The Battle For America: Nakamura, Caruana To Match In St. Louis

The Battle For America: Nakamura, Caruana To Match In St. Louis

| 44 | News

Answer with your first thought: Who's the best chess player in the U.S.? 

Did you pick GM Hikaru Nakamura? Perhaps you went for GM Fabiano Caruana? If you weren't sure, or if you want to be proven right, then the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis has the event for you.

Coming November 12-15, 2015, the two will play a minimum of 16 games crammed into four days. Unlike previous matches hosted by the club, there won't be any classical chess. Perhaps the mantle of best American isn't completely on offer, but that is quite a large sample size nonetheless.

The club's press release announced four Fischer Random games at G/20+10, four rapid games at G/15+10, and eight blitz games at 3+2. They also announced "more to come" but that phrase remains ambiguous. All games will count equally using the regular scoring system, making this a sort of "extended Death Match."

The staggering prize fund is a whopping $100,000! The winner takes $60,000 while the "loser" is that in name only -- he will still grab $40,000. That's nearly as much as Nakamura cashed in winning the 2015 U.S. Championship.

Speaking of $100,000...

The two will be guaranteed to play in the next Candidates Tournament, and likely the next Grand Chess Tour, so many classical matchups are ahead of them in 2016.

“The Saint Louis Chess Club always seeks to find innovative and exciting events to host. With players like Nakamura and Caruana, spectators should expect fireworks over the board,” said Tony Rich, Executive Director of the CCSCSL.  

This will be the second innovative match for Nakamura in November. After winning an entire handful of "regular" tournaments in 2015 and qualifying for the Candidates, his match in St. Louis will come off the heels of a match with the computer program Komodo. It's highly doubtful that he will be allowed to make four moves from the start like the program is conceding!

GM Fabiano Caruana did not electrify in the blitz playoff of this year's Millionaire Chess.

The two men have played a number of classical games, with 75 percent ending in draws but with Nakamura holding a definitive five to one lead in decisive games. If we focus on the faster time controls, the lead stays about the same (Nakamura nine wins to Caruana's two) but the draw rate is almost nil (one draw). They are both Death Match champions of course!

Here's the most recent classical head-to-head win from each of the men. Nakamura mated Caruana in the process of winning this year's Zurich Chess Challenge:

Caruana's lone win versus Nakamura came during his electric run in St. Louis at last year's Sinquefield Cup:

Across the room from Nakamura-Caruana will be a battle between citizens of the world's two largest countries. India and China collectively represent 36 percent of the world's population and two of their best will be battling in St. Louis -- GM Parimarjan Negi and GM Hou Yifan.

Negi just entered his sophomore year at Stanford University as he takes a break from professional chess. If you take the time to read this excellent interview from the campus newspaper, you'll see that he has ruminated a lot on why chess may not be for him, but how his chess experiences may lead to a career in studying the brain or decision making.

In case you had a tertiary choice to this article's opening question, Nakamura took out American GM Wesley So last week in a three-game blitz mini-match and also in the first Death Match of 2015.

Hou Yifan is arguably better known to many readers since she is a former Women's World Champion and current highest-rated active female. She lost her title this year when the event was rescheduled and played in absentia of the champ. She will get a chance to grab the title back against GM Mariya Muzychuk in a battle set for March, 2016.

Their match will be worth $50,000, with the winner's share again at 60 percent ($30,000). They've played several times, with Negi holding a narrow 2-1 edge in decisive games.

Their most curious encounter came at the 2005 when Hou Yifan played Negi in the World Youth Championship. What's strange about that? Their section was the "Boys Under 12" -- the tournament has "evolved" in the last decade and that same section is referred to in 2015 by the gender-neutral term "open."

You can follow all the games and live commentary at

More from FM MikeKlein
Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

New ChessKid Adventure App Released

New ChessKid Adventure App Released