Nakamura eyes 2016 Candidates

Hikaru Nakamura recently won the 2016 Gibraltar International after defeating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a playoff match. Both ended on 8/9 after a thrilling finale featuring wins by both players. If there were a Chess Oscar being awarded for 2015, Hikaru Nakamura would be on the short list of candidates… very short list. He played consistent chess in the campaign with wins in Gibraltar, Zurich and tying for first in the FIDE Grand Prix series. He also won the U.S. Championship, placed joint 2nd in Norway, 2nd in Sinquefield, won Millionaire Chess Open before “middling out” in London and the Grand Chess Tour.

Hikaru Nakamura had a sensational 2015 and is hoping for a better 2016. Photo by Sophie Triay.

Hikaru Nakamura shown here winning 2016 Gibraltar and
now preparing for the biggest tournament of his life.
Photo by Sophie Triay.

With his ubiquitous Red Bull drink nearby, Nakamura plays Ne7 in what became a game to remember! Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Nakamura had a solid result in St. Louis including a stunning attack against Wesley So. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

In 2016, Nakamura has had his mind on the Candidates Tournament which starts March 10th in Moscow, Russia. The Gibraltar was a warm-up tournament for his quest at the championship crown. He qualified via FIDE Grand Prix and will now faced the biggest challenge of his career. It has been an interesting journey for the 28-year old.

For a long time he was a pariah in the chess world… the “bad boy of chess”. Brash and sometimes irreverent, he even dared to play 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 against top Grandmasters. However, in recent years he has matured and his fan base has steadily grown. Likewise the number of skeptics have shrunk. Where are those who stated he’d never make 2700 because he was only a fighting blitz player?

Perhaps his image as a fighter has served him well. The one hurdle facing Nakamura has been the one standing between him and immortality… World Champion Magnus Carlsen. In the New in Chess (2011/2), Nakamura stated that he was a potential threat to the European dominance of chess. A couple of years back in New in Chess (2014/1), back Nakamura stated, “I do feel that at the moment I am the biggest threat to Carlsen.” It appears when he makes a comment, it ends up on the cover of a chess magazine and people use it as a subject of derision.

In fact, he may very well be right about both statements despite the +0-12=18 record against the Norwegian. In fact, Carlsen knows that eventually Nakamura will break through. The question is when. It would be better that it happened in a tournament rather than a championship match. Carlsen has done well to avoid getting nicked in Nakamura’s shark pool. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, Nakamura has a big challenge in winning the Candidates next month to earn the right to face Carlsen. The World Championship will be held in the U.S. which is all the more reason for Nakamura to seize on the opportunity. Unlike Carlsen and Anand, Nakamura would relish “home-court advantage”.


Hikaru Nakamura after winning 2015 Gibraltar with fiancé Maria De Rosa.
Photo by Sophia Triay.

Nakamura’s stepfather FM Sunil Weeramantry
is also part of the supporting cast.
Photo by Kwabena Shabu.

Not to be outdone, American native Fabiano Caruana will also be in the field and looking to bring the crown back to U.S. soil since Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky in 1972. Both Nakamura and Caruana will be in Moscow and will receive massive support. It will be interesting to see how these two polar opposites in temperament will handle the pressure.

Nevertheless, Nakamura has talked about this moment for a long time. He will have the support of his fiance’ Maria DeRosa and of course his stepfather FM Sunil Weeramantry. There will also be a bevy of fans waiting to see if Nakamura will finally earn a chance to face Carlsen in a match. Should be an exciting tournament.

Daaim Shabazz

Dr. Daaim Shabazz is the creator and webmaster of The Chess Drum. He serves as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds an MBA in Marketing and a doctorate in International Affairs & Development. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

14 Comments

  1. Stefan Löffler’s posted an article on his choices for Chess Oscar on chess-news.ru. I found his winning choice of Wei Yi to be strange. No doubt, he played a spectacular game against Lazaro Bruzon and has some creditable results, but not quite elite level. Magnus Carlsen actually lost 29 ELO last year (despite winning tournaments) and the Qatar Masters victory prevented him for going below 2830s. Not seeing how Levon Aronian or Anish Giri are ahead of Hikaru Nakamura. Aronian only won Sinquefield, plus medaling in two team events and Giri is still working on his first elite tournament victory. Nakamura qualified by taking joint 1st in FIDE Grand Prix (with Caruana), won four tournaments, was joint 2nd in two and reached a career-high of 2819 in August. To rate Nakamura as #5 is quite unfortunate.

