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Nakamura Wins Samford

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US Champion Hikaru Nakamura has won the 2005 Samford Fellowship. That means a salary and expenses so he can concentrate on chess, although he's one winner for whom that won't be anything new. I got into the recent history of the award last year, when it was won by Rusa Goletiani.

Hikaru has said several times that he doesn't see the need for a coach yet, and that he wouldn't know who to turn to in the US anyway. Of course your trainer doesn't have to be as strong as you are, especially if most of the work focuses on openings, which is usually the case. He has expressed concern about working with a Russian (Russian speaker) when most of his competition hail from the same area. But this hasn't stopped people like Vishy Anand from working with ex-Soviet trainers.

Perhaps with his newfound wealth Hikaru can work with a few different people from around the US or the world and see if working with a trainer suits him. Whatever he does, congratulations to him! You can enjoy his annotations each month in the Black Belt newsletter.


Let's get behind Hikaru and support him the best we can. Three cheers for Hikaru Nakamura!

Next step: The cover of Time or Newsweek.

Congratulations, Hikaru! 2700, here you come! I hope Hikaru uses his new found income wisely, and I hope to see him competing often.

He is going to plunder it all on Magic the Gathering Online!



are you implying that if Hikaru hired a Russian or a Russian-speaking (read Jewish-Ukranian) coach, there would be a chance of betrayal? I mean a betrayal based on nationalistic sentiment or political affiliation, not the good old American betrayal, "I only did this for the money".
Please speak spell it out for me.
It's not like I'm applying for a job coaching Nakamura. Thanks.


What Mig has mentioned is from Nakamura's interviews where he has expressed fears of betrayal by Russian speaking coaches.

It is clearly yet another sign of Nakamura's arrogance that he feels that players rated below him can't teach him anything. I hope he doesn't feel the same about classic chess books by players rated below him.

Sad to say, you lose out on a chance to coach him on two counts (rating and ancestry).


ps: Strangely, the same Nakamura who casts aspersions on the Russian speaking Americans likes to be treated as an American and not Japanese American.

Now that it looks like Kamsky is seriously returning to chess wouldn't working together with him seem like a good situation much like Anand and Vallejo? Nakamura can learn about the type of preparation and work needed to break into the super-GM level while Kamsky can get back up to speed faster working with a strong GM.


I'm sure most of the Russian-speaking, chess playing immigrants are of high moral standard and would never betray their students; however, as everybody knows, there is a tight-knit coterie of former Soviet players residing in the US, some forming stronger loyalties with each other than with their transient students. So, any betrayal might be because of nationalistic sentiment (and I emphasise "might"), but more likely it is because the coach tends to be a close chess-playing friend with a fellow ex-Russian.

There is no part of this milieu which is specific to Russian immigrants. Betrayal can infect any susceptible individual. If the majority of strong chess players in the USA happened to be ex-British players (who speak English, by the way), I'm sure Hikaru would have reservations about working with them, too, for the same reasons (it's just human nature).

Potential coaches of high moral standing are just going to have to find work elsewhere.

But this is only half of the story. Hikaru is fiercely independent, and will probably put off working with a trainer, no matter what his or her nationality, as long as possible.

By the way, why do you read "Russian-speaking" as "Jewish-Ukranian"? I don't see the connection -- or if there is one, why it is meaningful.

Howard Goldowsky

i have seen Kazimdsanov in Manhattan yesterday.
I introduced myself and asked him what he was up to after his brilliant game against the comp.
He said he was going to train with Nakamura for a few days.

You guys have now your answer

Very cool. It must be said that I don't get the impression that all of the ex-soviets ( with the exception of drinking buddies Jaan and Aleks) are that close that they would share secrets with each other. But who knows... Kasim seems like a really nice, ethical guy. They are both young but Kasim has a lot of experience so I think it could be a great team. 2.Qh5!? in San Luis?

How does one "win" the Samford Fellowship? Is it a tournament, or is someone selected?

