Stephen Muhammad reflects on earning IM title!!

After clinching his 3rd IM norm at the U.S. Championships, Stephen Muhammad was in a jubilant mood. After toiling on the 64-square battlefield for nearly two weeks, Muhammad had not only gained the IM title with his norm, but ELO points and increased respect from the participating players.

Muhammad points out that one of the most memorable moments was when the U.S. Champion
GM Alexander Shabalov stated in the closing ceremony that "if anyone should be singled out it would have to be Stephen Muhammad."  He referred to Muhammad as the star of the tournament. It was an unexpected gesture and much appreciated by the IM-elect.

The turning point for Muhammad was his win against
GM Sergey Kudrin which he said it was a big "confidence booster."  It also caused his opponents to take more notice of his play. When asked about the secret of his success, Muhammad simply stated that his plan going into the tournament was to focus on God and to keep his  "nose to the grindstone." 

IM-elect Stephen Muhammad

IM-elect Stephen Muhammad
(photo by Daaim Shabazz)

Another part of the tournament's success was the playing conditions which Muhammad described as "fantastic." Muhammad believes that FMs Emory Tate and William Morrison will be qualifiers for next year's tournament, but advises any participant to avoid any distractions, knowingly or unknowingly.

The second memorable moment Muhammad mentioned was the post-tournament 5-minute blitz session with
GM Maurice Ashley. Besides the spirited play was the mutual respect displayed between these two pioneers. The 28-game "gladiator" match lasted more than four hours and ended in an exciting 14-14 deadlock!

With a renowned chess Grandmaster and a one-time 3000-rated blitz player (and now IM), it was certainly an impressive and memorable sight! It is a story that both Ashley and Muhammad will be able to share for years to come.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 25 January 2003

Muhammad-Ashley Blitz Battle!

Memorable Blitz Battle!  Muhammad vs. Ashley
(photo by Daaim Shabazz)