November 01, 2011 13:02

New in Chess confirms rumours: Nakamura is working with Kasparov

New in Chess confirms rumours: Nakamura is working with Kasparov

America's number one grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura is working with 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov. Their collaboration started before the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee last January. This was reported in the latest issue of New in Chess Magazine, which reaches mailboxes today.

What his nearest colleagues already knew, and what has been rumoured for many months on the internet, was confirmed today by the highly acclaimed, international chess magazine New in Chess: top grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura (USA) is working with former World Champion and arguably the best player ever, Garry Kasparov (Russia). In issue 2011/07 there's an interview by Macauley Peterson which confirms everything, and we just received a press release from New in Chess as well, which we're publishing here:

Kasparov and Nakamura started working together before the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee last January, which ended in the American’s greatest triumph to date. Looking back with new knowledge it’s easy to understand what part Kasparov played in his success. Nakamura reveals that he first talked with the 13th World Champion about a possible cooperation at the London Chess Classic. Nakamura:

The beginning of it would have been last December when, right before the London Classic, I got an email from Rex, and he sort of wrote it in a cryptic way where he said he had spoken with Kasparov, and there’s something that he wanted to talk to me about. It didn’t reveal any specifics, but I just put two and two together.

“Rex” is Rex Sinquefield, whose many contributions to the game in recent years include The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis -- possibly the finest chess club in the world, and the current venue for the U.S. Championship. The Chess Club is now joined by Sinquefield-sponsored World Chess Hall of Fame (also covered in NIC 2011/07) which sits just across the street. Nakamura moved to Saint Louis in 2010 and you don’t have to guess long to know what Mr. Sinquefield hopes Hikaru will achieve for his country.

The spirit of Saint Louis: Rex Sinquefield, Garry Kasparov and Hikaru Nakamura

In London, Nakamura and Kasparov indeed spoke about teaming up and Hikaru didn’t have to think twice. Nakamura:

I knew right away that I would definitely take up the offer simply because there are certain times – certain opportunities you have in life just don’t come around that often, and certainly having the opportunity to work with, at least what I consider to be, the greatest chess player ever, is sort of an opportunity you can’t turn down.

As was the case when he was working with Magnus Carlsen, Kasparov believes that keeping his role secret gave his protégé an advantage over rivals. Nakamura is less certain about this advantage, and felt that by April several of his colleagues knew anyway, even if they didn’t speak about it.

It’s clear that two outspoken and temperamental characters like Kasparov and Nakamura can reach great heights together, but their temperaments will also inevitably lead to differences of opinion. In his New In Chess column Kasparov writes:

I had the opportunity to work extensively with Magnus, and I have been working less formally with Hikaru since the start of the year.

Kasparov goes on to say that the American’s talent is evident, but he grumbles about Nakamura’s interest in poker, which could impede his chess progress.

Whereas Kasparov remains reluctant to talk about their work, Nakamura speaks candidly and in detail with interviewer Macauley Peterson. His opponents may now know that he gets help from Kasparov, but they will find out much more about what makes Nakamura tick when they read his views and convictions. (End of NIC's press release.)

Nakamura's collaboration with Kasparov has been rumoured for many months on internet forums. The rumours gathered momentum when on Monday, September 26th, Dennis Monokroussos wrote on his blog:

And now, rumor time. Emphasis on rumor: the information is at least three people away from an original source, so cum grano salis and caveat lector. It is...that Nakamura is working with Garry Kasparov. (...)

By that time the rumour was also picked up by Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia. As we reported in our September 26th article, Garcia asked Nakamura about it at the press conference after the first round of the Grand Slam Masters Final. The American grandmaster said that he would 'not comment' and people could 'believe the rumours if they wanted to'. In our opinion this answer made it even more likely to be true - why wouldn't Nakamura just say no if it wasn't true?

On the same day at WhyChess Colin McGourty added a nice piece of research journalism. He pointed out that

it would perhaps explain what Hikaru Nakamura was doing in Croatia this summer. For instance, he tweeted on 11 August: “Really pleasantly surprised by the people and the girls here in Zagreb.” Croatia is an odd holiday destination for an American who isn’t backpacking around Europe, but we know from earlier reports that Kasparov worked with Carlsen in his “summer residence” in Croatia.

In the same week, at the end of September, one of our readers pointed us to the product page of Chessbase Magazine #144. There, you can find the following text:

For this ChessBase Magazine the serial victor of Dortmund has chosen to annotate his win against Hikaru Nakamura. The American went into a theoretical duel in the Nimzo-Indian and chose an unfashionable variation with 8.Qb3. However, Kramnik points out in his analysis that in his day Kasparov championed this move. And especially since Kramnik knew that Nakamura had been working with Kasparov recently, he would probably not have been all that surprised at the choice.

