MC – Looking back and moving ahead

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April 9/14 – Right from the beginning, we have hoped that chess players would join us in our attempt to revolutionize the game of chess, to finally, once and for all, take it to the mainstream. However, after seeing the low number of entries of March 31/14, I recognized that the players actually had no obligation to do this with us at all, since they were not the ones who signed onto the vision of MC (Millionaire Chess) from the beginning.  I therefore cannot blame those who are sitting on the sideline waiting to see what’s going to happen or those making sure we don’t cancel before they sign up.  Still, I do deeply appreciate and feel very grateful for those who actually did make their voices heard and have been supporting us right from the beginning.

When Maurice and I first decided to take on this dream project, we knew that making MC come true would be a bold mission.  We knew it wouldn’t be easy, and we were prepared to take up the challenges that would come our way. All the constructive criticisms and negative comments like not having sponsors for such a huge tournament were expected. We knew that we had taken on an incredibly tough challenge, but we never thought of giving up.

During the first 3 months, I lost 8 lbs and 20% of my hair due to stress. What’s more, I saw white hair on myself for the first time.  I spent sleepless nights learning and reading chess-related articles, and following debates on different forums talking about MC.  I also spent lots of hours chatting with chess players to get to know them and learn more about chess from them.  The time spent on chess related topics could have spent with my families or on personal interests instead.  All this was done because I believed in this project.  And I still believe in it.  We took to heart the challenge of promoting the great game of chess to the next level. And even now, we continue to do so. The only reason for this is that I do not see chess as just any other ordinary game. I see the huge potential it is capable of generating.

Given the historical importance of chess, which has been in existence for over 1500 years, we believed that generating 1500 players among the millions of players out there was not hard.  The US Chess Federation alone has 80,000 members, and half of that are adults, which means 40,000 rated players. Surely 4% of that population should be interested in a tournament that could change chess history.

Another reason that made me believe in MC is its unbiased feature. It is not dominated by a certain group. It is borderless; it is not defined by boundaries of geographic location or physical attributes.  Chess is an intellectual sport; it is the ultimate game of the mind.  The playing field is level.  Any wise person can win.  This gives chess it uniqueness and universal appeal.

I believe in chess because it develops the critical thinking skills of children.  It teaches patience as well.  Chess is not expensive to learn, unlike golf or piano.  Learning how to play the piano or golf is great too, but neither is as affordable to all kids as chess is.  Chess is fairer because as long as the kid is passionate about it then it is something that he can bring even to adulthood.  This is not true for all sports:  children who learn ballet at an early age stop dancing as soon they get conscious about what they are wearing when they are dancing.  If a child is gifted in golf or in piano, becoming better at it is still subject to being able to afford better golf clubs and play on better golf courses or buying a piano of better sound quality.  Chess only requires the chessboard.

As we anticipated, we did receive an overwhelming response (both positive and negative) from the chess lovers all around the world. Though we cannot say the same about the number of entries received, we still see enough numbers that have encouraged to us keep going. The project has also led to our working with the Media Lab at MIT, which shares our dreams of changing the face of the chess for good, changing it to benefit younger generations and new aspirants and encouraging them to take on playing chess as a career.

This can only happen when big tournaments with huge prize money come into play. This is exactly what MC is trying to do: fueling younger generations and amateurs to take up the challenge of participating in MC, to take up the challenge of promoting the game to the next level. Now it is up to the chess players (both GMs and amateurs) to decide whether or not to join us to try to change the history of the game.

But, no matter what, we at MC still believe that we are on the verge of creating another direction for chess.  We still believe that the change is definitely going to come, maybe slowly, but still surely. We know that once we build a solid platform, chess players belonging to all groups are bound to encourage us. And till then, we at MC have decided to move ahead, to take the financial risk because of our passion and determination.  Our vision is long-term, and I am confident we will succeed in the end.  And I am proud to be a part of such a great team to take MC to the next level!

23 thoughts on “MC – Looking back and moving ahead

  1. Wow Amy – that was inspiring! Love your determination, dedication, and above all — your desire to see this succeed — and I am sure you will!

    Though I am not a great chess player, I do believe it is the “ultimate game of the mind” and deserves to be taken to a greater level.

    I am confident that you and GM Maurice can do this!


    1. This is very inspiring, thank you Paul. You say that you are not a “great” chess player. Well, I am NOT a chess player. But we are one in our vision and I hope to hear from you again… 🙂

  2. You need to take another look at the USCF data. The USCF has 57,000 active members, 44,000 of whom are juniors (under 21). Additionally, approximately 75% of the active players are rated under 1400 (my 1366 rating puts me in the upper 26%).

