamura
Hikaru focusing intently on something. A sacrifice on h3, perhaps? Photo: Maria Emelianova/

First Hikaru pays an homage to GM Nigel Short with a king walk against GM Benjamin Bok.

Then he mirrors GM Alexei Shirov with ...Bh3!! but here Hikaru has an entirely different point in a game against GM Salem Saleh.

The Positional Exchange Sac

We doubt Hikaru took more than a few seconds to decide on these positional exchange sacrifices. Little calculation is needed, but it is still lovely to see such domination on display.

This one is particularly striking aesthetically, with the rook standing proudly amidst four of Black's pieces in the immediate vicinity attacking the key d6-square.

Positional sacrifices usually take time to bear fruit, but this one ended the game in just 18 moves against GM Zhamsaran Tsydypov.


Of course, playing a brilliant move is great, but playing a brilliant game is even better. Here are two of Hikaru's most accurate and pretty blitz games, each featuring multiple brilliant moves and worthy of inclusion in any best games collection.

Hikaru has won 12 Titled Tuesday tournaments in 2021 alone (including achieving an unprecedented +11 -0 =0 perfect score on August 17), but his victory on May 4 wouldn't have happened without this persistent effort against GM Vladimir Dobrov. At the game's climax, there are not one but two queen sacs. At first, the queen is untouchable due to mate; two moves later, it is sacrificed again, this time forcing mate.

Hikaru Nakamura
A common victory thumbnail in our Titled Tuesday reports.

We end with perhaps Hikaru's most beautiful overall game from the entire collection, one against GM Hans Niemann. No fewer than four of Hikaru's last five moves receive the engine's double exclam!!

Happy birthday to Hikaru! What was your favorite brilliant move from this article? Let us know in the comments below!

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