I am Hikaru Nakamura. Just like "I am a three time U.S. Champion. #3 Ranking in the World. I love adventure. travel. hiking. music.


Comments: 894 • Responses: 89  • Date: 

harlows_monkeys444 karma

On chess.com, there is a mysterious GM Phoenix who has a very high rating, with much speculation as to his identity. The main guess was that it was you. When you officially showed up on chess.com, Phoenix stopped showing up, furthering that speculation.

Were you GM Phoenix?

GMHikaru579 karma

I will take the 5th on your question about GMPhoenix! :)

bbshapi288 karma

Hey Hikaru!

We played in Round 3 of the 1997 Super Nationals chess tournament in Knoxville. We were both 2-0 and played on the podium while your dad took pictures from below-you were white and played the scotch. You had this intimidating strategy of standing behind me while I was pondering my next move. I still wonder, were you just trying to see the board from a different perspective, or intentionally trying to psych me out?! :)

GMHikaru326 karma

I highly doubt that I could have come up with such a strategy at 9! :) I wish I could remember, but asking me to remember a game from 17?? years ago is too much!

NoveltyAccount67226 karma

Hey Naka, I'm a huge fan. Thank you so much for doing this.

  1. I've always wondered, does a gm have to have a bajillion games mostly memorized? How big a part of your study is analyzing the games of others? Do you spend time analyzing the games of people worse than you or only of other super gms?

  2. In a game of high level chess, does aesthetic count more than a computer-good position sometimes? Like, would you rather have a slightly worse position but one that more suits your style than your opponent's?

  3. How much does it actually matter which opening a player chooses?

  4. Various databases that I've seen show that d4 is a more successful opening than e4 but e4 is more popular. Why is this?

  5. Are there still aspects of chess that humans do better at than computers?

  6. How incredible does a computer have to be to beat the best humans? Could my Macbook or cell phone do it? If a computer disagrees with you, do you always think that the computer must be right?

  7. Why do master players online play so much blitz? Why not lengthy games?

  8. How do you think Fischer would do against top players like yourself, Carlsen, or Kasparov? How would Morphy do?

  9. What's your top goal in chess? Do you think you'll achieve it?

  10. Who are your favorite players throughout history and who do you think are the best players?

Thanks again. Good luck in chess!

GMHikaru467 karma

  1. I for one do not have a quadrillion games memorized. Mainly, it is more a matter of ideas/concepts combined with an understand of piece play and then of course tactics. But, because all professionals have studied and played chess for so many years, it is just inherently a part of our understanding.

  2. In this day and age, everyone is so good that being even slightly worse is too much! I will always take equality!

  3. Openings matter only in so much as you are not worse or losing out of the opening!

  4. 1.e4 is certainly NOT more popular at the top levels of chess today! I think in general because many of the great champions (Fischer and Kasparov specifically) opened with 1.e4, it remains very popular at the amateur level.

  5. The only two aspects of chess which humans are better at are: blocked positions where only one side has a break due to the long term concept and ideas which are beyond a computer horizon and secondly, pure attacks like in the Kings Indian.

  6. I am not sure if a computer on a cell phone could beat the top humans, but any laptop would be more than sufficient to trounce us pitiful humans into oblivion!

  7. I think in general, when you play chess on the internet its not serious competition, so the goal is to have a good time. Secondly, if I tried playing long games on the internet, I'd have trouble being motivated or keeping up the intensity.

  8. Fischer would almost certainly lose to all of us, but this is due to the fact that the game has so fundamentally changed. If Fischer had a few years to use computers, I think he would probably be on the same level.

  9. I certainly hope to become World Champion, but it is a long process and I simply need to play good chess for now!

  10. My favourite players are Kasparov, Fischer and Tal. Mainly because they were more tactical and aggressive which is how I tend to play.


harlows_monkeys211 karma

When you visualize a chess position, such as during a blindfold game, or when going over a score without a board present, what do you see? Do you see a full board and pieces, just like you were actually looking at a real board, or do you have some kind of abstract representation in your mind (such as a list of pieces and key squares and their attack/defense relationships)?

If you see a board, is it a 3D board, or is it like a diagram from a book? If a 3D board, is it some particular set you like, or something generic?

GMHikaru326 karma

Hello Harlow_Monkeys!

When I play 1 blindfold game or any amount, (I have done 15 on two separate occasions) I essentially see the whole board, but I very rarely calculate deep lines beyond 2-3 moves. In tournaments such as the Amber Blindfold and Rapid where it is 1 game against another top level play, I very often will calculate 2-3 lines of about 5-6 moves. I wish I could say that I am some sort of mathematical genius and I see a bunch of right triangles or some picasso style art lines, but that would be going too far!

