Ashley launches MillionaireChess… $1,000,000 Tourney!

A couple of days ago, GM Maurice Ashley contacted The Chess Drum with some startling news. He announced the launch of “Millionaire Chess” a theme tournament with a guaranteed $1,000,000 prize fund! Back in 2005, Ashley hosted the HB Global Chess Tournament which at the time boasted the largest prize fund of any open tournament ever held.

Known as a chess commentator and promoter, Ashley stated that the time had come for chess to take a giant step toward popularity. He is staging this ground-breaking tournament in Las Vegas with the first prize being $100,000 and $40,000 for sectional winners. The tournament will also have couple of different prize incentives. One will be a “bounty” placed on the top five players of each section and a $1,000 award to anyone who beats them.

GM Ashley at the site of the Millionaire Chess Open

The format is also novel and culiminates with “Millionaire Monday”. According to site,

The first seven rounds of every section will be a qualifying round to determine who plays the finals on Millionaire Monday. Four finalists will move on to play two knock-out rounds to determine who wins the top prize. The last two rounds of the Open section will also be played on Millionaire Monday to determine who wins 5th place and under, as well as to give players a chance to acquire norms. In the other sections, the tournament will be officially over by Sunday night, October 12 for players who did not make it to Millionaire Monday.

Thus there will be tremendous fighting atmosphere and with huge prizes on the line there will be extra measures to ensure that no cheating or collusion takes place. The rules include rules for spectators such that no devices can be passed to competitors. There is also a modesty dress code since this tournament hopes to draw wide media attention.

This is the latest of GM Ashley’s initiatives to find a suitable formula to market chess and he is doing it in a place where gamesmanship is a profession. He is teaming with Canadian business magnate Amy Lee to offer an event with an unprecedented entertainment value. Ashley is planning a very stunning scene for “Millionaire Monday,” a theme that could only come from Hollywood. It appears apropos that the tournament is held at the world famous franchise, “Planet Hollywood”. More details are below!!


presents the
The 2014 Millionaire Chess Open

Thursday, October 9th through Monday, October 13th 2014
Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino


email address:




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  2. Great initiative! Will support it from the Jamaican angle as much as we can!! Go deh mi bredda!

    PS: Obviously an error on the caption…should be “2014”.

  3. I like the innovation but the $1000 buy in plus Vegas expenses may be a little steep for my and maybe many other desirable pockets! While I hope all due success, I have an ideal for greater collaboration.

    What if there were club qualification rounds whereas players potentially received financial assistance from club members to enter and attend. Here you would have the average club player participating along with the “chess hustlers” for top honors. This would enhance the “team concept’ or “team spirit” which should generate a greater market and furthermore reaching out to spectators.

    Just my $0.02 cents!

    1. Daaim, Don’t want to be totally negative but it is not exactly $1000 for a chance at $40,000 but more like $2000 to $2,500 with travel, lodging food for a potential prize. This represent 5% of a $50K annual income which may be a little difficult for those on fixed income retirees, etc. May also be hard to sell as a family vacation in October. Good luck with the marketing!

      1. I thought you were referring to the entry fee. It’s more expensive, but your chances to compete and win are still greater. There are 50(!) prizes in five of the sections. If you are merely looking at the entry fee as the deterrent and not take everything into account, it looks to be exorbitant.

        If you expand the issue to include other expenses, you pay those anyway unless you’re in driving to the venue. About $1700-1800 is what I pay at the World Open coming from Florida… $250-$400 entry, $250-$350 for airfare $700-$800 for hotel, $200 food and another $100 for incidentals (i.e., shuttles, taxis, etc.).

        To be honest, this tournament will probably be more adult-oriented given where it is. However, depending on all the discounts, it may be more reasonable. Of course Vegas has its own attractions.

  4. It’s an audacious move! We’ll have to wait and see if the organization is able to get at least 1500 players to register by March 2014. I believe it can be done if it’s marketed in a clever way. It takes risk to bring about change, go for it Maurice and company.

  5. If there’s a low turn out for this titanic event, I don’t think the entry fee will be the main cause. However, the timing of it could be a hitch. Scholastic players make up a good chunk of chess players, so if the dates of the event conflict with school, a lot of them won’t be able to attend. In that case, attendance will be considerably lower. Regardless, I will try my best to be a part of it.

