Nakamura's Sunrise Simul: Play the Position, Not the Opponent

World #4 Hikaru Nakamura gave a simultaneous exhibition in Sunrise, Florida. Ben Silva writes about how the champion interacted with the enthusiastic kids, while still taking it seriously.
World #4 Hikaru Nakamura commences Sunrise Simul with the Mayor in the background World #4 Hikaru Nakamura commences Sunrise Simul with the Mayor in the background
Have you ever wondered what the chess elite do in their spare time? Of course you do! Otherwise Hikaru Nakamura wouldn't already have over 31K followers on twitter. According to Mayor Michael J. Ryan in sunny Sunrise Florida, Hikaru dipped into his own vacation time to help the city's kids get back to school in style. That's the where and the why; the when was this past Saturday, August 8th. Though it was sunny and the town's name is Sunrise, it was raining buckets which is really too bad because while the back-to-school event took place in the Sunrise Civic Center, they had also spent a lot of time and resources setting up all sorts of cool stuff outside for the rug rats like bouncy houses and slides. Mayor Mike and his band of merry men gave away everything from school supplies to fresh fruit and veggies. Kids were walking out of there with pencil cases and sweet potatoes. The best gift of all was when he unleashed the vicious four-headed dragon all over any of the kiddies brave enough to sit at the chess boards set up at the very front of the venue. Now here's how it started. The mayor introduced the special guest in the most money baller solid platinum politician way imaginable as he announced to the crowd "The world's 4th ranked chess player, the reigning US champion, #2 in blitz and #1 at rapid chess, but most importantly Sunrise resident! Hikaru Nakamura!!" Instant classic and the crowd ate it up. The room was seriously crammed pack as you can see in the photos but they did manage to squeeze four boards in there. Before Nakamura was even there four scholastic players were seated and they were four more calling ‘next' right behind them. Now I don't know if it was the style of his shirt that just looked damp or if he really got caught in the rain but Nakamura made it pretty much on time and after meeting the crowd he went right to work, and he did not disappoint. Each game was as sharp and entertaining as those of you that follow his tournament play and/or online blitz games have come to expect. He was certainly creating a spectacle for the fans. His play was extremely quick as he paced back and forth between the boards and in some of the many shots I attempted to take you can just see a Nakablur (trademark that) against a completely still crowd. Evidence chess is sport to any doubters. Some random observations I made: 1. Hikaru was rocking his sponsor Red Bull shorts, 2. He was very patient with everyone, even kids who didn't follow proper simul etiquette and play when he arrived at the board, 3. He smiled sincerely the entire time (I am horrible at smiling so that always impresses me), 4. Naka has some serious calves' genetics, and the number  5 observation which I found most surprising was that even in a simul versus young opponents, Nakamura did all the head nods and bobs plus his signature look up and away that he does in serious tournament play against the likes of Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik. To me this was huge, and it brings to mind the saying, ‘Play the position, not the opponent'. At one point in time I was discussing an exchange sac Hikaru had done with a local master who had brought his own pupils to play. We weren't quite sure he had clear compensation and had started to play the position further in what we thought were low voices. Suddenly we heard ‘I can hear you but I'm not listening', only to look up sheepishly to see Hikaru smiling and looking directly at us. He won that game a few moves later. Naka went on to quickly beat all of his opponents as well as the four more waiting right behind them. After which he graciously signed boards and bags for the kids (as well as some of his older enthusiasts), plus posed for a bunch of pictures. I was really glad I made the trip and it was worth the 5,000th time a parent asked me which of the kids was mine only to give me a puzzled look when I replied that I had no kids, this all the while I kept taking as many pictures of Nakamura as possible. Nakamura fans can watch him action in just two weeks, as the Sinquefield Cup is almost here. Find more details here.

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