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Early life[edit]

Nakamura was born in HirakataOsaka PrefectureJapan, to an American mother, Carolyn Merrow Nakamura, a classically trained musician and former public school teacher and a Japanese father, Shuichi Nakamura.[4][5] Nakamura has an older brother, Asuka.[6] When he was two years old, his family moved to the United States, and, a year later in 1990, his parents divorced.[7] He began playing chess at the age of seven and was coached by his Sri Lankan stepfather, FIDE Master and chess author Sunil Weeramantry.[8] Weeramantry began coaching the Nakamura brothers after noticing Asuka Nakamura winning the National Kindergarten Championship in 1992, which led to him developing a relationship with their mother.[6]

Chess prodigy[edit]

At age 10, he became the youngest American to beat an International Master, when he defeated Jay Richard Bonin at the Marshall Chess Club.[6][9] Also at age 10, Nakamura became the youngest player to achieve the title of chess master from the United States Chess Federation, breaking the record previously set by Vinay Bhat (Nakamura's record stood until 2008 when Nicholas Nip achieved the master title at the age of 9 years and 11 months). In 1999 Nakamura won the Laura Aspis Prize, given annually to the top USCF-rated player under age 13. In 2003, at age 15 years and 79 days, Nakamura solidified his reputation as a chess prodigy, becoming the youngest American to earn the grandmaster title, breaking the record of Bobby Fischer by three months.[10][11] (Nakamura's record was subsequently broken by Fabiano Caruana in 2007, followed by Ray Robson in 2009, and further lowered by Samuel Sevian in 2014.)

Chess career[edit]

In April 2004, Nakamura achieved a fourth-place finish in the "B" group at the Corus tournament at Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands.[12]

Nakamura qualified for the FIDE World Chess Championship 2004, played in Tripoli, Libya, and reached the fourth round, defeating grandmasters Sergey VolkovAleksej Aleksandrov, and Alexander Lastin before falling to England's Michael Adams, the tournament's third-seeded participant and eventual runner-up.

On June 20, 2005, Nakamura was selected as the 19th Frank Samford Chess Fellow, receiving a grant of $32,000 to further his chess education and competition.[13]

Nakamura won the 2005 U.S. Chess Championship (held in November and December 2004), scoring seven points over nine rounds to tie grandmaster Alex Stripunsky for first place. Nakamura defeated Stripunsky in two straight rapidplay playoff games to claim the title and become the youngest national champion since Fischer. Nakamura finished the tournament without a loss and, in the seventh round, defeated grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov, then the nation's top-ranked player.

Following that victory, Nakamura played a challenge match dubbed the "Duelo de Jóvenes Prodigios" in Mexico against Ukrainian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin and defeated his fellow prodigy by 4½–1½.[14]

In November and December 2005, Nakamura competed in the FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, seeded 28th (of 128 players) but failed to advance beyond the first round. He lost each of his two games to Indian grandmaster Surya Ganguly.[15]

In 2006, Nakamura helped the U.S. team win the bronze medal in the Chess Olympiad at Turin, Italy, playing on the third board behind Gata Kamsky and 2006 U.S. Champion Alexander Onischuk. In the same year, he won the 16th North American Open in Las Vegas.[16]

In January 2007, Nakamura shared second place at the GibTelecom Masters in Gibraltar.[17] He placed joint first in the tournament the following year, finishing with five straight wins to tie with Chinese GM Bu Xiangzhi, whom he then proceeded to beat in the rapidplay playoff.[18]

In October 2007, Nakamura won the Magistral D'Escacs tournament in Barcelona[19] and the Corsican circuit rapid chess tournament.[20]

Nakamura won the 2008 Finet Chess960 Open in Mainz, Germany.[21] In November 2008, he won the Cap d'Agde Rapid Tournament in Cap d'Agde, defeating Anatoly Karpov in the semifinals and Vassily Ivanchuk in the finals.[22] In February 2009 he came joint third at the 7th Gibtelecom Masters in Gibraltar, again finishing strongly with 4½/5 to end the event on 7½/10.[23]

