Nakamura makes cameo appearance in "Billions"

by Shahid Ahmed
5/12/2020 – "Billions" is an Award-winning and critically acclaimed TV series about power and politics in the world of New York high finance. In the second episode of the fifth season, "The Chris Rock Test", Hikaru Nakamura has a cameo appearance. It is the first time a top player appeared in an Award-winning American network show since Magnus Carlsen's was part of "The Simpsons" three years ago. | Photo: Hotstar Stream

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Hikaru Nakamura as Hikaru Nakamura

Without revealing too many plot details of the second episode of season 5, let's take a look at the part where five-time US Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura made his first cameo appearance on a television series.

The Chris Rock Test - Season 5, Episode 2

In this episode Nakamura gives a simul at  a fundraiser event/financial conference called 'The Mike' that was organised by business titan Michael Thomas Aquinius Prince.

The first shot of Nakamura in the episode | Photo: Hotstar stream

The first time we see a chess board Nakamura already has a huge advantage in his game against a recurrent character of the series.

Things look good for Nakamura. | Photo: Hotstar stream

When chess appears on the screen technical errors often creep in. However, with Nakamura involved, the board, the clock, the position of the kings, etc. are all correct. Here's the first position we see.


A wide-angle shot reveals that Nakamura is playing against eight opponents. Of course, Nakamura has played against much more opponents in actual simuls, but for dramatic purposes the showrunner might have decided to go with only eight opponents.

The chess details are all correct, a rare occurence for a series or a movie depicting chess | Photo: Hotstar stream

Of course, we see how Nakamura mates. This time his victim is venture capitalist Oscar Langstraat, played by Mike Birbiglia.


After Black played ...Kxg7, we see how Nakamura returns to the board and gives a double check with Nf5+. After making this move he leaves the board again to let his opponent think – just like in a real simul.

Nakamura plays Nf5+ | Photo: Hotstar stream

Then we see how Black replies with ...Kg8.

Only move: ...Kg8 | Photo: Hotstar stream

After making his move, Black presses the clock – it is a clock-simul after all.

Black's time is running out. | Photo: Hotstar stream

In the next scene, we see how Black takes a white rook on g6, but we are not allowed to see how Nakamura played Rg6+.

Black's last move in the simul | Photo: Hotstar stream

Now Nakamura plays Nh6#, saying "Checkmate, good game", the only time he speaks in the entire cameo.

Mate ends the game. | Photo: Hotstar stream

"Checkmate, good game" | Photo: Hotstar stream

The once obligatory handshake. | Photo: Hotstar stream

His opponent replies "Particularly quick, Hikaru" after which Nakamura leaves the scene and his part is over.

On Twitter Nakamura talked about his short appearance on TV.

Hikaru also posted an image on his instagram account that shows him with his co-star Asia Kate Dillon. He wrote: "Just a random pic with the super talented @asiakatedillon on the set of #billions !!"

Nakamura with Asia Kate Dillon | Photo: Nakamura's instagram

Actor Mike Birbiglia, the one who was checkmated on the episode, also shared impressions:

All in all Nakamura left a good impression in his televison series debut. I do not follow Billions, but a lot of my friends do. They are big fans of the series and they loved this episode.

I think it would be nice to see more top grandmasters who play themselves in films or series. But which players would you like to see in a series or a movie and in which role? Let us know in the comments below.

You can watch the entire episode of Billions, Season 5 Episode 2, "The Chris Rock Test" on Hotstar. The chess part begins at 28:38


Shahid Ahmed is the senior coordinator and editor of ChessBase India. He enjoys covering chess tournaments and also likes to play in chess events from time to time.


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