The End of Millionaire Chess?

GM Maurice Ashley has had an eventful year with the Grand Chess Tour (U.S., France, Belgium), the Millionaire Chess African tour (Kenya, Madagascar and South Africa) and the Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan. From his posts on Facebook it was clear that the Brooklyn-based Grandmaster had developed a new vision. Then… less than a month from the third Millionaire Chess Open, co-founder Maurice Ashley posted a stunning announcement on Facebook:

The reaction to this post was swift and hundreds of comments followed. The idea of the Millionaire Chess has had its strong supporters and ardent detractors, but what has resulted is an honest conversation about the chess circuit in the U.S. While there were some innovative ideas being tried and touted, the ultimate drawback is the lack of readiness of the chess community to try anything different from the current model.

While the first two tournaments attracted 550+ players, the numbers were far lower than anticipated. The MC concept added an element of class with nice touches. Despite this, it has been a hard sell to the sponsors which are not exactly clamoring to connect with chess, on any level. With the U.S. winning the Olympiad and the World Chess Championship coming in November, this should be an opportunity to make an aggressive pitch to corporate sponsors.

Unfortunately, the gold medal team got little attention in the national media and chess continues to struggle for attention. All we got was a debate on whether the U.S. team imported their talent or not. No welcoming party at the airport, no celebration by the chess community and of course, the excitement has subsided already.

The narrative of a successful team beating 165 other teams seems to have gotten lost behind a rather dubious notion that the U.S. got the medal the easy way. Despite the sterling effort and growing excitement in U.S. chess, sponsorship seems unmoved and franchises like Millionaire Chess have to consider their losses.

Nigerians at the inaugural Millionaire Chess Open.

Nice touch at MC1!

Amy Lee and Maurice Ashley present a triumphant Wesley So with the winner’s check. Photo by Paul Truong.

Was there a beauty pageant happening at MC2? No… these are chess players!
Photo by David Llada.

Hikaru Nakamura enroute to his victory at MC2.

At MC2, you could input the result of your game through the wristband.

When they got it to work, it’s easy as 1-2-3.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated).

So what did the Millionaire experience yield? It appears that the idea has introduced a number of ideas such as satellite qualifiers in the U.S. and in Africa, opening breakfast, Millionaire Monday concept, video contests, water service, automated recording through RFID technology and chance to win $1,000,000! Who can forget the red carpet promenade, massage chairs and comedians. Well… maybe the last one we’d rather forget! The game show… fun, but probably a no-go.


“I had given MC and chess every possible effort.
I left nothing undone.”

~Amy Lee


With perhaps the last edition of the Millionaire Chess, Ashley has stated that he will focus on promoting chess in a number of other ways and cited his experience in Africa as an example. Nevertheless, the third Millionaire Chess Open will begin on October 6th and it is a concept with a “big idea,” but perhaps in a sport with small aims. Players may not believe that chess deserves such a big stage and that it should remain as a weekend hobby with no professional pretense.

Amy Lee revealing the $1,000,000 panel in the MC Square contest.
Photo by Mike Klein.

However, heaps of gratitude should be extended toward Amy Lee in supporting the chess vision. She told The Chess Drum, “I had given MC and chess every possible effort. I left nothing undone. Every single (winner) got paid every single penny over last 3 years.” As it were, MC seems to have run a cycle similar to the tournaments trying to carve a niche in market of conservative customers.

Hopefully one day, the chess world will revisit some of the ideas of the Millionaire Chess franchise. It took a visionary leader like Maurice Ashley and a tireless organizer in Lee to achieve the standards in the trilogy of tournaments. A chance to win $1,000,000 by choosing a square? Wrap your head around that one! That being said, we have MC3 coming. Come be a part of history! If this is the last one, let’s go out with a bang!

Thanks Maurice and Amy!

Reflections of the 2014 Millionaire Chess Open
Reflections of the 2015 Millionaire Chess Open


The 2016 Millionaire Chess Open

Thursday, October 6th through Monday, October 11th 2016
Harrah’s Resort, Atlantic City, New Jersey

CONTACT: MILLIONAIRE CHESS

email address: contact@millionairechess.com
website: https://millionairechess.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HighStakesChess
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/millionairechess
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/MillionaireChess

BE THERE!!

* * *

52 Comments

    1. In Europe? Perhaps, but there needs to be sponsorship. I believe high-stakes tournaments are doable, but it takes about five years to test a model. Unfortunately, not many entrepreneurs can afford three years of losses.

      Coverage? Not much. Most center around the New York Times article how USA won with the help of imported talent. That was the narrative and it likely killed any excitement to those who didn’t know any better.

  1. A point raise here but not necessarily about MC is the media response ( lack of) to US 1st gold. Is it prudent to think that the US chess federation should take the lead on promotion for matters such as this?