2009: Second U.S. Championship and other tournament successes[edit]

Nakamura won the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship (St Louis, Missouri, May 2009), scoring 7/9 to take clear first ahead of 17-year-old GM-elect Robert Hess, who shared second with 6½.[24]

In July 2009, Nakamura won the Donostia-San Sebastian Chess Festival, tying with former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov with 6½/9 before defeating Ponomariov in a blitz playoff to win the title over a field including former undisputed world champion Anatoly Karpov, former FIDE world champions Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Ponomariov, 2009 World Junior champion Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Peter Svidler among others.[25] In August 2009, Nakamura became the 960 World Chess Champion, beating GM Levon Aronian 3½–½ in Mainz, Germany.

In November 2009, Nakamura participated in the BNbank blitz tournament in Oslo, Norway. He reached the final by winning all 12 of his games. In the championship, he faced the world No. 2 and reigning World Blitz Champion Magnus Carlsen. Nakamura won the match 3–1, further cementing his reputation as one of the best blitz players in the world, despite having not been invited to the 2009 World Blitz championship.[26][27]

Nakamura skipped the Chess World Cup 2009 in favour of the London Chess Classic in December 2009. Although he drew with the black pieces against eventual winner Magnus Carlsen and with white against former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, Nakamura failed to win a game during the tournament and ended in seventh place out of eight.[28]

2010: Gold medalist and top-ten player[edit]

Nakamura began 2010 playing first board for the United States at the World Team Chess Championship held in Bursa, Turkey. His performance, including a win over world No. 6 and recent FIDE World Cup winner Boris Gelfand on the black side of a King's Indian Defense won him the individual gold medal for board one, and led the U.S. to a second-place finish behind Russia.[29][30]

Nakamura participated in the 2010 Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee. He finished with +2, tying for fourth with Viswanathan Anand, behind Carlsen, Shirov, and Kramnik.

In May, Nakamura participated in the 2010 United States Chess Championship in Saint Louis, Missouri attempting to defend his 2009 title. Seeded first, he scored 5/7 points to qualify for the round-robin stage against 1991 champion Gata Kamsky, 2006 champion Alexander Onischuk, and 2008 champion Yuri Shulman. In the round-robin stage, he drew Kamsky before losing to Shulman, with the white pieces in both games.[31] The loss to Shulman eliminated him from defending his 2009 title.

Nakamura competed in the 39th Chess Olympiad. Although he defeated Lê Quang Liêm and drew Kramnik with the black pieces during the tournament, the U.S. team failed to medal.

From November 5 through 14, Nakamura competed in the 2010 Mikhail Tal Memorial in Moscow; the field consisted of world No. 3 Levon Aronian, world No. 4 Vladimir Kramnik, world No. 6 Alexander Grischuk, world No. 8 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, world No. 9 Sergey KarjakinPavel EljanovBoris GelfandAlexei Shirov, and Wang Hao. The average Elo of the field was 2757, making it the third strongest tournament in chess history at the time. Nakamura finished at +1, defeating Eljanov and drawing every other player to finish in a tie for fourth place and missing out on a tie for first place by blundering into a draw in a winning position in the final round against Grischuk.[32] Nakamura's round two win over Eljanov placed him in the world top-ten in the live ratings for the first time in his career.[33] Nakamura's performance at this tournament, his first involving an entirely super-elite field allowed him to "force (the chess elite) to respect him", according to noted Russian commentator grandmaster Sergey Shipov.[34]

