2016 Millionaire Chess Open (Atlantic City, NJ)

Millionaire Chess #3 is finally here. More than 400 players have registered for the latest edition in another premier tournament. As we move toward the end of 2016, the chess community has had a big year and looks to close on a high note. Maurice Ashley officially opens the latest of the MC tournaments today Thursday, October 6th.

Harrah’s Resort (Atlantic City, New Jersey)

There is excitement in the air here are Harrah’s Resort and The Chess Drum is on site to capture the moments. Amy Lee has been the driving force behind this movement and her efforts have ignited the idea that chess tournaments can be fun, but also show a touch of class. The American chess scene could use a bit of sprucing up to attract positive media attention and possibly sponsorships.

This year’s lineup is not as top-heavy as the previous two years, but two-time Olympiad gold medalist Sam Shankland will headline a cadre of solid GMs looking to win the $50,000 first prize. World Junior Champion Jeffery Xiong (15) will also be looking to continue his climb up the rating ladder. Get ready for fierce action as the scene has been set. It is lights, camera… action!

2014 Millionaire Chess Open
October 6th-11th, 2016 (Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA)
OPEN Section (FIDE Rated)
1 Sam Shankland GM USA
2 Adhiban Baskaran GM India
3 Rauf Mamedov GM Azerbaijan
4 Eduardo Iturrizaga GM Venezuela
5 Jeffery Xiong GM USA
6 Varuzhan Akobian GM USA
7 Dariusz Swiercz GM Poland
8 Alex Shimanov GM Russia
9 Emilio Cordova GM Peru
10 Gawain Jones GM England
11 Jianchao Zhou GM China
12 Varuzhan Akobian GM USA
13 Lazaro Bruzon GM Cuba
14 Yaroslav Zherebukh GM Ukraine
15 Samuel Sevian GM USA
16 Zhou Jianchao GM China
17 Alejandro Ramirez GM USA
18 Alexander Stripunsky GM USA
19 Andrey Gorovets IM Belarus
20 Conrad Holt GM USA
Games Coming!


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

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  1. 2016 Millionaire Chess Open: Day One

    MC3 is underway as 400 entrants began the festivities at Harrah’s Resort at Atlantic City. This edition of Millionaire Chess Open had all the familiar themes from the previous two editions… the purple accents, beautiful facility and people dressed to impressed. There was one thing missing from the hall … Amy Lee. The Chess Drum received a message from Amy from her hospital bed and she said, “Hospital for 3 hrs now. Ultrasound came back. It’s gallstones.”

    So the indefatigable force behind the Millionaire Chess franchise would not be at the opening of the event. She expressed disappointment, but the next morning she had successful surgery and was resting. We are indebted to Amy for her investment in chess, her tireless energy, her vivacious persona and for sacrificing three years of her life to promote chess. Get well Amy!

    Some of the hallmarks of MC tournaments were the efficient registration process, the smiley faces, the omnipresent MC logo and red carpet photo area. David Llada had his studio prepared and his camera ready for those who wanted to take individual photos or group photos. These are clearly special moments and you need the best photographer to capture them. David had risen to be the best chess photographer in the business in a short time.

    Great photo of the lovely couple!
    Photo by David Llada.

    There were some noticeable differences at MC3 including the opening breakfast. Instead of the stuffy banquet-style, sit-down breakfast, the dining area had tall tables so that mingling was much easier and the mood appeared to be much more apparent. The Chess Drum furnished photos below. Not Llada quality, but you get the idea.

    All photos by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated).

    Opening Breakfast

    GM Pontus Carlsson (right) chatting with GM Samuel Sevian and his mother.

    All the way from Nigeria!!

    Given the lower numbers at this year’s event, there was a different look, but the conditions of the tournament hall were excellent. The tables were nicely-space, set with boards and clocks, decorated purple MC monogrammed runners and the hall was festooned with portraits of the World Champions. Inspiring indeed!

    Taking a cameo shot in the Millionaire Chess #3 playing venue.

    Announcements with Maurice “The General” Ashley observing.

    This year’s event was scaled back in a number of ways. While the prize fund was halved to $500,000 (of which 60% is guaranteed), more than half of the participants stand to win a prize. That is not counting the extra prizes such as the daily “best dressed” prize. The other noticeable differences mentioned were no commentary. In fact, one of the players asked about the “Confession Booth.” When told that there was none she exclaimed, “What happened this year??” Other mentioned that there was no advanced pairings notice and that one had to go downstairs to see the pairings. However, these details take a couple of rounds to work out.

