Impressions from the Millionaire Chess Open

by Sabrina Chevannes
10/11/2014 – Playing chess in style and for huge prizes - that was the idea of Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee when organizing the Millionaire Chess tournament in Las Vegas, the open with the biggest prize-fund in chess history: one million USD. Dress code, the money you can win, and the town of Las Vegas help to make this tournament unique. Sabrina Chevannes caught impressions.

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Millionaire Chess Open: Day One

It started with a bang here at Planet Hollywood in Vegas and the most anticipated tournament of the year has finally happened and it really is as glamorous as they said it was going to be. Players arrived in limousines to the hotel, where they were presented with a gorgeous Millionaire Chess bag contained with goodies, had their photograph taken and given a free massage. Not a bad way to start a chess tournament!

GM Chirila with his limo-driver

The opening ceremony was different to most other chess tournaments; all competitors were invited to a $55 buffet breakfast, which they received free of charge and enjoyed eating whilst watching a live comedy show.

The tournament continued to impress when the players saw the stunning playing hall with ample space and staging area. The hall was lined with banners of all the World Champions for inspiration, and flags of all the countries represented were hoisted. The top eight boards were featured on the stage and there was ample seating area in front to view the games.

The playing hall

The stage

Once the round was underway, you could feel the nerves in the room. Every player has a chance of walking away with a giant chunk of prize money but winning the top prize of $100,000 will be exceptionally difficult with the likes of new USA recruit, GM Wesley So and Chinese talent including Olympic gold medallist GM Yangyi Yu.

However, an extensive list of prizes not only offer a guaranteed payout to 50th place in every section, but also offer a whopping $40,000 to the first place of the different classes. Even those who haven't been playing chess for long can enter the "Under 1200" tournament and fight it out for a top prize of $20,000!

The brains behind this tournament, GM Maurice Ashley and entrepreneur Amy Lee, wanted to ensure that this tournament was spectacular in every way and this included how the players look. Therefore, there is a dress code for players and we have some fantastic outfits.

GM Timur Gareev

The chess in itself has been exciting and the players are clearly eager to fight for every point. Day 1 already brought some upsets in the Open section. In round 1 GM Azarov was defeated by US junior Justus Williams, a boy from Maurice' home town of Brooklyn. Justus has always been recognised as one of America's greatest junior talents and earlier this year he was invited to play in the US Junior Closed Chess Championships in St. Louis.

Justus Williams

Another upset was the game between Jefferey Xiong, another great talent from the US and GM Alexey Dreev. Jeffrey is only 14 years old but already an IM and rapidly approaching the 2500 mark. And he was able to beat the giant that is GM Dreev.

Jeffrey Xiong

However, neither of these two GMs had a"bounty" on their head, unlike the top five seeds in the tournament: GM Wesley So, GM Bu Xiangzhi, GM Le Quang Liem, GM Yangyi Yu and GM Rauf Mamedov. These are the players who everyone wants to beat, because if you do so within the first four rounds you instantly win $1000.

Top seed, GM Wesley So who was born in the Philippines but now lives in  the US.

Chinese GM Bu Xiangzhi

GM Le Quang Liem from Vietnam

GM Yu Yangyi from China

GM Rauf Mamedov from Azerbaijan

This must have inspired IM Yanguo Wan to win in round two against GM Le Quang Liem to cause the biggest upset of the tournament so far.

An added incentive in taking home the full point in the first 5 rounds is that there is a trip to Hawaii up for grabs! The "Hawaii 5-0" prizewinner will be drawn from a pool of players scoring 5/5. There is also a trip to Belize up for grabs for anyone scoring 5 or more points in the tournament. Every half point above 5 will gain an extra straw in the hat; so more points mean more chances to win.

So far, this tournament has really impressed all and the vibe in Vegas has been really exciting. I look forward to seeing how things unfold over the next couple of days.

Akshat Chandra taking another step towards the GM title

Alisa Melekhina

GM Roy Robson

GM Sam Shankland

Nevada State Champion Elliott Lu


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.


Born in 1986 in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, England, Sabrina now lives in London where she is managing director of the London Academy of Chess and Education. With over 300 members of the academy, she has one of the largest following of students in the UK. Sabrina is a Women International Master and an active chess player.


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