We immediately asked Vladimir Kramnik what was true about this text, and he replied:

Is it still a rumour? I thought everybody knows, just trying to pretend they don't. smiley As far as I know for already a year. Actually I find it strange they are hiding it.

Naturally, this was enough information for us to confront Nakamura personally. During the first half of the Masters Final in Sao Paulo we asked him on Facebook Chat if it was true, but at that moment Nakamura didn't want to 'respond to rumours'. We decided to leave it at that. Today it becomes clear that Nakamura decided to give the scoop to Macauley Peterson and New in Chess Magazine. Touché! smiley

Earlier, Kasparov worked with another top grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen of Norway. This cooperation started in the summer of 2009 and ended about half a year later. In a recent biography about Carlsen more details were revealed.

The Norwegian newspaper Nettavisen wrote that "Kasparov was a strict coach, shaped by iron Russian discipline and determination. He didn’t hesitate to swing the axe if his student played poorly." Carlsen, on the other hand, was used to do everything by himself.

Carlsen's cooperation with Kasparov ended soon after after a crucial loss against Vladimir Kramnik at the Corus tournament in January 2010.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


SadTruth's picture

Damn Kramnik it was not obvious to me.

paul's picture

collaboration seems such a nasty word!

ask's picture


Creemer's picture

However, I don't think having Kasparov as coach/trainer/adviser will make it easy for Nakamura to close the gap to 2800+. I won't say that he can't do it, but I don't see him getting to the absolute top.
Might be wrong though...

Rob's picture

Kasparov as a trainer may be a better try to get to 2800 than non-stop lightning on ICC. Good luck to Nakamura!

Kamalakanta's picture

I believe Nakamura has the talent to be World Champion. Whether he actually achieves it is another matter. It is not easy to get to the top or stay at the top, as Anand has done. Carlsen might get there, but...does he really want it?

grabpawnalov's picture

i also work with Kasperov ...... the Kasperov 2000 computer 12k

Chris's picture

Funny, that same computer gives me the AXE all the time too!

noyb's picture

Who knows where this will lead. I suspect that Hikaru is somewhat like Carlsen in that he has primarily worked alone. Hikaru also has demonstrated a penchant for "flights of fancy", which seems to go against the grain of more conservative play (maybe that's why his results went down slightly after Wijk An Zee?). I thought I'd noticed his openings becoming more "traditional" in 2011. Perhaps he will stick it out longer, but in the end the "break-up" may be even be more pronounced.

S3's picture

As far as I know Nakamura hasn't always worked alone as his (step?)father was a player of master level. After that he has done a lot himself, but still.
Same goes for Carlsen, he had several trainers, including Agdestein, and went to a special scool to combine it with chess. After that he's had training camps with Kasparov, So and others.
If their work is considered done "primarily alone" than I am sure it goes for 99% of the young grandmasters of these days.

noyb's picture

Nakamura's step-father, FM Sunil Weeramantry, trains children not GMs! So Hikaru has been alone for quite some time. His only "partner" is a 2100 player who maintains his opening db.

noyb's picture

Nakamura's step-father, FM Sunil Weeramantry, trains children not GMs! So Hikaru has been alone for quite some time. His only "partner" is a 2100 player who maintains his opening db.

Webbimio's picture

Carlsen almost never worked alone.

Frans's picture

Kasparov eats, breaths and lives chess. Its in his blood.
This is not so with Carlsen and Nakamura, they are products of the modern age.
Always taking the business-like approach if something else like study or poker or a campaign for Denim can be more profitable. So, Kasparov can never expect the same dedication from these youngsters as he has to chess. Kasparov will be disappointed over and over again, whatever student he supports. The times the are changin'. Ask Yermo.

redivivo's picture

"Carlsen and Nakamura, they are products of the modern age. Always taking the business-like approach if something else like study or poker or a campaign for Denim can be more profitable"

I don't think it's that Carlsen and Nakamura only think about money, and that this is the reason they don't study chess around the clock like Fischer and Kasparov did. I think it's more that they want to have fun instead of limiting themselves to think about nothing else than chess.

Matt's picture

Hope Garry helps him to make a big step forward, the talent is there.
Changing subject..... "in a recent biography about Carlsen..." can they write a biography about someone who's not even 30 years old? I wouldn't buy for sure, sounds like a joke. Just like those footballers writing their 'biographies' when they haven't even retired.....

