Over a week has passed since the last day of MC2, and I’ve had a chance to rest and reflect on the tournament and all that happened during it. It was quite a roller coaster ride with more issues than I could have imagined. Now that it’s over, I want to share my honest thoughts about MC as a whole, and where it stands in regards to our mandate to impact the world of chess in a positive way.
This past week, I have been showered with the most passionate and impactful messages from all channels, including social media, email, our website and Skype conversations. The quotes have been especially gracious:
“Congratulations on the success of MC.”
“What you did for Chess is spectacular”
“You hosted a first class event”
“Chess will never be the same again because of Millionaire Chess”
“The best open chess tournament in history”
“Millionaire Chess is the gold standard for chess tournaments”
“What a stupendously wonderful event”
“Congrats to you and the team! Was a great show! Thank you!”
“Everything is amplified like a Super Bowl”
“First class event – having a blast – attended both times – can’t recommend highly enough!”
The messages continue to pour in daily, and I am very grateful for the support. I take each and every word to heart. It means a lot that we have made so many people feel a sense of joy and hope about what chess tournaments can be, what the future of chess might look like in years to come.
Still, despite all these positive sentiments, those of us on the inside saw where mistakes were made that left us very frustrated. People who are closest to me know that I am a perfectionist, sometimes too much so. I never do anything halfway, and I strive to be the best by example. I believe it’s important that I roll up my own sleeves and work harder than anyone else. That is the way I have always conducted business. I want to make sure we put out the best possible product, and if I only slept 20 hours in 9 days and hardly ate anything, it’s because I wanted everything to be just right for the clients we are dedicated to serve.
Did we think we would have a flawless event? Of course not. No large event ever goes off perfectly, no matter how careful the planning. Is it hard for me to admit that a few big mistakes were made by our team? Yes. One click of a wrong tab inside a file caused the first round to mispaired and forced us to spend the rest of the tournament trying to engage in damage control. I can’t tell you how hard it was to maintain our self-control when all our hard work trying to pull off a magnificent event for the clients who put their faith in us was wiped out by simple human error. It was pretty deflating, to say the least.
Yes, mistakes were made. I personally suffered a lot over them. I’m proud that our team forged ahead and still pulled off an event that so many people felt happy to be a part of. Though I am a stickler for details, I can look at the big picture and see that we did execute an event to remember. I also understand that there is no such thing as immediate success. That takes time and commitment. We are trying to create a legacy. That doesn’t happen overnight and I have accepted that, faults and successes in all, we feel more driven than ever.
It has only been a week, but Maurice and I are already studying all of the feedback we have received. We are driven to be the best and to offer the best. We also are smart about making sure our business model works. Will that mean changes to structures and pay outs? Will that mean changes to avoid any future mistakes again? We are not stuck in our ways. We, like the game of chess, are mastering this with experience. We are taking into consideration everything our community feeds back to us and we will continue to present to the world with more excitement, more enticement, and more changes until we create the best event we can possibly offer. We know now, no matter what went wrong, many chess fans still want MC to not just survive but to thrive. Of course, we do too, and we will study the position from every angle in order to see how we can make this grand idea work. We owe that much to ourselves, our supporters and to this great game of chess.
So what is the next step? We will be looking under every rock to try to get sponsors to align themselves with chess as a brand. We need your help to make this dream a reality. After two years, MC has proven itself as an event that has captured the imagination of the chess world. How much do you personally want MC to continue? How important is this event to the world of chess to you? In order for this tournament to truly excel, our supporters cannot be silent. We all know someone in the corporate world who loves chess or who would love to be associated with the great values of the game. Every lead, big or small, is worth pursuing. Maurice and I have an open door policy, so we welcome any ideas or connections you may have. Let’s all work together to elevate this tournament to the next level.
Finally I cannot end this reflection without the biggest thank you to my family, friends and volunteers. I continue to believe there is “magnificence” in everything, despite the setbacks that wanted to blind me from it. For me, the magnificence I saw in Vegas this past week was how my personal friendship with quite a few people deepened. In addition, I also built relationships with many new people during the event. These people will be in my life regardless of more MCs or no more MC.
I look forward to continuing our commitment to be better and to offer an even brighter future for Millionaire Chess and for the prestigious game of chess. I hope you will join us in trying to take our tournament to yet another level. We have learned many lessons from these two years of events. We believe the future is full of opportunity and there are some tough decisions ahead, but we are ready to rise to the challenge. With something so worth doing, we would not expect anything less.
