Hikaru Nakamura, the chess prodigy and Twitch streamer, retains a significant presence in the competitive scene as he qualifies for the 2022 Candidates Tournament in the United States.
The two qualifiers for the Candidates were selected in Round 6 of the Grand Prix, which was more revealing than expected. Hikaru Nakamura and Richard Rapport, respectively, have won legs 1 and 2, with Rapport having 20GP and Nakamura having 18.8GP after Round 5 of the third leg, which is currently underway.
Hikaru Nakamura has been the face of Chess in the world of live streaming, as seen by his active engagement with fans on his Twitch channel, GMHikaru, which has 1.4 million subscribers.
Before being a well-known streamer, he wasn’t exactly a noob. In 2003, at the age of 15, Nakamura became the youngest person in the world to be awarded the title of grandmaster (GM). In October 2015, he achieved his highest FIDE rating of 2816, which placed him in second place in the world.
In 2018,he began broadcasting on Twitch, where he quickly built a significant fan base and gained recognition. He even sparked a Chess craze on Twitch, which resulted in thousands of people being hooked on the traditional game.
His partnerships with famous streamers from other games were one of the ways he helped to increase the popularity of Chess on the site.
The 34-year-old experienced a rigorous run in the FIDE Grand Prix of 2022, competing against world-renowned grandmasters like Wesley So, Levon Aronian, and Anish Giri.
In addition to being an active Twitch streamer on the side, he also maintains a significant presence in the competitive gaming community. His performance on the last day of the Grand Prix earned him a spot in the highly competitive Candidates Tournament.
With the victory in the sixth round of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix’s third leg, GM Hikaru Nakamura gifted his fans a hat-trick and won Group A,securing a certain spot in the semifinals. More importantly, the American GM joined GM Richard Rapport in qualifying from the Grand Prix to the FIDE Candidates Tournament.
The comeback kid has done it once more. Nakamura advanced to the semifinals of the World Chess Championship by winning today’s round against the well-prepared, 20-year-old Russian GM Andrey Esipenko.
He has now accrued enough Grand Prix points as a result of the elimination of his major opponents to qualify for the Candidates Tournament in Madrid this summer.
Aronian had a wonderful opening leg of the Grand Prix in Berlin, only to lose the final against Nakamura in a tiebreaker after a long and exhausting battle. With a victory over Nakamura in the first round of this tournament, he is currently tied with his fellow American in the standings heading into today’s round.
GM Grigoriy Oparin was eliminated from the tournament yesterday after losing a brilliant battle against Nakamura. He had decided that he was not quite ready to leave just yet, and he arrived in battle as White in a Catalan Opening. Aronian, on the other hand, must have thought that a win in today’s round was essential, maybe to avoid a rapid play tiebreaker versus Nakamura in the event that the first game resulted in a draw.
Nakamura postulated after the conclusion of his own game that this could have been the reason why Aronian chose the highly provocative 11…h6 and 12…g5 openings, which at best appeared risky and at worst a foolhardy gamble, but which could have been an idea from Aronian’s bag of prepared tricks, similar to his firework show against Esipenko the day before.
Following the game, Oparin stated that he was aware that it was a reasonable notion. However, he responded energetically, securing a clear lead, and things only got worse from there for Aronian, who resigned after being forced to play a mate in the middle game. It was a heartbreaking end for Aronian, but it was a satisfying conclusion for Oparin, who proved that he very definitely belongs in this company.
In the other game of the round, Nakamura faced Esipenko, who had taken two days' worth of preparation in the form of a Bishop’s Game briefcase with him to the table. Afterward, Nakamura stated that the opening was “very moderate” and that “there are many sharper openings” available.
However, this appeared to work since he gained an advantage from the beginning, but the advantage quickly slid through his fingers and rough equality was established on the board. Whether it was about equality or not, both players seemed to be pushing for more, which meant that there was never a moment of peace.
Although it appeared to be a dangerous situation for Nakamura at times, his 27…f5!? Solution resolved most of the immediate problems he was experiencing.
In the subsequent committal exchange sacrifice, 33.Rxf4, Esipenko appeared to be on the right track, but his performance was far from stellar.
After 35…Qxe8 36.Qxd6, White had the opportunity to play 35.Rxe8, essentially securing a draw, but Esipenko was prepared for it, and as Nakamura noted after the game, “it is very difficult when you have been pressing the whole game to then exchange on e8 and try to make a draw; that is not in the spirit of how you play.”
When Nakamura played the formidable 37…h5!, Esipenko threw thrown the towel and walked away from the table.
Defending champion Hikaru Nakamura and Richard Rapport will compete in the Candidates Tournament after Hikaru’s victory over Andrey Esipenko guaranteed that the two would finish first and second in the FIDE Grand Prix.
Every outcome went in Hikaru’s favor, as his main competitors Levon Aronian, Anish Giri, and Leinier Dominguez all lost, while his main adversary Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was held to a draw by Sam Shankland in the last round. Amin Tabatabaei, the surprise player who has already been confirmed to play with Hikaru in the Berlin semi-finals, is the one to watch.