New US Chess Champion Talks Music

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Over the weekend, Hikaru Nakamura won the 2012 U.S. Chess Championship in St. Louis, Missouri. He's the top-ranked chess player in the country, and is now 2 1/2 points away from beating Bobby Fischer's all time record. For Tell Me More's series, "In Your Ear," Nakamura talks about the music that gets him pumped up for competition.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now it's time for the occasional feature we call In Your Ear. That's where we speak with some of our guests about the music they love. Today we get the personal playlist of America's top-ranked chess player, Hikaru Nakamura. Over the weekend Nakamura won the U.S. Chess Championship title in St. Louis, Missouri. It's his third such win. We understand that he is now two and a half points away from beating Bobby Fischer's all time record for total points in major competition. Here's what's playing in Hikaru Nakamura's ear.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PUMPED UP KICKS")

HIKARU NAKAMURA: "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PUMPED UP KICKS")

FOSTER THE PEOPLE: I really like this song, just the vibe, the rhythm to it and it really gets me pumped up before my next chess match.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PUMPED UP KICKS")

PEOPLE: (Singing) All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run, better run, outrun my gun. All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

NAKAMURA: The next song that I'm listening to is "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW")

NAKAMURA: I really like this song because it reminds me of the past, my own past, in trying to move forward and focus on the future, on what's going to happen going forward.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW")

GOTYE: (Singing) Now and then I think of when we were together. Like when you said you felt so happy you could die. Told myself that you were right for me, but felt so lonely in your company. But that was love and it's an ache I still remember.

NAKAMURA: I'm also listening to "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS")

GREEN DAY: (Singing) My shadow's the only one that walks beside me. My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating. Sometimes I wish someone...

NAKAMURA: This has long been a favorite of my song because growing up playing chess I've always felt like I'm on my own trying to do it my own way. And I feel like the lyrics to the song, it just sort of it reminds me of my whole story growing up and trying to do it on my own, being the best as much as I can.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS")

DAY: (Singing) I'm walking down the line that divides me somewhere in my mind. On the border line of the edge and where I walk alone.

MARTIN: That was U.S. Chess champions for 2012, Hikaru Nakamura, telling us what's playing in his ear. And if you missed my conversation with him that took place just before the competition began, please go to NPR.org and click on the programs tab for TELL ME MORE, so you can be ready to cheer him on when Nakamura will be representing the U.S. in the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS")

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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