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On Chess: Nakamura and Caruana qualify as candidates for World Chess Championship

Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis
Fabiano Caruana, left, and Hikaru Nakamura

At the beginning of the 2014-15 FIDE Grand Prix cycle there was just one American attempting to qualify for theCandidates Tournament; but by the end of the series, two American flags topped the leaderboard. As previously reported, American-born Fabiano Caruana changed federations mid-cycle to once again represent the U.S.

The long road to a spot in the Candidates culminated in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia (May 12-26, 2015), where both Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana tied for first, along with Russian Super-GM Dmitry Jakovenko. Nakamura and Caruana will attempt to dethrone Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, bringing the World Champion title back to U.S. soil for the first time since 1886.

Luckily for local fans, Hikaru and Fabiano will both participate in the 2015 Sinquefield Cup at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis this fall. The Sinquefield Cup (Aug. 20 – Sept. 3) is joined by Norway Chess 2015 (June 14-27) and the London Chess Classic (December 3-15) in the newly formed Grand Chess Tour. Nakamura and Caruana will battle it out against some of the best players in the world, including Carlsen.

Caruana is now ranked second in the world with a live rating of 2805, while Nakamura, ranked fourth, is close behind at a lofty 2802! Sandwiched between the Americans is five-time World Champion Vishy Anand.

Each event in the Grand Chess Tour has one wildcard invitation available, which organizers use to invite a player that brings something special to the board; the Sinquefield Cup is no exception. Nakamura and Caruana will be joined in St. Louis by American GM Wesley So. Ranked ninth in the world, Wesley is rapidly climbing the ranks and will be a dangerous opponent for anyone. He will also join the U.S. Team for the 2016 Chess Olympiad, which will feature the strongest American team of all time, making the U.S. one of the favorites to win gold. The U.S. has never before had three players in the top 10, all of whom continue to improve rapidly, and will likely dominate the chess world for decades to come , given they’re all in their 20s.

The future of American chess is just as bright, with promising juniors rapidly developing into chess professionals. Jeffery Xiong, who was identified by living legend Garry Kasparov as one of the most promising youngsters in the world, just made his final GM norm and won clear first in the very strong Chicago Open, held over Memorial Day weekend.

“Young Stars - Team USA” is a joint project between the Kasparov Chess Foundation and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, to identify, promote and assist future world champions in their quest to the top. Jeffery will be playing in the 2015 U.S. Junior Closed Chess Championship, held July 6-16 at the Saint Louis Chess Club. At the tender age of 14, Xiong will compete in his fourth U.S. Junior and, if successful, he will qualify for the 2016 U.S. Championship to match wits with not only the best in the country, but the best in the world!

Ben Finegold
Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and was dubbed “The 40-year-old GM” after receiving the title in 2009. In between, Finegold was a U.S. Junior champion in 1989, a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993 and a competitor in nine U.S. Championships. He is a popular scholastic coach and commentator for elite events.