Millionaire Chess Adds Another Million
The organizers of the second Millionaire Chess tournament, to be played October 8-12 in Las Vegas, have announced an additional prize of one million dollars that might be given out on top of its one-million-dollar prize fund.
The Millionaire Chess tournament is not your ordinary open chess tournament. The prizes are much higher, and so are the entry fees. The organizers, GM Maurice Ashley and his business partner Amy Lee, were obviously inspired by poker, and holding the event in Las Vegas adds to the ambiance.
The first edition, held October last year, was won by GM Wesley So — now a top 10 player. He cashed the top prize of $100,000, an amount that few chess players in the world have earned in a single event.
Unlike other open tournaments, Millionaire Chess offers amateurs to earn substantial amounts of money. There are different rating groups, all with five-figure top prizes. The best-scoring player rated below 1200 still takes home a staggering $20,000.
When the first edition of Millionaire Chess was announced in December 2013, it received mixed reactions — for example under our own report. It will be interesting to see how the second edition will be received, as another remarkable feature was announced earlier this week which involves another one million dollars.
The Millionaire Chess newsletter that was emailed on June 1 had the following announcement:
Millionaire Chess is excited to announce the Millionaire Square Prize. One player in the 2nd Millionaire Chess Open, scheduled for October 8-12 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, will have a 1 in 64 chance to walk away a millionaire! The player will be one of the 36 who make it to Millionaire Monday, the final day of competition. The Millionaire Square Prize is in addition to the million-dollar prize fund that up to 1,200 players from over 40 countries will be competing to win.
Here’s how it will work: Of the 36 players who make it to the final day, nine winners representing each rating division will emerge from the competition. Those nine players will match wits in a fast-paced game of strategy (details to be revealed later) to determine who moves on to get a shot at the Millionaire Square Prize. The winner will then pick from 64 envelopes filled with cash and other prizes randomly placed on a giant chessboard. If the lucky envelope is picked, the winner will walk away an instant millionaire!
With the Millionaire Square Prize, Millionaire Chess remains committed to continually seek new ways to raise the profile of chess in the United States and around the world. With satellite events, big prize funds, exciting commentators and new analytic programs to help break down the action, the Millionaire Chess Open will help bring the excitement of chess to a new generation of fans.
Chess.com asked a few grandmasters what they think of all this: GMs Wesley So (the winner of the 2014 edition), GM Erwin l'Ami (the winner of the 2015 Reykjavik Open and the 2015 Rabat Blitz) and GM Simon Williams (a regular commentator at tournaments who produced some very nice videos for Chess.com).
What do you think of Millionaire Chess and its unique prize system?
Wesley So: “I am just a chess player, not a marketing genius. I am sure Amy and Maurice know what they are doing.”
Erwin l'Ami: “I think the chess world should fully support such initiatives. We should move forward, go along with modern times, and this tournament is perfect for that. It's, of course, very American: all or nothing. In Europe the prize funds are much lower, but there the average grandmaster always takes home a bit of money. In Las Vegas a small group of people will gain money, and many will end on a loss. You can support that or be against it, but I don't think there's anything wrong with either system.”
Simon Williams: “I think it is a very enterprising and great idea. Every chess player wishes to see chess in the mainstream media, and ventures like this, with huge payouts/circus-style presentation, can only do good for the image of chess.”
What do you think of the new idea that was announced? (And the attention it could get from mainstream media?)
Wesley So: “I am always surprised about what gets media attention but new ideas are interesting and should be given a chance.”
Erwin l'Ami: “How can someone even come up with that? :-) I think it really fits with the vision of the organizers to turn this event into a show; something that works for television. This also goes for the live commentary, the prize fund and stunts like this. I can appreciate it, but I know many colleagues will think this is going too far. :-)”
Simon Williams: “Well, it is Vegas, so anything that comes with a gimmick is par for the course!”
Are you planning to play?
Wesley So: “Yes. In fact, I was the first to register. It's a major chess event. I play chess.”
Erwin l'Ami: “I play in Hoogeveen this year, like I always do. Last year I couldn't play either because I was a coach at the World Youth U20. I certainly don't rule out that I will take a shot at it in Vegas in the future!”
Simon Williams: “Wish I could, but already signed up for the Poker Stars tournament in the Isle of Man.”
Here's the promo for the 2015 Millionaire Chess tournament: