Ex-Patriots Propelling U.S. Chess Federation to the Top

u.s. chess federation featured
Written by Brant David

The 2016 Olympiad could be a big year for the U.S. Chess Federation. Here are the top three candidates.

aNewDomain — The United States is seen by many observers as poised to return to major chess tournament glory, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Bobby Fischer played for the nation in the 1970s. The U.S. squad of wood pushers most likely to appear at the 2016 Chess Olympiad would include three players who, at the time of this writing, are Top 10 Grand Master Chess Players in world rankings.

The Masters

WesleySo0810One of these three young men is 21-year-old Wesley So, who has switched federations from the Philippines to the United States. So became a Filipino chess prodigy and, at the age of 14 years, one month and 28 days, he became the eighth youngest player in history to attain the title of Grandmaster (GM). His highest standard rating is an outstanding 2778. At the time of this writing he is the No. 9 ranked active player in the world. Take a look at a history of So’s chess games.

Another young man who has petitioned (and most likely will be allowed) to switch federations is Fabiano Caruana. A dual citizen of Italy and the U.S., Caruana recently and soundly defeated the world’s No. 1 GM, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, a 24-year-old who achieved a peak rating of 2882 — the highest of any chess player in history — in May 2014.

Fabiano_Caruana_2013(2)Carlsen has been compared to Bobby Fischer and his idol, Gary Kasparov, and has been praised for the excitement and brilliance he brings to the game of chess, which finally allows the world to see those GM wood pushers as the “mental athletes” that they are.

Caruana has been playing for Italy but desires to and is expected to play for the U.S. at the Olympiad in 2016. After his victory over Carlsen in the 2015 Norway Chess Tournament Caruana has a rating of 2805, also one of the highest in history, and has become ranked as the No. 2 player in the world. It’s Caruana, about to turn 23, who is widely regarded as the GM that can overtake Carlsen as the new No. 1 in the world. Check out Caruana’s chess game history.

448px-London_Chess_Classic_2010_Nakamura_01And finally, there’s current No. 1 U.S. GM, 27-year-old Hikaru Nakamura. With a peak rating of 2802, yet another one of the highest ratings ever scored, Nakamura is at this time ranked as the No. 4 player in the world, and was once ranked No. 2. Nakumara is American-born and has been the U.S. champion four times. He has twice represented the U.S. at the Olympiad and won two bronze metals. He is regarded by most as the best American-born chess player since Fischer. Catch Nakamura’s game history.

In today’s world of chess, players have easy access to all of their opponents’ games. They can study these and get preparation help by analyzing computer-generated moves in simulated games against their forthcoming opponents. Some critics don’t like this reality, saying that it can lead players to information overload and burnout as they try to memorize too much, while — on the flip side — it leads to inflated player scores.

But for many among us, seeing chess become more competitive and the prospect of an American chess renaissance are welcomed manifestations of the 21st century and advanced computer chess software.

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Images in order: Chess Game by liz west via Flickr; Wesley So via Wikimedia Commons; Fabiano Caruana via Wikimedia Commons; Hikaru Nakamura via Wikimedia Commons