When I see the board, it is usually the blue board from the chess program chessbase with the white and black pieces. I suspect that for most modern day players, blindfold chess is a lot easier because of the endless hours we have all spent studying chess on computer screens.

ambroseburns132 karma

How often does the average top-ten chess player get laid?

GMHikaru274 karma

We aren't rock stars! :-D

apetresc125 karma

Do you think there will ever be a time in the future when Chess960 is a serious competitive chess format? Do you feel it does a good job of shaking up the theory-heavy metagame for more "casual" observers?

GMHikaru142 karma

Great question, apetresc!

I think chess960 is great as it is simply pure intuition and understanding without theory or computers. In my opinion, a lot depends on the trends. For example, at the moment everyone is playing the Berlin Defense which has severely reduced the number of games with 1.e4 If this trend of attempting to "kill" the excitement continues, it is hard to believe 960 won't take over at some point. However, if we start seeing a lot of deep preparation and exciting games in in the Najdorf or Dragon, then I think the scope of normal chess will continue for a very long time.

JackOscar48 karma

Due to top players like Carlsen and Nakamura who seem to disregard the opening and just go for a playable position this metagame actually seems to be fading.

GMHikaru116 karma

Well, I do not think it is a disregard for the opening. It is a stylistic approach. For example, some top players like to play only 1 opening and study it over and over again till there are no weaknesses. Other players, tend to try to get outside of theory and simply play chess as more of a game instead of a mathematical formula or proof.

apetresc16 karma

I'm not sure if that's true, but I'd love it if Nakamura wanted to address your point as well :)

GMHikaru29 karma

It is all in the approach as I listed above!

iamprivate21 karma

The 960 world championship hasn't been held in 4+ years but that seems to be due to money and not lack of interest. Would be interesting to see the stats on regular versus 960 games played on chess.com. If it got really boring where the opening repertoire shrank to just a couple openings then that would spur 960 growth. I somehow doubt that Carlsen and Nakamura's relative disregard for opening theory is the start of a trend.

GMHikaru35 karma

At this point, opening theory is here to stay. The only question is whether there is room for the game to grow with unexplored ideas and options or whether computers will have the opposite effect and limit the options.

LiquidShethSC2118 karma

Hello there, very nice to see you doing an AMA. I've been wondering if there are times or any major time in your life that you've found chess to be boring? Also if that has happened what have you done to change this, or have you changed yourself so that you understand it's work and do it despite it being boring to you? Thanks again :)

GMHikaru81 karma

Good afternoon LiquidShethSC2,

I have tried to avoid being too philosophical, but I think in general, everything becomes boring after a while. Nothing is as fun as it was when you first started playing. The key is to stay motivated and just continue trying to learn more.

lootKing100 karma

You are considered one of the best blitz players in the world, if not the best. You should comment some of your games and post them to YouTube, a la Kingcrusher/Chessexplained/curtains. I would pay to see that! What do you think?

GMHikaru146 karma

To start, I have actually seen a few of Kingcrusher's videos on youtube and they are pretty good! At the moment, I am the #1 rated blitz player in the world, so I am certainly competitive. However, I do believe that because of my focus on becoming a better classical player over the last few years, I have gotten worse at blitz.

jsbyrne8994 karma

At GM Hikaru Nakamura, I am a big fan of the King's Indian defence. You are my favourite player who plays the King's Indian and it's great to see Kramnik losing against you in the King's Indian. My question is what do you think the King's Indian's theoretical shape is like atm? What lines are causing King's Indian players the most problems at your level? Also when you dethrone Carlsen as the WCh I hope you will employ the King's Indian in this match!

GMHikaru101 karma

Hello jsbyrne89, thanks for this question! I love it!

I think the Kings Indian is certainly a very daring and exciting opening which is playable as computers have proved; however, I think that in general there are so many different lines that it is a difficult task of remembering all the theory and move orders. At the moment in top level chess, both the classical variations and the fianchetto with g3 are most problematic!

acechess58 karma

If he uses the King's Indian to dethrone Magnus, we will remember this question :P

GMHikaru99 karma

Indeed we shall :)

DjWolfe1091 karma

Is chess still fun, or does it just feel like a job now?

GMHikaru191 karma

Chess is certainly still enjoyable but it has taken on a more serious role as it is my full time career. It will always be fun, but it will never be the same as when I was 12-13-14 years old and just playing the game without any worries in the world.

lootKing78 karma

Who do you support for FIDE president?

