Job diary: I’m a professional chess esports athlete

  • Hikaru Nakamura is a 32-year-old esports athlete based in Los Angeles, California.
  • He is the first chess player to join the esports team TSM (formerly Team SoloMid). According to Esports Earnings, Nakamura has made over $281,000 in winnings from online chess tournaments in 2020.
  • At 15, Nakamura became the youngest American to win the title of chess Grandmaster, and competed worldwide as a professional chess player before transitioning to esports. He’s currently the highest-ranked blitz player worldwide. 
  • When he’s not prepping for a competition, Nakamura streams on Twitch for four to seven hours a day to an audience of 570,000 followers.
  • Here’s what his job is like, as told to freelance writer Claire Turrell.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Some people know me as Hikaru Nakamura, while others may know me as GMHikaru. I’m an esport athlete and chess grandmaster. I’ve been playing computer games since I was eight years old, and I was just signed by USA esport giant TSM as its first esport chess player.

My stepfather and brother are both chess players and my interest started when I followed them to tournaments. In 2003, I became the youngest American to earn the title of grandmaster at the age of 15 years and 79 days.

I realized chess could be more than a hobby for me when I dropped out of Dickinson College in 2006 and decided to pursue a career as a professional chess player, competing around the world.

I was first introduced to console games at the age of 6.

Hikaru Nakamura 1

Hikaru Nakamura.


It was 1994, and I was in Japan with my mom and brother visiting my biological father. I played games like Mario Kart with the old cartridges, but it wasn’t until 1998 that I had my first real introduction to PC games, with StarCraft: Brood War. I also played chess online, but I didn’t start playing it seriously until much later.

In 2018, I started streaming on the gaming platform Twitch, where people also broadcast themselves playing games like Fortnite and Call of Duty. Currently, my Twitch channel GMHikaru has over 570,000 followers.

Read more: Older fans may leap back into watching sports on TV post-pandemic, but networks are going to have a tougher time winning back younger viewers

In August 2020, I signed with esports organization TSM as its first esports chess player.

credit_Hikaru Nakamura jersey

Nakamura wears this esports jersey when competing under TSM.

Hikaru Nakamura

TSM is one of the world’s largest esports organizations with teams playing games such as League of Legends, Fortnite, and Valorant. It’s about to open a huge gaming facility in Playa Vista, California, which will have a theatre, scrim rooms, academy…

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