Changing The Face Of Chess – Who does it??

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Mar.  17/14 – I am in Ventana, Baja California, MEXICO lying down in a tranquil environment enjoying the sound of the waves coming from the Sea of Cortes.  I am once again going through some of the FB posts related to MC (Millionaire Chess), and a lot of things come to my mind regarding the heated debate that started on February 16, 2014.  I can’t help but write this blog about it.

On that day, Maurice posted this question on his Facebook wall: “I heard an opinion from a fellow GM that amateurs should not win the kind of money that the MC Open is giving away in prizes. Do you agree?”  This caused a lot of conflicting reactions from the amateurs and the GMs (Grand Masters) alike. I feel that the exchanges have a healthy implication on the game of chess, despite the heat.

Here is a summary of the debate:

1.  The GMs feel that they should get a bigger share of the pot because they are THE stars.  They are used to not paying any entry fee and plus have the benefit of having their expenses paid for them.  So, since MC is making them pay like everyone else, they should have a much bigger share of the total pot.

2.  The amateurs, on the other hand, are defending their side.  The reality is that the amateurs comprise approximately 90% of the total chess players in the tournament.  But among the 6 sections, $409K is paid to the Open section which represents 40.9% of total prize fund for the GMs to take home.  The rest are sharing the $591K.  So, the amateurs know that without them, the GMs won’t have that much money to win, that they are virtually sponsoring the event – the rule of the majority.

3.  They all feel that we need sponsors.

We acknowledge their opinions, definitely.  We know that sponsors will greatly help.  Yet, we know as well that sponsors will only come in once we’ve proven ourselves , when we show that chess has the broad fan support that can one day make it a mainstream sport.

The way I see it, some points that could have been part of the discussion includes:

The GMs fail to acknowledge the fact that the amateurs pay to watch them play.  The amateurs pay them to teach them to play better.  So, the GMs earn from the amateurs because they form the fan base. The amateurs go to great lengths to support their idols, the GMs – buying books, DVD’s and watching television while their favorite GMs play, and all this can earn the game sponsors. The other fact is that every GM was once an amateur…when they were the ones who supported the game!  What’s more, the GMs seem to have failed to see that they are the ones to benefit more than the amateurs will in the long run if the current MC structure is successful.

On the other hand, we have to acknowledge that the GMs have worked hard at their craft for years to get to where they are now.  Without the great play of GMs, there are no brilliant works of art that give amateurs joy and instruction for years to come. They deserve all the accolades they are getting now, and to be well compensated for their excellent play.

I, not being a chess player, actually learned a lot from the posts I have read. From the 247 comments that have been posted, I learned a lot about the game itself, not to mention all those valuable inputs from the amateurs, or the “yet to be GMs.”  I am looking at things from the outside.  And I see that the tournament is a win-win event for both the GMs and the amateurs.  And the win-win will only be the result of everyone collaborating, showing the kind of a teamwork that will change the face of the game for good that, in turn, will attract big-name sponsors. What we need now is a concerted effort to represent chess universally and let others know of its potential.

I think that the bigger picture here is what chess can be in the future.  And I hope that it won’t be long before the chess players can realize that.  We are just in the infancy stage.  There is so many steps to take, so many obstacles to hurdle, so much learning to be had.  At this time, we need a collaborative effort.

There has to be a solid platform first to lift the game to the next level, and only then will chess players all around the world come out and support. We, at MC, are proud to handle the first phase, that of shouldering the herculean task of providing the platform to change the face of the game. I feel that the second phase, that of supporting the game, should now be shouldered by the chess players themselves.

I realize that the mission to revolutionize chess is very bold but we are very passionate about making history. But we recognize that we can’t do it alone.  At the end of the day, it is really “the chess players” who can re-write history. Only time will tell if both sides, amateurs and GMs alike, will come together and make it happen.


Chess piece

18 thoughts on “Changing The Face Of Chess – Who does it??

  1. I see more and more people coming on board and believe the Millionaire Chess Tournament will happen. The idea is game-changing in many respects and will have the effect of increasing the reach and popularity.

  2. Ms Lee , both you and Maurice have CHANGE THE FACE OF CHESS many a year ago , and so have I in my simple way. This tournament is not an every day affair in the scheme of things ,but their is some merit in the other sides view. Yes , GM’s should play for more money , I suggest upping the prize money for them. Both sides should be HAPPY with this , plus increase EXPOSURE. Have BLESSED TOURNAMENT….SEECH

    1. Thanks Larry. We are indeed trying to change the face of chess as you did. I agree there is a balance to be found between prizes for GMs and prizes for amateurs, it’s not clear where this balance should lie and I suspect it will always be a matter of opinion. However it’s something we are going to keep working on getting right with everyone’s input.