    1. I’ve been speaking with Maurice on this. I’ll do as much as I did for the HB Global. I think I wrote close to 20 articles.

      When Maurice was telling me of this a week ago, I was wondering about the dates. It would be great in the summertime, but there are always issues with getting a Las Vegas venue in the peak summer season… not to mention the heat. I’m concerned about the dates, but I believe it overlaps with Columbus Day. Also remember that only the top four in the Open section will continue on to play two more rounds. So Sunday night, the tournament will be over and Monday can be used for travel.

      I’m looking forward to Maurice’s videos on the event.

    1. It’s going to be a challenge, but if we can find the right marketing formula, we can get people on board. I have mentioned to Maurice that he will need to enlist some star power, both chess and non-chess. He is working on something.

  6. I have fully read the website for this event, and I think that this is a great idea. Just like poker tournaments, chess tournaments with this big money structure and no early draw rules may lead to transformative media interaction that would benefit chess greatly.

    Question 1: Do grandmasters and other titled players have to pay the same entry fees as non-titled players? I would prefer that they do because of the increased expense for the average player. However, they should probably get travel and/or lodging perks to encourage their participation.

    Question/comment 2: Systematic qualification events by internet or regional lead-in events that offer prizes for travel or lodging would be appreciated (by me) as opposed to the offered lottery/perks. In short, a robust mechanism that may enable 50% of participants to significantly reduce their travel and lodging costs to general expense levels associated with existing norm worthy events may encourage greater participation – I do not know the estimated number of participants so I make this statement with intended value in a non-scientific context.

    Congratulations on a strong project aim, and best wishes to Maurice and Ms. Lee!
    Kimani A. Stancil

    1. Trying to get Maurice to answer some of these, but I’ll be coming out with a new article to clarify some issues.

      What I understand is that all participants will pay an entry. From what Maurice told me, there will not be any conditions for professional players. When I was trying to organize a large tournament, this ate into the budget very quickly. However, I believe they may have a budget for marketing expenditures that may come with raising the star power, but I’m not sure.

      That Internet qualification is a good idea to compete for those lodging and expense prizes, but of course there needs to be an intricate system put in place… especially to curb cheating. I’m not sure this has been considered. There is still a bit of time.

      Unfortunately, the tournament is effectively seven rounds except for the Open Section. I don’t think a nine-round GM norm will be available unless an IM or FM makes into the qualifying rounds in a field of GMs. That will be a tough one.

      More details coming.

  7. I like it, but just like every competition outside of the top major sports, the advantage goes to those who have greater means to begin with.

  8. I was at hb with ashley and it was great I will be supporting this effort also, I guess its time to come back to the game in style, congrads to ashley on taking chess to main media and helping to promote the royal game at a global level!!!


  9. Best wishes to Ashley on this project ! Now if we can get some major sponsors to the table ( GM, GE, McD’s , etc.. ) maybe chess could take a huge leap to the upside here in the US.

  10. With neither kids (due to the calendar) nor norm possibilities (due to the unusual schedule that confines most players to 7 rounds instead of the usual 9), this event starts out with two strikes against it. And even for the (vast) majority of amateurs for whom norms aren’t an issue, not only is the price (both EF and travel expense) a multiple of the World Open or any other event… but you’re getting 22% less play (i.e. fewer games) for your money unless you’re in the top 8 or whatever after round 7.
    When a friend told me about this a few days ago, I was in a quandary over whether to go. Seeing the format makes the “no go” decision a no-brainer.
    Another thing: From a marketing/publicity standpoint, this is not the sort of “breakthrough” chess event that it makes itself out to be. I say that because the economic model is identical to a Goichberg tournament or any other organizer’s “money” open event. The entrants throw their money into a huge pot, which funds the huge prizes. There is no significant external sponsorship; entry fees are expected to cover the entire prize fund, and then some. For confirmation, just look at the ratio of entry fee to prizes: it’s the same or very nearly the same as the World Open. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I’ve long approved of, and supported (by entering his events), the Goichberg/CCA business model. It’s just that this Millionaire Open makes itself out to be something entirely new and different, but isn’t.
    That said, I don’t mean to dis the event, or GM Ashley. I hope it succeeds.