I'm not implying there would be betrayal, I'm saying it has been implied before. Sorry it's not clear; I just didn't want to accuse him of something sensitive when he's been so vague about it. There is no shortage of interview material from American GMs who don't speak Russian about feeling like an outsider.

But it's not abnormal to want to work with someone who you feel comfortable with. Working with someone who is friends with your competitors would concern anyone, if not warranting the total paranoia about these things that has been seen at the top. (Re: Kasparov freaking out.) Their sharing a language you don't speak would just add to paranoia.

Kapalic writes:

"ps: Strangely, the same Nakamura who casts aspersions on the Russian speaking Americans likes to be treated as an American and not Japanese American"

It's not strange at all; it's rather consistent. "Pull up the gangplank Jack, I am aboard"

I should have included this since I mentioned the topic, but didn't want to distract so much from the point, which was the Samford. Anyway, from Howard's ChessCafe interview with Hikaru:


Hikaru Nakamura: The main problem is that at the level I'm at, almost all of the top players [in the US] are foreign born. That makes it very difficult, because if you want to study with them, there is a possibility that they'll go on and show everything to their friends. There aren’t really any “American” grandmasters that are really higher rated than me right now. That’s actually why I still work alone. It’s very hard to trust anybody.

Sunil Weermantry (Hikaru's father): I think in time Hikaru will find who he wants to work with. You know, you just have to establish some kind of connection with somebody. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the strongest player out there, but it is somebody that you can get along with, to go to tournaments with…I think the chemistry is really important. The fact of the matter is if you do somehow get up to the level where you’re playing for the World Championship or something like that, obviously you need a team. The composition of that team is something Hikaru will be able to decide in time.

To partially answer Seth Homa's question: One "wins" the Samford Fellowship by being picked by a committee of three. They are Frank P. Samford III (son of Samford Fellowship founder Frank P. Samford, Jr.), former U.S. Chess Champion Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier and International Master John Donaldson.

OK, thank you all for clarifications. So it was Hikaru himself who said that. Figures.
Please do not automatically assume that all GM's are lining up to get hired by the new Samford boy.
I recall that in one time or another I have been offered to slave for Karpov, Kasparov and Kamsky and rejected them all. No regrets.
So far I see no reason to change my mind for Hikaru, unless he somehow engineers my firing from the Mechanics'. When I face a choice between working for an arrogant chess champion and flipping burgers, I'll give it another thought.

And don't forget I offered you work too. But the Princess Leia slave outfit was totally optional.

"You have to be a bastard to make it, and that’s a fact. And the Beatles are the biggest bastards on earth." - John Lennon, Lennon Remembers (p. 87, 1970)

Thanks voss, that answers my question.

Since when was he 'American born' himself anyway? Maybe he should import a Japanese player to train with.


I like Howard's initial comments. My question is... why does it appear to be fate of rejection if Hikaru doesn't want to work with anyone? That's his prerogative.

The Kasimdzhanov-Nakamura partnership is not exactly a Ponomariov-Topalov duet (2001-02 FIDE KO), yet still formidable and both players stand to benefit.


I'm not sure what the motivation of your comments are, but when you state that Hikaru is "an arrogant chess champion," that is quite humorous given the tone of your own posts. That bit about you being sought after by Kasparov, Karpov and Kamsky seems out of place. What's the point?

Is Hikaru supposed to somehow feel bad because you (a highly sought after coach by top GMs) don't want to coach the "Samford boy"? Flipping burgers vs. coaching Hikaru... the irony here is that you sound like the arrogant chess champion you accuse Hikaru of being.

Nakamura is a US citizen by birth, and has lived in the US since he was two. That seems to me quite a different situation from the other top US players who gained their GM title while in Russia and hang out together at tournaments, speaking Russian to each other.

Whatever it is all about the personalities and mixings of the team, specifics in other words. Generalities like Russian speaker aside(Kasim knows a word or two), it is clear that HN doesn't see anyone in the US who he feels would be a good mix. At such a young age, it makes sense to work with people closer to your own age and there is no one even near Naka's age who makes much sense in the US right now(most people are middle aged). So he goes it solo for the time being.

