Online chess has taken the world by storm, and there may not be any single individual more responsible for the game’s explosion in popularity than Hikaru Nakamura.
The American Grandmaster already had a storied career in professional chess prior to the game blowing up online. But the rise of digital chess, and the prominence of chess in the livestreaming world, have elevated Nakamura to new heights. He’s now one of the best-known chess players to have played the game, and he only looks to be growing in stature with each year.
What is Hikaru Nakamura’s rating?
As is the case with all chess players, Hikaru Nakamura’s rating has fluctuated over the years, and depends on the exact type and time control of chess being played. Nakamura’s classical chess rating, which is the rating most commonly referred to in the game of chess, peaked at 2816 in October 2015.
While Nakamura’s classical rating has dipped since then, he has recently picked it back up. His most recent rating at the time of this publication is 2787, the second-highest classical chess rating in the world. It’s second only to rival Magnus Carlsen, who was also in first-place when Nakamura was last ranked second in classical in 2015.
Nakamura has had even higher ratings in quicker time formats, however. His rapid rating peaked at 2853 in June 2019, an astronomical number. But that still isn’t his highest.
Hikaru’s highest ratings in chess have been in the blitz format, which is also what he’s most famous for. Using his lightning-fast decision-making prowess, Nakamura has peaked in blitz at 2934, establishing himself as one of the best players in the history of low time control chess.
Despite his best peak coming in blitz, Nakamura has actually said that rapid time controls are his favorite. With each player initially being allotted 15 minutes, rapid allows sufficient time to consider each move while still forcing players to make sharp decisions relative to classical chess, when players typically start with three times as many minutes available to them.
Hikaru Nakamura’s popularity explodes on Twitch
As impressive as his ratings triumphs certainly are, Hikaru Nakamura is best known for his streaming exploits on Twitch and YouTube, which is how he has become so popular both within the chess world and beyond it.
As interest in online chess increased, Nakamura became one of the online focal points for it. This was largely driven by his ability to process chess positions extremely quickly. Whether he was playing versus human opponents in short time controls, or blazing his way through tricky chess puzzles, it was an impressive display.
Hikaru would take it one step further by talking through his rapid thought process and drawing out lines of play illustrative of his plans. Even viewers largely unfamiliar with chess tended to be impressed by seeing him in action.
Hikaru Nakamura versus Magnus Carlsen
Hikaru Nakamura is also known for his rivalry with historically great chess player Magnus Carlsen. Any time Hikaru Nakamura versus Magnus Carlsen is a featured matchup in an event, you can bet that there will be plenty of fans watching on and cheering for their preferred winner.
The rivalry between the two chess greats has at times been one-sided, as Carlsen has dominated most every opponent he has faced during his extended run as a multiple-time World Chess Champion and as the unquestioned best chess player on the planet.
But Nakamura has managed to make inroads in the rivalry in recent years, managing some spectacular wins over Carlsen in multiple time controls. While there’s no doubt that Carlsen’s accumulative accomplishments remain the more impressive, some fans now believe Hikaru has a narrow edge over his Norwegian rival.
Hikaru Nakamura courts controversy
Hikaru Nakamura has occasionally found himself embroiled in controversy, though the reasons why have varied greatly.
Nakamura was banned on Twitch in 2022. Reasons were initially unclear, but Nakamura soon addressed the Twitch ban himself and revealed that it was for his streaming a chess game played by Herschel “Dr Disrespect” Beahm.
Dr Disrespect is famously banned across Twitch. Not only is he not allowed to stream on Twitch, but other Twitch streamers have faced discipline for even allowing him to be shown on their streams. When Nakamura streamed a chess game with Dr Disrespect in the miss, he too was banned by Twitch.
Another controversy surrounded an individual going by the name “chessbae.” Known for her influence in the chess community and for donating large amounts of money to prominent chess players and personalities, chessbae came under fire for her behavior over time. chessbae was a moderator on Hikaru’s popular Twitch channel, and this became a source of controversy.
While initially seeming defensive of chessbae, Nakamura eventually removed her from a moderation position on his Twitch channel as backlash against her grew.
Nakamura also courted controversy in his younger days, when he was somewhat infamous for lashing out at others. The years seem to have softened Hikaru, though there are still occasions when he finds it hard to hide his annoyance at a player or situation.