  11. Hey Jon,

    Thanks so much for the feedback. It gives me an opportunity to clear up any misconceptions that good folks have, so keep them coming!

    1. This tournament is assuredly a norm tournament as we state on the website due to the fact that the Open section is 9 rounds. Please check the tournament schedule for more details, but here is the relevant passage:

    All players who do not make it into the final four will continue to play rounds 8 and 9 to determine 5th place and below, and to qualify for norms.

    This has already been confirmed by our chief TD, International Arbiter Franc Guadelupe.

    2. A kid’s tournament was not our intention. To cater to kids we would have to basically destroy all the other kids tournaments around the country by going head to head with them during the best times for young people. The calendar is packed enough with events for children, but I have already been informed that a good number of serious kids intend to come because of the historic nature of the event.

    3. If you look at the prize to entry fee ratio of our event, you will find it is the best of any major tournament in the US. The total prize fund of the Open section is $407,000! In addition, we go to 50 places in each section instead of 10 in most events. Please crunch the numbers any way you wish, and I think you will see that we stack up very well.
    4. As for value, this event will far outstrip any other due to all the additional amenities we are offering (opening breakfast, VIP suite, gift bags on entry, live broadcasting, super-enhanced security, blanket TD service, etc). Add the MIT Media Lab technological innovations to the mix, and I guarantee you will not walk away from this event thinking this is just another Open tournament. We plan to make your jaw drop by the time it is all over.

    Again, thanks for the feedback. It’s players like you who want to see chess really get the royal treatment that makes me happy I get a chance to finally make it happen.
    Happy holidays!!

    Maurice Ashley

  12. Maurice, thanks for the clarification. My apologize for having mis-characterized it as 7 rounds for nearly everyone; I overlooked that everyone in the Open gets the full 9 rounds.

    Regarding kids, I was thinking not of children, but high-rated teens and college students – who probably account for the majority of top finishers in upper class sections at big CCA events (U-2400, U-2200, U-2000). I guess the most serious among them, as you said, will make the sacrifices needed to participate in the Millionaire Open despite the calendar and financial hurdles, because of its historic significance (and perhaps, enhanced opportunities to face world-class GMs, if it succeeds in attracting even more top competitors than other major opens do).

    I went to your HB tournament and had a great time. I felt that tournament more than lived up to its billing. First of all, by happening at all: one (expletive deleted) writer/teacher/blogger from Florida with a decent-sized chess following made it his personal crusade to bash that event; beginning months before it happened, he repeatedly urged his followers to boycott it, and had the audacity to publicly predict the prizes would never be paid. Next, I appreciated some of the unique organizational features: TDs were everywhere, which is helpful on many levels (probably isn’t a coincidence that the same cheater who got caught and fled the site during a late round of the HB, evaded detection in the World Open just a few months later and stole first prize in a class section there). Having players show name-badges to enter the playing hall was a classy touch, which I associate with business conventions rather than typically downscale, ultra-informal chess tournaments. These and other details made it easier to focus on the chess… while also enjoying the company of chess friends and acquaintances old and new, to a greater extent than probably any other chess event I can remember.

    Your success in making the HB tournament happen – with all prizes paid promptly as promised – will at least give people confidence that the Millionaire Open will fulfill organizers’ promises.

    1. Jon,

      If you think HB was special, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! There is no way to stop people who want to speak badly of new things. We can only seek to be as excellent as possible and let our work speak for itself. I appreciate all the kind words.


  13. I am all in! Chess players have become comfortable with small tournaments and small payouts. Chess should be bigger than poker. We should support this tournament 100%. I hope all the nay-sayers and negative players stay away. Those who welcome competition and who believe in their skills, I will see you in Vegas. We are working on getting Kingsmen Chess Club registered as a group and I wish other chess club do the same.

  14. Kingsmen chess will do a fundraiser for good chess players who want to play in the tournament of the century, but need some help. We will show up in nice polo shirts with the Kingsmen chess club logo. To compete like chess players who love the game, Chess clubs should come up with great ideals to make this event possible.

  15. Daaim, if you are interested, I have discussed with Keith Dunbar about combining Tallahassee players with Kingsmen Chess Club players to make it easier to get the group discount on the entry fee. Not only do we have our local players to talk to, but I will also be visiting the FSU club next week when the kids get back from the holiday break. Just like Keith, I will also come up with creative ideas for raising money so that nobody feels left out due to travel expenses and the entry cost.