    I always felt that the US Federation should be an asset, a partner and promotional collaborator to make MC the great event envision by Mr. Ashley and MS. Lee. The current USCF staffing most likily do not have great promotional credential but I am sure a highly competent executive might volunteer their time for this project or maybe a small fee.

  2. When you’re behind the wheel you know that you can’t just zoom into moving traffic unless you‘re looking to commit suicide. You have to merge in slowly and with precise timing. Not sure exactly why MC never took off, but what is certain is that Amy and Maurice gave it their best. They didn’t even take a deep breath after MC2, they jumped right into MC3, I was bit astonished, but I presumed that when you are passionate about a vision, you want to see things happen asap. The fact is, it should be a sad moment for all chess players.

    1. The saddest thing is… there is no way to know what timing is right. The U.S. is experiencing a wave of chess enthusiasm not seen in decades. So this seems to be as good a time as there has ever been. However, I would say that technique is important when zooming into traffic. If you are an professional driver with the right machine, you can do it. Of course, it is safer to merge with the average drivers. MC did not want to be average.

      The truth is… this was a valiant effort with a very thin staff. It was amazing what they accomplished, but could’ve used some help from the community. In the chess community, no one can tell me we don’t have capable professionals (who do this for a living) to help pull off this vision. Why they are not assisting is another question. What chess players seem to want is to use an average car to merge into traffic just like the average person.

  3. Yes, gratitude is due to GM Ashley and Ms. Lee for making what is by all accounts a great event happen these three years.

    As far as post-mortem, it’s all about sponsorship. Without knowing the exact steps the MC team took to attract sponsors, I don’t think anyone other than insiders can diagnose what might have been done better. Number of entrants is a central measure of success only if there is little outside sponsorship (i.e., if most of the prize money comes from entry fees).

    I agree that the single central chess promotion organization in this country — the one I still think of as the “USCF”, although it has re-branded itself as “US Chess” — needs to be involved in promoting chess to businesses. Put simply, that’s where the money is. I don’t think I have ever seen any USCF administration seriously attempt that. Last decade (and probably sporadically in past decades), they sought to cozy up to individual “sugar daddies” — wealthy patrons like Rex Sinquefield, and before that Eric Anderson, and others before. And of course, the bulk of USCF sponsorship efforts now go into promoting scholastic chess, which presumably involves targeting public school authorities in cities large and small. To my knowledge, they are not now and never have compiled income and demographic data on all US chess players, assembled it into packages tailored for corporate advertisers or marketers, and arranged meetings or conferences where such material could be presented to potential corporate sponsors or their ad agencies.

    Those are the kinds of efforts that would signify whether chess in the US is pursuing outside money, or not. Events like MC simply represent raw material.

    1. I honestly believe the failure of MC is that, no one on the management team is commercial business sharp.
      First, they should have produced a documentary for MC1, in that they should have contracted with an outfit for a reasonable percentage to do the documentary, presumably 65% of the profits for the first three years, with MC retaining the rights (100% ownership) thereafter. Each MC event should have had contracted an experienced writer/book producer to authorized to take pictures to produce the books for an approximate 55% of the first 1000 books sold with MC retaining the ownership of the publications. However, I think that as Amy, is the financial proprietor no one looked beyond her financial backing. and did not think outside the box. Apart from the aforementioned there are a few other aspects that could have and should have co producers, contracted outside the immediate corporate structure.
      Chess is not a spectator sport, in that generally, only chess players are chess spectators, hence there has to have a creative effort to bring the non-players into the mix, by continually introducing informative items to get their attention.

        1. Wow! Millionaire Chess expanded worldwide, and if there was a viable professionally done book and documentary, participants and their country would have surely absorbed thousands of them.

          No I did not have any contact with either Maurice or Amy, I had
          Seen Maurice several times around Brooklyn, and knew about his chess prowess, but no personal contact because there was no commonalty since I was not indulging in chess until recently. I learnt about Amy when I heard about MC1.

          I am “Senior Citizen” who began playing chess a few years ago, who is still at the bottom end of the chess spectrum.

          Upon hearing of MC1, I became extremely excited and hoped that it would be well attended and a success, and immediately told my wife that we are going to Las Vegas on a vacation. Accordingly, I immediately registered and purchase the forthcoming book prepaid.

          Yes I was disappointed in MC1 attendance and many items therein; however, my role as a supporter was the extent of involvement. I truly thought that lots of lessons were learnt from MC1 and that MC2 would have been greater. Prior to and after MC2 there was a plethora of suggestions. However, when I heard that someone of graduate degree business intellect was hired, I felt that the missing link was found. However, when I learnt that Atlantic City was to be MC3 venue, disappointment was felt, in that Atlantic City is not a non-gambler attraction. I did register for MC3, however I withdrew because of my wife did not felt like going to Atlantic City.

