2003 US Chess Championship
2003 US Chess Championship (Round Three)

Black Panther on the Prowl!

One of the best-played games of the round was the one played by FM Stephen Muhammad against IM Michael Mulyar. Coming off of a hard-fought draw with Joel Benjamin in round two, Muhammad settled in with the white pieces and played his characteristic 1.d4. At the 2002 World Open, Muhammad pledged to play more exciting chess and  in this encounter he did not disappoint.  After the initial moves of the Queen's Gambit, he played 6.Qe2 and appeared to be on top after 14.Rfd1.

It appeared that Mulyar may have made a strategic opening error in ceding the d5-square and decided to break the meddlesome pin with 16g5?! Muhammad is one who loves to accumulate advantages and capitalized on this weakening move with a quickness. Within five moves, black's position was in total shambles the black king hung in the breeze without shelter.

Muhammad began attacking the weaknesses while Mulyar (in severe time pressure) was trying to roll up the g-file with his heavy pieces. Muhammad anticipated this and penetrated with 31.Rc7. Black's pieces became overloaded defending the various weaknesses all over the board, but could not prevent further penetration. Muhammad was now on the prowl like a Black Panther stalking his prey.

After 37.Qe7, black defended yet another piece with 37Qg6-h6 (diagram). It appears that black is holding the position together, but this notion became a false illusion when Muhammad uncorked
38.R1xd4! destroying one of the defenders of the e5-square. After 38exd4 he plays a stunning intermezzo move in 39.Bf4! forcing 39Qg7.

Muhammad-Mulyar (position after 37...Qg6-h6)

(Position after 37...Qg6-h6)

Now the final touch on this artistic beauty came after 40.Bxg4! f6 (if 40hxg4 41. Be5 f6 42.Bxf6!) and now 41.Qc5! 1-0 (if 41Qg8 then 42.Rxh7+ Kxh7 43.Qxh5+ Kg7 44.Bf5! mating). Powerful performance by FM Muhammad who is on track for this 3rd IM norm.

The Round of Death!

Besides the game above, there was some serious bloodletting in this round. Not so early in a U.S. Championship has there been so much blood spilled.  Unlike the days of recent championships with the same 10 players and countless dull draws, this round of chess featured 20 out of 29 decisive games!

Goldin-Ashley game was a hard-fought battle that would have left only the kings  had they played on a few moves.  Ashley now has an undefeated two 2-1 as does Muhammad. Other games showed that everyone here is fighting to the death. Tsagaan Battsetseg beat fellow WIM Cindy Tsai in a brutal crush of the Najdorf Sicilian. The seven-time Mongolian women's champion played a enterprising piece sacrifice to shatter black's king fortress. She then opened all routes to the black king with 22.g6! With white pieces swarming about, black gave up after being hit with the final blow 28.Bc4! intending 29.Rg1+. Well played!

There was bad news for Benko Gambit enthusiasts as
GM Alexander Shabalov won a nice game against GM John Fedorowicz, an expert of the famous and oft-feared gambit. Rather than to accept the gambit and test Fedorowicz's vast knowledge, Shabalov declined with 5.b6!? As the game progressed, black never quite established his queenside play or the characteristic romp of the knights into white's trenches. Shabalov continued to solidify his strong center and then charged with 21.e5!, a move that is often the bane of Benko Gambit players. White bore into black's porous position and Fedorowicz had to resign without a fight.

Another game with theoretical value was Perelshteyn-Kudrin. The Sicilian Dragon is one of the most often analyzed variations of all Sicilians, ranking up there with the Najdorf and Sveshnikov.  Black played 12Re8!? to preserve the Dragon bishop, but later traded it anyway. Black did not get the type of queenside counterplay typical of these positions. Indeed Kudrin sacked the exchange, but not on c3. Thus, white had none of the typical queenside weaknesses to worry him and had "free runs" to carry out his kingside attack. Facing a violent attack, Kudrin had to tip his king in only 36 moves (game on right).

Exciting matchups in Round 4 are:
Kaidanov-Akobian, Christiansen-Kraai, Finegold-Muhammad, DeFirmian-Browne, Ashley-Nakamura.

Report by Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

Game start 5 back 1 back 1 forward 5 forward Game end flip board autoplay


Round #3 Information Center

Selected Games

FM Stephen Muhammad - IM Michael Mulyar, 1-0
GM Alexander Goldin - GM Maurice Ashley, -
WIM Tsagaan Battsetseg - WIM Cindy Tsai, 1-0
IM Jesse Kraai - GM Boris Gulko, 0-1
GM Alexander Shabalov - GM John Fedorowicz, 1-0
IM Eugene Perelshteyn - GM Sergey Kudrin, 1-0

PGN download (all 29 games)

Standings after Round 3