    Either way, this is going to be an incredible event! I truly believe that this is a great chance for like-minded players to help each other attend this kind of tournament! As long as everybody has the same level of commitment, competitive drive, and enthusiasm, there is nothing that can possibly go wrong!

  16. I played in the North American Open in December. Vegas is growing and a great site for this tournament. Brendan and I came together as a group. We are looking for more chess players to join us on the group rate.

  17. I already have 3 players. How many do you have Keith? We need 11 people to get the group rate. I will catch the January 31st Deadline to make sure I get a chance in the early bird lottery of free hotel and air ticket!

    1. Ashik Uzzaman I signed up today and we have all the helpful info to help you and your friends. I was in Vegas in Dec for the North American Open. Man! Vegas is nice. I plan on staying at the beautiful the Elara this time. This is like the Super Bowl for chess players.

  18. Thanks GM Ashley!!!! Maurice I can’t wait to play in this long needed tourney with Kingsmen Chessclub and Keith Dunbar. Maurice I remember when you earned your first GM norm and when you finally qualified, my god it seems a life time congratulations on both(never got to say that to you and always wanted to both my friends and I in rural sanford florida). We will see you at the tourney. God bless and God speed and Happy New Year All!!!

  19. I’ve been reading through the comments people have posted on here as well as, and I’m very surprised by the amount of negativity towards this event. For those out there that are skeptical about cheaters/sandbaggers and the expenses of going to the tournament, here are some positive things to think about:

    The anti-cheating methods

    The technology that is used in Las Vegas is extemely high tech, almost to the point that it can read our minds! On top of that, there’s going to be a bunch of security officers on duty who will monitor players leaving their tables. Because of this, I am confident in the ways that cheaters will be dealth with.

    The sandbaggers

    All players will be assigned to a section based on the HIGHEST ESTABLISHED rating that they earn in between 12/31/13 to 09/30/14. So let’s say I reach 1500 by June, but then I fall below 1400 for whatever reason, I would still have to play in the U1600 section. With that in mind, the large majority of rated players have what’s called an absolute rating floor that they can never fall under. In addition, any player that wins $2,000 or more in a single tournament is automatically given a rating floor equal to the section that he/she conquered. Provisional rated players and unrated players will be forced to compete in the open section since their level of play is still uncertain. All of this is to make sure that the rating alone does not dictate a player’s true skill level.

    The expenses

    I think this is the biggest issue that chess players have with large scale tournaments. But seriously, forget about the money! Do it for the experience! We honestly have no idea when the next tournament like this will ever happen again. You could even be on TV if you’re doing really good in your section! This is also a big chance to meet GMs, chess commentators, and other iconic figures that are known within the US chess community. And even if you don’t place high in your section, your friends and acquaintances will still think you are awesome for competing in Vegas!

    And remember, you have 9 months to prepare and save up for this! Go for it!

    1. These are all good points!

      In the final analysis, those who will find fault most likely will not play regardless of the conditions. Negativism is a spirit. You cannot please these and you simply have to forge ahead with your plan. Then there are those who have legitimate limitations in their schedule and budget, but that support the project. What is important is to do what we can do to be there and support the effort.

  20. Ashik Uzzaman! Thanks for calling sorry I missed your call. Please call back and lets get this ball rolling. I did return your call. This will be like the Super Bowl for chess players. This will be an experience of a life time.

  21. Ashik, with your group of 3 combined with Keith’s group (which includes me), that brings us to a total of 6 players. When you go to register on Millionaire Chess, choose the individual entry. I also need the names of everyone that you have with you so far. Either Keith or myself will submit the team roster. Once we have all team members, one member of the group (I think it’s the 11th person) will receive the refund. If you have any further questions, call me at 850-556-7837 or Keith at 407-580-7912.

  22. Excellent, Thank you for the explanation. I have registered individually as “Ashik Uzzaman” yesterday. After a week I will register my son “Ahyan Zaman” and update this thread. Then in a week or so the third person “Shafieen Ibrahim” will register. I will confirm you then again. Here is my phone number 510.386.1856 and my email address .

