The first day of the 2003 U.S. Championship ended with some fighting chess including a major upset and some inspired play. Certainly we can look for more of this action from the young upstarts and less-known veterans looking to enter the spotlight.
GM Maurice Ashleywon his historic debut by destroying WFM Olga Sagalchik on the black side of a Nimzo Indian. Perhaps Sagalchik's 6.Nge2 allowed Black to equalize with 10 e5 after which Ashley mercilessly seized the initiative. After accepting a dubious pawn sacrifice, Ashley side-stepped all tactical land mines and effectively ended the game with the pretty 30 Ne2! (diagram). Sagalchik unnecessarily dragged the game on.
FM Stephen Muhammadnearly upset GM Alexander Ivanov in what was a hard-fought battle. In the heat of the middlegame, Muhammad won a pawn and pressed for the win. Ivanov defended actively and was able to hold the position. While Muhammad was unable to pick up the full point, this game should inspire his play in following rounds. He gets a stiff test with GM Joel Benjamin in round 2.
Ashley polished off Sagalchik with the pretty 30 Ne2! winning the exchange after 31.Nxe2 Rxd1. 31.Rxd7?? gets mated after Nxg3+.
Lions and Lambs
The biggest story of the round had to be the loss of IM Gregory Shahade to the tournament's lowest seed, Julia Shiber. Shahade bolted out of the gate and won an exchange after Shiber blundered on move 19. Apparently Shahade thought the game was over and would never envision that he would be on the losing end of a violent attack on his king. After the amazing 35.Qh6!, black has no satisfactory response to the pending mate at every turn. Certainly this game brought back memories of WIM Cindy Tsai's first round knockout of GM Walter Browne in last year's competition.
Defending champion GM Larry Christiansen annihilated IM Larry Kaufman's Nimzo when he decided to castle queenside after weakening his kingside with 10.h4!? White's position developed so many weaknesses that white was never able to threaten the black king in any remote fashion. "Larry C" powered to victory and looks to send a message with his resounding win. Other interesting battles were IM Hikaru Nakarmura (now over 2600 USCF) and WIM Jennifer Shahade's draw. In this battle Nakamura developed an advantage in the opening, but black worked hard to solve her problems and eventually obtained a playable position. In another game of young titans, IM Varuzhan Akobian outlasted IM Irina Krush in a textbook ending.