GMHikaru161 karma

I do not particularly support one side over the other as both candidates have serious flaws. However, one must look at what the incumbent has done over the past 20 years. It does not seem as though chess has fundamentally moved forward in a new direction. At the same time, it remains to be seen whether the opposition leader will be able to bring in money and sponsors which he speaks of in his campaign.

JackOscar69 karma

Hey, I was wondering how big of a role computers play in your chess life.

How much and in what ways do you use them when studying chess?

Do you ever play against them as practice?

What do you think we can learn from computer chess and what can't we?

GMHikaru125 karma

Hello Jack, your question is very pertinent not only to my chess career but the very future of chess as well. I would say that nowadays, when I study, computers comprise 90% overall.

I do not play against computers anymore because it is severely depressing to lose every game without ever even having a chance!

I think mainly what can be learned from computers is a deeper understanding that almost all positions are ok with accurate play. In the past, many people assumed certain positions were automatically bad, but computers have shown that the rules and thought processes aren't always accurate!

Trollsauce2726 karma

So when do you decide a position is gone as in unplayable? A full minor down or just a lack of counterplay and a pawn or something? Thanks.

GMHikaru75 karma

In general, one gives up when either they are down too much material, mate is imminent or if there is little to no counterplay. If there is a chance of a swindle or a hope, then there is no reason to resign. Play till there are no chances left!

wiithepiiple16 karma

I'd probably say when the computers give a large swing either way, at least with computer analysis.

GMHikaru76 karma

Well, my position with Carlsen was +10 and he did not resign :-D It is all relative!

VeritasOmnias61 karma


GMHikaru93 karma

Hello Veritas, and thank you very much for your question which I will try to answer very truthfully! ;)

I'm not sure that I am ever really in control! I would never really say that I worked consciously to become calmer and more mellow, but I think that lifestyle plays a big roll. In my late teens and early 20s, I spent a lot of time out on the west coast (Vancouver in particular) and this really helped a lot. Although, I do think that with every passing year, I become more mellow!

VeritasOmnias27 karma


GMHikaru46 karma

You are very welcome! My next tournament will be in Azerbaijan from April 20-30.

robotikempire55 karma

I have been wondering about your Japanese heritage. How often do you visit and can you speak Japanese?

GMHikaru84 karma

I was born in Osaka, Japan to a Japanese father and am American mother. However, my parents separated and I moved back to the US when I was 2 years old. After that, I grew up with only English. I did take some Japanese lessons when I was about 10, and also took Japanese 101 during my 1 semester at Dickinson College.

However, at this point my Japanese is pretty mediocre and I wouldn't say I know more than 20 words. Sadly, it's probably my 4th best language :(

I went back to Japan about once every 3 years growing up until I was 18. While I saw my Japan dad, I never had the opportunity to meet my half-siblings.

acechess51 karma

Hey everyone: Remember to ask good questions! Hikaru will be choosing the best one to play a Live game at Chess.com when we are done!

Danny REnsch

GMHikaru32 karma


chengg49 karma

Hi Hikaru,

What is a typical day like for you when you're not playing in a tournament?

GMHikaru76 karma

A typical day for me when I am not playing chess varies, but I will always study a few hours a day, (2-3) watch some of the BBC series, whether it is Frozen Planet, Planet Earth or one of the others, I will read some (I recently finished reading Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller by Chernow) and study about 1 hour of Italian! However, when tournaments are happening within the next week or two, I will be studying a lot more chess!

Jester_Don44 karma

Favorite unorthodox opening?

GMHikaru87 karma

I would have to say that my favourite unorthodox opening has to be 1.b3! If it was good enough for Bent Larsen, then surely it is good enough for me!

CapAnson24 karma

I sometimes (just because) play 1.e3 and then follow that up with b3. Is there any particular reason to play b3,Bb2 first?

GMHikaru106 karma

It is chess! Be creative, and have fun! Your question is too deep and nuanced even for me! :)

painfive41 karma

Do you think that, with perfect play, chess is a win for white, win for black, or draw? Will we ever be able to mathematically prove this, or find the hypothetical "perfect game of chess"?

GMHikaru87 karma

With perfect play, chess is and always will be a draw! Perhaps we will one day be able to prove the result of chess, but there will need to be a quantum leap in computing technology as well as storage capacity in order for this to be possible. I sincerely hope that this does not happen in my lifetime.

LastChanceToLookAtMe37 karma


GMHikaru67 karma

Thank you for the question LastChance!