96 thoughts on “Reflection on MC2 – Oct. 21/15”
What MC2 did was to take Chess, as a media product, to a whole new level.
I was transfixed for hours, particularly in the play-offs.
And for MC3? Take it to Jamaica, the land of GM Ashley’s birth; particularly to Sandals Resort, Jamaica.
Glad you enjoyed our event. Sandals Resort sounds like a great place to host a chess tournament. Maybe one day… 🙂
Your (and Maurice ) efforts are highly appreciated. I am an elite player in MC1 and MC2. and planning to keep on registering for future ones.
I have 2 questions :
1. Can you please tell us of the full lists of prizes in various classes and who won them. For example I am a senior played in the U2000 and would like to know if I won the senior prize.
2. Where will MC3 be?
Thank you so much for a gorgeous Tournament.
Thank you for your nice compliment.
Here’s the prize list: https://millionairechess.com/prizes-millionaire-chess-2
We are not yet sure if we are going to host MC3. We will make an announcement after we look at everything. Sorry that is all I can say for now.
It is an awesome event for amateurs all over the world.
Best wishes for MC3.
I have been visiting chess tournament world over for last 20 years.Millionaire Chess was a tournament I always wished would happen someday to raise the status and the public viewing of the game
What Millionaire has done is to make chess spectator friendly even for non chess players…..Great job and look forward to viewing it all the way from India next year
Thanks so much for your kind remarks Anju! Happy our vision fits yours. 🙂
This was a world class event on all counts. Forget about the mistakes, you are taking chess to a whole new level. Really appreciate that. At some point in future, perhaps we can have a million $ first prize in every category! Keep moving ahead!
Thanks for your kind remarks Vishal. We will definitely make it better next time.
Your willingness to critique yourself despite an excellent tournament earns much respect. I am so glad you gave attention to each playing level from 1200 on up, that means a lot to those of us with lower ratings. Not a big issue to me, but a small suggestion is to do away with the math questions for millionaire monday; put 20 lotto balls in a black bucket and have players pull the highest number or something. I would be thrilled too if you held something in Atlanta, Ga.
Thanks for your positive remarks. We used math questions to try to find the smartest chess player. Now we see that was a mistake! 🙂 We will figure out a better system next time.
Hello Amy, Thanks for the honest account of the tournament from your perspective. I was totally riveted to the tournament online as it progessed, especially Millionaire Monday. I attended last year without playing in the event. I understand how it feels to be a perfectionist. Unfortunately, it is impossible not to make mistakes. Ironically it is human error itself that makes chess so fascinating. No joy in watching two machines play! Remember “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
Keep up the great work and I hope to play in your awesome tournament one day. It is a dream come true for anyone who loves chess. Sincerely, Greg
Thanks for the encouragement Greg! Hope to see you at one of our tournament someday! 🙂
have played in major chess tournaments in the u.s.. and retreat to my comfort corner without any of my neighbours asking about my trip.But with MC2, I was shocked to find out not only my neighbours,even my local coffee shop owner Knew I was away for chess and asked whether I won.Thanks Amy and maurice for taking chess to a different level
How did the coffee shop owner find out you went to our chess tournament Akollo? lol
Congrats Amy what an exciting event. A lot of the chess players are school kids is there anyway we can have MC 3 when they are free to attend. You should approach some African countries for sponsorship most of them are always looking for a way to promote their national image. Congrats once again and please increase the entry fee to a minimum of 1000 dollars.
Our event is timed to not interfere with other kid’s tournaments. Do you have any connections to money brokers in these African countries you mentioned? If you do, let’s chat via firstname.lastname@example.org. I am curious why you want the entry fee to be a minimum $1000.
Excellent tournament. The best i have ever played. Iam looking at website everyday for mc3 announcement. One request, I have not collected my blitz prize money u2000 which I mailed.
I believe accounting mailed your check out today already Bhaskar.
The event will just continue to grow every year as its fame increases. As soon as a kid friendly site is found the magic 1,000 player goal will be reached.
That’s an interesting point. Thanks for taking the time to comment here Brian. 🙂
Two large companies come to mind that donate sizable indoor playing space used by the Commercial Chess League of New York. While I don’t think either company provides direct cash support for the league, they might be promising targets for outreach to sponsor future MC events. I just linked this page in both a Facebook post and a personal email I sent the captain of my CCLNY team, advising her to contact you about this possibility (or have someone else in CCLNY who might be closer to the potential sponsorship targets contact you).
Thanks for the idea Jon. Let’s continue our conversation via email.
