BAt the World Cup Candidates Tournament in Madrid, nobody works as hard as Hikaru Nakamura. His games are the longest so far. Unlike some of his competitors, he gives reporters information afterwards, writes autographs and doesn’t leave until the last fan has taken a selfie with him.
Arriving at the hotel, the 34-year-old American immediately switches to his Twitch Channel and talks to streamers he pays about what he was thinking on the board. He later records and uploads a video of his game youtube.
After round three he also struggled with a warning from FIDE. He wore dark jeans and a jacket, but a suit was required. “We’re all meant to look like we’re at IBM in the 1970s,” he tweeted. On his stream he usually wears colorful Hawaiian shirts and preferably with pineapples on them. But for the fourth round he appeared in the required conservative outfit.
He has so many fans on Twitch and YouTube that even during tournaments he doesn’t take part in, viewers keep asking how Nakamura is doing. Because he surprisingly managed to qualify for the Candidates Tournament at the Grand Prix in Berlin after a two-year break from the tournament, the question in Madrid is now justified.
In the openings he looks better prepared than he has in a long time. He unnecessarily got himself into trouble at the start against Fabiano Caruana and lost, but made up for it the following day by beating Teimur Rajabov. He was particularly pleased with a fine defense that secured him a draw against Alireza Firouzja.
Less so than he made no more of his initial advantage against the leading Jan Nepomnyashchi than a draw, leaving him tied third rather than taking the lead. He seems more relaxed than at his first Candidates Tournament in 2016 and says he learned from back then.
You can count on him, even if world champion Magnus Carlsen reported at the start of the tournamentthat he could not imagine Nakamura winning. In their encounters with classic time control, Carlsen is very far ahead, but when it comes to short time control, the American is almost equal. In the world blitz chess rankings Carlsen is currently only fifth and Nakamura first.