Third edition of Millionaire Chess starts

by Albert Silver
10/8/2016 – The third edition of Millionaire Chess is now underway, and once more this chess festival offers unique opportunities to chess players of all strengths and origin. This year the event is taking place in Atlantic City with a more modest entry fee, but the philosophy has not changed, with prizes for all that can be life-changing. The field brings dozens of grandmasters from all over the world, plus amateurs seeking fame and fortune. Illustrated report with analysis by GM Moradiabadi.

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All photos by David Llada

The concept of the Millionaire Chess festival has been as unique as it has been inspiring. Although there are unquestionably opens with even stronger lineups at the top, such as the Isle of Man running concurrently off the British Isles, this was never what really made it so special. Of course, it is thrilling to see a player such as Kramnik, Caruana, or Nakamura in a tournament you are playing in, but when it comes down to it, unless you are one of these elite players, you know who will be fighting for the top prizes, and that unless you get paired with them in the first or second rounds, you won’t be seeing them across the board from you.

This is where Millionaire Chess comes in. It still won’t promise you a one-on-one against these top players, but even the lowliest Under-1200 player could finish with a prize that exceeds theirs. This is no idle boast either. Sure, the first prize of the Open Section will win a cool $30 thousand, which no other player will beat, but even the first prize of the Under-1600 section will win over $10 thousand, which is higher than the 3rd prize in the Open Section. So yes, while the entry fee for all may be a hefty $549 (if registered by August), the payoff for all players promises to be proportionally attractive.

All players have been invited to have a 'Red Carpet' photo taken, much like the prize ceremonies we see on TV

The opportunity was taken up by many, who got a chance to have a top-notch portrait taken

As many opens in the United States, the schedule is both intense, and somewhat confusing compared to more common organizations in Europe and elsewhere. This does not mean it is disorganized, just that there are myriad options not usually seen. The basic five-day schedule is a fairly normal two rounds per day at 120 minutes for 40 moves plus a 30-minute sudden death. However, for players with less time, or wishing to save money on one day of hotel rates, there is also the four-day schedule. For these players, the first four rounds are packed into a single day playing four consecutive games of 45 minutes for each side. After that, they join the rest for the final rounds, all played at 40 moves in two hours as above, competing for the same prizes.

There was also a prize for the Best Dressed player. Barrington Malcolm easily took it for the best dressed man, leaving his rivals in the dust.

Anita Strangl took Best Dressed Woman with her chess themed clothing, including the shoulderbag, and ensemble with jacket and skirt with chess pieces

Finally, after the intense seven rounds are played, the top four players will qualify for Millionaire Monday, with a semi-final and final, to play for the top prizes.

The field this year may lack the pure luster of the top US players who partook the previous year, but it is not lacking in GM power in any way, and quite literally dozens of grandmasters from around the world are there to play.

The highest rated player is Baskaran Adhiban, rated 2689, who was one of the stars of Team India in Baku

The second highest rated player is Sam Shankland from the USA with 2679

Sam Shankland - Jayaram Ashwin (Annotated by GM Elshan Moradiabadi)