    https://chess-news.ru/en/node/20737

    1. oh thanks Daaim didnt know, good point! lol for some KTAZY reason they think on the chess.com site that i dont like naka probably cuz of my funnie Ultramodern Prediction here on the DRUM! when i KNEW naka would struggle for a draw vs. BIGmagasparov! lol cant call him lil magasparov anymore cuz he beatin errbodie,based on what u have here Naka should win it, we will see!!! haha. ole tricky Sunil! lol

  2. Not saying that Hikaru is a favorite at all. He may not win, but he has good chances. The point is that he had an excellent 2015 campaign and deserves much more credit than he is receiving.

    1. oh i see, well not overly surprised they havent given this young man his credit hes been after them awhile ya know? Carlsen is the best right now but clearly Naka is the most talented amongst the top guys UM sure they know that from the old ICC days when their gms got crushed on that site, the ULTRAMODERNIST wuz there, I know they still practicin over there! oh title held in the U.S thats nice, just notice maybe we will see if we can round up all the tricktalkin Buffalonians and come down!!! hahaha. should be fun! CHESS.

    1. LOL , dunno Daaim but i guess that should finish off the rest of the top traditional practicers! hahaha, now UM guessin they will start talkin about how much stronger the will get with more time on the clock! lol unreal.

  3. It is very difficult to predict who will win the candidates. Every one of the players has equal chances to be the winner. However, it would be nice to see Naka or Fabiano come out on top. Just envision if one of the American players wins the Candidates and the WC match is brought to the USA. We would have the opportunity to enjoy chess craving all over the country once again like we witnessed back in the 70’s.

    1. Whats difficult about it ive been doin predictions since the 90s right here in Buffalo N.Y. and UM generally right, even gave yall a demonstration right here on the Chessedrum when i predicted Naka would struggle for the draw in the Carlsen encounter, its just ULTRAMODERNISM actually that i know these things. Carlsen has proven to be clearly better than the other top traditional GUYS, no Pun intended but they on chess.com right now tellin me UM KTAZY Imagine that! oh they dont say stuff like that in the B-lo anymore ya know? do they Adia? hehehe.

  4. I know just about all the chess players, but I don’t think I ever met you Lionel. You’re an interest person who I’d like to meet one day. BTW, I appreciate the positive comment on Josh!

    1. Well Congratulations Mr. Guy on having such a talented young man i see you doing quite well with him. I merely stated the truth as i know it to be, yes of course havin the Title back in the U.S. will be a great thing for chess, thats obvious.

  5. Guy,
    On several bases (competitive, marketing etc.) I believe that Carlsen-Nakamura or Carlsen-Caruana would generate tremendous interest.

  6. Ian,
    I am with you 100%! It’s all about psychology when we focus on what excitement is really all about. Magnus gets angry when he loses and Naka just feeds of that type of outward sentiment. Fabiano is hard to read and that’s another scary dimension of mystification. The good thing is there’s a real chance that one of them could end up facing the Champ. So far, Magnus has played an elderly lion twice but he has not face a young and fierce lion. Naka is lurking in the bushes….

  7. SIMPLE THINGS: Chessdrummas yall dont KNOW this but Sunil and i been friends since the mid to late 80s when we meet in N.y. we meet again in the early 90s at the N.Y. State Ch. in Albany N.Y. when he introduced me to his son who was then 8 years of age if i recall! It wasnt until the Early 2000’s on ICC when the brothas in Buffalo N.Y. said ” Lionel thats Sunil’s son he is Gm Smallville ,, “Lionel thats Nakamura, so i said oh, right! lol i forgot i guess Memory fading! haha So i began to Play some New and Interesting Knight moves in my games as the ULTRAMODERNIST on that site so when i log off he will have something to LEARN after he examines the games Its no coincidence that hes made it to this level and preparing to return the title to the U.S. , actually UM not surprised at all. Ya know drummas ya never know what a young person can do when they realize the truth, i WANTED to address the cheese.comer who said that i dislike Nakamura , ITS RIDICULOUS AT BEST! lol OH Naka thats still me on chess.com this morning Um at the Buff. Public Library. Fischer is an ULTRAMODERNIST so remember that on ur Journy and tell my friend Sunil i said WHATS UP!!! HAHAHA.

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