New in Chess confirms rumours: Nakamura is working with Kasparov

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America's number one grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura is working with 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov. Their collaboration started before the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee last January. This was reported in the latest issue of New in Chess Magazine, which reaches mailboxes today.

What his nearest colleagues already knew, and what has been rumoured for many months on the internet, was confirmed today by the highly acclaimed, international chess magazine New in Chess: top grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura (USA) is working with former World Champion and arguably the best player ever, Garry Kasparov (Russia). In issue 2011/07 there's an interview by Macauley Peterson which confirms everything, and we just received a press release from New in Chess as well, which we're publishing here:

Kasparov and Nakamura started working together before the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee last January, which ended in the American’s greatest triumph to date. Looking back with new knowledge it’s easy to understand what part Kasparov played in his success. Nakamura reveals that he first talked with the 13th World Champion about a possible cooperation at the London Chess Classic. Nakamura:

The beginning of it would have been last December when, right before the London Classic, I got an email from Rex, and he sort of wrote it in a cryptic way where he said he had spoken with Kasparov, and there’s something that he wanted to talk to me about. It didn’t reveal any specifics, but I just put two and two together.

“Rex” is Rex Sinquefield, whose many contributions to the game in recent years include The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis -- possibly the finest chess club in the world, and the current venue for the U.S. Championship. The Chess Club is now joined by Sinquefield-sponsored World Chess Hall of Fame (also covered in NIC 2011/07) which sits just across the street. Nakamura moved to Saint Louis in 2010 and you don’t have to guess long to know what Mr. Sinquefield hopes Hikaru will achieve for his country.

The spirit of Saint Louis: Rex Sinquefield, Garry Kasparov and Hikaru Nakamura

In London, Nakamura and Kasparov indeed spoke about teaming up and Hikaru didn’t have to think twice. Nakamura:

I knew right away that I would definitely take up the offer simply because there are certain times – certain opportunities you have in life just don’t come around that often, and certainly having the opportunity to work with, at least what I consider to be, the greatest chess player ever, is sort of an opportunity you can’t turn down.

As was the case when he was working with Magnus Carlsen, Kasparov believes that keeping his role secret gave his protégé an advantage over rivals. Nakamura is less certain about this advantage, and felt that by April several of his colleagues knew anyway, even if they didn’t speak about it.

It’s clear that two outspoken and temperamental characters like Kasparov and Nakamura can reach great heights together, but their temperaments will also inevitably lead to differences of opinion. In his New In Chess column Kasparov writes:

I had the opportunity to work extensively with Magnus, and I have been working less formally with Hikaru since the start of the year.

Kasparov goes on to say that the American’s talent is evident, but he grumbles about Nakamura’s interest in poker, which could impede his chess progress.

Whereas Kasparov remains reluctant to talk about their work, Nakamura speaks candidly and in detail with interviewer Macauley Peterson. His opponents may now know that he gets help from Kasparov, but they will find out much more about what makes Nakamura tick when they read his views and convictions. (End of NIC's press release.)

Nakamura's collaboration with Kasparov has been rumoured for many months on internet forums. The rumours gathered momentum when on Monday, September 26th, Dennis Monokroussos wrote on his blog:

And now, rumor time. Emphasis on rumor: the information is at least three people away from an original source, so cum grano salis and caveat lector. It is...that Nakamura is working with Garry Kasparov. (...)

By that time the rumour was also picked up by Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia. As we reported in our September 26th article, Garcia asked Nakamura about it at the press conference after the first round of the Grand Slam Masters Final. The American grandmaster said that he would 'not comment' and people could 'believe the rumours if they wanted to'. In our opinion this answer made it even more likely to be true - why wouldn't Nakamura just say no if it wasn't true?

On the same day at WhyChess Colin McGourty added a nice piece of research journalism. He pointed out that

it would perhaps explain what Hikaru Nakamura was doing in Croatia this summer. For instance, he tweeted on 11 August: “Really pleasantly surprised by the people and the girls here in Zagreb.” Croatia is an odd holiday destination for an American who isn’t backpacking around Europe, but we know from earlier reports that Kasparov worked with Carlsen in his “summer residence” in Croatia.

In the same week, at the end of September, one of our readers pointed us to the product page of Chessbase Magazine #144. There, you can find the following text:

For this ChessBase Magazine the serial victor of Dortmund has chosen to annotate his win against Hikaru Nakamura. The American went into a theoretical duel in the Nimzo-Indian and chose an unfashionable variation with 8.Qb3. However, Kramnik points out in his analysis that in his day Kasparov championed this move. And especially since Kramnik knew that Nakamura had been working with Kasparov recently, he would probably not have been all that surprised at the choice.

We immediately asked Vladimir Kramnik what was true about this text, and he replied:

Is it still a rumour? I thought everybody knows, just trying to pretend they don't. smiley As far as I know for already a year. Actually I find it strange they are hiding it.

Naturally, this was enough information for us to confront Nakamura personally. During the first half of the Masters Final in Sao Paulo we asked him on Facebook Chat if it was true, but at that moment Nakamura didn't want to 'respond to rumours'. We decided to leave it at that. Today it becomes clear that Nakamura decided to give the scoop to Macauley Peterson and New in Chess Magazine. Touché! smiley

Earlier, Kasparov worked with another top grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen of Norway. This cooperation started in the summer of 2009 and ended about half a year later. In a recent biography about Carlsen more details were revealed.

The Norwegian newspaper Nettavisen wrote that "Kasparov was a strict coach, shaped by iron Russian discipline and determination. He didn’t hesitate to swing the axe if his student played poorly." Carlsen, on the other hand, was used to do everything by himself.

Carlsen's cooperation with Kasparov ended soon after after a crucial loss against Vladimir Kramnik at the Corus tournament in January 2010.

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