Riding the Roller Coaster with Hikaru Nakamura

David Spinks, the caretaker of what has become known as the Dump, officially the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, had difficulty wrapping his mind around the fact that I could watch a game of baseball, or any other sporting event, for just the joy of it. “”You gotta pull for SOMEBODY, man!” Spinks would say. True to his words, David would “pull” for a golfer by the name of Briny Baird. I looked Briny up once, learning his given name is Michael Hancey; that he attended Ga. Tech before transferring to Valdosta State University where he won the NCAA Division II individual golf championship in 1994 and 1995. Spinks knew none of this and was surprised when informed, questioning why I would have gone to the trouble to learn more about Briny. I told him I wanted to understand what motivation he could have had to “pull” for Briny, adding, “It must be the hat.” David looked at me incredulously and said, “I like his name. Who ever heard of a name like Briny?” Since Briny has the distinction of being the richest golfer never to win a PGA Tour event, earning over $12 million during his career, but coming up short five times, I guess he needs all the fans he can get to “pull” for him…
Eleven years of my early life were devoted to playing baseball, and I have learned from reading about the brain that I watch baseball because in my mind it is like I am actually playing the game. I will, though, “pull” for my home teams, such as the Atlanta Braves and Ga. Tech Yellow Jackets.
I am a fan of the game of chess and very much enjoy watching the top level events broadcast in real time via the internet. Although I realize it is wrong to wish for things that never were, I cannot help think about how wonderful it would have been to be able to watch the Fischer-Spassky match for the World Championship in the way I was able to watch the match between Anand and Gelfand. Now I follow Hikaru Nakamura with a passion. His games are interesting and often exciting to behold. His play evokes visceral emotions. For example, yesterday he beat the World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, with the black pieces in the sixth round of the Tal Memorial. In so doing he launched his g-pawn at the Champ. After it was taken, Nakamura was left with a ruptured King side formation. I used to play that way, and would usually lose. My opponents were nowhere near world class. Seeing this on The Week In Chess (http://www.theweekinchess.com/) sent me to the Chess Bomb (http://chessbomb.com/) which has analysis by the program known as Houdini. It did not have the g-pawn launch as one of the top four moves, but the dagger aimed at the heart of the Tiger of Madras won the game. What does Houdini know?
Hikaru, playing white, began the tournament with a horrible loss to Mamedyarov. The roller coaster began a steep descent. It was short though, as the roller coaster began its climb. Then three wins in succession against three of the top players in the world. The coaster leveled out with a draw before attaining its zenith, as Hikaru beat the Champion of the World. Then the roller coaster encountered precipitous fall, as Nakamura lost with white to the grizzled veteran, Boris Gelfand, the man who took the World Champ into souped-up, heebe-jeeb, tie break games before losing the match for the title. A strange thing happened in that the loss has seemed to embolden Boris ‘Grizzly’ Gelfand, while leaving Anand a toothless tiger from Madras. With his win with the Chelyabinsk variation of the Pelikan Sicilian, Grizzly Gelfand has taken the lead from our hero. Like Bobby Fischer put it after losing game four of his rematch with Boris Spassky, “That’s chess, you know. One day you give a lesson, the next day your opponent gives you a lesson.”
There are still two games to play, but Hikaru has to play the number one player in the world, Magnus Carlsen, with black, tomorrow. Thus, Boris would seem to have easier pairings for the last two rounds, but anything can happen when one rides the roller coaster with Hiraru Nakamura!

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