While Nakamura is a US citizen now, I doubt he is a citizen by birth. He has been here since he was two though. Nevertheless, his chess is all American without question.


I believe Nakamura's mother is an American citizen who married a Japanese man. Hence Nakamura's American citizenship from birth. I believe his mother returned with her two children to the United States after her divorce from his father, although it is possible the divorce occured after the move. Not that it has much to do with anything, but there you go.


Here's a good article on the Samford fellowship.


Past recipients include GMs Joel Benjamin, Max Dlugy, Alex Fishbein, Ilya Gurevich, Gata Kamsky, Boris Kreiman, Alex Sherzer, Tal Shaked, Varuzhan Akobian plus IMs Ben Finegold, Dean Ippolito, Eugene Perelshteyn, Dmitry Schneider, and Josh Waitzkin. Plus NM Rusudan Goletiani. And others I've probably forgotten.


First, to clarify a fairly trivial point, Hikaru is American by birth, although he was born in Japan, because his mother is an American. Thus, he has all right to speak of being American, and criticism over him not identifying himself as Japanese-American is thus misplaced. To add to this, Hikaru is very much aware of his Japanese heritage and does want to represent it. He has said this to me himself, so lay off the kid already.

Now, regarding the issue of why Hikaru trains on his own, it seems to me that some people are bitter that he would consider them not preferable as training partners. The fact is that there are quite a few GMs on the American scene who are friends with each other (Stripunsky and Novikov come to mind, for instance), and Hikaru's concerns are not rooted in paranoia so much as in prophylactic thinking. Of course, one always wishes to defer to the professionalism and integrity of a man, but prudence is nevertheless not to be frowned upon.

I have said this before, and I will say it again. Hikaru is a young man with tremendous potential and a lot of weight on his shoulders. He has major decisions to make and it is his own future which is primarily affected by these decisions. At this point, he is not involved in chess to make friends; he stopped being a scholastic player long ago. If he stays with top-level chess, then he does so with the goal of being the best, and if he crushes a few egos on the way to the top, then so be it. He told me at some recent point that his name meant "One who shines", and no one is doing a better job of shining as an American chessplayer than he. I look forward to seeing him in Philly, and not only because I want to see him win the tournament.




In Maliq's lengthy posts we are seeing another website take root, perhaps hikarulove.com, which will focus on Nakamura hagiography much as chessninja tends towards Kasparov apologia. Beware the forum member uttering the tiniest of ill sentiments regarding the US champion, for you too will feel the Wrath of Hotep. After all, Hikaru is "not involved in chess to make friends", but no doubt he'll settle for a cabal of cultish admirers.



Certainly we have a healthy degree of devil's advocacy. Hikaru's indiscretions are forgivable because he's young, talented, and Japanese.

There's a topic: Grandmasters and their seconds.

After Spassky lost the title in 1972, I believe the Soviets re-assigned his second to Karpov. Spassky was unable to overcome this disadvantage and lost the 1974 Candidates match to Karpov - 4 to 1 with six draws.

After losing three consecutive games, Kasparov suggested that one of his seconds was leaking his opening preparation to Karpov.

Interesting is Kasparov's choice of Kramnik (whom he had already recognized as a future rival) to second him in the Anand match.

Great topic. One of the more interesting second stories is that of Ray Keene's outrageous betrayal of Korchnoi during the Baguio City match. In what was to be the final game, Korchnoi sprung a novelty in the Pirc he'd been readying for some time; but the moment he put it on the board, Karpov responded without thought and went on to crush his opponent and take the match 6-5.

Years later Korchnoi requested access to his declassified KGB file and checked the entries from Baguio City. Sure enough, it was duly noted that his second Keene had given away Korchnoi's opening preparation to the Karpov camp during the match.

Likely the two men are no longer friends. It's remarkable that Keene continues to enjoy status as an elder statesman of British chess without being called out as the treacherous bastard he is.

