2003 US Chess Championship

Ashley and Muhammad conclude participation in Seattle!

Both GM Maurice Ashley and FM  Stephen Muhammad arrived in Seattle for the U.S. Chess Championship with their own set of dreams and ambitions. Their participation is truly an inspiration and will serve as a stepping stone for many players, Black and otherwise, to study  and train for a shot at the title. It is important to note a story that GM Ashley told around the time the picture below was taken. He noted that he became the 1st Black IM on the weekend of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday in 1993… now Muhammad has become the 2nd Black IM on the same weekend exactly one decade later!

GM Ashley has already earned the respect in the global chess community and is perhaps one of the sport's most recognizable figures.  The ease as which he is able to move through crowds exemplifies the character of the ultimate statesman. FM Muhammad is beginning to see what the other side of professional chess is like after his stunning performance. His near-GM performance received fulsome praise from many participating players (especially the Russian émigrés). U.S. Champ
GM Alexander Shabalov commended three players in his speech at the closing ceremonies: IM Hikaru Nakamura, IM Varuzhan Akobian and Muhammad.

Needless to say, people will begin to take notice and can certainly expect other players of African descent to make a presence at the National Championships. Players like
FM Emory Tate and FM William Morrison are bound to make the "big dance" as are players that are yet to be born. One thing is for sure… 20 years from today, a young Black boy or girl from a small town will read about the 2003 U.S. Chess Championship and perhaps gain enough inspiration to learn chess. Some years later they may tell someone else how they gained inspiration… from two particular players having preceded them in the U.S. Championship!

Posted by The Chess Drum: 21 January 2003

GM Maurice Ashley and IM-elect Stephen Muhammad conversing after having successfully completed the U.S. Chess Championship. Copyright © 2003, Daaim Shabazz.

GM Maurice Ashley and IM-elect Stephen Muhammad
conversing after completion of the 2003 U.S. Championship
(photo by Daaim Shabazz)