          I read cleveland suggestion and I think it is viable, but I think Amy a business minded person is disappointed and will write off here losses and ride off in the sunset.

  4. It is true there’s no way to know if the timing is ever right without trying, but I was eyeing it from a different standpoint. I was proposing that perhaps they should have advanced their vision with a testing period to allow for adjustment or improvement by using an average driver at a starting cost of $400 (EF) and to gradually promote to a professional driver. There’s no sense in risking wrecking your jaguar when you could refine your technique using a second hand Buick. They definitely could have used the support of the community, lessons learned. The chess fervor seems to have had little effect in the prosperity of MC. In fact the major players of this enthusiasm have chosen to bypass MC3. Sometimes the average person makes wiser decision than the one with deep pockets. However, I totally agree, besides sponsorship the irritating question remains, why so little support from the chess community?

    1. Guy,

      Maurice tried the $400 model with the HB Global Chess Challenge ($345 EF for $500,000 prize fund), but the sponsor pulled out after one year. I don’t think there was any idea of going cheap on this project and waiting five years for it to catch on. It would’ve been like any other open tournament. There would have been no reason to call it “Millionaire Chess” and to present the concept. I believe you have to present the idea as is. They tried to create excitement, but U.S. chess players are a conservative lot. They come to tournaments in t-shirts, jeans, shorts and sneakers, play their 5, 7 or 9 rounds of chess and they’re happy with their weekend hobby.

      The idea of a high-class, high stakes, million-dollar prize fund has now been tried and we can examine the successes and failures of it. The bad thing is if sponsors can’t get on board now, I’m not sure what would entice them. I have been told that MC franchise tried everything, but I’m not sure what that means. Was a professional sales team assembled to market the MC idea? Not sure, but that’s what you need. Too few people stepped up to volunteer their skills for the sake of chess. It’s a shame that we have such a poor chess culture in the U.S. … figuratively and literally speaking.

    2. Atlantic City, is not an exciting place unless you are a gambler.
      What other interest is there in Atlantic City? Additionally getting there is a bit taxing.

      A high percentage of Chess participants take their family, wife or other with them to events as MC.
      I think that the venue attracted mostly top of the sections strong players and some diehards affordable players.
      In MC2 and MC3 Maurice should have skim some of the higher sections prizes and maintain an under 14 for there is a vast pool of under 14 players.
      In producing a book, why not solicit businesses advertisements, pages, which is an old school endeavor that always works.

      Hey, fellas Amy was and is good at the area of business where she was successful, but I honestly think they needed sound commercial business minds.

  5. I suggest that Murices and Amy consult with an appropriate consultant with knowledge of profit and non-profit business entities with media & advertising background. Some for profit sponsors may contribute solely for tax deductible advertising rights. Other non-profit sponsors may benefit for various other reason. (Wouldn’t it be nice if the USCF provide the grant to MC for initial consultation) to seek the right executive /consultant who will produce the appropriate strategic plan (why and how) to promote and solicit those entities (do the leg work and make special tailored presentations) which may mutually benefit MC. I am just saying the experts are out there to make MC a worldwide recognized and prestiges event.

    1. I doubt if the USCF could provide any financial assistance, nor would they be legally able to provide a grant. However, I do agree that the experts are out there, but I don’t believe the right team was assembled to complement Maurice and Amy.

  6. There’s no doubt that both of us would have love to see MC flourish. BTW, I don’t think $500,000 prize is inexpensive at all, of course, that’s my opinion. I think they could have presented the millionaire idea as is, but introduce it in phases. With HB Global the sponsor pulled out after one year, but this time around he had a committed sponsor who was willing to stick it out, so why the rush? I think it’s a case of patience v not going “cheap” and failing badly. If you really think about it, they have decided to end the business because whatever they’ve learned isn’t good enough for another try. It almost seems as if they did a marvelous job at promoting what a luxury building will look like, but spent little time on the foundation and six months later the building not only buckled, but totally collapsed. I have a lot of respect for both Amy and Maurice for having the courage to not only think big but for actually putting the money to back it up.

  7. Once again Thank you GM Maurice & Ms.Amy for having the Vision & Giving Chess something to look forward for the past 3 years…I am saddened by this turn of the Event..But I still hold out Hope there can be a new model can be implemented for if or any future MC Tournaments.????????????

  8. I would like to point out that Maurice and Amy tried every suggestion that I have seen posted in this forum. Let me repeat, all of the things that you guys are suggesting, they tried, and pursued those ideas with incredible persistence. If sufficient level of sponsorship wasn’t achieved, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

    A big THANKS to Maurice and especially Amy for giving us the gift of MCO! I encourage everyone who isn’t already registered in the 3rd edition, to make every effort to play.

