Millionaire Chess 3: Swiercz beats Jones in dramatic finale

by Albert Silver
10/14/2016 – It had really seemed ‘written in the stars’ as Gawain Jones had managed to combine strong play with exceptional good fortune to reach the knockout phase unscathed. He then overcame Zhou Jiangchao to meet Polish player Darius Swiercz, but that is when everything went wrong, and in a dramatic final he lost. There was no shortage of big winners though, as every section saw players leaving off with big paychecks. Jeffery Xiong also became the youngest ever American player in the Top 100.

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All photos by David Llada

Whilst always seeking to be the ‘cup is half full’ sort of person, focusing more on the positive than the negative, there is no way to get around the pall hanging over the Millionaire Chess event. Embattled due to the financial promises without the necessary number of entries to justify them, the Millionaire Chess events have been operating at a loss this far, unable to bring the number of players it would need to justify the business model.

In spite of reducing the entry fee (and prize money) by 50%, still a huge sum, the organizers Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee were still faced with a huge deficit and forced to enact the condition ensuring only 60% of the maximum prize money. Thus a $500 thousand prize fund became $300 thousand, and all prizes were resized accordingly.

Maurice Ashley explains the tiebreak conditions that will determine the Millionaire Monday players

Prior to the start of the competition, realizing what lay ahead, Maurice Ashley had posted on his Facebook that this might be the last edition of Millionaire Chess. On Twitter they even posted the poll question asking whether they should continue to operate the event should it once more face an operational loss. Even understanding that the ultimate answer lies only in their hands, as a chess fan, as much as a writer, it would be with great sadness to see Millionaire Chess shut its doors. The promise it held, and the entire structure, were unlike any seen before, and it certainly stood out as more than just another super strong open. Whatever the decision made, the chess community can only tip its hat to both Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee and thank them for the wonderful event they have procured thus far.

Millionaire Monday was intense on all boards, from the top Open Section, which was the center of attention both for the caliber of the players as the prize money at stake, all the way to the four players fighting in the Under-1200 section who also battled for thousands of dollars in prize money. The Semi-Finals of the Open Section saw Gawain Jones continue his good run, as he defeated the Chinese player Zhou Jiangchao.

Gawain Jones - Zhou Jianchao

After a powerful display, White has pushed the black king into a termendously precarious position. White to play and win.

42. Re8! Qxe8 43. Qe2+ Kd5 44. Qxe8 d3 45. Qxf7+ Kd4 46. Qxb3 1-0


Then in the final, he faced the Polish player Darius Swiercz, who had struggled to make it past the tiebreaks, needing an extra pair of games against Rauf Mamedov to squeeze in. Game one turned out to be as dramatic as it was decisive as he reached a winning position that he failed to close, time and time again, until Caissa in frustration punished him for it.

Gawain Jones - Darius Swiercz (Final, Game one)

Game two showed no respite and here the Polish player simply outplayed Jones, who was unable to recover from the bitter defeat from the game before.

In spite of it all, Gawain Jones came in second after a great tournament and takes home $15,000

The big winner, Darius Swiercz, with an even bigger winner's check

Maurice Ashley wrapping it up for Darius: "Just take this to any bank drive through and stick it out your window."

Jeffery Xiong, who failed to make it past the rapidplay tiebreaks, can console himself as he not only broke into the Top 100, but at the age of 15 years and 11 months, is the youngest American to ever do so, since the Elo system was established.

GM Loan-Christian Chirila may have lost to Jones on time, but he did win the 2400-2549 prize for $12,000

In second in the 2400-2549 section was Filipino GM Oliver Barbosa who won $6000

FM Igor Sorkin won the Under-2400 prize for $12,000

As to Vanessa Sun, highlighted in the previous article after making Millionaire Monday in the Under-1200 section, she came in third and takes home a cool $1200


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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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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