Clubfoot, you are amusing. Hikaru is a friend of mine. I am not some Hikaru groupie, as much as you wish to make me seem that I am. As a friend of Hikaru's, I understand his thinking and his concerns a hell of a lot better than people who just take shots at him because they know his name. There have been several points at which I have acknowledged that he has done things in the past which were not wise and which he is not proud of, but I won't just allow open season on Hikaru. Understand that I don't have anything personal to gain from his success; I am not his agent. Once I get back to Columbus, OH, I focus on my grad school studies and chess is on the back burner, so I don't give a damn about making a name for myself in chess. I call them as I see them, and if that upsets you, Clubfoot, then I stand by my assessment that sometimes people in society deserve to be offended. Stop whining because you don't get to take unchallenged shots against a player.



Although I now concede that Naka is most likely an American by birth based on the probable qualifications of his parents, nevertheless, having an American parent and being born overseas does not make one an automatic citizen. Depending of the qualifications of both parents, you may only be an American "national".




To the backpedalling dissembling idolator Maliq:

"Stop whining because you don't get to take unchallenged shots against a player."

You are mistaken. I never took a shot, unchallenged or not, at this player, nor do I have plans for shots in future. Perhaps you should stop YOUR whining because you don't get to post unchallenged love-notes to your hero.



Clubfoot I suppose that the comment is more based upon your general negative outlook that all of your posts exude rather than what you said or did not say about Hikaru. Your comments are just that predictable. Sometimes one must simply say, " is it possible that everyone/everything is wrong or is it just me." If you indeed judge it to be the latter, then ask, "why do I insist on trolling and taking it out on other people?"

Wow, Clubfoot, Hikaru is my hero?! He is my friend, but certainly not a hero to somebody who will have little of anything to do with chess in the near future. That is like saying that Roger Clemens' hero growing up was Pele. How is it that defending my friend can be construed as idol worship? Explain that one to me, since I, as a sociologist, obviously am not educated enough about human interaction to realize this.

When it comes to heroes, I have several. They are Malcolm X, who went from a vice of his community to a leader of it and then elevated his thinking even higher once he got a better view of the world and died for what he believed in; my sixth-grade teacher, who taught me what it means to sacrifice for the future of the children; my professors, who helped me through tough times to pave the way for my pursuit of a PhD; my friend, Matthew Hall, who made such a difference in the world before he was murdered at 18 that his funeral procession spanned over two blocks and included several well-heeled New York political figures; and all of the people who suffered or died in the struggle to give me the opportunities I have today. This term, hero, is a significant one, and it is not to be tossed around. Find the common thread with regard to what makes one a hero to me, and then realize how ridiculous your statements are.

On a final note, I talk to Hikaru almost daily, so your assertion that I would use a board he rarely reads in order to speak to him makes no sense. If you are going to make assertions, at least do yourself the favor of making reasonable ones. Now, get back to the topic.



Ty Cobb declared that his sport (baseball) was "no pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out". The same of course is clearly true of top level chess. I suspect it's been that way for 150+ years. Look closely at those ancient black & white tournament group pictures; few of the competitors appear to have their guard down amongst their peers. Most of them look pissed off and on edge..they definetly weren't trusting mollycoddles. Samford winners and other aspiring young players had best learn to "do unto others BEFORE they do unto you" if they want to survive the GM jungle. It seems as if Naka has already figured this out.

Ty Cobb declared that his sport (baseball) was "no pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out". The same of course is clearly true of top level chess. I suspect it's been that way for 150+ years. Look closely at those ancient black & white tournament group pictures; few of the competitors appear to have their guard down amongst their peers. Most of them look pissed off and on edge..they definetly weren't trusting mollycoddles. Samford winners and other aspiring young players had best learn to "do unto others BEFORE they do unto you" if they want to survive the GM jungle. It seems as if Naka has already figured this out.

Each of Maliq's posts drips with the milk of human kindness. In mitigation, he is certainly not reluctant to throw his credentials around when needed.