Bertje Enkelhaar's picture

Kinda Obviuous,

When you already achieved alot its better to wirte your memories straight away as they are still fresh and accurate. Nothing wrong with that. I already read a bio about Carlsen when he was like 16 or something.

Kasparov himself wrote a bio at early age wich was awsome!

Stop whining and just dont buy it and go for the memorial biography over 80 years

Born's picture

I am curious to what there is left to teach a player of Nakamuras caliber which would really make a difference.

Ashish's picture

I'd love it if Anand were to beat Gelfand, and then retire ... to train Carlsen. In other words, continue a proxy fight against Kasparov - this time, with a better result.

lefier's picture

Well, there will sure be a clash of personalities. So not for very long I suspect...

Niima's picture

You are probably right. Another factor is for how long Nakamura will be able to afford Kasparov? The Boss does not come cheap.

Thomas's picture

"for how long Nakamura will be able to afford Kasparov?"
I guess as long as Rex Sinquefield is willing and able to pay for it ... .

Baro's picture

Nakamura toke up a dayly regimen of phisical training, too: this requires dedication when you start from a sedentary habit (trust me: I know for personal experience!).
Anyway, Kasparov as a coach and Sinquefield as a patron seems quite a powerful combination. If Nakamura has the will and personal strenght to become World Champion, now he doesn't need anything else.

Good luck to him: all Chess world would benefit from an USA interestment in the Game, possibly in view of a future head to head with China's growing talents and India's established reign.
Have you noticed how Carlsen acts and plays in a somewhat "oldish" fashion, on the other side? European colture really seems like it's dripping its last blood, these days!

JhoraVi's picture

The real reason behind is that Kasparov just want a blitz sparing partner because it's blitz where he is actively performing now a days.

Webbimio's picture

Lol! So crazy that it should be true :)

Ken H.'s picture

Silly, Ashish. Really silly stuff you just wrote there. You after Frans is like cotton candy after prime rib.

bernd's picture

They will start by looking at ALL Smyslov games.

Zeblakob's picture

Everything iz Ok.

steve's picture
Soviet School's picture

Kasparov : "Of course Naka you are familiar with Botvinnik's game from the Third round of the Soviet metalworkers union championship of 1929"
Naka: "Bot Vinnik, that's some sort of early computer right?"

Janis Nisii's picture


Chess Fan's picture

This is going to be interesting.Are we going to see another magnum phenom like Magnus Carlsen? Maybe Kasparov is just the catalyst for America's current best player (along with Gata Kamsky) and certainly the most exciting player, to make the transition to his potential as the new Fischer.
As a chess fan, I am excited for chess.

JP's picture

Naka is an excellent blitz player but his classic games have certain problems against Anand, Kramnik level players. Kasparov can help him in this aspect. So I predict Naka may become a World Champion in may be 2014 or so.
Google Chessthinkingsystems

redivivo's picture

"his classic games have certain problems against Anand, Kramnik level players"

Not more problems than many others, he has an equal score against both after having played a dozen games against them in total.

Anonymous's picture

I doubt whether Nakamura has even defeated Anand and Kramnik in classic games leave alone have an equal score against them (no, I do not have a time to do a search, just thinking back).
He definitely has the potential (he is already probably the best blitz player in the world along with Magnus, discounting World Champion Anand), but it is still a long way off from being anywhere near being the world champion, so, let us all not over exaggerate already.
Kasparov is a great player, probably the greatest of all times, but he crushed Anand in 1995 more due to psychological tactics and reason, rather than sheer superior talent (Anand probably has more chess talent). Getting Kasparov alone is not enough to become a world champion beater (Anand, Kramnik) unless you are Magnus Carlsen. Nakamura still may be it, but is yet to prove.
As of now, the future World Championship of the Chess World seems to be potentially in the hands of only Magnus Carlsen and Lev Aronian.

redivivo's picture

"I doubt whether Nakamura has even defeated Anand and Kramnik in classic games leave alone have an equal score against them (no, I do not have a time to do a search, just thinking back)."

I already posted the stats, equal against both after in all a dozen games, here are his wins against Kramnik:

noyb's picture

After reading the NIC interview with Nakamura, I got the distinct impression that this collaboration may flame out even faster than Carlsen's. Nakamura seemed to make a point of doing exactly the opposite of what Kasparov recommends. That doesn't seem very respectful of either Kasparov or Mr. Sinquefield, who put up a large sum of money for Hikaru's benefit.

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