    1. RJT,

      I believe a sponsorship/donor campaign may have been worth trying. It would include various donor levels for people and organizations who wanted to donate but not necessarily play. It’s a very common fundraising idea, but has to be very well done to get results. Typically it’s done by professional PR groups.

      One big problem was the negativity in the beginning. People had harbored distrust even before they realized MC was legit. There was so much energy expended (by supporters) trying to prove the tournament was a reality and not a fantasy. One detractor even came to Vegas to see for himself. There were also sexist and racist innuendos. That type of publicity in places like chess.com was not helpful and may have dissuaded others from lending financial and material support.

      It tuns out that the U.S. chess community is too conservative. No imagination. No vision for future. No chess culture. It will need to change. When Goichberg retires, then what? MC is a new light in the U.S. chess community. Maurice and Amy did an outstanding job in building a good brand (with a beautiful color no less). Perhaps it can be revamped, repositioned and relaunched.

      I’m sure there is an investor that is waiting for the sale of MC. It would be a bargain for such a brand and probably purchased by someone overseas. I believe it can work in the U.S., but a revenue model is needed in order to make this concept sustainable. MC’s struggles is indicative of the struggles that chess has had (worldwide) in raising its profile.

      1. Daaim – I believe Amy and Maurice exerted 110% effort to attract sponsorship. Some of their efforts I am very familiar with. Your comments regarding the US chess community are right on target — as a group we are too wedded to what chess events have always been. We lack the imagination and will power to go after the goal of popularizing chess. There should have been 2000+ players at MCO #2, since all questions about the legitimacy and quality of the event had been answered with MCO #1. Corporate sponsorship follows grass roots support, it’s not the other way around. Profit minded companies are looking for ways to attract customers. Chess players have to demonstrate that they will support and spend their money on their supposed passion. We lost an opportunity to do so by not supporting MCO. NASCAR, WSOP, etc. get sponsorship because thousands of people (100’s of thousands for NASCAR), ante up to participate.

        Also, when you examine the history of the big $$$ sports – NBA, NFL, PGA – you see that through the years they aggressively modified how their games are staged and played, in order to make them attractive to sponsors, including businesses, local communities, the press, television, etc. We are ready to burn at the stake anyone who suggests modifying the rules of chess to greatly reduce draws. How about eliminating the prohibition on king suicide (I can hear the torches being lit – lol). Make 3 times repetition a loss (or a time penalty). Sacrilege! Zero tolerance for not being at your board at the start of the round? That’s an affront to my “rights”. Well, I guess you have the right to sabotage the efforts to bring more money into the activity that you spend so much time on.

        Sigh!

        1. RJT,

          I agree he gave (is giving) his all. I have had a front seat and had an opportunity to talk to Maurice and Amy on numerous occasions. I spent time with Amy in Vancouver. She has become a good friend and she has shared with my her thoughts. One can be non-plussed on how chess players think. Even chess players can’t figure themselves out. There have been thousands of discussions on whether chess can be marketed. I believe it can be. However, you have to have specific types of people making the pitch. You have to have some high-profile people with access to money bags who love chess. Does chess have anyone like that?

          Everyone wants to talk about Will Smith and Bill Cosby, but those are not sustainable even if they gave a million apiece. You need someone who can afford to lose several million and not lose sleep. Amazon.com lost money for 10 years before they saw a profit. Of course they had a value proposition selling everything. They expended too quickly and had to get back to basics before they morphed into the behemoth they are now. MC is a good brand and I don’t believe we should give up, but what do we do? It appears that we cannot get the grassroots (bottom-up) so we have to do top-down… unfortunately. You have to hit up the Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Baidu type companies, but how do we convince them??? It can’t just be about the exciting X’s and O’s of chess or the fact that children love it. We have to find another strategy.

          Even a wonderful story like “Queen of Katwe” can’t make these companies open up for a 5-6 year investment period. Chess has a brand, but we are not selling it in society as a holistic culture. We’re trying to sell different attributes of it and the public is still stuck on the “geek” analogies. Other countries get it. They have a culture… Cuba has a culture, Russia has a culture, but India really gets it!

  9. I guess I haven’t been following closely enough to recognize that between MC1, MC2 and MC3, Amy and Maurice have tried every suggestion that’s posted here. I don’t have inside info to refute that claim, but if RJT is correct, then the future of big prize tournament in the U.S. is hopeless.