For the most part, I tend to consider myself a creative person in almost any endeavour I am actively involved in whether its games like chess or tennis, I like to be creative. Therefore, when I play offbeat openings its more because I prefer the pure aspect of just playing moves and seeing fresh new positions. There is certainly a psychological aspect as well since most people tend to frown upon offbeat openings. However, I will always take creativity, new positions and playing the game over studying the Berlin Defense for 6 hours every day! :-D

goltrpoat35 karma

Hi Hikaru, thanks for doing this AMA. I have way too many questions, feel free to pick and choose.

  1. Why do you play chess?
  2. Due to a rift in spacetime continuum, you're 12 years old again. Do you still become a professional player?
  3. Favorite game? Favorite opening novelty? Favorite endgame?
  4. On Russian resources, there's an oft-quoted story about an interviewer asking you something about Smyslov, and you replying with something like "Who's that?" I've heard even top-40 GMs repeat this, but it seems to be a bit hard to believe. Any idea where that could have come from?
  5. What does your training schedule look like? I realize you may not want to share too much of it, but it'd be interesting to know the general breakdown.
  6. Kasparov or Ilyumzhinov or neither?

Would've been great to see you in this year's Candidates, hope you make it into the next cycle!

GMHikaru48 karma

No worries, goltrpoat! Ask away!

I play chess because it pays the bills! ;) However, more importantly, I play because I enjoy the game! It is also really special having the opportunity to see lots of new and different cities and countries around the world!

danrennt989 karma

How much does being a professional chess player pay?

GMHikaru50 karma

Being a professional chessplayer is not an easy profession, as you need to be in the top 30 to make a good living. Fortunately, I am amongst the top 30!

ColoradoSheriff33 karma

What's going on in your head when you realize during the game that you are winning?

GMHikaru62 karma

Thank you for the question, ColoradoSheriff!

In general, I try not to think too much about outside factors during the game except for the position on the board. However, it does get difficult not to start wandering off and thinking about the future during especially critical games. Nevertheless, as with any other game or sport, focus focus FOCUS is the key!

weasl33 karma

Hello Hikaru! Big fan here! In a time where the majority of elite players choose safe and dry positions I really appreciate your aggressive and entertaining style, constantly going for complications.

Is it easy for you to switch off from chess completely, or do you pretty much think about or calculate positions in your head all the time?

GMHikaru67 karma

Thanks for the compliment weasl! My general approach/philosophy is that we are all going to die, so might as well try to create some interesting games which will be remember 50-100 years from now!

Unless I am thinking about chess, I find it quite easy to not think about it. For example, after my recent tournament in Zurich, I did not have a single though about chess during my 2 weeks of vacation!

popprocks30 karma

What is the most common mistake new chess players make when trying to learn the game? What's a better way to get started on the path to improvement?

GMHikaru52 karma

I think the most common mistake new chess players make it that they are too impatient and want to know everything right away. Everything is a process and you need to not rush! Beyond that, I think just playing as much as you can, studying tactics and essentially trying to take in as much chess as you can, ESPECIALLY if you are young!

l_davies9328 karma

Hi Mr Nakumara, you are widely regarded as a tactical genius and I was wondering how you developed this great skill. I'm rated around 1500, but whenever I go to do tactics puzzles, I always feel like I'm not learning anything from them (such as key motifs or patterns). Can you perhaps recommend any good books for tactics? Also I was wondering what your goals for this year were ? (I assume overall you want to make the next candidates tournament, but perhaps you also have a target rating you hope to attain). Thanks

GMHikaru41 karma

When I was younger, I developed these tactical skills mainly through hours and hours of blitz and bullet on the Internet Chess Club. Nowadays, I stay sharp using the tactics trainer on chess.com!

ApproximatelyNormal28 karma

Will the sunglasses strategy ever return?

GMHikaru52 karma

I would love to wear sunglasses more often, but unfortunately due to concerns (unfortunately justified in this day and age) about cheating, I doubt I will be doing it very often.

rtobyr27 karma

Are you good at other strategy games, such as RISK or strategy computer games? Does chess translate to other types of strategy like that?

GMHikaru68 karma

The only other board game which I am pretty decent at besides chess is backgammon. As for computer games, I cannot really comment as I was pretty terrible at StarCraft!

oijoijoijoijoijoij27 karma


GMHikaru45 karma

Almost every day, I learn something new about chess from looking at old games or studying tactics!

ColoradoSheriff25 karma

Which is the mountain peak you are the most proud of?

GMHikaru45 karma

I have done many day climbs, but I would have to say my two favorites are Sawtooth in the Sierra Nevadas and Black Tusk in Vancouver, British Columbia! Sometime in the future, I will go to Colorado and do a few 14ers! :-D

JackOscar25 karma

Have you ever thought about producing any content for the community, perhaps live commentating some games on the ICC?