What credentials does Maliq throw around Drewba? The only credential he professes to have is a sociology degree.

Nevertheless, this opportunity will provide Hikaru will secure enough resources to determine if he can reach the upper echelon of chess and continue on. I'm sure his stepfather will play a role in helping him to map out a plan.

One thing we won't have to worry about is whether the awardee will in fact ever become a GM. To get $32,000 for chess training and travel will hopefully be a good thing for Hikaru.

My hope is that it doesn't make him lazy. It appears that many of the recent Samford winners got lazy and did nothing in the two years. Watching Hikaru's quest for the WCC should be exciting.

I volunteer to work with Hikaru (being American born) and I would only give his secrets away if I was offered a good price.

I meet all of Sunil's criteria, in that I am not that good!

IM Ben Finegold

Not that good, indeed. Finegold has lost to the likes of Bronstein, Gelfand, J. Polgar, and Kamsky. And managed mere draws against Gligoric, Smyslov, and Anand.

Hey Ben Finegold, did you by any chance invent the Finegold defense to the Morra Gambit(for the unaware one of the several systems claiming to refute the Morra Gambit)

I like the "odd" endorsement, thanks! Although...I crushed Gelfand in 25 moves, and we only played once. I have beaten Epishin, Yermo, Benjamin, Dautov, Ehlvest (twice), Sosonko, Rohde, deFirmian (twice), and many other GMs. I guess putting down whom I lost and drawn against will put me in a better light of being not too good though :)

My friend, Bob Ciaffone (co-author) invented the Finegold Defense, although he named it after me as he thought that was a better idea than calling it the Ciaffone Defense (people might think it is a poker book then!).

IM what I am, IM Ben Finegold

Hey Mr. Finegold..I've seen you in action. You're certainly the most dapper titled master on this continent. The Samford Fellowship folks should put you on the payroll to take new winners under your wing and to your tailor.


I recognize IM Finegold as the strongest IM in the country, although Milman is coming on strong recently. Sometimes, people look at the title and dismiss the playing strength, but the truth is that Finegold is clearly a GM-strength player. Maybe he is the type of player Hikaru might work on things with now that it is apparent that chess will be a big part of his immediate future, at the least. I look forward to seeing some more awesome Finegold games at the World Open this year! :-)




On one more note, I think that any discussion about dapper titled players MUST include Maurice Ashley. The man is suave!




You drew Smyslov??? It's admirable that Smyslov played until a ripe age before retiring. It gives players like Nakamura, Karjakin, Radjabov, Harikrishna a chance to play the legends. When I saw a picture of Berkes playing Korchnoi at the recent György Marx Memorial, he had this look on his face of admiration that was really interesting. He appeared to say, "I'm playing a legend!" They split games! Berkes will be able to tell his grandchildren that he played and beat a legend and former championship contender.

On the other hand, few of these up-and-coming stars will have never had a chance to play Garry Kasparov due to his retirement. Paco Vallejo Pons told Kasparov, "It was an honor playing you." Hopefully, older players will pass on lessons to the young tigers so they can keep the fire going. I hope whoever Hikaru picks will be one to pass on some of the richness of their chess experience.

I played Smyslov twice. Once in a simul in Moscow in 1984 (I won) and once in Lloyd's Bank in 1988 (draw).

IM Ben Finegold

PS I just won the Columbus Open 4.5-0.5 ahead of Wojtkiewicz and Blocker. My USCF after all my tournaments have been rated should be an all time high of 2655! ...You listenin Hikaru?

Smirin better watch out, as soon, I may be within 140 points of his USCF!

Yeah but can you last more than 24 moves against Naka?


Ben, you go down to Columbus and take money on the local scene there? What a bully! :-) What can you tell me about the chess scene there? I'm an Ohio State student beginning in the fall and have spent a lot of time in Columbus, but haven't had the opportunity to find out if anything is going on there chesswise.



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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on June 24, 2005 4:00 AM.

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