[Event "Millionaire Chess Op 2016"] [Site "Atlantic City USA"] [Date "2016.10.07"] [Round "3.10"] [White "Shankland, Samuel L"] [Black "Ashwin, Jayaram"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C17"] [WhiteElo "2679"] [BlackElo "2468"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "117"] [EventDate "2016.10.06"] {The Millionaire Chess open has several colorful characteristics which makes it a unique event for those that want to try to win the 'big bucks'. With only seven rounds to qualify for "Monday Millionaire" players who have the ambition and strength for the coveted spot must play every single game for a win. As a result, physical stamina and good opening preparation before the tournament in which everything could be decided in as few as three days! In this game, GM Ashwin Jayaram had the indepth preparation but somehow did not manage to maintain equality in the endgame against his opponent: Olympiad gold-medal winner GM Sam Shankland.} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Ba5 {This move was out of fashion a decade ago due to some crushing victories by GM Volokitin. Although it is back to open tournaments, it is still far from fully justified. Ashwin has other things in mind.} 6. b4 cxd4 7. Qg4 {This move was first introduced by none other than the master of fearless attacks.....No, not Tal, but Rashid Nezhmetdinov!} Kf8 8. Nb5 Bb6 (8... Bc7 9. Qxd4 Nc6 10. Qc5+ Nge7 11. Nxc7 Qxc7 12. Nf3 a6 13. Bd3 Bd7 14. Bb2 Rc8 15. O-O {0-1 (104) Asgarizadeh,A (2424)-Mirzoev,A (2556) Urmia 2015 is another highly dubious alternative.}) 9. Nf3 Ne7 10. Bd3 Nbc6 11. Bb2 Ng6 12. Qg3 f6 {GM Jayaram challenges White's center immediately. One of the typical ideas in the French Defence.} (12... a6 13. Nbxd4 Nxd4 14. Nxd4 Qh4 15. Nb3 Bd7 16. Qxh4 Nxh4 17. g3 Ng6 18. a4 Ne7 19. Ke2 h5 20. b5 a5 21. Rac1 h4 22. c4 dxc4 23. Bxc4 Rc8 24. Rhd1 hxg3 25. hxg3 Rh2 26. Bd4 Bxd4 27. Nxd4 Ke8 28. Nf3 Rh5 29. g4 {1-0 (29) Safarli,E (2663)-Mirzoev,A (2518) Baku 2016}) 13. Bxg6 hxg6 14. Nbxd4 Nxe5 $1 {This move is very counter-intuitive but it is justified by the engines. I am sure that Ashwin had this position deeply analyzed before.} 15. Nxe5 fxe5 16. Qxe5 {[#]} Rh5 $1 {And now this move! Isn't Black's king in danger?} 17. Nxe6+ Bxe6 18. Qxe6 (18. Qxg7+ $2 Ke8 19. O-O-O Qc7 20. Qxg6+ Qf7 21. Qd3 Rc8 {and Black should be better thanks to his extra piece.}) 18... Qe8 {This solves all of the problems Black has. Ashwin Jayaram achieved full equality out of this less common opening.} 19. Qxe8+ Rxe8+ 20. Kd1 Rg5 21. g3 Bxf2 22. Bc1 (22. Rf1 Rf5) 22... Rf5 23. Rb1 (23. Bf4 Bd4 24. Rb1 g5 25. Bd2 g4 {and it is only Black who can play for a win.}) 23... Re4 24. Rb3 Kf7 25. Bf4 Ke6 26. h4 {The position is even. Black's active play compensates for his poor pawn structure.} Bd4 27. Re1 Be5 28. Bxe5 Kxe5 29. Rc3 Rf7 30. Rxe4+ Kxe4 $6 { an attempt to win?!} (30... dxe4 31. Ke2 Kd4 32. Rc8 Rf3 33. Rd8+ Kc4 34. Rd7 Rxg3 35. Rxg7 Rxa3 36. Rxb7 Rh3 37. Rxa7 Kxb4 {is one way to reach a primitve draw.}) 31. Ke2 Kd4 32. Rc8 {White will start to push Black's king back.} Ke5 33. Ke3 Kf5 $2 {This is too much. Black decentralizes his king} (33... d4+ 34. Ke2 (34. Kd3 Rf3+) 34... b6 35. Rc6 g5 $1 36. hxg5 Re7 37. Kf3 (37. b5 Kf5+) 37... Kf5 38. a4 Re3+ 39. Kf2 Rc3 $1 {should secure a draw.}) 34. Kd4 Kg4 35. Rc3 {Black probably missed this move.} Rf3 36. Rc7 $1 {White owns all the pawns on the seventh rank now.} Rxg3 37. Rxb7 Rxa3 38. Rxg7 Kh5 39. Kxd5 {The game is over now. Shankland has no problem in converting his advantage into a full point.} a5 40. Rh7+ Kg4 41. b5 Rc3 42. Rh6 Kf5 43. h5 Rxc2 44. Rxg6 Rb2 45. Kc4 Rc2+ 46. Kb3 Rh2 47. Rc6 Ke4 48. b6 Rxh5 49. Ka4 Kd5 50. Rc1 Rh2 51. Kxa5 Ra2+ 52. Kb5 Kd6 53. Rd1+ Ke7 54. b7 Rb2+ 55. Kc6 Rc2+ 56. Kb6 Rb2+ 57. Kc7 Rc2+ 58. Kb8 Ra2 59. Rd4 {A painful loss for Ashwin Jayaram. His perfect opening preparation did not yield what he should have easily achieved with a few 'healthy' moves.} 1-0

Rauf Mamedov from Azerbaijan, is right behind with 2678

Gawain Jones is rated 2647 and comes from England

ChessBase editor and author, Alejandro Ramirez is there

Needless to say, top juniors are also there to challenge the establishment, such as Samuel Sevian

Jeffery Xiong, 2647 FIDE, is the highest rated US junior

Still upset he got one-upped for Best Dressed man

25-year-old WIM Alisa Melekhina is a lawyer and frequent participant in the US Women's Championship

"Three chocolate chip cookies if I take the draw.... decisions, decisions"

Dr. Daaim Shabazz, is a professor of Global Business, and founder and editor of The Chess Drum, a site dedicated to providing coverage of black players in chess media. He founded the site in 2001, and has run it tirelessly ever since.

The hooded look, which first gained traction with poker players, has now permeated the chess world

Ensuring a smooth live broadcast is Lennart Ootes, and the man behind the many fine portraits at Millionaire Chess: photographer David Llada

Open Section standings after four rounds

GM B. Adhiban
GM Rauf Mamedov
GM Jeffery Xiong
GM Gawain C B Jones
GM Aleksandr Shimanov
GM Emilio Cordova
GM Dariusz Swiercz
GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista
GM Samuel Sevian
GM Samuel L Shankland
GM Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli
GM Jianchao Zhou
GM Varuzhan Akobian
GM Alexander Stripunsky
GM Ioan-Cristian Chirila
GM Oliver Barbosa
GM Mark Paragua
GM Eugene Perelshteyn
IM Pablo Salinas Herrera
IM Kaiqi Yang
Raven M Sturt
FM Levy Rozman
Yoav Lederer
GM Yaroslav Zherebukh
GM Alejandro Ramirez

Click for complete standings


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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