GMHikaru41 karma

I have considered doing content, and I will be doing some commentary on chess.com shortly!

lootKing23 karma

Are you playing in the US Championship this year, since it doesn't overlap with Norway?

GMHikaru34 karma

I have not decided on the US Championship, but I have chosen to play a tournament in Prague instead of Norway.

acechess3 karma

I'm curious to know that as well.

GMHikaru5 karma

Read above!

DschinghisKahn22 karma

Do you often hang out with other professional Chess player's in non-chess contexts? Is there down-time at tournaments where you just socialize with one another?

GMHikaru39 karma

Most of my life has been spent around chess tournaments and chessplayers so it is only natural that many of my friends come from the chess world. However, I do not hang out with other "professional" players. We all are amiable, but at the end of the day it is a competition!

Arugulaboogaloo22 karma

Hi there.

What kind of board and pieces do you prefer playing with?

Does the degree of simplicity/luxury have any impact on your level of enjoyment?

GMHikaru29 karma

For the most part, I just like a nice wooden board with weighted pieces. However, I have some antique sets which I thoroughly enjoy as well.

Slasher130922 karma

Hey Grandmaster Nakamura!
Do you have any plans for pursuing the World Championship Title? If so, how are you going to go about it? Which qualifying events are you likely to enter?

EDIT: How do you view your fellow Top Ten players in the world relative to the greats of other time periods?

EDIT II: When you're watching a super-tournament that you're not participating in (such as the Candidates this year) do you watch it as a fan or do you use it to size up the competition, examine others opening preparation and search for new ideas?

GMHikaru35 karma

As I mentioned above, the cycle for getting to a Candidates tournament, let alone winning it is a very long one and my next chance is 2 years away! Therefore, I can only focus on playing top level tournaments and trying to improve my overall results and game!

I find that it is almost impossible to compare different generations of players. All of us are only as good as we are because of the greats who came before us.

When I am not competing, I watch the top level tournaments mainly to see what openings are popular and who is coming up with the best ideas.

robotikempire21 karma

What do you do up in your hotel room after a particularly awful defeat?

GMHikaru73 karma

I usually watch some Breaking Bad!

jsbyrne8919 karma

@GM Hikaru Nakamura are there any books that you feel after reading helped you improve?

GMHikaru29 karma

Recently, I have really taken a liking to the My Great Predecessors series by Kasparov.

elmobob1419 karma


I really like your aggressive style and that you play for wins.

You've mentioned that you think you are the prime contender to challenge (and defeat) Magnus, but you haven't fared so well against him in the past. In light of this, why do you feel this confidence? What will be different in the future? (I hope this isn't rude, I actually really like your confidence. I'm rooting for you.)

GMHikaru30 karma

Elmobob, thanks for the question!

My main reasons for the boost in confidence is that I have had him under pressure in the last 4 games. While one would be wise to remember the past, it is important to remember that you can also change everything in the future!

siddarthcs16 karma

Something I struggle with a lot when studying and playing chess is the lack of a syllabus: do you have any suggestions for a curriculum? What's the path of least resistance to improving one's chess? I'm familiar with all the primitives (tactics, opening study, endgame study, looking over annotated games, etc.), but it's unclear how to prioritize these.

Thanks for the AMA!

GMHikaru34 karma

Siddarthcs, you have asked the million dollar question! Unless you are roughly Fide Master, I think openings should be at the very bottom and endgames as well. Study the other things!

buffalawl16 karma

Thank you for the AMA! As a fellow Japanese American, you are one of my biggest inspirations in chess. Here are my questions: - who was the player that you looked up the most when you were a child? - what do you think are the major differences between chess in Japan and in the states? - what are some characteristics (both in and out of the games) that made some legendary chess players in the past (Kasparov, Fischer, etc)that you think made them so difficult to beat at the time?

GMHikaru25 karma

When I was a child, I looked up to Kasparov. He was both the best and most charismatic player as well as having an aggressive and exciting style. I think the main difference between chess in Japan and the US is that in Japan there is the Japanese version of chess (Shogi) which really limits the number of kids who are exposed to chess. This is why there are so few Japanese players, let alone masters.

I think with Kasparov and Fischer it was everything from their personality to their play which was very intimidating.

iamprivate15 karma

Are you still technically the chess960 champion? What is the future of chess960 do you think? Would you be happy if all tournaments switched to 960?

GMHikaru19 karma

I am still currently the 960 champion, but as to the future who knows! I attempted to answer this question earlier response.

