I was wrong about the Millionaire event


I was wrong about Millionaire Chess.


When the Millionaire event was first announced I was one of its biggest critics in the State of Florida. Not only did I think it would not succeed, I also thought it would be a disaster for chess. As a player who has organized over 100 events in the past couple of years, taught the game to children and achieved a USCF rating of over 2000, I felt I had a good understanding of what the future of American chess should be and the Millionaire event was not it.


Let me list the complaints:


  1. It’s too much money. Most players cannot afford the World Open every year and the Millionaire Event will cost about 3 times as much.


  1. Large prizes for low rated players helps American chess but hurts its progress. Even though the U.S. is one of the weakest chess nations in the world per capita, the USCF generates more money than FIDE! I believe Continental Chess Tour is partly to blame for this. Our system encourages players to stay lower rated.


  1. The Millionaire Chess organization seems to be too greedy. They stated that if 1,500 players did not pre-registered by months in advance that they would cancel the event. I still maintain that this was a mistake but they ultimately decided to go through with the event anyway!


  1. The organization would lose half a million dollars and there was no way that they could guarantee the prize money. There must be something in the fine print. I am not risking my money!


  1. The notion that Millionaire Chess could be like the World Series of Poker was unrealistic. The whole appeal to the main event started with "Money Maker" who proved that any novice could win on the biggest stage. This is not true in chess.


Over the past couple of months I've been surprised and impressed with not only how Millionaire Chess has handled itself against its critics but also the fact that it has gained the support of the USCF. They seem to be committed to running the event this year while acknowledging that they will lose money. 


As my confidence grew to the fact that the tournament would happen, I began to think, "Maybe I should play?" Not for the money but for the thrill. The thrill of competing at the top level in one of the greatest events in chess history! I have never been one to chase money in chess tournaments. I have always played for rating and the love of the game. I have seen far too often the lures of big cash payouts for low rated sections crush a man's passion for chess and give him the misconception about what training and competition in chess is all about. Everyone knows that these tournaments are filled with underrated players and "sandbaggers" but somehow forget that they do not win it all.


About 8 years ago, I pushed chess to the side for a new obsession, poker. When Florida started to allow some forms of gambling and the home games increased, I found myself making more in poker then I did teaching, playing or organizing chess. I knew I could never be rich in chess but in poker there seemed to be no limits. I grinded for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week for 5 years. I lived in Vegas for two months during the World Series of Poker, which was one of the most exciting experiences in my life.



Now I have a family, life is much more stable and going back to chess is a much more positive for my life. What is missing in American competitive chess is that World Series of Poker type event. The kind of event that every chess player dreams about playing and is just happy to say, "I’ve been there and done that." I didn’t realize it at first but this tournament is not about the money. It is about the love of the game. The great prize funds only raise the game to a higher level and make the experience more exciting and fun. 

John Salisbury 

President of Miami City Chess Club