Millionaire Chess: The fortunate four

by Albert Silver
10/13/2014 – The Millionaire Chess Tournament entered the decisive phase in round seven, determining who the lucky four to play for the biggest bucks would be. The tournament does more than offer record prizes and a revival of the rich section rewards of yesteryear's mega opens, it also innovates in the structure in order to maximize the excitement for spectators around the world.

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Although a nine-round swiss open on paper, four players will have a slightly different experience as they qualify for a vicious knockout phase after seven rounds to fight over the opulent awards of ‘Millionaire Monday’ as described by the organizers. For the players who fail to make the cut, the competition will play out for two more rounds allowing them a full nine rounds and chances for norms.

The production values have been top notch

WIM Arianne Caoili and GM Robert Hess have provided color commentary with...

...IM Lawrence Trent adding expert commentary and computer analysis.

Round seven saw a large number of players with realistic chances, and promised a more vicious feeding frenzy than usual for such events. Six players stood at 5.0/6 including the top seed Wesley So (2755) and Chinese Yu Yangyi, who was the star of the Chinese team that took gold at Tromso a couple of months ago. Three Americans also shared the leaderboard: Ray Robson, Timur Gareev, and Daniel Naroditsky, accompanied by Hungarian GM David Berczes, the only player rated under 2500. In fact, he is the only player in the top 25 rated under 2550, which should give an idea on just how tough the competition has been. Nine more stood at 4.5/6 with reasonable chances of their own.

Players from all around came to play in the rich event

The royal section prizes meant everyone had a realistic chance at a generous paycheck

16-year-old FM Justus Williams is hoping to follow in GM Maurice Ashley's footsteps

Dressing like a grandmaster

Of the top scorers, 22-year-old Wesley So beat Timur Gareev with black, while 20-year-old Ray Robson defeated David Berczes, thus ensuring they would be in the qualifiers. This left two spots open and at the end of the day, four players were left tied with 5.5/7, leading to a rapid games tiebreak played at 15 minutes a game.

Wesley So qualified outright by beating...

...GM Timur Gareev in round seven

The four were Yu Yangyi, an overwhelming favorite by virtue of his rating and strength, Daniel Naroditsky, Belarus Sergei Azarov, and Zhou Jiangchao from China. With only three rounds to be played, it means some players would have two blacks, while others would have two whites, though at such a time control, trying to make full use of the color advantage is usually harder and it is safe to say it was not as heavy a factor as might be otherwise.

GM Yu Yangyi will be one of the favorites in the final Knock-Out phase entitled 'Millionaire Monday'

After two hours of enthralling competition followed by spectators live on video from the site’s Live feed or on Playchess (or both), both Chinese players emerged victorious, leaving a heartbroken Naroditsky and Azarov to see their chances snatched away.

Standings after seven rounds

Rk SNo Ti. Name Fed Rtg Pts
1 1 GM SO Wesley PHI 2755 6.0
  11 GM ROBSON Ray USA 2628 6.0
3 4 GM YU Yangyi CHN 2697 5.5
  8 GM AZAROV Sergei BLR 2639 5.5
  14 GM NARODITSKY Daniel USA 2601 5.5
  19 GM ZHOU Jianchao CHN 2580 5.5
7 2 GM BU Xiangzhi CHN 2710 5.0
  6 GM DREEV Aleksey RUS 2654 5.0
  9 GM NAJER Evgeniy RUS 2635 5.0
  10 GM SHANKLAND Samuel L USA 2633 5.0
  12 GM GAREEV Timur USA 2612 5.0
  13 GM ORTIZ SUAREZ Isan Reynaldo CUB 2611 5.0
  17 GM SADORRA Julio Catalino PHI 2592 5.0
  23 GM KAIDANOV Gregory S USA 2569 5.0
  35 IM KADRIC Denis BIH 2473 5.0
  37 GM BERCZES David HUN 2471 5.0
  44   ABEL Dennes GER 2446 5.0
  86 IM KARATOROSSIAN David ARM 2250 5.0
19 3 GM LE Quang Liem VIE 2706 4.5
  5 GM MAMEDOV Rauf AZE 2667 4.5

Click for complete standings

Photos by Lennart Ootes


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 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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genem genem 10/15/2014 01:26
This article is focused on the Open Elo section. But I think the real goal of the Millionaire Open is to bring luxury and exceptional $ prize excitement to the masses of class level players. There are far far more class level players than there are Masters, IMs, and GMs as active USCF tournament players. This primary goal is a bit obscured by the focus of the articles on the event, which name only the masters, and shows only the standings among the masters.

The masses of class Elo level players would be more captivated by the game score of a crucial game involving the lower rated players who are fighting for a huge prize.

@Shurlock_V : Your assessment of "epic fail" reveals that you are not much familiar with the thinking, philosophy, plans, and expectations of the two people who made this event happen. However, this whole story is not yet written. Will participation in next year's M.Open event bring in more registrants and players? Will a more successful M.Open in 2015 show any effects favorable to chess in America in other ways, such as more tournaments making efforts to expand their appeal beyond seats at a chess table? Time will tell.
ebrosky ebrosky 10/14/2014 07:43
They said as long as they bring in $600,000 than it was a success ... So with around 500 people registered they are pretty close to that number, so it would be far from an "Epic Fail"... Only their accountants know the true success, and we'll know more of the risk/success ratio in the coming years
Shurlock_V Shurlock_V 10/14/2014 03:22
Tournament was an EPIC FAIL .... Lost over $500,000.