314159265358979323_15 karma

Hi Hikaru,

First off – thanks so much for doing this AMA! So exciting to have one of the best players in the world field a few questions! Two questions for you:

First – for you personally, what was the most fun tournament you ever participated in, and why?

Second – do you still play poker? What was the 2011 WSOP experience like and do you plan to enter again someday?

Thanks so much! Looking forward to watching you shaking up Candidate’s this year!

GMHikaru37 karma

The first question has been asked many times, and there isn't one particular moment which stands out. It is more due to a special significant event. For example, winning the US Championship in 2005 will always be very special as it was my first US Championship! Just as, for example, the Turin Olympiad in 2006 was special since it was both my first Olympiad, and the first time I got a team medal (bronze)!

I do still play poker occasionally, but due to the ban on internet poker here in the US, it is rather inconvenient to have to drive a few hours to a casino. Therefore, while I still play occasionally, it isn't something which I spend much time.

I did not qualify for the Candidate's tournament this year, but thank you for the compliment!

dheisman18 karma

I am sad neither yourself nor Fabiano will be playing in it this year.

GMHikaru36 karma

In general, it seems to me that the entire system needs to be overhauled as you have 4 out of the top 10 players in the world not playing in the Candidates.

314159265358979323_20 karma

Hikaru Nakamura answered my question. Coach Dan Heisman (presumably) commented on it.

My digital chess life is complete now. Today is a good day.

GMHikaru11 karma

You are very welcome!

Priapistic15 karma

I was thinking that when Deep Blue beat Kasparov the problem was that the board is too small. A supercomputer can numbercrunch an 8 by 8 board. But a human could adapt to a board 100 times bigger more easily. What do you think? (For you it might be too late too change ;) )

GMHikaru20 karma

There have been many proposed changes to the chess rules, but none of them have worked so far! I think the problem is that its hard to remain pure to the game without changing a major rule. Perhaps you are the person to introduce the new groundbreaking idea!

dance121114 karma

How high is your level on ChessTempo?

GMHikaru34 karma

Hello Dance,

I have never played chess on ChessTempo, but I will check it out. At the moment, I am playing on chess.com!

tofutuXx14 karma

Are you happy that chess has always been the center of your career (and perhaps even life)?

I'm constantly re-evaluating my career. I often wonder if even super GMs feel just as unfulfilled as the rest of us when we step back and look at the impact of our careers. I imagine that with your intellect you could have pursued just about any career you wanted.

Thank you for doing this AMA.

GMHikaru34 karma

Life will never be perfect. This is a fact.

For the most part, I do not feel unfulfilled in a traditional sense. However, the three most difficult things about chess are: 1)having to prove yourself every single day. In normal jobs, when you have made say VP in a company, you are set. 2)Having to travel a lot and not being able to spend as much time as you want with your family 3) Chess is not always secure if you have a lot of bad results.

Most of my non chess time (excluding minor activities) is spent on trading derivatives in the stock market, so I do often consider whether that would be a more logical career.

I hope I answered your questions sufficiently!

PlasterCactus13 karma

Who has been the most challenging opponent you've faced? And also who has surprised you the most in a match (someone you predicted wouldn't have a chance but came close/won)?

GMHikaru21 karma

Without a doubt, I am having the most problems with Aronian! I have lost something like 6 games in a row!

idividebyzero13 karma

Hello Hikaru. Thank you for doing this AMA.

Do you ever get "tired" of chess and what do you do when/if it happens?

GMHikaru16 karma

No problem, any time!

I certainly have moments where I get sick of chess. Usually when this happens, I take a long break and look or do anything except chess.

rhytnen13 karma


GMHikaru15 karma

Rhytnen, good question!

In many ways, I think the single most difficult thing about chess unlike almost any other game or sport is that when you lose, you aren't eliminated. One has to get right back up and continue playing the following day! Mainly, I think one just has to have selective memory or the ability to simply forget things in a hurry. I don't do anything special to prepare myself although I do occasionally meditate!

Tennis, I could probably be 3.5-4ish, but I play maybe 3 times a year which means my level is awful these days!

naked_as_a_jaybird12 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA.

What is your favorite part about being a Grandmaster? Travelling? Not having a '9 to 5' job? Thanks.

GMHikaru26 karma

My favorite part about being a professional chessplayer (not a Grandmaster as plenty of them do work normal 9-5 jobs) is that I am my own boss and make my own schedule.

elcubismo11 karma

On chess improvement: what would you say is the best advice for amateurs to follow to help them get better?

GMHikaru20 karma

Best advice for amateurs is to try and play as much as you can, but also study your games and try to understand the mistakes and why you made them.

Skippy889811 karma

I love Chess and hate it at the same time.