  10. I immediately wondered if MC hired a sponsorship agency. Chess is a really interesting game to most people and I am sure the eyes of many demographics can be driven to chess events, and that’s what sponsors care about. There must be a few big agencies/brokers that have already established connections, can facilitate effective promotional presentations, and land useful meetings. Wouldn’t be cheap. Could do the marketing work in-house… but of course the business side of sponsorship is really dynamic and takes a bit of art and luck as well as skill and knowledge.

    1. They did hire a firm that would supposedly get sponsorship. They were unsuccessful. I hate to sound like a broken record, but Maurice and Amy tried all the (obvious) things that have been suggested. There is no silver bullet! If amateur chess enthusiasts won’t support a super high quality event like MCO, than there is no value proposition for potential sponsors.

      1. RJT,

        The point on chess-sponsorship issue is widely known and has been said many times. The lack of buy-in is certainly a major issue. Maurice has said it many, many times and I’ve written a number of articles expressing the same.

        HOWEVER, if MC has tried all obvious things (as you are saying), there is zero hope for U.S. sponsorship. Zero. One idea I don’t remember was a donor campaign for the chess community. That would be for people wanting to donate to the cause of MC with different levels of giving. This targets chess players (who may give $100 to $10,000), non-chess players, small businesses, organizations and others who want to donate to such a cause to advance chess. They would receive MC gift bags and memorabilia based on their level. Some chess players may not be able to pay $1000 entry fee, but they may want to support the movement and give $100-$200. Such campaigns are labor-intensive, but can be quite lucrative. In some of my organizations, we used to sell ads for an ad book, but this is for smaller fundraising campaigns.

        Those GoFundMe and KickStarter pages are a bit cheesy, but of course that is the most obvious way to get sponsorship for events and for individual pursuits. People are raising seven figures on those sites. Trayvon’s murderer George Zimmerman raised $300,000 on one of the sites. Spike Lee raised $1.4million…

        Mr Lee’s frequent, exuberant Tweeting helped create a buzz among his fans, while cries of outraged condemnation grabbed international headlines. An imaginative array of Spike Lee-related rewards proved irresistible to the shallow- and deep-pocketed alike ($5 for a vintage pin or autographed patch, $10,000 for dinner and courtside seats at a New York Knicks game with the director himself). While the staff at 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, his production company, prepared to ship hundreds of pieces of memorabilia around the world, Mr Lee exceeded his goal, raising over $1.4m from over 6,000 backers in 30 days. (Full Story)

        I’m not suggesting that MC has the brand power of Spike Lee’s Forty Acres and a Mule, but there is certainly a chance to be successful with these donor campaigns. Is an online site the best for an elite brand like MC? Not certain, but a campaign could still be successful. Sometimes people give because other people are giving. You remember Spike Lee raising money for the movie, Malcolm X? He hit up Oprah and Michael Jordan. He decided to call Magic Johnson and then call Jordan last. Spike said to Jordan, “I talked to Magic and he’s giving this.” The ultra-competitive Jordan was furious had to beat Magic. He whipped out a checkbook and topped Magic’s donation.

        We have not tried all the obvious methods, but the question is one of personnel and staff. It does take some skillful organization to pull of a major fundraising campaign. Saying that… Maurice and Amy have built a wonderful brand and I believe it has tremendous value.

  11. “You have to hit up the Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Baidu type companies, but how do we convince them???”

    Have 2000+ enthusiastic chess amateurs shell out $1000 each to play in MCO. That’s you answer 🙂

  12. “You have to hit up the Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Baidu type companies, but how do we convince them???”

    Those leading edge tech companies are all data driven. Heck, they invented the strategy of following the numbers to create businesses with viral growth. I’ve dealt with many of them, and work for one. Fluffy ideas don’t get you in the door. Maurice and Amy gave us a chance to produce compelling data, proof points, on the value proposition of a high quality, amateur chess event. Unfortunately, the results of MCO proved that such a value proposition does not exist. At least not today.

    1. RJT,

      Exactly. My point is that you have to offer more to companies than MCO being a high-quality amateur event. MCO tried to give them high-stakes chess which, in theory, should attract some of these guys. Many of these blue chip companies are concerned primarily about how the association will make them look. I believe MCO was trying to offer a value proposition which has all of the makings of a high-class culture with red carpets, nice ambiance, amenities, but just how could a company benefit from this?

      Sure… the players benefit, but how do we sell this concept to sponsors? We’ve seen the scholastic route. Are companies really interested in this angle? Maybe, but I’m not completely convinced. This is where poker differs… it is purely an adult activity whereas U.S. chess is now dominated by scholastic players. HB Global tried that after one year we found out it was really about an investment. Perhaps Maurice figured this out and wanted to try a different approach. MCO is clearly not a scholastic-dominated event.