From November 16 through 18, Nakamura made his debut at the 2010 World Blitz Championship in Moscow. Despite a disastrous start and losing four of his first five games to Magnus CarlsenVladimir KramnikMaxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Sergey Karjakin, he recovered to score 5/7 in the second half of the day and finished with a score of 7½/14, 2½ points behind coleaders Carlsen and Levon Aronian, whom he defeated in their individual games. On the second day, Nakamura avenged his earlier losses against both Carlsen and Kramnik and scored 8/14, for a total of 15½/28, three points behind Aronian and a point and a half behind Carlsen. Nakamura finished with 21½/38 for fifth place behind Gelfand, Carlsen, Teimour Radjabov and champion Aronian.[35]

In December 2010, Nakamura finished fourth in the London Chess Classic, among a field including Anand, Carlsen, Kramnik, Michael AdamsNigel ShortDavid Howell, and Luke McShane. This included a win with Black against Kramnik, evening their career head-to-head record at 2½/2½. The tournament was won by Magnus Carlsen.[36] Nakamura's performance ensured that he would officially join the world top ten as of January 1, 2011.

2011: Tata Steel Group A victory[edit]

In the January 2011 FIDE rating list, Nakamura was ranked number 10 in the world with a rating of 2751.

Nakamura began training with former world champion Garry Kasparov. The first of several training sessions was held in New York at the beginning of January,[37] but the training ended in December 2011.[38]

From January 14 through 30, Nakamura competed in the Tata Steel Grandmaster A tournament in Wijk aan Zee among a field of world No. 1 and defending champion Magnus Carlsenworld champion and world No. 2 Viswanathan Anand, world No. 3 and reigning World Blitz champion Levon Aronian, world No. 4 and former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, world No. 7 Alexander Grischuk, former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov, reigning Russian champion Ian Nepomniachtchi, reigning Chinese champion Wang HaoMaxime Vachier-LagraveAlexei ShirovAnish GiriJan Smeets, and Erwin L'Ami. The average rating of the field was 2740, making this thirteen-round event a category 20 tournament. After twelve rounds, Nakamura was in clear first place with 8½ points going into the final round, half a point ahead of Anand and a full point ahead of Carlsen and Aronian.[39][40] In the final round, Nakamura drew against Wang with the black pieces in a King's Indian Defense. With the draw, Nakamura finished with 9/13 (+5), a tournament performance rating of 2879, and guaranteed at least a share of first place. With Anand's final round draw against Nepomniachtchi, Nakamura clinched sole possession of first place,[41] making him the first American to win the Wijk aan Zee tournament since 1980. The win also guaranteed that Nakamura would join Carlsen (winner of the 2010 Pearl Spring chess tournament) as qualifiers for Grand Slam Masters Final 2011 in September 2011.[42] Nakamura after the tournament stated that his goal was to reach a 2800 rating by the end of the year; the win raised his rating from 2751 to 2774 and from world No. 10 to world No. 7 on the unofficial live rating list.[43]

Kasparov called Nakamura's victory the best by an American in more than 100 years:

In an e-mail, Kasparov said, "Fischer never won a tournament ahead of the world champion. He was second in Santa Monica", referring to the Second Piatigorsky Cup. "Of course, there were far fewer such events back then, and Fischer had several great tournament results like Stockholm 62", the interzonal qualifier for the world championship. "Reuben Fine only equaled Keres on points at AVRO in 38." Referring to the breakout performance of Frank J. Marshall, the United States Champion from 1909 to 1936, Mr. Kasparov continued, "Then you have Marshall at Cambridge Springs in 1904 ahead of Lasker, though Tarrasch wasn't there. So unless you include Capablanca as an American player, I think you can go back to Pillsbury at Hastings 1895 for an American tournament victory on par with Nakamura's.[44]

Following his supertournament triumph, Nakamura was given the key to the city of Memphis, Tennessee on February 15, 2011.[45] The victory also opened the door for Nakamura to receive invitations from other supergrandmaster tournaments for the first time, and increased his world ranking to a career-high number eight. In May he contested a six-game match in the United States against world No. 11 Ponomariov where he lost the first game but rallied to win the match 3½–2½, raising his rating to 2777 and ranking to world No. 6 on the unofficial live rating list, both career-highs to date. From June 11–21, he made his debut at the Bazna Kings Tournament in Romania in a field including Carlsen, world No. 5 Vassily Ivanchuk, world No. 6 Sergey Karjakin, world No. 13 Teimour Radjabov and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu; the tournament was a Category XXI event with an average ELO of 2760, making it the third strongest tournament in history; Nakamura finished 4½/10; the tournament was won by Carlsen on tiebreak over Karjakin.[46] Despite the disappointing performance at Bazna, he reached a new career-high world ranking of No. 6 in the July 2011 FIDE list with a 2770 rating.