What is the fastest game you have ever played? The longest?

GMHikaru17 karma

The fastest game I have ever played is maybe 20 minutes (I can't recall the shortest offhand). My longest game would have to be an 8 1/2 hour game I played with GM Meier in Dortmund back in 2011.

apetresc10 karma

Are you familiar with Go at all? Any interest?

GMHikaru20 karma

fakingmysuicide9 karma

In most of your interviews I see you wearing a Barca jersey, what do you think their Chances are of winning the champions league this year?

GMHikaru14 karma

I think there chances are reasonable, and it will certainly be exciting. As long as Real Madrid doesn't ever win, I am happy! :)

ZzzoBored9 karma

As a world class, how many hours do you focus on chess per week? Describe what the study plan for a GM is like. Like percentage do you work on opening prep, what percentage on going over past games, etc.

What books/study plan would you recommend for a class A-B level player?

GMHikaru16 karma

I already gave a general response to a schedule during a week. As for specifics, I think it's probably 80% openings 10% endgames, 10% reviewing your games.

PlunkiePlunk8 karma

Here's a tough one. In the past, sometimes your tweets have rubbed some people the wrong way, e.g. after the Olympiad, "A sad fact of team competitions, you're only as strong as your teammates." (I'm paraphrasing.) How do those statements affect your relationship with colleagues and other players?

GMHikaru11 karma

My teammates understood perfectly well that it was not intended at them. It was a simple statement, but sometimes people choose to see extra hidden meaning.

Gata and I will always be the bruisers for Team USA.

solastsummer7 karma

I'm a big fan. Have you ever played poker seriously?

GMHikaru13 karma

I have played in the WSOP, and I have dabbled in some other tournaments. However, it is very time consuming and without being able to stay sharp and play on the internet, it does not make much sense to play seriously.

Sheer-Luck7 karma

Howdy, thanks for doing this- I'm a huge fan that tries to follow all of your tournaments.

It seems like someone can't play chess for long without observing some unusual people and/or situations. What do you think is the most amusing chess anecdote you've picked up over the years that you'd be willing to share?

GMHikaru16 karma

Sheer-Luck, amusing question!

There are way too many stories which I will save for my book of chess stories in 20 years! Nevertheless, I remember a game from a tournament quite a few years back, where someone got up went to the restroom then came back only to see someone else sitting in their spot having played 3-4 moves. Suffice to say it was a very confusing situation!

aravindreds6 karma

You also follow Napoli FC, a football club in the city of Naples, whose manager ideologically believes that the game is similar to chess in the aspect of exerting control from the center. How did you actually end up following the club though, which I believe is not an automatic choice for mainstream followers of the game?

GMHikaru10 karma

Buona sera, aravindreds!

My fiancée is Italian and lives in Naples. Therefore, I have been spending quite a lot of time there in the past year and a half. One day, I hope to meet Rafael Benitez!

The_Bottom_Rat6 karma

Hello, Hikaru. Thanks for the AMA. At the top levels of grandmaster play, how many moves are made that are either prepared, memorized, or from book before you are into unknown territories and playing strictly from the OTB position?

GMHikaru15 karma

I would say on average, someone will introduce a novelty or play a lesser known variation by about move 15. There will almost never be any surprises before move 10.

Ki11u45 karma

Let me start by stating the obvious; I am a huge fan. Your style of play and fighting spirit are truly amazing. I also have one non-chess related question: Which soccer club do you support and why?

GMHikaru12 karma

When I was younger, I played in the World Youth Chess Championship (99,00 and 01) in Oropesa, Spain. Many times there was soccer on, so I started watching Barcelona and learning to absolutely hate that traitor Figo! :) In more recent times, I have also been spending a lot of time in Naples, Italy so I have started rooting for Napoli as well.

tarheelsam5 karma

I've always wondered how the top players treat each other outside of the playing rooms. Do you guys ever grab a beer together or something? From tournament streams it just seems like the relationships between players are purely respectful and professional.

GMHikaru11 karma

I would say that in the past 60s 70s 80s even the 90s, chess was a lot more fun and enjoyable with everyone being good friends. Nowadays, there is quite a bit of separation and we all do our own thing.

HockeyCannon4 karma

What other "board games" do you play? Baccarat?

GMHikaru10 karma

Primarily backgammon. I have never learned enough about games like craps or baccarat.

Dioxy4 karma

You're known to get quite emotionally invested in your games. Why is this? Do you feel it helps or hinders your game overall?

GMHikaru13 karma

When one plays a game or has a job, it seems natural to take pride and want to do your absolute best. This is probably why I give everything for the game of chess.