      IBM got so much mileage from the Deep Blue series and they will forever be associated with breakthrough in chess computing. I cannot remember any other company gaining that kind of profile from being involved in a chess event. Intel’s name was associated with the Grand Prix series in the 90s when developments in chess software was growing. Facebook, Google and Amazon are content companies… Apple is a hardware company. What can their association with chess be?

      I have yet to see a comprehensive analysis from the USCF or any other organization about what value chess offers an investor. I’ve only seen descriptive statistics like number of members, age breakdown, gender breakdown, scholastic growth and such. That won’t cut it. In the age of analytics, this may be what we have to resort to see where chess offers the most value to potential sponsors.

      We do lack star power at our events. Would someone like RZA and the Wu Tang Clan make a difference if they showed up? Possibly. Will Smith? Possibly. It would be interesting to see the impact of someone like Magnus Carlsen playing. He is the closest to star power in the chess world, but does he have the appeal? I’ll bet if Beyonce showed up at MC3, these media companies would pay attention… and we’d get our 2,000 players. 🙂

  13. Sponsors obviously are critical to any project like this.

    I don’t think that chess players are too conservative as a whole. I think that the event was too expensive to the participants to ever be self-supporting.

    In my mind there are three groups of potential entrants:

    1. Those who could never afford the expense of the $2-3,000 between EF, flight, hotel, meals, etc.
    2. Those who could and will.
    3. Those who could, but for practical reasons choose not to.

    It’s that last category that’s the real issue. There’s nothing to be done about the first group. The second group are playing. But the third…that’s the tough part.

    I put myself in that group. I could go play in MC, but then that’s my entertainment budget for the year chess-wise. No trip to the US Championships or the Sinquefield Cup. No heading off to play in other weekend events. Nothing. I’m married and so it’s not fair to my wife if I spend a sizable portion of our incomes on chess.

    The reality is that the majority of those who enter tournaments will never win a prize. So most players who play will never recoup the expense.

    With sponsorship that wouldn’t matter since MC wouldn’t need another 1,000 players just to break even. Without it, it’s fatal.

    Nevertheless I applaud Maurice and Amy. They tried where so many others didn’t.

    1. …and here we are.

      I’m sure Maurice and Amy saw this reaction as a possibility. I do believe that the economic question was paramount. Chris… MCO had reduced the early EF dramatically and it did not result in an significant increase. You mean to tell me that 550+ people paid $1000+ for MC1 and MC2, yet we can’t break 500 players for a fraction of the EF?

      Ah yes… the third group. There is something else that is causing pause. If it’s not money, then what is it? What are those practical reasons? Scheduling? Location? If you read some of these discussions, there are those that simply do not like the concept of a high-stakes chess, yet they love to watch gambling and will pay a bunch of money to go to sporting events… and they’re not even playing!! The third group… maybe they could invest in MCO. They don’t have to play. Have a campaign and donor levels. I mentioned it above.

    2. Chris –

      Sponsors are attracted by potential customers. If chess enthusiasts like yourself don’t place a high value on playing in an event like MCO, than no sponsor is going to touch it. NASCAR got sponsorship because thousands of racing fans decided a NASCAR weekend would be their vacation event for the year. Sponsors see that and say I want to associate my brand/company with that event because it attracts people who are spending money.

      Of course you are appropriately deciding on your priorities by decling to spend that much on a chess event. But that is the point! If the event can’t demonstrate value, dispassionate sponsors will not be interested.

      1. RJT,

        I think you’re right about NASCAR. I used to collect racing car trading cards and people in our Chicago neighborhood would go to the race track to see “Big Daddy” Don Garlits. 🙂 They have an entire culture that is followed by a niche group. NASCAR is about fancy muscle cars, roaring engines, adrenaline-pumping speed and pretty women… that’s what they sell.

        For chess, we have yet to find something sponsors will throw money at. Everyone talks about blitz or bullet chess, but not sure it’s something you can sustain unless you combine it with another sporting concept. We also have to change the image of chess, but chess players have to want a better image. Some are happy with the narrative that all chess players are smart. I only wish it were true.

  14. Sponsors will lend their support to scholastic chess for the educational aspect of it. They will also sponsor individual star players, like Magnus, Naka, etc. for obvious reasons. But if you’re asking them to support the general chess community, you better have a viable strategy to show how their customer base will benefit –ever watch the Shark tank- because, it all about profit. IMO, until the attitudes of the “grass root “changes, not much will happen. Chess has to support itself through its players, fans, donations from donors like Rex Sinquefield, campaign, etc. Just read what RJT said. It’s up to the players to show up in large numbers and MC would have a effective proposition to present to likely sponsors. Actually, I think a little more is needed to get sponsors to move one way or another. Every year there’s about 1200 player who register to play and pay $350 or more at the World Open .And I believe that most of these players can also afford to pay $1,000 (EF), but for reasons well stated by Chris they elect not to. So, why isn’t 1200+ players paying $350 + not an acceptable value proposition?