    The tournament also did not have any of the top 20 players in previous years due to schedule conflicts, but there were definitely some stars shining in the hall. The very personable Adhiban Baskiran flew in from India to take part and was seated on table two behind Sam Shankland.

    GM Sam Shankland is the top seed.

    IM Awonder Liang hopes to make an impact.
    All photo by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated).

    GM Maurice Ashley opened the tournament graciously thanking all the attendees for coming and supporting Millionaire Chess events. While the podium lacked Amy’s bright aura, Maurice held down with his polished style as usual. He announced the opening of the round and we were ready to rumble. There was only one upset in the first round with FM Rico Salimbagat taking down GM Alejandro Ramirez. GMs Christian Chirila and Magesh Panchanathan were held by FM Lim Zhou Ren and Sanjay Ghatti, respectively. The second round also went mostly by seedings. There are currently 16 players on 2/2 and another 15 on 1½/2. Action will heat up tomorrow with the following pairings:

    Round Three (Open Section)

    GM Iturrizaga B. (2) 2658 – GM Shabalov, A. (2) 2550
    GM Holt, Conrad (2) 2549 – GM Xiong, J. (2) 2647
    GM Barbosa, O. (2) 2515 – GM Shimanov, A. (2) 2639
    GM Cordova, E. (2) 2637 – GM Paragua, Mark (2) 2503
    IM Chandra, A. (2) 2490 – GM Swiercz, D. (2) 2636
    IM Liang, A. (2) 2478 – GM Akobian, V. (2) 2625
    GM Bruzon L. (2) 2615 – FM Rozman, Levy (2) 2354
    Lederer, Yoav (2) 2324 – GM Sevian, S. (2) 2591
    GM Fishbein, A. (1½) 2474 – GM Adhiban, B. (1½) 2689
    GM Shankland, S. (1½) 2679 – GM Ashwin, J. (1½) 2468
    GM Ivanov, A. (1½) 2476 – GM Mamedov, Rauf (1½) 2678
    GM Jones, G. (1½) 2647 – GM Boros, Denes (1½) 2447

  2. 2016 Millionaire Chess Open: Day Two

    The good news is that Amy Lee had successful surgery and was released from the hospital. Her Facebook update showed that she received an outpouring of support and love and the tournament hall will be glad to see her at the beginning of the 5th round.

    Favorites are still holding sway in the tournament. As the day ended most of the top 10 seeds were still at near the head of the field. Following are the games from rounds 3 and 4 along with some photos from David Llada and The Chess Drum.

    Maurice Ashley with opening remarks of round four. He informed us that Amy Lee had successful surgery. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Adia Onyango
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Anita Stagl of Germany won “Best Dressed” prize.
    Photo by David Llada.

    GM Eduardo Iturrizaga (Venezuela)
    Photo by David Llada.

    No… it’s not James Harden at the Millionaire Chess Open…
    it’s Naphtali Smith with the great beard
    Photo by David Llada.

    This is how it looks outside. Very nice bike path by the water.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    A taxi driver told me of the beach community across the water.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Wachania Wachira (Kenya)
    Photo by David Llada.

    GM Jeffrey Xiong
    Photo by David Llada.

    Russia is represented!
    Photo by David Llada.

  3. Daaim, Thank you for the updates. Good to see that you got to play some Chess and held your own. Congratulations to Amy, Maurice, the sponsors, players and everyone else who had an input in making this marvelous event a reality. In spite of what has been said recently, hopefully there will be other editions.

  4. Things are tightening as we go into Millionaire Monday. The Open Section was a bloodletting with a number of decisive games. There is currently a seven-way tie for first with GMs Baskaran Adhiban (IND), Rauf Mamedov (AZE), Jeffery Xiong (USA), Gawain Jones (ENG), Emilio Cordova (PER), Dariusz Swiercz (POL) and Jianchao Zhou (CHN) leading on 5/6.

    Games from Round #5

    Games from Round #6

  5. One of the most unique features of the Millionaire Chess Open is the qualifiers for Millionaire Monday. The final round of the preliminaries will determine who advances to the championship round of each section. However, today features some spellbinding playoffs as a result of several people will tie scores. The playoffs were round robin with time controls depending on how many players were in the tiebreak. However, all of the sections turned out to be 7m/3s.

    There were also those who took advantage of the “Redemption Jackpot” feature where only the last three rounds are counted. In order to enter, one had to have a score of 50% or less after four rounds. The top scorers in all sections were lumped together. Kian Sol Morgan (under-1600) and Saket Kumar (under-2000) each won $607.50 for scoring a perfect 3/3 in the last three rounds.