  23. Keith and Brendan,

    I like the way they have made it easier to form a group. All we need is a team lead now. Are one of you willing to be the lead and send the email to the contact details to get a team number? Once you get the team number, please share the number with me emailing me at my gmail address. I will then send 3 of ours name, uscf, order number in millionaire open chess site.

    Right now i am not worried much about whether we can recruit 5 more people by 31st march but probably it will happen easily as here in California i have some acquaintances who will be thrilled to be part of a team. I am assuming we are still eligible to win the lottery of hotel and air individually (i already registered even before forming a group) if we can really make it 11 members, the 10% refund will be equally distributed amongst the group members.

    I will wait for your email or reply to this message for the next step.

    1. Daaim, we still need more players to join our group. That will put us up to around 9 people with you included. Also, once I get the group number, I will give it to you so that you can include it in your registration entry.

    1. Ashik we will give you the 10% since you are bringing your son’s to a great event. I take my hat off to you chess player. I can’t wait to meet you and the team in Vegas.

  24. I have been working long hours all week, but it is good to know the team has made major progress. I want to thank Ashik Uzzaman,Shabazz . As chess players we must spread the word about the tournament of Century. I talked to a lot of chess players and they don’t know about the tournament. I will see you Vegas.

    1. This subject is about fear. I was talking to my friend, Adam Rook, and I could hear all the fear in him about playing in this tournament. We must understand that we are eagles who can fly and not chickens stuck in a coup. In your DNA, you were created a winner, but your mind allows fear to hold you back. A lot of these chess players have lots of books, software, etc. The moment of truth has arrived, to show your skills. We have to view ourselves as winners until someone beats us. Every time we mention players are stronger than us, we are admitting fear. Let go and fly; be a real winner.

      1. Meeting Keith for the first time in Cocoa Beach at the Space Coast Open I didn’t know what to think at first. But after awhile I knew he was really into chess. He’s taught me a lot about believing in yourself being the best person sitting at that chess board. But not being where I want to be in chess right now…. sometimes reality kicks in, b/c I know others have been training harder than I have. Keith is right, there’s going to be the best chess being played at this tournament, the stakes are high…are you ready??

  25. Been reading some comments and I would like to say this, don’t hate on the Brutha for doing a positive thing trying to promote the game,when most of us are just playing the game..If you can’t attend the tournament don’t question the Brutha motive and method when you are doing nothing to promote the game,Shabazz I think you for this format to help expose our contribution to the game..

  26. First and foremost I would like to thank Mr. Ashley, for producing a tournament that guarantees a price fund of $1,000,000 U.S. Hopefully Mr. Ashley’s, tournament is a big success. Mr. Ashley’s venture, hopefully will inspire other tournament directors to provide reasonable price funds that would properly reward a competitor for his/her achievement against the most highly skilled athletes in any sport.

      1. My son Ahyan’s chess coach said Ahyan is too young (7 years) to participate in the Millionaire Chess as at this age a failure in such a big stage may have negative impact on his interest on chess. They get easily excited and easily frustrated at this age. So I will have to skip my son’s registration. I wish I could!

  27. Hi Shabaaz, Brendan, Keith – I have registered my 7 years old son Ahyan Zaman under our team code. So he will also play. We will take the 4 day schedule so that except 6th and 7th rounds all other games are of shorter format for him.

    So now we have been 6 already. We need another 4 or 5?

    1. That is correct Ashik, I talked with Brendan today and he won the hotel trip. I planning a tournament in March, If a player win 1st place in the 4 section 2000, 1800, 1600, 1400 he can win spot on team 003. Sorry it took so long to respond. I hope the good news gets us back on the team.

    2. I have also posted on regarding the team recruitment for the MC Open. And Ashik, thank you so much for getting your son and your friend registered! It means a lot to me when there’s players outside of Florida that join the team!

  28. A few days ago, I posted a simple comment and question on my Facebook page:

    I heard an opinion from a fellow GM that amateurs should not win the kind of money that the Millionaire Chess Open is giving away in prizes. Do you agree?

    I was surprised at the firestorm it set off, as it really seemed to touch a raw nerve in the chess community. While most of the amateurs felt it was fair that they get a shot at big prizes, all of the GMs who replied felt precisely the opposite and vociferously said so. The responses speak to a deeper issue about how to spread the game to a broader fan base, and about just how we incentivize the existing fans to help promote chess in a way that attracts big-name sponsors.