    1. Guy,

      It’s ironic that MC3, may not break the 500 barrier, yet the EF is comparable to the World Open. So I don’t believe it is the cost. Perhaps the time of the year is one issue but at what other time can you have the tournament when it doesn’t clash with another major event? Some of it has to do with the American mentality that you either have to be for one thing or the other. If you support MC, then you are somehow anti-Goichberg… and vice-versa. I don’t believe MC and Goichberg are mutually exclusive. There is enough for everyone and the chess community needs both entities. I remember right after the HB Global, Goichberg increases his World Open prize fund to $500,000. Competition is actually a good thing.

      Perhaps not all are enamored with the casino environment. I’m one of them. However, it fits the narrative of high-stakes. I believe you can have high-stakes without a casino narrative. Maybe we have to abandon the poker analogy for chess. I just had a thought … an annual high-class event that includes entertainment, a formal banquet with award presentations for chess service (i.e., Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, ESPY Awards, BET Awards). We would have a nomination committee for several categories have an emcee, presentations and entertainment. It would be webcast. We would get to market chess the way we want.

      This chess convention can also include an exhibition hall with people selling chess-related or game-related merchandise, health products, brain products and even side tournaments, FIDE seminars and instructional classes. It would be a huge operation though. USCF has the annual meeting at the U.S. Open where they present awards, but it has no marketing purpose. We don’t have such a high-class event for chess… and people go unappreciated for decades. A pipeline? Yes.

      Perhaps the chess community in the U.S. is a bit too unambitious. Millionaire Chess may have to be exported to Europe or the Gulf region of the Middle East. Trust me. Someone will buy the company if it’s put up for sale.

  15. I think the added word OBVIOUS makes a big difference. RJT appears to trust his belief that if MC could show Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc. that they could get 2000+ players to register for a high stake chess tournament, they can get these companies to become sponsors. With due respect, I am not so sure that is the not so obvious solution. Here’s why. Generally speaking, not many Tech companies sponsor sporting events. Most of The technology companies don’t have a demand to the public the way other companies do. Their focus is mainly in marketing and advertising to reach a targeted consumer. Think about it, what’s really in it for Apple or Google to sponsor a chess tournament? Maybe that’s why no effort has been made to reach out to them. Tech companies are likely to sponsor coding events, MIT or Wii gamming tournaments before they give a look at a chess tournament.
    Unless the sponsorship is aimed at taking their brand to the right people and potential customers, don’t even bother. It doesn’t matter what company you’re hitting up, unless there’s something in it for them, they will not sponsor just because they have sufficient funds.

    1. Guy,

      There have been a couple of tech companies not to mention IBM’s Deep Thought experiment. They gained a lot of brand awareness from that. It is a historic footnote because they beat a World Champion. Of course Intel sponsored the World Chess Grand Prix in 1994. I believe these companies can gain a lot. Companies still use chess metaphors to convey wisdom, prudence, foresight and intelligence. What can they gain from sponsoring MC? Quite a bit. Tech and chess are a perfect marriage given how technology and the Internet have revolutionized chess analytics.

      In marketing terms, it’s not always about an immediate gain, but sometimes it is gaining by association which is why so many companies continue to use chess to convey advertising ideas. However, most of these companies have a stereotypical view of chess and it is not attractive. It is not looked at as “cool” or “cutting edge”. A bunch of geeky children and a bunch of retired geezers on a park bench is what many of them may imagine. I remember a reality show where a woman said she needed to find out a geek’s perspective. She went to the chess club and she was disappointed that she didn’t find any “geeks”. Hello?

      We have to work on changing that image. People were naive to believe Magnus Carlsen could change the image. MC has attempted reshaping that image and the red carpet showed the diverse personalities in chess. It was a great idea. Geeks don’t stroll on red carpet… without tripping. 🙂

    2. Guy – You are correct, those companies do not sponsor many sporting events. Although IBM does sponsor tennis, many golf events through the local organizing entities, and for many years did the technology platform for the Olympics. So it is not unheard of.

      My real point is that to approach any major company for sponsorship, you have to show that what you are proposing is attracting a rapidly growing number of people, willing to spend their money on that activity. The MC case unfortunately proved the opposite — the market is very limited and not growing.

      Bottomline, companies will sponsor what Guy spends his money on, not what he doesn’t! 🙂

  16. I agree that those who doesn’t play chess have a certain image about chess players. And yes, IBM played a major role in Deep Blue and disappeared right after. My point was that when RJT sounded hassled as if he’s tired of repeating himself because he thinks he had provided the solution to what would make it work, that I wasn’t persuaded by the grandiloquence. He sounded like person who’s had experience, but still I wasn’t convince that just by showing the tech pundits data showing MC is able to get 2000+ chess players to pay a $1,000 buck to play in a glitzy tournament was enough to get them on board. That’s my point.

