Ever since Bobby Fischer dropped out of chess, American players have been looking for a new hero in the Royal Game. Gata Kamsky played superlative chess in winning the 2007 World Cup and in contesting Veselin Topalov in the semifinals of the World Championship, but has had difficulties of late. He came here at the age of 15.
Hikaru Nakamura came to this country at the age of 2, and has always been considered to be an American player. His stepfather and early coach was Sunil Weeramantry, one of the most prominent chess coaches in this country. Nakamura early on broke records for being the youngest US chess master and the world’s youngest grandmaster. But he also became known as a reckless combinational player, active on the Internet with blitz play. He plans publication of a book “Bullet Chess, One Minute to Mate’’ later this year. In Denmark, Nakamura shook the world by playing as White 1.e4, e5 2. Qh5! against Indian grandmaster Krishnan Saskiran. He lost that game but had the better of the opening. In defying established chess wisdom that best play reserves the queen for active play in the middle game, Nakamura earned the sardonic disapproval of Garry Kasparov.
Surely Nakamura, 2009 American Champion, takes first place as an American hero with substantial chances against the world grandmasters. Another candidate for popularity is Robert Hess of New York, a grandmaster in high school this year, who came in second to Nakamura in the United States Championship. But getting back to Nakamura, it appears that he has been biding his time in Dickinson College with only occasional forays to Europe. In 2005, he was knocked out in the first round of the World Cup. Since then he has entered the Gibraltar tournaments, placing first, second, and joint third in three tournaments.
Now, it seems that Nakamura is ready to make a serious bid in Europe. The big news is that he has been invited to next year’s Corus “A’’ event held in Wijk aan Zee, Holland. He has also been invited to a super-tourney in Spain this month and the London Chess Classic in December. He left the World Open early to play in Spain, and so took two byes and tied for first place. Sergey Karjakin, who lost a match to Nakamura in 2004, won Corus in 2009. Competitors this year included Magnus Carlsen, Alexander Morozevich, Vassily Ivanchuk, and Levon Aronian, who can be expected to be reinvited. Missing in 2009 were Viswanathan Anand, Topalov, and Vladimir Kramnik, but it is conceivable one of them might be present.
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– GM Susan Polgar