PokerListings: Chess Players Win Big at WSOP

by ChessBase
6/24/2012 – For some years chess players have been a threat at the World Series of Poker tournaments, and now, more than ever there’s reason to expect big things from them. Ylon Schwartz, a 2300 chess master, outlasted 889 players to take a first place prize of $267,081. Not bad, except that Ylon earned more than $3.7 million finishing fourth in the 2008 Main Event. There's money in them thar cards.

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Chess Master Schwartz Wins First WSOP Bracelet

By: Arthur Crowson

Ylon Schwartz has been a chess master for years, but on Saturday he officially joined poker’s elite by winning his first World Series of Poker bracelet. Schwartz outlasted 889 players to take top position in Event 27 $1,500 H.O.R.S.E for a first place prize of $267,081.

The Brooklyn, New York, resident was nearly speechless after beating David Chiu heads-up to claim the bracelet. “I’ve been a professional poker player for a long time and this means a lot,” he said. “You’re doing something forever and you want that feather in your cap. To reach the pinnacle of whatever you’re doing – for poker players this is it.”

The former professional chess player won his bracelet in style as the final table proved to be a difficult one, with pros Stephen Chidwick and David Chiu in the final three. “It was a real seesaw tournament for everybody,” said Schwartz. “The stacks were just going up and down all day. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years playing cards.”

Despite the massive difference in payout, Schwartz said making the Main Event final and winning his first bracelet weren’t all that different. “The Main Event was probably more intense because of the break, the original November Nine and the hassles.” Schwartz also said that it was difficult because of how many friends asked to borrow money. “This one they can’t really hit me up for that much,” he laughed.

Chess Players Ready to Win Big at WSOP 2012

By: Matthew Showell

Ylon Schwartz (above), a chess master who earned more than $3.7 million finishing fourth in the 2008 Main Event, knows a thing or two about making the transition to poker. “A lot of people are broke playing chess,” Schwartz told in Las Vegas. “And they all have a strong background in analysis and studying so it makes a lot of sense to make the move to poker to actually make some money,” he said.

Schwartz has live poker tournament results stretching all the way back to 2004, and it’s certainly safe to say he’s made the vast majority of his living from poker in the last decade. “It’s really hard to make it to the top 20 in chess, which is where you have to be to make serious money,” explained Schwartz. “Everyone’s making the jump to poker because the money’s just astronomical,” he said.

In chess tournaments matches are determined by a rating system, so it’s rare to have a big edge over your opponent in terms of skill. In poker it’s often the complete opposite. “In these fields it’s just full of stone cold novices,” said Schwartz. “You have to dodge a lot of bullets in these big field tournaments, but hopefully if you’re the better player you’re going to win the money in the end,” he said.

Chess Players to Watch for at WSOP 2012

The list of chess players who have done big things at the WSOP is long, but there are a few players in particular from whom we’re expecting big things this summer. Australian James Obst had a chess rating of 2283 and was considered a very promising junior player, but made the switch to poker and has since become one of the most dominant online tournament players in the game. Having just turned 21 this year, he’s finally old enough to take a shot at the World Series of Poker.

Vladimir Shchemelev (above) was a chess prodigy as a child and made a huge splash at the 2010 WSOP when he final-tabled four events, including a runner-up finish in the $50k Players Championship worth almost $1 million. Shchemelev is one of a large group of Russian chess players who have put their skills to work on the table.

Alexander Grischuk was the 2009 Russian champion of chess and despite not having any WSOP results, he has played in at least two WSOP Main Events, in 2009 and 2010. Grischuk made it to Day 3 in 2010 and reportedly lost an enormous pot with pocket queens all-in preflop against K-6 to lose the majority of his stack. “Grischuk is playing a ton of poker now so you can definitely expect him to do something big,” said Ylon Schwartz. Grischuk’s biggest poker result so far is a 33rd at the 2008 EPT Barcelona main event worth $25,678.

Two world-class female chess players dominated the World Poker Tour Celebrity Invitational in Los Angeles in 2011 en route to making the final table. And while Almira Skripchenko and Dinara Khaziyeva didn’t win, they proved they’re poised for big things in poker.

Successful transit from chess to poker: WGM and IM Almira Skripchenko

"Historically, chess players have proven the transition to poker to be a profitable one," writes the author on PokerListings.

Click to watch Almira at work on the poker table in Las Vegas

Previous articles on poker

PokerListings: Best bets are chess players!
26.05.2011 – Every year, PokerListings releases its list of Best Bets for the upcoming 2011 World Series. This year they have decided to go with chess: "If there is a group of people more prepared for success than chess players, we haven't found it." They list child chess prodigy Jeff Sarwer, Dan Harrington, Almira Skripchenko and Dinara Khaziyeva as prime examples. Report with videos of Almira in action.
Top poker award for chess player
14.04.2010 – Many strong players are branching into poker. This is especially true of women, since their chess tournament prizes often hardly cover travel expenses and incidentals. And when in addition players discover they have a natural talent for poker they take to it as a lucrative alternative source of much-needed income. One player such, IM Almira Skripchenko, has done this with great success.
'ChessBaby' Almira hits the poker world
16.10.2009 – Almira Skripchenko is an International Chess Master, rated 2450. She has won the World U16 title, the European Women's Championship and a number of other top events. Originally from Moldova, she now lives in France and is moving away from chess – to poker. Recently she made it to the final table at the World Series in Las Vegas. Portrait and interview.
A chess master's poker tour
20.11.2006 – What's a nice girl like Almira Skripchenko doing in a gambling den in Las Vegas? Taking part in the Ladies World Poker Championship, that's what. Like so many other chess players the former European women's champion is flirting with poker and taking part in national and international tournaments. Almira tells us how she got to go to the poker championship and Vegas.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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