2003 US Chess Championship
2003 US Chess Championship (Round Four)

The Game of "Doom"

Most everyone is familiar with the legendary videogame, "Doom."  It is a hyper-violent game where the player is armed with an arsenal of weapons and shoots his/her way through obstacles and predators. In the 4th round of today's matches, games were certainly less violent overall, but both Ashley and Muhammad games were the exceptions. 

GM Maurice Ashley was paired against the 15-year old upstart from New York, IM Hikaru Nakamura. He is going for his final GM norm and is known as one of the brightest stars in American chess. Of course Ashley knows his worthy opponent quite well. This highly-anticipated game attracted a large crowd at the Internet Chess Club (ICC) and the viewers were not to be disappointed.

Ashley played the 6.Bc4 line against the Najdorf and combined the system with the hyper-aggressive 7.Bg5 and 8.Qf3. Of course, these systems have be the subject of analysis for years and none other than GM Bobby Fischer made the Sozin Attack a formidable weapon. 

Attempting to set up a comfortable position with 11h6, black's move was met by Ashley's
12.e5!? thrust hitting the a8-rook and the f6-knight. So black played the normal 12Bb7 and Ashley turned up the heat with what appeared to be a strong attack after 13.Qh3  dxe5 14.Nxe6! fxe6 15.Bxe6 Rd8 (see diagram). Ashley gave a long think and reeled off  16.Rxd7!

After 16.Rxd7!, ICC viewers confirmed this to be winning for white, but Fritz 8 assessed it as only slightly better for white. After 16Rxd7, Ashley kept the pressure on with 17.Bxf6 Rd6 18.Qh5+ as Nakamura's king ran for dear life with white pieces in hot pursuit. After 18Kd8 19.Bxe7+ Kxe7 20.Qxe5! Kd8, Ashley played the seemingly logical 21.Nd5, but viewers felt that 21.Bd5! may have put an end to all arguments.

Ashley made his final mistake on 25.Be6?? and Nakamura blitzed out 25...Qf2! winning in all lines. Nevertheless, the ideas that occurred over the boards were certainly inspiring. As is often the case with chess, we find ourselves one move from the thrill of victory or one move from the agony of defeat. Ashley will be back!

Ashley-Nakamura (position after 15...Rd8)

Ashley-Nakamura
(Position after 15...Rd8)
Ashley-Nakamura (position after 37...Qc5-f2)

Ashley-Nakamura
(Position after 25...Qc5-f2!)

The Luck of the Draw!

This round of chess was much less violent than the previous the "other" chess match has started. As the tournament reaches the midway point, "strategic results" will be seen and draws will pile up. In Finegold-Muhammad, white had no notion of drawing and bolted out of the corner like Mike Tyson with punches blazing. In the Moeller Attack in the Guioco Piano, Finegold developed a strong initiative and tried to send Muhammad to an early dinner with the thunderbolt 16.Ne6!? Finegold followed with a "rook sac"  for what he thought was a mating attack. The attack was parried and Muhammad was a pawn to the good in a complicated queen ending. However, he was not able to prevent white from harassing him and the game ended in perpetual check. Very exciting battle!

WIM Cindy Tsai caused a stir last year by toppling GM Walter Browne in round one. This year she has had a more difficult time and has yet to score a point. However, her 4th round game showed a bit of creativity from this talented player from Florida.  This will probably go down as the most exciting draw of the young tournament.

Another Najdorf Sicilian threw this game into a whirlwind of tactics as
FM Gregory Markzon started the fireworks with 18.Bxh7+! and after Kxh7 19.Qh5+ Kg8 white sacked a rook with 20.Rxf7! This set up a nice mating web with the queen and a pawn after 20 Qxf7 21.g6 (diagram).

Markzon-Tsai (position after 21...g6)

Markzon-Tsai
(Position after 21.g6)

Perhaps Markzon didn't see the double queen sacrifice (with only one queen!) 21Qf1+! 22.Bg1 (22.Rxf1 Rxf1+ 23.Bg1 Bxd5-+) 22...Qxg2+!! setting up a beautiful drawing sequence after 22.Kxg2 Bxd5+ 23.Kh3 Rf3+ 24.Kg4 Rf4+ and perpetual check.

Exciting matchups in Round 5 are:
Shabalov-Kaidanov, Nakamura-Christiansen, E. Donaldson-J. Shahade, Kraai-Krush, Burnett-Ashley, Muhammad-Kudrin.

Report by Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum


Round #4 Information Center

Selected Games

GM Maurice Ashley - IM Hikaru Nakamura, 0-1
IM Benjamin Finegold - FM Stephen Muhammad, -
FM Gregory Markzon - WIM Cindy Tsai, -
GM Nick De Firmian - GM Walter Browne, -
GM Larry Christiansen - IM Jesse Kraai, 1-0

PGN download (all 29 games)