Just like cricket ICC ratings, there are three separate formats for rating chess players. Two of them – classic and fast – are led by Magnus Carlsen, five-time world champion and widely considered the strongest player of all time.

Hikaru Nakamura sits atop the blitz rankings. He is a monster in format. So it’s no surprise that the American was a bit of a disappointment shortly after the blitz event of the Tata Steel Chess India tournament ended up in the National Library: he could only finish runner-up, to Arjun Erigaisi.

A mistake, right at the end, had cost him the game in the penultimate round and thus the title. “Yes a result like that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, but overall I feel I am moving forward, with the World blitz and fast championships to be held later this month,” he told Sports star.

Nakamura wasn’t admired just for his brilliant moves on the chessboard. He is a very popular streamer, with around 1.4 million followers each on YouTube and Twitch.

“I am now used to so many people following my stream, but I was surprised when I streamed in 2019, when so many people were stuck inside during lockdown,” said the World No. 5 in classic chess. “Locking is contributing to the growing popularity of chess around the world.”

Before coming to Kolkata, Nakamura had won the FIDE Fischer Random World chess championship. It’s a format — also known as Chess960 — that allows creativity to thrive at the expense of theory.

“It’s hard to say how the format will develop and a lot depends on commercial interests,” he said. “I think the 960 will become a lot more popular but it will be a long time before it becomes almost comparable to fast chess and blitz.”

He enjoys playing 960. “I started playing chess at a time when computers weren’t as widely available,” he says. “So when I play the 960 it’s refreshing and reminds me of my childhood.”

On the quartet of outstanding Indian teenagers threatening to take over the world – D. Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi, R. Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin – he felt that one of them was way ahead of the other in classical chess. “I am very impressed with Gukesh,” he said. “In terms of speed and blitz, it was a fight between Arjun and Nihal.”

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