MC’s Amy Lee Reflects on #MC2

Dear Chess Community,

Amy Lee has released her reflections putting in perspective the state of Millionaire Chess (MC) after its second event. In general, the event got a good response, but admittedly there were a number of problems that surface. In her candid reflections piece, Amy provides a look at her thoughts on the event, the challenges of such an operation and how this has affected future plans. Finally she makes an appeal for sponsorship and extends a charge to chess players to assist in helping MC achieve its mission. Must read!

Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum


Reflection on #MC2 – Oct. 21/15

Millionaire Chess co-founder, Amy Lee
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Over a week has passed since the last day of MC2, and I’ve had a chance to rest and reflect on the tournament and all that happened during it. It was quite a roller coaster ride with more issues than I could have imagined. Now that it’s over, I want to share my honest thoughts about MC as a whole, and where it stands in regards to our mandate to impact the world of chess in a positive way.

This past week, I have been showered with the most passionate and impactful messages from all channels, including social media, email, our website and Skype conversations. The quotes have been especially gracious:

“Congratulations on the success of MC.”

“What you did for Chess is spectacular”

“You hosted a first class event”

“Chess will never be the same again because of Millionaire Chess”

“The best open chess tournament in history”

“Millionaire Chess is the gold standard for chess tournaments”

“What a stupendously wonderful event”

“Congrats to you and the team! Was a great show! Thank you!”

“Everything is amplified like a Super Bowl”

“First class event – having a blast – attended both times – can’t recommend highly enough!”

The messages continue to pour in daily, and I am very grateful for the support. I take each and every word to heart. It means a lot that we have made so many people feel a sense of joy and hope about what chess tournaments can be, what the future of chess might look like in years to come.

Participants Adia Onyango, Stacey Moore and Alisa Melekhina
flanking Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Still, despite all these positive sentiments, those of us on the inside saw where mistakes were made that left us very frustrated. People who are closest to me know that I am a perfectionist, sometimes too much so. I never do anything halfway, and I strive to be the best by example. I believe it’s important that I roll up my own sleeves and work harder than anyone else. That is the way I have always conducted business. I want to make sure we put out the best possible product, and if I only slept 20 hours in 9 days and hardly ate anything, it’s because I wanted everything to be just right for the clients we are dedicated to serve.

Did we think we would have a flawless event? Of course not. No large event ever goes off perfectly, no matter how careful the planning. Is it hard for me to admit that a few big mistakes were made by our team? Yes. One click of a wrong tab inside a file caused the first round to mispaired and forced us to spend the rest of the tournament trying to engage in damage control. I can’t tell you how hard it was to maintain our self-control when all our hard work trying to pull off a magnificent event for the clients who put their faith in us was wiped out by simple human error. It was pretty deflating, to say the least.

Yes, mistakes were made. I personally suffered a lot over them. I’m proud that our team forged ahead and still pulled off an event that so many people felt happy to be a part of. Though I am a stickler for details, I can look at the big picture and see that we did execute an event to remember. I also understand that there is no such thing as immediate success. That takes time and commitment. We are trying to create a legacy. That doesn’t happen overnight and I have accepted that, faults and successes in all, we feel more driven than ever.

Photo by David Llada.

It has only been a week, but Maurice and I are already studying all of the feedback we have received. We are driven to be the best and to offer the best. We also are smart about making sure our business model works. Will that mean changes to structures and pay outs? Will that mean changes to avoid any future mistakes again? We are not stuck in our ways. We, like the game of chess, are mastering this with experience. We are taking into consideration everything our community feeds back to us and we will continue to present to the world with more excitement, more enticement, and more changes until we create the best event we can possibly offer. We know now, no matter what went wrong, many chess fans still want MC to not just survive but to thrive. Of course, we do too, and we will study the position from every angle in order to see how we can make this grand idea work. We owe that much to ourselves, our supporters and to this great game of chess.

So what is the next step? We will be looking under every rock to try to get sponsors to align themselves with chess as a brand. We need your help to make this dream a reality. After two years, MC has proven itself as an event that has captured the imagination of the chess world. How much do you personally want MC to continue? How important is this event to the world of chess to you? In order for this tournament to truly excel, our supporters cannot be silent. We all know someone in the corporate world who loves chess or who would love to be associated with the great values of the game. Every lead, big or small, is worth pursuing. Maurice and I have an open door policy, so we welcome any ideas or connections you may have. Let’s all work together to elevate this tournament to the next level.

Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Finally I cannot end this reflection without the biggest thank you to my family, friends and volunteers. I continue to believe there is “magnificence” in everything, despite the setbacks that wanted to blind me from it. For me, the magnificence I saw in Vegas this past week was how my personal friendship with quite a few people deepened. In addition, I also built relationships with many new people during the event. These people will be in my life regardless of more MCs or no more MC.

I look forward to continuing our commitment to be better and to offer an even brighter future for Millionaire Chess and for the prestigious game of chess. I hope you will join us in trying to take our tournament to yet another level. We have learned many lessons from these two years of events. We believe the future is full of opportunity and there are some tough decisions ahead, but we are ready to rise to the challenge. With something so worth doing, we would not expect anything less.

Photo by David Llada.

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

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