SAN DIEGO — A 16-year-old from White Plains, N.Y., has won the U.S. Chess Championship, the youngest player to win the title since 14-year-old Bobby Fischer in 1958.
Hikaru Nakamura won the $25,000 prize Monday after beating Alex Stripunsky, 34, of Rego Park, N.Y., in two overtime matches.
The matches were the highlight of the 11-day tournament that began with 65 competitors. It was viewed worldwide on the Internet.
Nakamura said he has not decided how to spend the money, his biggest prize to date in his chess career. "Basically everything has been a blur," he said.
That tournament was open to both men and women. In a separate tournament for women only, Rusudan Goletiani, 24, of Hartsdale, N.Y., beat Tatev Abrahamyan, 16, of Glendale for a $12,500 prize.
"If chess is the 'game of kings,' these titleholders are the new royalty," said Erik Anderson, a Seattle entrepreneur and sponsor of the tournament.
Nakamura last year became an American grandmaster, eclipsing by a few months Fischer's record of attaining grandmaster status at age 15.
Nakamura, who was born in Japan, was taught chess by his stepfather and began playing competitively at age 7. A little more than two years later, he qualified as an American master.
He is tutored at home by his mother; attending school, he said, would take too much time from chess.
His brother, Asuka, 18, also was a competitive chess player before turning to music.
When not moving pieces around the board, the younger Nakamura follows the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Bucks.
His heroes are former chess champion Boris Spassky and the controversial Fischer. Does he see himself as the next Fischer, the phenomenon who dominated American chess for years?
"No," he laughed, "I think I'm a little bit more sane."