From July 21–31, Nakamura made his debut at the Dortmund Invitational in Germany; the field comprised world No. 5 Kramnik, world No. 10 Ponomariov, world No. 27 Lê Quang Liêm, world No. 40 Giri, and Georg Meier.[47] Nakamura had a second consecutive disappointing performance, beginning at −3 before winning his last two games, including a last-round win over tournament winner Kramnik on the black side of the King's Indian Defense, to finish at 4½/10.[48]

Nakamura competed in the Grand Slam Masters Final 2011 in September, after which he played in the Tal Memorial for the second consecutive year in a field comprising Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Karjakin, Kramnik, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Hao, and Nepomniachtchi. He finished the year by participating in the London Chess Classic for the third consecutive time.[49]

2012: Third U.S. Championship[edit]

Starting in 2012, he participated in the Reggio Emilia Tournament, tying for second with Alexander Morozevich of Russia, and Fabiano Caruana of Italy. Anish Giri got first place in the tournament, a half-point ahead of the field. Nakamura then played in the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, finishing 5th.[50] He won the US Championship in May with a score of 8½, one point ahead of Gata Kamsky.[51]

In June 2012, Nakamura played in the Tal Memorial in Moscow. In a tightly bunched field he finished tied for eighth with Luke McShane, 1½ points behind winner Magnus Carlsen.[52] He participated in the Biel Chess Festival, finishing third with Anish Giri, behind Carlsen and Wang Hao.[53] At the 2012 Chess Olympiad in August and September, he led the U.S. team to a fifth-place finish with a +4−1=4 record on the first board.[54] Nakamura then suffered through the FIDE London Grand Prix tournament, at one point losing four games in a row. He finished tied for last with Giri.[55] After another lackluster performance in the European Club Championship in Eilat, Israel, Nakamura finished first in the "crown group" at the Univé tournament in Hoogeveen, the Netherlands.[56] In December he tied for third with Mickey Adams in the London Chess Classic with a +3−1=4 score.[57] Nakamura finished the year by winning three silver medals in the three chess events (rapid, blitz and blindfold) at the World Mind Games in Beijing.[58] After this tournament, Nakamura achieved a 2844 FIDE blitz rating and a 2795 FIDE rapid rating.

2013: Top FIDE blitz rating[edit]

Nakamura began 2013 with a 7/13 (+3−2=8) result at the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee, finishing sixth.[59] He scored a win against then world number five Fabiano Caruana with the black pieces in an Old Indian Defense. He then played at the FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Zug, Switzerland in April, scoring 6½/11 (+3−1=7) and finishing clear second behind Veselin Topalov.[60]

Nakamura did not participate in the 2013 U.S. championship. Instead, he played in the Norway Chess tournament, finishing tied with Magnus Carlsen for second behind winner Sergey Karjakin. His 5½/9 score (+4−2=3) featured a win over then world champion Viswanathan Anand with the black pieces in a Ruy Lopez.[61] He then scored 5/11 at the FIDE Grand Prix in Thessaloniki, Greece.[62] Nakamura had an up-and-down Tal Memorial in June, at one point winning three straight games and then later losing three straight. He finished in sixth place with a 4½/9 score (+4−4=1).[63] However, he won the blitz tournament before the classical competition, raising his FIDE blitz rating to 2879, first in the world at the time. In the World Cup in Tromsø, Norway, Nakamura scored 6/8 (+5−1=2), eventually losing in the fourth round to Anton Korobov.[64] Nakamura finished second at the Sinquefield Cup in his hometown of St. Louis, behind Carlsen with a 3½/6 (+2−1=3) score, including a win over then world number two Levon Aronian.[65]