  3. There are sponsors, but they will NOT sponsor FIDE Russian mafia controlled rated events. Until professionals and organizers accept that fact and support WCF not FIDE there will be no road forward. I await GM Ashley challenging for the WCF title or coming over to WCF and stop trying to beat dead horse FIDE

  4. One day, professional players will learn that the current model is unsustainable and ultimately they will have to contribute. The days of getting conditions, showing up, playing and winning money is not going to grow the game of chess. You have to make a contribution just as all athletes do. Professional chess players do NOTHING to grow the chess community. Look at other sports… stars also perform then they go in the community and interact with fans. Sorry… the dream of Carlsen saving chess and moving it into the limelight is a fantasy.

    1. Thank you for your comment Daaim. I hope that it won’t be much longer before everyone will work together as a team for the betterment of chess.

  5. The solution is doing away with the class prize structure. Chess tournaments should be run a bit more like poker tournaments and have many prizes in one large section.Instead in the world of chess we have various prizes based on ratings, which creates a barrier between the game and the public. You can not just show up a chess tournament and play, you have to join the USCF and then go earn a rating. I do not have any problem with the rating system per se, but I do think that basing the prizes on the ratings creates a system of entitlement and rewarding mediocrity. I also think that it takes away from the potential luster of have 100 prizes in one section which seems much more appealing than a bunch of sections and the money being split up. This class section mentality has been part of the US scene for decades and I feel it is part of the reason we have yet to attract big corporate sponsors and the general public. There simply are no great underdog stories, no Chris Moneymakers, because all the amateurs are busy being stuck in the lower sections fighting it out for the lower prizes. It is a self imposed system of rewarding mediocrity and amateurism when it really should be an open meritocracy that embraces professionalism.

    1. As a newcomer to chess myself, it’s good to see some new ideas coming through, constructive debate and willingness to think outside the box is the sign of a healthy game. Look forward to hearing other views.

  6. Hi, Amy

    I think that what you are doing is commendable and gutsy. I love the Millionaire Chess idea and I wish you the best of luck.
    As a former top US chess playing woman and chess program founder and instructor with over 25 years of experience teaching and playing tournaments, I often envision chess becoming popular, and have worked hard towards this goal by promoting it everywhere.
    In my opinion, there are 2 worlds out there: the rated people and the ones who play simply for fun (the larger group of 2).
    I think chess should not be limited to USCF rated players, because there are very few, and it is quite intimidating for inexperienced players to be thrown into the competitive arena.
    Most amateurs and don’t last very long and quit (I have hands on experience on this).
    My suggestion is to open the doors to the unrated players, the amateurs who play for fun, first by creating programs and offering incentives to them, and by adding the fun/social element to it.
    For recruiting, I would consider targeting certain segments, such as college students and maybe offer some scholarships, etc. And other segments, as well as perhaps partnering chess tournaments with some other sport or hobby, for example chess and golf, etc. (I have lots more ideas, if you are interested).
    I would also focus on maintaining and increasing retention avenues, as well.
    I would recommend matching up with charities and events that encourage participation of unrated players and that have media connections.
    I also envision chess tournaments with free chess learning for beginners (I have seen this in casinos). For prizes, maybe some fundraising or prizes donated by companies, to keep costs down.
    Chess needs to be more sociable, less intimidating, and friendly and clean up the nerdy image- so it should have a fun element to it, and make it easy for anyone to become an active part of the chess world.
    Overall, I recommend catering to the larger audiences (unrated, amateurs) and finding solutions to help increase participation and retention.
    The rated chess players can help by becoming involved in this effort by recruiting and teaching, etc.
    Good luck, Amy, I will keep reading your blog.

    1. Thank you so much Diana for your comment. I love the insight you can bring to the table and personally I am very keen to get more female perspectives on the commercial side of chess. I will be meeting with our marketing team mid next week and will discuss some of your suggestions at the meeting. Hope to see you in Vegas, as a spectator if nothing else!

  7. Carl Boor you make a lot of good point, but there need to be a rating system. Chess is like school the more information you learn about chess, the more your game grow, you can’t live off raw skills along. I think we should have a qualifying tournament to make sure the 1st millionaire is a success. I read all of comments and chess players saying good luck, but there should also be some action taken. Like signing up and telling a friend. Amy good Luck.

    1. I really appreciate your support, your wisdom and your suggestions. We will be discussing these suggestions in our next team meeting. Thank you Keith… 🙂

  8. Doing away with class prizes/sections will never work because amateurs will never pay an entry fee when they have no chance of winning a prize. The reason it works in poker tournaments is because due to the element of luck, an amateur playing can occasionally win big against the professionals.

    It would be interesting, however, to have a single section, but with class prizes in addition to overall prizes. Amateurs would have the opportunity to play masters and grandmasters while still having the same overall chance of winning a prize.

    1. This is what GM Ashley has to say:

      “This is already being done in tournaments, most notably the US Open. There are two obvious realities/flaws with this system:

      1. It makes it complicated to track the true leaders in each section
      2. Most importantly, it leads to unfair pairings in later rounds. The leading amateur in one section may have to play a much higher rated opponent while his/her main rivals have much easier pairings. This often means that a player with a “better” tournament will lose out to a player with a higher score.”

    1. Hello Chess Fan. Wish to know your real name so we can better connect about this great thing happening in chess. Thanks for “dropping by.” Do continue to follow us.

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