    1. My friend… IBM didn’t disappear. They got a lot of mileage out of it. There was a book and even a movie made about it. IBM milked that publicity for all it was worth and it lasted for at least a decade after the match.

      I agree… getting 2000+ entrants to pay $1000 would not necessarily move the needle on sponsorship. It may move the grassroots which is where I think we should focus.

  17. I wouldn’t argue that IBM sucked up a few mileage out of the deep blue match, but what good did it produce for chess? The opportunity we got from Amy and Mo just showed what’s possible, but nothing else was gained. My tick with RJT is that he was a board member for the Texas Chess Team for quite some time and what did he do for our black kids while he was in that position?

    1. Guy – Still am a board member. And for many years was a board member for Dallas Area Chess in The Schools. Which parts of what we did, and are doing, do you feel were not sufficient? Or is this a personal thing, about something you never approached me about 🙂

    2. Guy – I still am a board member. And was a board member for many years of Dallas Area Chess In the Schools, an organization that traces its roots to the NY based CIS. What about the various programs that I’ve been involved in with those two organizations do think falls short? Please explain how you have done better — I am always looking to learn from those who are getting results.

  18. I guess herein lies the problem. If I am correct, MC is a for profit entity, thus USCF could not contribute a grant to promote competitive chess as Daaim mentioned. If Maurice and Amy go back to the drawing board they might adopt a simple plan: A non-profit venture seeking to collaborate with the USCF, hundred of chess clubs and a faithful sponsor or two to promote and grew the competitive US chess community.

  19. RJT- you fell for the bait! I wanted to get your attention, since you kept addressing my point by talking to Daaim, so I said something that I knew would get you to respond, and it worked. At least I got to learn that you are still a board member and had work for the Dallas Area Chess in the school. Nothing personal but if you recall I did ask you for a favor about 2 years ago. I don’t hold a position where I have control to make recommendations to help a group of students, but on a personal level, I do teach chess to many children at my church and in my community. I also mentor a lot of the young boys who comes from single parent homes.

    1. Guy – I commend everyone who is working to promote chess. Especially to help youngsters build their critical thinking and social skills. You should try it! More worthwhile than baiting hooks.

  20. Daaim I applaud you for evoking these provocative dispositions.

    I send my warmest Congrats to Maurice and Amy for their grand effort in producing Millionaire Chess and wish them good luck in all future involvements.

    Also, I hope they read your entire forum on the Millionaire Chess events.

  21. My post MC3 thoughts:
    – Even a watered down MC3, compared to the first two editions, was a better playing experience than any other tournament that I’ve payed in. And I’ve played in them all through the past decades.
    – The depth of the prize fund was unsurpassed. And even score, 3.5, won $133 in the U2000 section. Of course that was due to the shortfall in desired enrollment. But even with double the enrollment, MC3 would have offered higher odds to finish in the money than other big tournaments.
    – The Millionaire Monday concept is great. It insures that the final day is a crescendo – the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. None of the typical early handshakes by fatigued, risk adverse leaders, that you see in other big money swisses.
    – Unfortunately the continued disappointing enrollment indicates that the value proposition, to players and therefore sponsors, is just not there at this time. Please understand, I’m not trying to be fatalistic, and say that such a concept will never work. But it will probably take some significant external driver to change the market dynamics.
    – Lastly, I’m even stronger in my observation that Maurice and Amy did everything possible to execute and promote the MC concept. As a business person who deals with brutal competition every day, I have nothing but admiration for the quality, creativity and determination that they displayed in trying to build a successful business.

  22. wELL from an ULTRAMODERN point of view, if ya gunna “REVOLUTIONIZE” Chess in real life u better be prepared for a hell of alotta work not just talkin Ultratalk and movin a knight around the chessboard and dressin up in cloths. sO simply put if the traditionalist dont get MC4 off the ground it cleary means the proper work didnt get done and all the damn excuses thats being made on this site it just typical traditional rational. LEARN TO THINK OUTSIDE DA BOX AND DO DA DAMN WORK IN REAL LIFE OR BE QUIT IF U HAVE NO REAL SOLUTIONS!!!! (Adia? am i bein disRESPEKFUL now). ULTRAMODERNIST.

    1. Hey Lionel. No disrespect assumed. Out of the box? MC was out of the box, right? Unlike anything ever done. And it was done well. Out of the box doesn’t work when the target audience is satisfied with the box they are in. It’s time to move on.

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