    So Millionaire Monday will begin with the top four players of each section playing a double round robin with the top two going for the title in the finals. The details of the qualifiers are listed at…

    Link: https://millionairechess.com/qualifiers-millionaire-monday

    The schedule is as follows:

    Semi-Finals Schedule
    Game 1 (G/25 +5sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 11:00 a.m.
    Game 2 (G/25 +5sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 12:30 p.m.

    1st Tie-Break Round (if necessary)
    Game 1 (G/15 +5sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 2:00 p.m.
    Game 2 (G/15 +5sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 2:45 p.m.

    2nd Tie-Break Round (if necessary)
    Game 1 (5min +2sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 3:30 p.m.
    Game 2 (5min +2sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 3:45 p.m.

    3rd Tie-Break Round (if necessary)
    1 Game (White 5min, Black 3m 30s w/draw odds): Monday, October 10 @ 4:15 p.m.

    Finals Schedule:

    Played to determine 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th places
    Game 1 (G/25 +5sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 5:00 p.m.
    Game 2 (G/25 +5sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 6:30 p.m.

    1st Tie-Break Round (if necessary)
    Game 1 (G/15 +5sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 8:00 p.m.
    Game 2 (G/15 +5sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 8:45 p.m.

    2nd Tie-Break Round (if necessary)
    Game 1 (5min +2sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 9:30 p.m.
    Game 2 (5min +2sec delay): Monday, October 10 @ 9:45 p.m.

    3rd Tie-Break Round (if necessary)
    1 Game (White 5m, Black 3m 30s w/draw odds): Monday, October 10 @ 10:15 p.m.

    Games from Round #7

  6. Dariusz Swiercz wins 2016 Millionaire Chess Open!

    Maurice Ashley presents winner’s check
    (US$30,000) to GM Dariusz Swiercz.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz

    With the Isle of Man is full swing and American Olympians such as Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So playing, Sam Shankland and a number of junior stars were left to defend home turf. It was an unfortunate conflict of schedule and perhaps the Millionaire Chess Open would have shined brighter in its third edition. The prize offerings were certainly more generous than what was offered at Isle of Man tournament which attracted the lion’s share of the elite players.

    While there has been talk of the entry fee for MC tournaments and there is certainly an argument for lower entry fee. The first two editions drew 550 entrants at $1000, but the this edition only drew 400 at $549. It was rather counter-intuitive that players did not support the event since one of the issues was the higher entry. Apart from the actual entry fee, one must also consider the depth and width of the prize offerings for the MC tournaments and chances to win. There were 50 prizes in the Open section for US$129,900 alone at only 60% of original prize fund! Let’s look at the breakdown vs. Isle of Man.

    Isle of Man (Open Section)

    1st: £12,000 ($14,630.58); 2nd: £6,000 ($7,315.28); 3rd: £4,000 ($4,876.86); 4th: £3,500 ($4,267.25); 5th: £3,000 ($3,657.65); 6th: £2,500 ($3,048.03); 7th: £2,000 ($2438.43); 8th: £1,500 ($1828.82); 9th: £1,250 ($1,524.02); 10th: £1,000 ($1,219.21) (full prize list)

    For MC3 (Open section)

    1st: $30,000; 2nd: $15,000; 3rd $8,400; 4th: $5,400.00; 5th: $3,600.00; 6th: $2,400.00; 7th: $1,200.00; 8th $900.00; 9th to 20th – each $600; 21st to 40th – each $360 (full prize list)

    The prize structure for MC tournaments are generally higher and much deeper than most open tournaments giving more people a chance to win. In fact, the total prize fund ended on $306,000 and would have reached $500,000 if meeting the requisite number of registrants. Apparently, several players had prior commitment to Isle of Man, since MC3 was announced only in February.

    There was the issue of travel and expenses for foreign players. For the MC tournaments, there are no conditions given, but for U.S. players it should be an advantage. There is also the format of two rounds per day at the MC. It is a brutal format, but it also reduces the player expenditure with fewer days. Ironically, the MC tournaments have had a healthy number of foreign players and attracting about 50 federations at MC2. This year the winnings were dominated by foreign players. So, the debate continues.

    While players in the Open Section were still battling…

    … Millionaire Monday was the main event!

    Taking the Millionaire Monday festivities with Bob Ali,
    long-time organizer in New York.

    GM Oliver Barbosa battling GM Cristian Chirila in under-2550 final.

    Crowd watches the tense, see-saw battle of Swiercz-Jones.
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz

    At MC2, there was no favorite, but Adhiban Baskaran topped the scale at 2689 and Sam Shankland was second at 2679. However, an unheralded Dariusz Swiercz of Poland waded through the torturous path and claimed the $30,000 first prize. The first-year St. Louis University student happily took honors after defeating GMs Emilio Cordova (Peru) and Gwain Jones (England). The final with Jones was a nail biter.