Maybe a way to boost numbers in MC is to incorporate a team tournament concept within the main individual tournament just as in mixed double partner.This will add an extra life line to those who dont make it to the individual prize list, And will encourage players to convince their friends to join MC, not only as individuals but as a team as well
That is a very interesting idea. I will discuss it with our team.
Best of luck on the next one!
May I suggest a way to gain a few more entries?
Why not assign some organizers in distant cities to run satellite qualifiers – tournaments which would otherwise offer a First Prize of $1,000 but in this case Paid entry to MC 3 . Or entry plus expenses ?
Getting more people involved is never a bad idea!
We did 7 satellites last year and if we do go ahead with MC3 then for sure will be doing more satellites. Thanks for thinking about us.
“Anti-Sandbagging” has gone a bit over board…if there is a MC3 I hope the rating highs used for prizes don’t date back to your highest since 12/2013.
Many other tournaments don’t allow players be over a certain rating limit during the past 12 months. 3 years is a bit much, and you lose a lot of would be participants in my opinion.
I also think that the majority of chess players are a bit last minute and perhaps if late entries were not so inflated compared to early entries then more may join. There must be some elasticity with the prices? Hope to join you guys one day.
We are proud to have the stiffest anti-sandbagging rules of any chess tournament in the world. We can point to players who are definitely sandbaggers who we have kept out of our event with our rules.
I agree that chess players can be very last minute. That is an area we plan to change should we have another tournament. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
And satellites in the major cities on all continents.
But to really catch the attention of the world’s top players – a First Prize of $200,000 will bring out the Super GM’s in droves. When considering a tournament, everyone always asks “What is the first prize?” even if they have little or no chance of winning it!
Satellites are already high on our list. Even with 50 super GMs their entry fee would not pay for half the first place prize you suggest. Our belief is that corporate sponsors are the real secret. Do you have any connections?
Let me offer a personal perspective of why I as an adult chess fan don’t participate in Millionaire chess. The model is big entry fee big prizes. As an amateur player in the 2200s with a regular job, I frankly haven’t really worked hard on my chess in 10+ years. While my work situation would allow me in principle to pay the entry fee + hotel, the fact that I have little time/energy to devote to improving my game means this model doesn’t make sense for me. I’d much rather play a tournament for fun with ~$200 entry fees. From my knowledge of the chess world, the number of adult players who can 1) pay $2000+ for a weekend of chess 2) are working hard enough on chess that they have a real shot at prizes 3) can take off work on a whim should be pretty small. I agree with Brian that a) Las Vegas could be reconsidered because it’s an open secret that most players don’t leave the hotel when they play a chess tournament b) a key might be to get the kids involved.
I appreciate your perspective Dan. The fact that over 500 players played in our event suggested that there is a market for our tournament. With a few adjustments (including lower entry fee and less pricey location) the idea might well be successful. Thanks for your comment.
I should have lead by saying that I think the concept is interesting and important and I enjoyed following both tournaments. I merely wanted to make explicit the reason I think entry has been lower than expected. I also want to concur that one way to earn money from a slightly less “die-hard” fan like myself would be through weekend satellite tournaments. These could be pretty important events charging around $200 and be net money earners. I’d play in that not with the hope of earning a spot in millionaire chess, but just for strong competition. A final idea to play with is splitting the Millionaire into two 500 thousand dollar tournaments (say one east coast and west coast)
That is a fascinating idea. We are certainly considering expanding the satellite tournaments should we decide to move forward.
I really appreciate the honest post, Amy. It’s a huge event. I’m sure the number of moving parts that you have to track is mind boggling. I’m sure you learned a lot and the same mistakes won’t occur at future events. I watched via live streaming and really enjoyed the commentary and interviews. The whole broadcast side was improved from last year.
Thanks for all the kind statements Lynn. We aim to improve every year.
1. There should be atleast 9-10 Rounds.
2. There should be some Refreshment( Juice/Cold Drink/snacks) after each Round or after 2 Rounds.
3. There should be Rest Room for Players. So that after finishing the round, they can take rest.
4. You should change the Venue as in Las Vegas Smoking and Casino are famous which i don’t like.
Thank you. Pl don’t foget the above points.
Thanks for your ideas.
Great event!! Thank you Amy and Maurice for the hard work and commitment, you are seriously taking chess to a different level. I think you would have a bigger success if you move to the east coast (Philly or DC)
Thanks for your kind remarks Nabil. We are definitely looking at the east coast.
