Interview by Africa Chess
A few months ago we interviewed Amy Lee about Millionaire Chess. What has been happening since then. We caught up with Amy to find out how things have been going. We are now just a few months away from this incredible tournament which takes place in October.
1. Why did you decide to launch Millionaire Chess?
My partner, International Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, had a vision to create a new, exciting and ambitious tournament to take chess forward that he had been sitting on for quite some time. I was excited when I heard his ideas and I felt with my business experience that I could help make his idea a success. It didn’t take me long to convince him that we should go for it, and that’s when Millionaire Chess was born.
2. As an outsider how are you finding the world of chess?
It’s pretty cool! Like any healthy community, it’s full of variety and life. Of course, it’s also got a lot of smart and opinionated people in it. I really appreciate that even as a non-competitive chess player I have been made to feel very welcome by many people and have made many friends.
3. Why a million dollars?
We wanted to make sure we got people’s attention…..I think we succeeded!
4. You’ve a long way to go to meet your target of 1,500 entrants, tell me about your marketing plans.
As you know just this week we confirmed that Millionaire Chess will be going ahead, which means the million dollar prize fund has been secured. Everyone now has 6 months to sign up and get on board. We have an agreement in place with US Chess Federation to run full page ads in their magazine as well as send out email blasts to thousands of rated chess players. We are reaching out to the major international federations as well, so that every serious player in the world will know about our tournament. We will continue to concentrate on social media since that seems to be a very effective way to instantly communicate with those folks who interested in our event. And we even have a celebrity like Will Smith saying nice things about us, so we are really beginning to go a bit more mainstream.
5. How about sponsors?
We are approaching sponsors, but we recognize they may sit on their hands this first year, so we are not counting on them to make our first tournament a success. We’re building for the future as Millionaire Chess is in this for the long haul. This first year is all about establishing ourselves in the chess world and creating a world class player experience. If we create the buzz and excitement around our event, then the sponsors will sure come.
6. People out there say you’re only in it for the money not the love of the game. Your thoughts?
I am an entrepreneur, so I expect to make money over the long term. I can think of far easier ways to make money for far less risk…but maybe not so much fun and definitely not as challenging! The beauty of this idea is that if Millionaire Chess is successful as a business it means that we succeeded at the mission of bringing lots of attention to chess and of paying chess players some nice prizes.
I do think chess is an undervalued sport and could do with a stronger commercial foundation. Our enterprise will bring more people into the sport at all levels and allow those with real talent the opportunity to stay in the sport and make a living.
7. Where do you see Millionaire Chess in 5 years time?
I believe we will have established Millionaire Chess as a strong chess brand and be in a position to run many tournaments throughout the year and not just in the US. As everyone knows, there are huge chess markets in Europe and Asia, and I expect Millionaire Chess to be as well known internationally as it’s beginning to be in the States.
8. Can you tell me about any other plans for the future?
Not right at this time, but there are a number of ideas Maurice and I are discussing and we will announce when the timing is appropriate. Just know that everything we think of is large scale. We are all about, “Go big or go home!”