Some Q&A with Nakamura ...

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  • Some Q&A with Nakamura ...

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    Re: Some Q&A with Nakamura ...

    Nakamura had his Question and Answer session on Reddit, Wednesday, February 26. The transcript is at

    and a version with the highlights is at”

    Ten questions and answers from dozens submitted:

    Que. 1 On, there is a mysterious GM Phoenix who has a very high rating, with much speculation as to his identity. The main guess was that it was you. When you officially showed up on, Phoenix stopped showing up, furthering that speculation.
    Were you GM Phoenix?

    Ans. 1 I will take the 5th on your question about GMPhoenix! :)

    Que. 2 Who do you support for FIDE president?

    Ans. 2 I do not particularly support one side over the other as both candidates have serious flaws. However, one must look at what the incumbent has done over the past 20 years. It does not seem as though chess has fundamentally moved forward in a new direction. At the same time, it remains to be seen whether the opposition leader will be able to bring in money and sponsors which he speaks of in his campaign.

    Que. 3 When you visualize a chess position, such as during a blindfold game, or when going over a score without a board present, what do you see? Do you see a full board and pieces, just like you were actually looking at a real board, or do you have some kind of abstract representation in your mind (such as a list of pieces and key squares and their attack/defense relationships)?

    If you see a board, is it a 3D board, or is it like a diagram from a book? If a 3D board, is it some particular set you like, or something generic?

    Ans. 3 When I play 1 blindfold game or any amount, (I have done 15 on two separate occasions) I essentially see the whole board, but I very rarely calculate deep lines beyond 2-3 moves. In tournaments such as the Amber Blindfold and Rapid where it is 1 game against another top level play, I very often will calculate 2-3 lines of about 5-6 moves. I wish I could say that I am some sort of mathematical genius and I see a bunch of right triangles or some picasso style art lines, but that would be going too far!

    When I see the board, it is usually the blue board from the chess program chessbase with the white and black pieces. I suspect that for most modern day players, blindfold chess is a lot easier because of the endless hours we have all spent studying chess on computer screens.

    Que. 4 Favorite unorthodox opening?

    Ans. 4 I would have to say that my favourite unorthodox opening has to be 1.b3! If it was good enough for Bent Larsen, then surely it is good enough for me!

    Que. 5 Is it easy for you to switch off from chess completely, or do you pretty much think about or calculate positions in your head all the time?

    Ans. 5 Unless I am thinking about chess, I find it quite easy to not think about it. For example, after my recent tournament in Zurich, I did not have a single though about chess during my 2 weeks of vacation!

    Que. 6 Hey, I was wondering how big of a role computers play in your chess life.

    How much and in what ways do you use them when studying chess?

    Do you ever play against them as practice?

    What do you think we can learn from computer chess and what can't we?

    Ans. 6 Your question is very pertinent not only to my chess career but the very future of chess as well. I would say that nowadays, when I study, computers comprise 90% overall.

    I do not play against computers anymore because it is severely depressing to lose every game without ever even having a chance!

    I think mainly what can be learned from computers is a deeper understanding that almost all positions are ok with accurate play. In the past, many people assumed certain positions were automatically bad, but computers have shown that the rules and thought processes aren't always accurate!

    Que. 7 Will the sunglasses strategy ever return?

    Ans. 7 I would love to wear sunglasses more often, but unfortunately due to concerns (unfortunately justified in this day and age) about cheating, I doubt I will be doing it very often.

    Que. 8 I have been wondering about your Japanese heritage. How often do you visit and can you speak Japanese?

    Ans. 8 I was born in Osaka, Japan to a Japanese father and am American mother. However, my parents separated and I moved back to the US when I was 2 years old. After that, I grew up with only English. I did take some Japanese lessons when I was about 10, and also took Japanese 101 during my 1 semester at Dickinson College.

    However, at this point my Japanese is pretty mediocre and I wouldn't say I know more than 20 words. Sadly, it's probably my 4th best language :(

    I went back to Japan about once every 3 years growing up until I was 18. While I saw my Japan dad, I never had the opportunity to meet my half-siblings.

    Que. 9 What is a typical day like for you when you're not playing in a tournament?

    Ans. 9 A typical day for me when I am not playing chess varies, but I will always study a few hours a day, (2-3) watch some of the BBC series, whether it is Frozen Planet, Planet Earth or one of the others, I will read some (I recently finished reading Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller by Chernow) and study about 1 hour of Italian! However, when tournaments are happening within the next week or two, I will be studying a lot more chess!

    Que. 10 Are you happy that chess has always been the center of your career (and perhaps even life)?

    I'm constantly re-evaluating my career. I often wonder if even super GMs feel just as unfulfilled as the rest of us when we step back and look at the impact of our careers. I imagine that with your intellect you could have pursued just about any career you wanted.

    Ans. 10 Life will never be perfect. This is a fact.

    For the most part, I do not feel unfulfilled in a traditional sense. However, the three most difficult things about chess are: 1) having to prove yourself every single day. In normal jobs, when you have made say VP in a company, you are set. 2) Having to travel a lot and not being able to spend as much time as you want with your family 3) Chess is not always secure if you have a lot of bad results.

    Most of my non chess time (excluding minor activities) is spent on trading derivatives in the stock market, so I do often consider whether that would be a more logical career.

    I hope I answered your questions sufficiently!

    Needless to say, one of the greatest and most honest “interviews” that I have ever read.