Thank you for your post Amy. I would like to second Brian Wall’s post on kid friendly location, I have heard that the number of young USCF members are huge. Maybe a location near Disneyland or Disneyworld could draw large numbers of youth. Please continue with M/C 3 – I plan on attending – and the sooner the announcement the better for those of us that like to plan ahead for next year Thank You.
Always great to hear from you Wayne! We will keep your suggestion in mind and try to make our announcement as soon as possible.
Finding creative ways to increase the public viewing of chess will create the mass appeal that sponsors crave in order to associate with the chess brand. Keep the creative juice flowing… Kudos Amy, Maurice and team!!!
Thank you so much Obinna! We will always do our best.
Amy Lee/Maurice: from Argentina I witnessed a great event and the monumental efforts to carry on despite a few hiccups here and there. I share your huge commitment to Chess.
My 2 cents for 2016:
the commentators piece is the live window to the event for all internet viewers; and it needs improvement. I am not talking about the technical aspects.
Probably the style that commentators wanted to imprint was a little too much like a Las Vegas show, I do not know; but it is not something I could enjoy. I dropped the transmission after a few moments every day, and watched the live screens that showed the players, and followed games on my own.
When there is an error in any board, there is no need to over crunch the player who made it. And there is no need to speak that loud when making the comments as it was done this time.
I have been a follower of Lawrence T since his commentator days n other sites, and he was not himself on this transmission either.
I sincerely appreciate what you are doing, and that is why I took the liberty to expressing my thoughts (for what they are worth).
Thanks again for this quantum leap in promoting chess worlwide.
Thanks for your comments Adrian. We strive to have the best broadcast possible. We will make a note of your suggestion for future reference.
Thank you for your efforts on behalf of chess in the U.S. I grew up during the Bobby Fischer era and I can remember when there was great excitement about chess in this country. During that time many learned to play chess for the first time and large numbers of Americans followed chess news. In the years following Fischer, chess fell out of the public eye in the U.S., and these days chess seems to generate little excitement here.
I am hopeful that events like Millionaire Chess will get more Americans excited about and interested in chess.
I have not been able to attend (yet) any Millionaire tournaments, but I am following them with great interest, and it is my dream to attend one of these events in the near future.
I am a class player in it for fun who plays in tournaments occasionally. I know you want to get more class players involved so I would like to share a few thoughts.
For people like me, playing in a Millionaire Chess tournament is an opportunity to take a vacation, rub elbows with some of the best chess players in the world, play some great games of chess, and maybe even win some money.
This tournament will always face some headwinds. For example, many people do not consider Las Vegas to be a family friendly location. October is a difficult month for many because kids, families with kids, college students, and people who work in education usually can’t travel at that time. And the cost of travel and entry fees will always be difficult for many.
Another concern for class players is the cost/prize structure. I think entry fees and prizes for the open sections are just fine, but you might want to consider making changes for the class sections. I’ve discussed the Millionaire Chess tournament with many friends, and quite honestly, the class players I’ve talked to has said they wouldn’t consider entering because the entry fee is high and they believe they have no chance at all of winning a prize. Many players feel they are better off to play in lower cost local tournaments and then take a non-chess vacation to Las Vegas, rather than to play in an expensive Millionaire tournament there. To see if this concern is legitimate, I examined the public USCF tournament records of some of the class prize winners, paying close attention to the length of their tournament history and their performance in tournaments during the weeks prior to the Millionaire event. My examination leads me to conclude that Millionaire Chess should make some changes. My opinion is that Millionaire Chess should reconsider the fee and prize amounts for the class sections.
My suggestion is to eliminate the big prizes, reduce the entry fee, and to offer a large number of much smaller prizes. This would reduce the incentive for sandbaggers to enter while increasing the incentive for average players to participate in the tournament. If this seems counterintuitive, consider that $2000 or $3000 is still a large amount of money for most average people.
As I noted above, many class players will attend an event like this to have a chance to mingle with big name players, while considering the cost to be a vacation expense. Winning a small prize is seems less glamorous, but a realistic opportunity to win some money to pay for part of a vacation may be more attractive to many than having no chance at all of winning a big prize.
You could also make the number of prizes for the class sections dependent on the number of people that enter, so that a large turnout would increase the number of prizes available. However you work things out, I hope that you can find a way to increase participation in this wonderful event.
Thanks again for the time and hard work you put into the Millionaire event, and for everything you are doing to promote chess in the U.S. Even with the difficulties you faced this year, be assured that the chess community has noticed and is excited about this event.
