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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Hikaru Nakamura is the top chess player in the United States, among the ten best in the world, and he’s playing in one of the year’s biggest tournaments in his and our backyard.  He’s moved to St. Louis to pursue his dream of a chess world championship.

“In America it is a chess capital without a doubt.”

Nakamura is a chess prodigy.  He began excelling at the game as a child, becoming a grandmaster at just 15.  He was the youngest American to reach that goal, surpassing possibly the most famous chess player ever:  Bobby Fischer.

His name has been linked to Fischer’s ever since, a comparison he understands, and also hopes to eventually break away from.

“I kind of feel like Fischer had something really great going when he became world champion.  Unfortunately, I won’t speculate on the reasons, he left chess at its peak in America,” Nakamura said.

Fischer then, in the eyes of many, went mad.  He left chess, left the United States, and lived out his days as a recluse.

“Once he quit, it killed the momentum that had started, so for me, I really hope that if I do become world champion, I can raise that profile.”

He’ll get a chance to make a move in that direction this week in what’s called the Sinquefield Cup.

“The 2013 Sinquefield Cup is really a combination of the Super Bowl and the World Series all rolled into one big event,” Tony Rich of the St. Louis Chess Club said.  “This is the strongest chess tournament that has ever been held on American soil.”

The top two players in the world are here, including Magnus Carlsen.  He’s the world’s number one and another prodigy as well.  He’s just 22.

“He has better nerves,” Nakamura says of Carlsen compared to other players.  “He’s better at handling his nerves when he’s under pressure than a lot of players, and that makes a very slight difference at being the very best and not being the best.”

The winner will take home $70 thousand, and, hopefully according to Nakamura, take another step toward changing the reputation of chess players.  When people meet him now:

“It’s a bit of a shock, more so because I’m normal.  It doesn’t quite fit the perceptions.  Chess players seem to be viewed for better or for worse somewhat nerdy.  Very studious,” he says.  “So many of the players, they definitely are not nerds.”

For more information, click on the Sinquefield Cup events.

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