    I’ll need a much longer essay to truly explore all the relevant issues, but in this newsletter, I wanted to touch on a couple of points that I feel need to be said right away. You can look for more in the upcoming week, but you can read below or on our website for now.

    Maurice Ashley
    International Grandmaster
    Host of Millionaire Chess Open

    Why Should Chess Exist at All?

    The Millionaire Chess Open is not just a new event giving away an unprecedented amount of money. At its core, the tournament is about promoting a vision for change in how a sport sees itself.

    At the moment, there is a top-down structure, where the best players in the world are paid decent appearance fees to play spectacular chess at premier events. Aside from this group of maybe 50 players, the remaining professionals cobble together a living through teaching, writing, lecturing, performing simultaneous exhibitions, and the like. Below them are a massive group of amateurs who play regularly, and who eagerly follow the latest events to watch their gods create works of art. This structure has been going on for decades, and is fueled by the impression that it is the top that matters most.

    While Millionaire Chess appreciates the importance and brilliance residing at the top of the pyramid, we firmly believe that the gigantic base is where the energy lies. The average fans are the ones who buy books, DVDs, software, chess sets, clocks, and memorabilia. They are the ones who pay for lessons that keep many a GM (including myself) in business. The more serious ones are also fueling prizes for the top players (at least in the US), where GMs play for free but are able to win the lion’s share of the prizes. It is through the largesse of the fans that our sport exists!

    What most of the GMs who responded to my post miss is that this fan base is the only group in the world that both loves to play chess and idolizes their heroes. They are the players who go to bed thinking about how to play like Carlsen or line up to get Kasparov to sign a copy of My Great Predecessors. They are the untapped and unrecognized champions of chess, spending hours every night playing on the Internet Chess Club or while their families wonder why they are so in love with this game. Go across any chess club in America, and you’ll find them arguing about the latest line of the Sicilian Defense or trying to solve the latest Pal Benko endgame study.

    Most strategies to grow chess have either aimed at bringing more sponsorship to the top or by wisely growing the scholastic base (ideas I applaud), but no one has thought to truly incentivize the massive number of existing fans to participate in events that reward them for their dedication. Not to say there are no great events; there are some fantastic Open tournaments held every single year around the world. But most of these are really about rewarding the best players and seeing the fans play a supporting role.

    Millionaire Chess wants to flatten that structure, making the average fan a star, while simultaneously rewarding the brilliance at the top. The way to do that, in our opinion, is to create amazing tournaments that excite the base, that make the average weekend warrior get up every day dreaming of winning the big event, of seeing their name in lights and walking home with a larger-than-life check. While our events will continue to respect GMs for all the work they have put in and for their talent, it’s clear to us that a strategy that reenergizes the base is one well worth trying. After all, without the base, why should chess exist at all?

  29. If chess clubs/organizations could have tourneys prior to the event and raise money to send players just like the world series of poker does having satellite tournaments. This could produce a lot of entrants. Tourneys could be $50 or $100 entry fees where the winner gets a entry into MC.

  30. 09 Apr 2014 at 3:18 am from steve perry

    Let me put things into perspective for those who are worried about the 70+ players that are currently signed up for this tournament. Chess players are notorious for signing up late or just prior to the last deadline. To give you a perfect example of this, currently there are only 52 players signed for the World Open which takes place in early July. And yet come tournament time, there’s always over 1,000 players who end up entering.

    I play in lots of tournaments and will play in this one but won’t sign up until a day before the first deadline. Why? It’s just the way I always do it…as do the vast majority of tournament players.
    – See more at:

  31. Ok, so we need 5 more players I believe as we need 11 players to get the $1000 back from the entry fee. In our team code 003, we are already 6, 2 people talked to me today in Mechanics Chess Institute in San Francisco who are also interested but not yet 100% confirmed. They will probably register at the very end of July, just before the deadline of higher entry fee. I am thinking to ask people to join our team in a first come first serve basis until 11th people gets filled up. If we get more than 11 people, I will tell the rest of the people to form a second team to get that 11th player’s registration fee back and divided amongst the team members.

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