  3. AmyLee I love your leap of faith. I organize and run tournaments in Iowa and am the president of the Iowa Chess Association. We had great attendance in our Iowa Open this year and I have noticed a steady increase in our numbers over the last two years. I wish you the best in your endeavors to bring chess more into the mainstream.

    1. Thanks Eric. Glad to hear your work is showing progress. We all have to work together to make chess grow and succeed.

  4. Truly inspiring Amy. I myself love the game of chess and appreciate your efforts to bring chess back to life in the mainstream. I see chess as you do, however for me it is hard to find people who appreciate the game as much as myself. Good Luck to you and GM Maurice!!

    1. Thanks Aaron. It’s very motivating to get such positive support and feedback, I am developing a deep appreciation for both the game and the people involved in it. Hope you can make it to Vegas.

  5. The idea is not new, its known and used successfully on lower levels 50+ years ago. It does not bring any significant change to current, but more likely pushes it into the past [dark ages] when chess was banned for gambling. Event marketing is poorest, there are no standard regulations and rules on webpage, so it is enoughly confusing. The faq where it is written you must be USCF member to play, this push out all european interested candidates. More feedback? Majority of the ones who learned about it when announced it was, said its probably a scam. You haven’t made your point clear with this tmnt. Last but not leest, I truly wish you great luck and ssuccess with it and proof that I am WRONG.

    1. Thanks for your comment, even though it was made anonymously. I appreciate that not everyone agrees with MC and fortunately we live in a free country and I am happy to publish both sides of the argument. I would point out that in every single US tournament, European players have to become USCF members. This hasn’t stop many of them from supporting tournaments on US soil. As for the idea that this was a scam, anyone who knows Maurice Ashley knows his reputation precedes him. As you say, success will be the best proof you’re wrong.

  6. Good thoughts Amy! Any desire to build a new vision takes time and sometimes years of persistence. Yes, it will happen and people will support you if you continue to fight for what you believe in so your effort are admirable and if you believe in what you do you can make it happen. I carry this ideal in my thoughts in all I do in chess. Life should always be about the dreams because we have one life to live and one can never forget that. I am in and support you and the dream.

  7. Chris Moneymaker was the catalyst that made Texas Hold’em mainstream. He gave amateurs the idea they can play with the big boys on TV. That should be your definition of mainstream, tv coverage. Why no TV coverage for chess? How does poker and golf have TV presence? (although poker coverage has fallen off significantly though because the online gambling was their primary product to sell.) Product advertising, right? Chess doesn’t have much of that. What’s a competitive sport/game that doesn’t have a product to be selling during advertisements? Even billiards makes it on TV some with the cues, racks, etc.
    What keeps participation down in the amateur levels is the underrated players who take advantage of those with legit ratings. If there were tests that helped legit rated players from feeling susceptible to underrated bullies, I for one would be more open to playing the MC. I fell victim to a sandbagger at the GCC back in ’05.

    1. Thanks for your comment Eric.

      I asked my partner to address this since I am not a chess player myself. Here is what he had to say:

      “Your idea of product advertising is somewhat backwards. One does not make it to TV because you have products to advertise. People want to advertise their products because you’ve made it to TV! Until broadcasters are convinced that there will be lots of eyeballs watching chess events, they won’t be inclined to go find businesses who wish to have their product showcased in those critical time slots. While we all think chess is as deserving as the other activities you mentioned, Hollywood and network TV don’t yet seem to agree.
      I disagree that participation is down at amateur levels because of sandbagging primarily. Our sandbagging policy is very strong, though we can’t control for a player who studied at home for years without playing in order to wait for the one special moment like this. And if there are such people, then dragging them into the light is probably a good thing. Again, all we can do is have a super-strong policy in place, and let the rest take care of itself. Hope to see you in Vegas!”

  8. Very excited to participate in this tournament, looking forward to seeing so many old friends once again as we take chess to another level. Feeling very grateful to you Amy and to Maurice for the great risk and effort you are taking to help our game.

    1. Jones, many thanks for your comment and vote of confidence. I can’t tell you how valuable your support has been to me personally, you’ve been a constant source of encouragement and really helped me get through many of the tough moments, so thank you, you should also take credit for keeping Maurice and I going. See you in Vegas!

  9. Amy

    Earlier, you asked for my source of data. Go to the USCF website and do a search on Joaquin Perkins (one of your younger registrants). You will be taken to a summary page that will give his overall ranking, his junior ranking, and his percentile in each.

    The summary sheet also gives the total number in each category.

    I think that the age break for juniors is 21. However, I’m not sure.

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