    The Millionaire Monday is an exciting format in which the qualifiers (top four players of each section) get to play in an accelerated format for a larger prize fund. If you did not qualify for Millionaire Monday, you will simply continue on in the Open and play two more rounds. The format is very interesting, but the major difference was the lack of commentary and the live broadcasts that rachet up the excitement and the viewer appeal. The “Confession Booth” was also missing. Nevertheless, chess24.com was carrying the games lives and the viewership was active. David Llada was capturing the images with his usual mastery. So while MC3 did not have the panache of the first two, it was well-done. The conditions were optimal and there is still the idea that the tournament is something special.

    Maurice Ashley opens the closing ceremonies with warm gratitude and complimentary words of his MC partner, Amy Lee. Amy had emergency surgery during the tournament and could not attend the closing. Her presence was sorely missed.

    Players texting their family and friends about their winnings.

    Players appears to be grateful and there were several rounds of applause.

    Since 60% of players won money, most of the people at the closing ceremonies had to stick around to collect… including myself!

    David Llada doing what he does best!

    19-year old FM Daniel Anwuli, the future of Nigerian chess.

    Winner of Millionaire Chess Open, GM Darius Swiercz (Poland)

  7. Drum Interviews @ Millionaire Chess Open #3

    One of the most gratifying assignments in covering chess events are the interviews of various personalities. The Millionaire Chess Open attracts players from around the world and the diversity was apparent in all sections. In the under-2200, there were a number of interesting personalities and one of them was pleased to grant his first interview!

    Naphtali Smith
    Photo by David Llada

    Naphtali Smith (Columbus, Ohio, USA) – Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Naphtali was inspired by his cousin Billy Turner and began a serious push to improve his play. Entering the under-2200 with a rating of 2188, Naphtali ended with 4.5/7 with still a handful of points to make National Master. During the tournament, he was amused at his friends’ reactions to his photo at the board with his trademark… the well-kept beard! James Harden should be on alert! The personable young man plans to get involved with coaching at some point in the near future and make his contribution to the development of chess in Ohio. 8:13 minutes


    Prince Eric Junior Guipi Bopala
    Photo by David Llada

    Prince Eric Junior Guipi Bopala (Montreal, Canada) – This 9-year old has five names, but one mission… to be a Grandmaster. The Canadian junior has won a number of national honors and started playing chess at age two!! He has been a mainstay in American tournaments having played in the World Open just a few months back. In this tournament, he scored 5/7 in the under-1800 section. His father, an immigrant from the Central African Republic has been the driving force in his son’s chess career and was able to share his thoughts in this joint interview. Enjoy! 11:44 minutes

    GM Pontus Carlsson (Sweden) – The Chess Drum audience will know Carlsson quite well as he has been the subject of numerous articles at the website. The Colombian-born Swedish national took his first trip to the U.S. and wanted to support the Millionaire Chess initiative. While he was critical of his play, he offers suggestions of parallel tournaments. He relished the moments with Maurice Ashley and there were a number of iconic photos taken of two of the five the Black GMs in the world. Carlsson now splits his time between Sweden and the Czech Republic. 16:54 minutes

    GMs Pontus Carlsson and Maurice Ashley… double exclam!!
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Wachania Wachira (Kenya) – Wachira was one of the African qualifiers from the MC Satellite tournament in Kenya. The field was tough for him as he struggled to gain his bearings under the weight of strong players. Nevertheless, he was intrigued by the U.S. and said that it was not what he expected. “It is too developed,” he asserted with a smile. It is with a bit of irony that in such a developed country, chess is not getting the attention it rightly deserves. 10:11 minutes

    Pan-African Unity! CM Wachania Wachira (Kenya), IM Daniel Jere (Zambia), Daaim Shabazz (USA), IM Oladapo Adu (Nigeria), IM Farai Mandizha (Zimbabwe). Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    GM Cristian Chirila (Romania) – Chirila came to the U.S. six years ago to pursue his education at the University of Texas at Dallas. After being part of the successful teams at UTD, he moved to California where he would become a chess professional. In this interview, an obviously elated under-2550 winner described his experience at MC3 (he has attended all three), but remains skeptical at the model. Notwithstanding, this was his most successful tournament to date. 7:00 minutes