Gonzoboner4 karma

Still a Halak fan?

GMHikaru11 karma

Hockey is and always be my favorite sport! Halak is a great goalie, but my allegiances lie with the New York Rangers (KING HENRIK) and the Vancouver Canucks!

Conspirologist4 karma

Hi. What's the big deal about playing against a computer? I am asking this because of the famous Kasparov vs Deep Blue match. I see it only as a huge advertising for IBM. Because there is no really a point in trying to beat a computer, all the fun in chess it to see a struggle between human minds. What do you think about it? Would you have fun against a computer, or you too consider it just a promotional gimmick?

GMHikaru10 karma

I would have my ego crushed into a pulp if I played a computer :)

randolphkoma4 karma

Do you think that the 8...Bc5 line that Carlsen played against you is any good? 0-0 seems more logical.

GMHikaru6 karma

This is not the place to discuss chess theory, but I do not think Carlsen will be playing this variation the next time!

paulwal3 karma

Can you comment on the psychological aspect of the game, and how much mental strength plays a role? It seems as if some players almost use a sort of sorcery to psych out their opponent. Does that aspect exist at the top levels?

Also, was this factor partially at play in your recent near defeat of Carlsen? Thanks

GMHikaru5 karma

In terms of the psychological aspect, mental strength is crucial. If you do not have absolute confidence and belief in yourself or are feeling insecure in any way, there tend to be dire consequences on the chess board. This will tend to affect both your calculation and evaluation assessments.

My recent game against Carlsen had nothing to do with the psychological aspect. I just had a 1 in 100 hallucination.

AnotherSwissBaba3 karma

Mr. Nakamura,

nice to meet you, thank you for your contributions to the chess world and for doing this AMA.

My question: How do you like your olives? Small and black and fleshy or are you the large green juicy type?

Have a great day!

GMHikaru13 karma

I love olives! They are especially good with a nice vodka martini!

diamondsinmymouth3 karma

Hi Hikaru. I have a question regarding fame in chess.

In the April 2013 issue of Chess Life, there is a review of "Fighting Chess with Hikaru Nakamura," written by Jamaal Abdul-Alim, in which he writes,

"There are times when the chess champ sounds wistful, complaining that while players such as Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian are treated as "superstars" ... in their home countries ... He gets no such fanfare at home.

"when I go back to the US, I am essentially just an ordinary citizen, I'm not anything special," Nakamura laments in the interview.

"It is quite difficult sometimes to reconcile that with the fact that these other really strong players get so much attention and their own countries."

Do you feel that this is more due to your results or the popularity of chess in America? It is easy to be a superstar when you're the first world champ from your tiny country, but in the US, any minor celebrity is in competition with Peyton Manning, Miley Cyrus, Brangelina, et al.

As an avid chess player living in Maryland, it is exceedingly difficult to find a game or anyone to talk about the game with outside of the chess club. I never see anyone reading Chess Life, or training tactics on their phone. I am left wishing that another closet patzer will recognize my chessboard in its carrying case and challenge me to a game.

Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA. If I ever see you, I hope we can play a quick game and get a photo in.

GMHikaru4 karma

I think the main difference of being a chessplayer in America is simply that America is a huge country and we are so good in so many different sports and games. Is it disappointing, sure, but that is the reality. Norway (Winter Olympics exempted), but to a much lesser extent Armenia do not excel in many fields, so the top players get a lot of coverage!

jargonaught2 karma

Hi, Hikaru! I'm big fan! I've been watching videos of you playing lately and you can beat other GM's easily while sometimes only using 30 seconds of your clock.

How did you get so fast as bullet and if there was a World Championship for bullet, do you believe you'd be the Champion?
I feel that you'd be there.

GMHikaru10 karma

I got so good by playing so many games of blitz and bullet when I was young! If there was a World Championship for bullet, I do believe that I would win!

rharm2 karma

When will you be bringing back the sunglasses?

GMHikaru8 karma

You will have to wait and see!

rickspawnshop2 karma

Hi Hikaru! First off, thanks for adding me as a friend on chess.com. Have you ever considered that the human race is just a sub-species in the scheme of things and chess is a rudimentary game?

In your opinion, is there a point of singularity in chess where if both players are smart enough, every game is a draw?

Thanks! Take care.

GMHikaru5 karma

I have not considered such deep philosophical questions. If I did, I think I would start to wonder what the point of anything is!

danrennt982 karma

How often do you lose games against other people of your same caliber?

GMHikaru7 karma

It's all relative. I would think on average that I lose something like 1 out of every 10 games I play, which is about 10%.