I am very pleased to be able to tell my students that GM Hikaru Nakamura is the new United States Chess Champion. This young man continues his meteoric rise in the chess world, and it is my contention that he will reach the hallowed 2700 FIDE mark within the next two years.
Hikaru is a young man who is not without his detractors, but he seems to me to be just a very talented teenager whose maturity level continues to increase alongside his rating. There is a serious side to Hikaru that many are unaware of, manifested in his contemplation of societal issues and his interest in better defining his role in the revival of the United States chess scene. There is also a light-hearted and jokester Hikaru whom many never get to encounter. To many, Nakamura is a curiosity, some freak of nature, and so people forget that he is a human being, a young man defining himself in this undefinable world. He has hopes and dreams, fears and concerns. Beyond the brilliancy of his games, there is the realization even by the man who creates such beauty over the board that what he is doing is amazing, and the weight of genius is a heavy burden, indeed. This burden is expected to be carried with grace, and so people chastize Hikaru for the times when he has not done so, even if those infamous moments came when he was twelve years old, because we live in a society which does not understand that there is a point at which a child is just a child, no matter how talented. These people now cheer for him, as they rightfully should, but it remains to be seen if they still will cheer if he falls on hard times once again.
Today, many in the United States celebrate what they feel is the official dawn of a new era for American chess. Members on the Internet Chess Club cheer their hero, "Smallville," who is an entertainer of a different sort to them because he is lightening-fast and somehow finds a way to talk trash as he is blitzing online without ever falling behind on the clock. Hikaru Nakamura gets to be different things to different people, and to serve some purpose in their lives. As for me, I cheer the man, not the machine that is Nakamura, for what he has accomplished, a dream of his which he has fulfilled at such a young age. I caution my friend that America is not a country which has much use for its heroes beyond the advancement of its own image throughout the world, and that today's Hikaru, like the Fischer of 1972, can easily go from hero to villain if he does not serve the purposes of those who demand that he carry our flag to degrees of adoration and envy that our administration has made unrealistic, at best.
Hikaru has made mention of the fact that he must consider whether to make chess his career or to pursue another, and, although I feel that he will eventually see his future in chess as being worthwhile enough to continue aspiring, I will still respect him if he chooses to stop the clock and never start it again. These are matters for another time, though. For now, the moment at hand calls for celebration and congratulations, and so congratulations to Hikaru Nakamura, new United States Chess Champion, and best wishes for wherever this journey takes him.