Is Hikaru Nakamura Good at Classical? (Yes, actually)

Hikaru Nakamura’s famed nickname is the speed demon. When it comes to faster time controls, Hikaru Nakamura is definitely at the top level.

He is probably one of the best blitz players of all time, however, there has been a glaring criticism toward his classical game.

A lot of people underestimate his classical ability, people think that Hikaru is bad in longer time formats.

I mean it makes sense, if you focus on faster time controls then you would undoubtedly fall off in the longer time controls.

I think that people are underestimating hikaru too much, his classical game is nothing to laugh off.

I may not be one of his fans (he was very toxic before he became an influencer), but I recognize skills when I see it. Hikaru has it, and yes, even in classical chess.

This article will prove it. With all of that in mind, let’s get started. 

Hikaru Nakamura has a high rating in classical chess.

You know what they say, numbers do not lie. If you are going to measure the proficiency of a chess player, it is important to look at their ratings.

For the purposes of this article, it is relevant to identify the highest classical ratings of Hikaru Nakamura. After doing my research it is pretty interesting, it seems that Hikaru has one of the highest classical ratings in the world.

Hikaru was once a member of the 2800 club (in classical), an informal term used for chess players that have achieved the rating of 2800 and more.

For reference, Bobby Fischer’s maximum official classical rating does not exceed 2800. Imagine that, a chess player so mythical that so many people talk about his run long after he is gone.

This legendary figure still has a lesser peak classical rating than Hikaru Nakamura.

Of course we have to consider that classical ratings have risen over the decades, but this does not take away from the fact that Hikaru Nakamura is strong in classical chess.

He might have better engines to work with compared to the people in the past, but he still has to incorporate it with his talent and hardwork.

Though it might be a question how these legendary figures would match up to a super grandmaster such as Hikaru Nakamura, the fact remains that he is really strong in classical.

His peak rating is 2816, this is nothing to laugh at. Even some of the best modern grandmasters in the world have never entered the 2800 club.

Players that reach this level are considered among the best, Hikaru Nakamura is definitely one of them. 

How was Hikaru Nakamura’s classical game compared to his contemporaries?

Hikaru Nakamura is one of the best even in the classical time format. He has been in the top 10 classical list in a long time, even before the first “chess wave” began (agadmator days).

For the longest time, he is considered to be among the best classical chess players.

The only reason why his classical skills are overlooked is because he has such a strong capacity for blitz chess. As someone that is a contender to be the number one ranked blitz player, he is not as great in classical.

This does not mean that he is a weak player, it just means that he sets a higher standard for himself due to his achievements.

This is not Hikaru Nakamura’s fault, he is still one of the consistent classical chess players.

In order to remain in the top 10 for a long time, being the best is not enough, you have to be one of the best for a long period of time. There is a difference between having a good year and having a good run that lasts over a decade.

Hikaru Nakamura has been established in the top 10 classical ratings for a long time, this is not a fluke. This is a result of multiple challenges that have been conquered over and over again.

To keep that rating means to keep being the best in the world, and Hikaru has achieved that in classical. 

Hikaru Nakamura almost became a world chess championship challenger . .

Here’s the thing, Hikaru Nakamura actually had a chance to become the world chess classical champion. He almost qualified for a world chess championship title after Magnus refused to defend his title.

Imagine that, a super grandmaster that people noted to have poor classical skills, almost becoming a world champion (classical).

He had an impressive run in the 2022 candidates tournament, he had beaten chess players who have been more active than him. The only reason why he didn’t become a challenger is because of the last round against Ding Liren.

He would have been the challenger if he had at least drawn the game against Ding when he was up half a point.

Ding liren is in third place, hikaru nakamura is in second place ahead of ding by half a point, all that hikaru needs is a draw. Hikaru pushed for the win and ended up losing.

He decided to push for a win and lost the second place instead giving it to ding. With Magnus refusing to defend his title, the second place standing in the candidates actually matters.

It means that whoever is the second place would be the new challenger, they would also have the chance to become the world champion.

What’s even more impressive is that Hikaru Nakamura did this while being a full-time influencer, he is not that active in the competitive scene.