At the FIDE Grand Prix in Paris Nakamura scored 6½/11 (+3−1=7) and tied for third with Étienne Bacrot, behind co-winners Caruana and Boris Gelfand. He defeated Caruana in their individual encounter but lost to Gelfand. Overall, Nakamura finished sixth in the FIDE Grand Prix 2012–13 series.[66] He then played first board for O.R. Padova in the European Club Championship in Rhodes, Greece and scored 4/6 (+2−0=4).[67] He defeated current Russian champion Peter Svidler with the black pieces in an extremely sharp King's Indian Defense.[68] At the World Team Chess Championship in Antalya, Turkey, Nakamura led the U.S. team to a fourth-place finish.[69] His personal record of 4½/7 (+3−1=3) earned him an individual silver medal on board one.[70] Nakamura closed out his tournament schedule for the year with a win at the London Chess Classic, which was converted to a rapid chess event in 2013. He won his pool in the first stage of the tournament, then defeated Nigel ShortVladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand in the knockout stage. His overall record was +5−0=7.[71]

2014: No. 3 ranking and Zurich Chess Challenge[edit]

Entering 2014, Nakamura had achieved a No. 3 position in the FIDE ratings, below Carlsen and Aronian. He began his 2014 schedule with a ninth-place finish in the Tata Steel Chess Tournament at Wijk Aan Zee, with a 5/11 score (+2-3=6).[72] He then played the Zurich Chess Challenge, drawing with Caruana in the first round and winning against Anand in the second. In the third round, Nakamura achieved a winning position against Carlsen, but later made several mistakes and eventually lost the game.[73] Nakamura finished fourth of the six players in the event, with a 7½/15 score.[74]

In April, Nakamura finished third of the six players in the Gashimov Memorial. In the double round-robin event he lost both of his games to Carlsen but defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov twice, to close with a 5/10 score (+2−2=6).[75] He then played a four-game match against Czech grandmaster David Navara in June and won easily 3½/4.[76]

In November, Nakamura played a match against Levon Aronian consisting of four classical and sixteen blitz games. The two tied the classical games 2-2; Nakamura won the match with a 9.5-6.5 score in blitz games.[77]

2015: 2800 rating, Fourth U.S. Championship, and Grand Prix 2nd place[edit]

On the February 2015 FIDE rating list, Nakamura fell behind Wesley So, the first time since January 2013 that Nakamura has not been the top FIDE ranked player in the United States.

Gibraltar Chess Festival: In January, Nakamura won the Gibraltar Chess Masters tournament scoring 8.5/10 (+7-0=3).[78]

Zurich Chess Challenge:The ZCC was a hybrid event which was composed of two legs. A classical leg which would count for full points and a rapid leg which would count for half points. Nakamura started out the Zurich chess challenge with a disappointing 4th-place finish in the blitz event which decided colours. Nakamura finished the classical portion of the Zurich Chess Challenge scoring 3.0/5. In the Rapid event Nakamura finished shared second with a score of 3.0/5. With Anand and Nakamura tied in the overall standings the organizers introduced an "armageddon" playoff which Nakamura would go on to win with the black pieces winning the 2015 Zurich Chess Challenge.[79]

World number 3 Nakamura had one of his best ever months as a chess professional in February 2015 and as a result on the March FIDE classical list Nakamura moved to his career highest 2798 and #3 in the world.[80]

Fourth U.S. Chess Championship Nakamura won his fourth title with a score of 8/11.[81]

