Nakamura 2009 U.S. Chess Champion

To capture this photo I said the immortal words, “trust me.” These two words are a loaded gun. I try to be careful about using the phrase, as it makes me think of unscrupulous sales people or of a doctor prepping to give a shot. How many sincerely good things have truly followed the words, "trust me"?

This photo of 2009 U.S. Chess Champion Hikaru Nakamura was taken as the closing ceremonies for the event were winding down and the sun was setting on nine grueling days of play. Not only did the Nakamura take home a check for $40,000, thanks to the generosity of the Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center founder Rex Sinquefield, he was also given a custom jacket and ring. I had photographed the newly-crowned champ with his prizes several times and was not happy with the images. My main objection to these initial shots was that he posed with the prize ring in its box, which appeared unnatural. It would look better if he were wearing it, I thought.

Nakamura seemed uncomfortable, at first, with the idea of putting on the ring, since it wasn't yet sized for any of his fingers. Eventually, after he gave in and found a comfortable finger to display the ring, he was at a loss for what to do with his hands. After trying to communicate with him through the party noise and excitement and not succeeding, I finally lowered my camera and bent his arm into the final shot position.

He looked at me with eyes that expressed a mixture of surprise and disbelief. I am sure I was saying things like, "You look great," or, "That is the perfect," but again Nakamura wasn’t able to hear me. Than I said it: “Trust me.” I was horrified that I uttered those words. I felt like I might as well have said, “Pick your nose, it will look great. Trust Me.” Luckily Nakamura indeed trusted me and settled into the shot. I like this shot more than any of the others I posed of him that night. I feel like I bonded with my subject in that moment, and I was able to capture a winner’s smile that conveyed the relief of knowing the relentless hard work was over and well worth it.

Nakamura vs. Kamsky Round 5