    GM Cristian Chirila (right) receiving his prize from GM Maurice Ashley.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    FM Daniel Anwuli (Nigeria) – This talented 19-year old earned his FM title two years ago and became the nation’s highest-rated player at age 18. He recently represented Nigeria at the Baku Olympiad and has sights to further his studies and pursue the GM title. In this interview, he reflects on the tournament and how his slow start didn’t dampen his spirit. He scored 4.5 in the last five rounds to make Millionaire Monday. 14:13 minutes

    FM Daniel Anwuli upsetting GM Conrad Holt.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    IM Daniel Jere (Zambia) – This Zambia came to MC3 after winning the qualifier in South Africa. His maiden visit to the U.S., he seemed enjoy the interaction with strong players and got a creditable 4/9 drawing GM Zhou Jianchou and 2500-rated IM Andrey Gorovets. Jere had taken a hiatus in chess and has since moved to South Africa where there are more opportunities. 14:02 minutes

    Nigeria’s Adeyinka Adewole (left) blitzing with IM Daniel Jere between rounds. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Githinji Hinga (Kenya) – Having served as President of the Kenyan Chess Federation, Hinga was interested in seeing the Millionaire Chess Open closeup. He had helped to host two qualifying events and wanted to lend support. While he did not participate in the events, he was able to provide moral support to qualifier Wachania Wachira and witness the excitement firsthand. 11:57 minutes

    Githinji Hinga visited MC3 from Kenya.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    GM Emilio Cordova (Peru) – Having been a part of the 10th place Peruvian team in Baku, Cordova came to Millionaire Chess at the urging of a friend. While he admits that the cost is prohibitive, he was able to take 4th place overall. Surprisingly he mentions that there is not much support for chess, but the Olympiad result certainly brought honor to the country. Likewise, Cordova represented Peru well in Atlantic City. 6:59 minutes

    GM Emilio Cordova versus Chinese GM Zhou Jianchou
    during Millionaire Monday. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    GM Samuel Sevian (USA) – Born in New York, Sevian has been a sensation for a long time. He became an Expert at age 8, a National Master at age 9 and an International Master at 12 and 10 months. He broke a national record by becoming an International Grandmaster at 13 years, 10 months and 27 days. Since then he has played in two U.S. Championships and has begun to make his presence felt in international circles. In this joint interview with his mother Armine, he talks about his evolution as a chess player. Hopefully we will see good things from this raw talent. 9:49 minutes

    GM Samuel Sevian and mother Armine chatting with
    GM Pontus Carlsson of Sweden. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

  8. Daaim,

    MC3 was difficult for Jamaicans for a number of reasons, including its proximity to the Baku Olympiad. I wanted to participate but my court schedule etc. would not allow it. Will discuss further with you “off air”.

  9. Interesting interview and responses. I laughed when I heard that a heart monitor is the solution. It’s an interesting gadget but it’s definitely not what will make folks turn their heads to chess. A phenomenon black Genius or a Bobby Fisher like player will get the attention and get chess fan and folks tuned in. Slowly, we are getting there, Imma let u guess. Agoo

  10. Maurice Ashley on 2016 Millionaire Chess

    GM Maurice Ashley

    GM Maurice Ashley was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame back in April and thus a culmination to the decades of service rendered to the worldwide chess community. Known to the world primarily as a commentator, Ashley had dabbled in the organization realm by successfully hosting the HB Global in 2005, but in 2013 he actually formed a company with Canadian businesswoman Amy Lee, called Millionaire Chess.

    This ambitious vision was to hold chess events that would set a high bar while also lifting the profile of chess to attract sponsorship. While building a powerful brand with a regal color and recognizable logo, Ashley and Lee held three wonderful events (2014, 2015, 2016) and captured the imagination of many with high stakes chess. However, there was reticence to support the tournaments even after the third tournament dropped its entry fee to $499 for a prize fund that had a high payout. Nevertheless, the tournament experienced the best ratings in terms of overall organization.

    Daaim Shabazz and Maurice Ashley before the opening round.

    “El General” Ashley looks on during opening of the round.

    Maurice Ashley with opening remarks of round four. He informed us that Amy Lee had successful surgery. All photos by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated).

    Before the third tournament, Ashley made a statement on Facebook that it may be the last MC tournament for the foreseeable future. A week after the tournament, The Chess Drum was granted an exclusive interview in which Ashley was asked about his recent activities, but most importantly, the future of Millionaire Chess. Two audio clips follow:

    Part 1:
    Grand Chess Tour, African Tour, Queen of Katwe, Baku Olympiad
    30:06 minutes

    Part 2:
    MC3, MC3 in retrospect, Future of MC
    23:18 minutes

    * * *

    Photo by Billy Johnson.

    The 2016 Millionaire Chess Open

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


    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

    * * *

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