Still Searching for Bobby Fischer...
Following on from my article last month, where I discussed America’s insatiable quest to find a World Champion, I thought I would take a look at the state of US chess.
Do you realise that the top ten FIDE-rated players in the world are from Norway, France, Armenia, the Netherlands, China, two from Russia, and three from America? Ten years ago, the top rated player in the world was Veselin Topalov, our own Michael Adams was ranked eighth, and the top rated American was Gata Kamsky, down in twentieth place. How did that happen? Maybe the answer can be found by looking at the recent US Championships. In my opinion, only two of the twelve participants were “true” Americans: Sam Shankland and Jeffrey Xiong!
Aleksandr Lenderman, Gata Kamsky and Alexander Onischuk were all originally from the Soviet Union; Lenderman moved to New York when he was four, Kamsky moved to America when he was fifteen and became a GM a year later, and Onischuk immigrated to the US when he was twenty-six and already a GM. Although IM Akshat Chandra was born in America, he only discovered chess on a visit to India when he was nine and spent a few years there before returning to the US. Alexander Shabalov was born in Riga, Latvia and Varuzhan Akobian was born in Yerevan, Armenia; he is an Armenian-American who now lives in Los Angeles. Ray Robson was born in Guam, but later moved to Florida where he now resides. Wesley So was born in and represented the Philippines, but transferred to the United States Chess Federation in November 2014. Hikaru Nakamura was born in Japan but moved to the US when he was two. He once tweeted, “I am 12.5% German, 12.5% Swedish, 50% Japanese and 25% mix of randomness!” Note that he did not even mention America!
However, Fabiano Caruana is perhaps the most controversial case of all, as although he was born in Miami, he represented Italy from the age of thirteen until May 2015 when the USCF announced that he would be changing federations to play for the USA.
The game I have selected is one where Caruana played flawlessly, making virtually perfect moves!
After this game, Caruana went on to win the US Championships, playing some of his best chess. What is ironic about this is that he peaked right after the most important tournament of his life. Going into the Candidates’, he was the favourite. The stage was set for him to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world title in his hometown, New York. Could we have a new “American” World Champion? However, as I am sure you all know, much to America’s chagrin, we now have the possibility of a Russian (Ukrainian!) World Champion being crowned in the USA! Will America ever get the World Champion it craves? It seems we are Still Searching for Bobby Fischer...