Grand Prix In the final stage of the 4-stage Grand Prix event, Nakamura finished equal first with Fabiano Caruana and Dmitry Jakovenko with 6.5 out of 11 points at Khanty-Mansiysk. This was enough to finish 2 place in the Grand Prix, behind only Caruana, which automatically qualified him for the Candidates tournament to determine the challenger for Magnus Carlsen in the next Chess World Championship.[82]

Norway Chess - Grand Chess Tour In the first stage of the Grand Chess Tour, Nakamura finished equal 2nd with Viswanathan Anand with 6.0 out of 9 points and a 2900 performance at Norway Chess (June 16 to 25). This gives Nakamura 8 points in the first leg of the Grand Chess Tour. It also propelled his rating to a career high of 2814, and he was at number 4 in the July 2015 world rankings.[83][84]


In February 2016, Nakamura won the Gibraltar Chess Festival for the second year in a row, scoring 8/10 (+6-0=4) and beating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on tiebreaks.[85]

In February 2016, Hikaru won the Zurich Chess Challenge for the second year in a row. He tied with Viswanathan Anand on the number of points; however, Nakamura was declared the overall winner due to his higher Sonneborn–Berger score.[86]

In September 2016 Nakamura was part of the U.S. team that won the 42nd Chess Olympiad that took place in BakuAzerbaijan.[87]


In January–February, Nakamura won the Gibraltar Chess Festival with a score of 8/10 points (+6-0=4) and beating David Antón Guijarro in the tie-break final by 1½-½.


In January, Nakamura took second place in the Speed Chess Championships after winning matches in 2017 with Sergey Grigoriants, Fabiano Caruana, and then-World Blitz Champion Sergey Karjakin, only losing to Carlsen in the January finals.[88]

In February, Nakamura participated in the unofficial Chess960 Championship, losing 10–14 to Carlsen.[89]

From 28 May to 7 June, he competed in the sixth edition of Norway Chess, placing third with 4½/8 (+1–0=7).[90]

The Paris Grand Chess Tour Rapid and Blitz tournament took place 20 to 24 June 2018. Nakamura won the event with 23 points, ahead of Sergei Karjakin with 21.5 points and Wesley So who had 21 points.

Nakamura won the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament that ran from 11–15 August 2018.[91]

Nakamura won the Rapid portion of the inaugural Tata Steel India Chess tournament, held in November 2018 in Kolkata.[92] He also finished runner-up, losing 1.5-0.5 in a tiebreaker to Viswanathan Anand, in the blitz portion of the same event.[93][94]

From 11 to 17 December, Nakamura defeated Fabiano Caruana with a score of 18–10[95] in the semifinal match at the London Chess Classic and, in the final match with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, scored a victory in the fourth and final blitz game after the previous seven games were drawn.[96] Nakamura thus won the 2018 Grand Chess Tour.[96]

2019: Fifth U.S. Championship[edit]

In March, Nakamura won his fifth U.S. Chess Championship by a score of 8/11.[97]

In April, Nakamura won the Bullet Chess Championship hosted by[98] Defeating Grandmasters Alireza Firouzja and Levon Aronian in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, respectively, he then defeated Ukrainian Grandmaster Olexandr Bortnyk to win the tournament.

In early May, Nakamura shared second place[99] with French grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the first leg of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour which was held in Côte d’Ivoire. The tournament was a combination rapid & blitz format, with world champion Magnus Carlsen placing first.[100]

In late May, Hikaru participated in the Moscow FIDE Grand Prix tournament, which is part of the qualification cycle for the 2020 World Chess Championship. The tournament was a 16-player event. Nakamura defeated grandmasters Teimour Radjabov and Daniil Dubov but lost to grandmaster Alexander Grischuk in the semi-final match.[101]

In early September, Hikaru participated in the Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX[102] tournament, which featured 7 other grandmasters playing a 4-day match in Chess960. Players faced one opponent only the entire event. Hikaru was paired against Levon Aronian.[103] Despite scoring only half a point out of 8 at the start of the match, Hikaru eventually defeated Aronian by a score of 14.5 to 11.5.[104]


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