Ask most Americans to name one great chess player, and they will answer “Bobby Fischer.” That’s in part because Fischer was, for a time, No. 1 in the world and in part because he was spectacularly eccentric.
Hikaru Nakamura became a chess master earlier than Bobby Fischer achieved that distinction. Nakamura became a grandmaster at 15, which also beat Fischer’s mark. And now Nakamura is just 10 points shy of the record total of 2785 points Fischer earned by winning matches.
During the U.S. Chess Championship, beginning on Monday in St. Louis, Nakamura could pass Fischer’s record, but he told Bill Littlefield the mark isn’t the top accomplishment in the game.
“It’s certainly a significant mark in the sense that becoming the highest-ranked American chess player in history, once you achieve that, no one can take it away from you. But it’s a different era now, so even though I’m breaking the record, it’s not quite as big of a deal as say, becoming world champion.”
It’s no surprise that Nakamura draws comparisons to Bobby Fischer, and Nakamura doesn’t mind the expectations that come with them.
“I don’t feel pressure. I think for me the main goal that I have, or at least what I really aspire to, is to raise the level of chess. What was great about Fischer is that when he became world champion is that chess was being convered everywhere. It was in all the major newspapers, it was on TV,” Nakamura said. “That’s really what I hope for is that chess can become very popular going forward.”
Chess is Nakamura’s game, but the Vancouver Canucks are his team and their recent, early exit from the NHL playoffs are a source of frustration for the grand master.
“[The Canucks] simply don’t perform at the highest level when [they're] in the playoffs, which is the most important point of the season,” Nakamura said. “For me, it’s much different. To compare it to chess, when I’m in that moment, that situation, during a very big game, I’m just performing my at my absolute best. And it would really be nice if the Canucks could do the same in hockey one of these years.”