Nakamura is “Fischer-esque”… wins 960

Hikaru Nakamura at Chess 960 Championship in Mainz, Germany.

U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura is on a rampage in 2009 having won six tournaments in a row including the recent San Sebastian in Spain and yesterday the Chess 960 World Championship in Mainz, Germany.

He won the championship yesterday against the defending champion Levon Aronian of Armenia and the name “Fischer” was tossed around a lot in this tournament… and not only because of the “Fischer Random” variant being played. Nakamura is certainly focused on competing in the World Championship cycle.

Nakamura’s adage “Life is Good” is perhaps contributing to his success along with his rigorous workout regiment that has resulted in him shedding excess weight. He seems to be very relaxed and enjoying the throes of his success. What is even more striking in the last year is that Nakamura seems to be taking a much more mature style of play which when added to his quick calculating powers and fighting style makes him a difficult opponent.

Chess 960 is a variant where the first row of pieces are shuffled and in effect producing what are thought to be middlegame positions before the first move is made. The rules are the same except the king must be between the two rooks and castling is still allowed. On the first day, Aronian had his way winning all three games. It appeared he was poised to win for a third year in a row, but in the second round, Nakamura won all three games (beating Aronian, Sergei Movesesian and Victor Bologan) and would face Aronian in the final.

With his now traditional burgundy shirt, gold tie and black suit on game day, he sat down to take on his 960 nemesis. For those who have never played Chess 960 or “Fischer Random,” it can be a strange experience since piece arrangements are often atypical of positions played in the “normal” starting position. Nakamura was able get the positions he wanted and played quickly.

Hikaru Nakamura battling Levon Aronian for the Chess 960 Championship. Photo by Frederic Friedel.

Hikaru Nakamura battling Levon Aronian for the Chess 960 Championship. Photo by Frederic Friedel.

It appeared that Aronian was shaken after the first loss. He then tossed a piece in the second losing in 26 moves and was brutally crushed in the third (21 moves). In the final position, black’s pieces were looking on helplessly from the kingside while the black king was being skewered. Nakamura would be the new World Champ!

Nakamura told The Chess Drum that he has recently vaulted into the top 20 with his recent wins and has a busy schedule including the heavily anticipated Corus tournament in December. He has enlisted the help of an unheralded U.S. Master Kris Littlejohn, who has been a second and friend. Nakamura has broken practically every rule for becoming an elite player and perhaps reignites the debate on how strong players should be produced. The world will soon see how far he can go.


  1. Thanks Daaim,
    In my opinion, this is a very well framed and well written
    article. I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

    Kimani A. Stancil

  2. Thanks Kimani! You reminded me to post the games. Arrgh! My PGN converter can’t do Fischer Random postions.

    It’s good to see Hikaru winning. I chat with him a lot on Facebook and he seems to have a good idea of where he’d like to go. Here are the links to the ChessBase reports by Johannes Fischer:

    Johannes Fischer, “Chess Classic: Aronian dominates in Chess960,”, 29 July 2009 (games).

    Johannes Fischer, “Chess Classic: Nakamura’s Comeback,”, 30 July 2009 (games).

    Johannes Fischer, “Chess Classic: Nakamura wins 960 Chess Championship,”, 31 July 2009 (games).

  3. They lost the FischerRandom game huh? Oh Naka Congratulations! hehe, Hmm ,I recall talking to Fischer on the Icc about that form of chess ,i said “We havent caught up to you yet so why are you moving the pieces on the back row, we still gotta get through Ultramodern Theory first, your about 100 years beyond us”. To prove this science to him i started beating the traditional gms on the ICC with the Ultrapirc , Then 1 e5! to answer his e4 ,actually he began learning from his own science isnt that crazy! Unfortunately he left us in January 2008,darnit i almost had him back to the chessboard ready to go! hehehe sneaky stuff huh? anyway just wanted all ma homies to know because they got federations and spies and things like that so there’s no point in us being left in the dark about whats going on! BLESS.

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