He is mostly playing faster time controls on, not exactly the place you want to be in if you want to become strong. Even I thought that he was rusty in the classical section, well, he proved me wrong.

This run single handedly lifted Hikaru Nakamura’s reputation, he will always be someone who almost became a world chess championship challenger. 

Does hikaru’s social media work get in the way of him being good at classical?

Yes, I do believe that his social media work gets in the way of him becoming strong in classical. If you see his live streams, he always participates in faster time control like blitz or bullet.

This is because faster time controls are good commercial content. They are consumable and most people prefer them, there is a problem however.

In chess, people lay differently in faster time controls, it is generally known that blitz is one of the worst time controls that you could play if you want to be strong in classical.

Hikaru Nakamura mostly plays blitz, which is bad for classical improvement. Not only that, the fact that he is spending so much time creating content means he doesn’t have as much time to practice.

Full time chess players can have experience in the competitive scene and refine their classical skills.

Hikaru Nakamura does not have the same luxury, he is always forced to make content that would sabotage classical skills.

This is why his run in the world chess candidates is so impressive, he managed to do all of that while having little to no practice.

There was a time when Hikaru Nakamura was already considering retirement from classical since he is so busy.

From that point and becoming a few inches short of a world chess championship run, he is definitely phenomenal. 

Why do people underestimate hikaru nakamura’s classical game?

This is because of two reasons, mainstream media and the higher standards of chess. When beginners look at the top players of a field, they tend to underestimate the difficulty of reaching such a level.

Hikaru Nakamura is definitely top tier in classical, you would know this if you are a strong chess player yourself. However most beginners do not understand this, they only really care how you will play against Magnus Carlsen.

Here’s the thing, Magnus Carlsen is potentially the greatest chess player of all time. Using him as a standard seems to not be fair, the guy is destined to become a legend.

If you look at other super grandmasters, Hikaru Nakamura does have a good win-draw-lose ratio against them.

It is just that the mainstream media always pushes him against the greatest chess player alive, of course his lows will be highlighted, but it doesn’t mean that he is a bad classical player.

The next point is the standard that he set for himself. Hikaru Nakamura is definitely one of the best in the world if not the best in blitz chess.

This is why people expect that he would be as proficient in classical chess, the expectations are higher.

However as you become good at one thing you tend to not be as good in other things.

Hikaru in classical is still top tier, however that is not his specialization.

I think we should tone down our expectations and instead compare him to other super GM’s, I think that he would look better. 

Can hikaru nakamura ever become no. 1 in classical chess?

No, I don’t think that Hikaru Nakamura could ever become number 1 in classical chess. If we are talking about blitz then there is an argument there, however, classical is a whole new breed of playing.

Deep calculation and preparation is rewarded in classical, people who play there usually spend a lot of time working with engines.

Intuition and quick thinking is not enough to win the game, basically the areas where Hikaru Nakamura excels in.

There are also many others that could compete for the number one spot including Alireza Firouzja, Fabiano Caruana, and of course, Magnus Carlsen.

The fact that Magnus Carlsen is focusing on classical just shuts off the possibility of Hikaru Nakamura being number one there.

If we are talking about rapid or blitz then he might have a chance, classical however has a gatekeeper.

With this and his constant social media work, I don’t think he will ever become number 1 in classical. It is fine since classical is not his specialty anyway, however it is the truth. 


Hikaru Nakamura is a strong classical chess player. If you compare him to one of the greatest chess players of all time, Magnus Carlsen, of course he would appear weak.

If we compare him to some of his other colleagues however then the narrative changes, he is actually strong.

He had been one of the few chess players that managed to enter the 2800 club (in classical), a massive achievement indeed.

His peak rating in classical is 2816, a rating so high that most chess players wouldn’t touch it.

His biggest achievement however is almost becoming a world chess championship challenger by being second in the candidates (Carlsen refused to defend his title).

He is within inches of becoming the world chess classical champion, all of this while being a full-time chess streamer.

If you still think that Hikaru Nakamura is weak in classical, then you must have a high standard.

If someone this strong is weak then what of others?

He will raise the standard to the roof. That is all for this article, thank you for reading.