From the man with the best hair in chess journalism, Macauley "Anchorman" Peterson at the ICC Chess.FM blog, the real scoop on Hikaru Nakamura's invite to Corus A 2010. Go there now for all the linkies to work.
American champion Hikaru Nakamura has been invited to the prestigious Corus A tournament in Wijk aan Zee (January 15-31, 2010).
Nakamura (ICC: Smallville) broke the news first in an interview for Chess Talk with John Watson, which will be released for on-demand playback next Tuesday, June 29th on Chess.FM (for ICC members only).
The past six weeks have been tremendous for Nakamura, whose U.S. Championship win in Saint Louis got him back over 2700 FIDE. In fact, with Gata Kamsky struggling in Bazna, Romania, Nakamura looks poised to surpass him as the top rated American in the world.
Macauley phoned Hikaru for a quick chat on Monday night to confirm the news.
For US fans this adds some drama to all the remaining Corus A invite announcements. Will the American champ face the usual rogue's gallery of top-tenners? Will Anand, Topalov, and Kramnik be back this year? Nakamura's inclusion in this traditional event will also test my theory that having someone with his large American online fan base will have a significant impact on coverage traffic. Like any star doing his thing, Nakamura also has his share of vocal detractors. But they'll be watching eagerly, too. And on the internet nobody knows (or cares) whether the unique visitors are there to cheer or jeer. It's about putting butts in the seats, as the saying goes, or in this case, eyeballs on the screen. And I have no doubt that in that category Nakamura plays at the 2800 level.
I hope the USCF site gets out ahead of their champion's second-half star turn with some serious promotion and coverage. This is their chance to run with something big instead of running it over. Contests, fantasy chess, win a trip to Corus to carry Hikaru's luggage, whatever. I'm sure the savvier ICC folks will get into this sort of thing as well. Smallville is as close to a home-grown star as the ICC could have.