Thanks for this very nice note and your thoughtful suggestions Keith. I will certainly share them with the team. Hopefully we can host a tournament in which you can participate in someday. Thanks again.
Just that you organized two in a row should put you some day in the Chess Hall of Fame. I once tried to organize a small bridge tournament in Las Vegas, wow one hell of a lot of work.
Fact is LAs Vegas is still the prefered place to have a tournament to keep the food and lodging part down to a reasonable amount. No big city can come close to it. In fact there are so many places to stay you can find decent rooms for $49 elsewhere if you do not want to stay at the playing site.
That being said you did what no one else can pull off, I hope you get your investment back, maybe with a limited edition HC book that spans the two tournaments.
I Was hoping there would be a MC3 and it owuld be in Las Vegas but I know people who live in Florida and the Midwest like Chicago or Miami or Orlando but be prepared for entrants to spend 2x as much on hotel and food each day.
Again congrats are in order and I hope you take your place in Chess History for this. An old man who hopes over 65 prizes will be getting popular in chess tournaments, Mike 🙂
Thanks for all the kind words Mike. They are much appreciated.
I’d love to play but I haven’t yet because of the $1000 entry fee. I would be much more likely to play in a tournament where the entry fee was $500 or so. I think the 4 digits make a big difference. At least they do for me. As a 2300ish player it just seems a like it would be tough to break even after a flight , entry fee, and hotel. I like the idea though and I hope you all continue to work things out. I do think the tournament could be a money maker with the right entry fee/prize structure.
We are taking everything into consideration for the next event. Keep in mind that it is a million dollar prize fund; that’s a lot of money to raise. Thanks for your interest in our tournament.
Right! 🙂 Thats what I’m saying. I like to play in all the important events but the $1000 entry fee makes more of an impression on me than the chance to win $100,000 or more likely $40,000. I think more people would play if it was a $500 entry to win $50,000 or more likely $20,000. 🙂 We, the chess community really appreciate all you do Amy Lee. You’re amazing!!!
So based on your suggestion, how are we going to be different from the World Open? Thanks for your kind words Chris.
Ive been to the World Open 12 out of the last 15 year and I would never describe it as a quality ran tournament. The rounds start late and the organizers and TDs are generally rude. I typically feel like I’m playing in a somewhat scuzzy atmosphere similar to a late night pool tournament in a dive bar. Maurice and you seem to have a level of class that will separate your tournaments from those like the World Open. I always thought the HB tournament Maurice organized back in 2005 had potential to be profitable for everyone involved. I think they got close to 1100 players in Minnesota. I’d much rather play in Vegas. Anyway I’m just bouncing ideas around. I wish you guys all the success In the world.
Thanks for your kind words Chris. We really try to put on the best face for chess.
Hi Amy Lee,
What´s your opinion about the winner of the U-1400 having a national rating of 1771 in his own country?
you can look it up here:
We have researched this player and have all the data to move forward. Thanks for pointing it out Jorge.
My rating is currently in the mid 1700’s, but I would be required to play in the U2000 section. Why not increase the number of Class sections; e.g., U1800, U1900, U2000? You could lower the prizes per section, but increase turnout, This way players would have a more legitimate chance of winning back their entry fee, while still having a fun tournament experience at such a great venue.
A sponsor is more likely to want to see their investment into the prize-fund go to the Open section anyway, so that this above mentioned proposal still wouldn’t detract from the premier status/marquee value of this tournament.
Thanks Brian. We will take your proposal under consideration.
You can confirm that it´s the same person by looking at the fide link provided here:
that leads you here:
or there has been a mistake on USCF part and it´s not the same person?
This is a technical chess issue that I have the best people investigating. Thanks for pointing it out.
Amy, don’t listen to any of these “chess” players crying about the entry fee. They are obviously missing the point and the message that MC is trying to convey. MC is a tourney like no other. If they aren’t willing to invest the funds to play then don’t play. They should keep playing in their local $60 entry fee tournaments for a chance to win $100. With a $1m prize fund, its obvious the best talent will show up to try and win. So train hard!!!! Stop crying that you’re 2300 but don’t have time to train properly, if you can’t hang with other 2300 players then obviously you suck.
Thanks for the support Artem. Means a lot to me. 🙂
Its so SELFISH to cry about $1000 entry fee, when Amy is SELFLESSLY laying out ONE MILLION!!! Gauranteed dollars without no help from any sponsors. IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN. …..And for you know how a chess tournament should look like, Play in one of the MC.You will wish there were many Amys
thank you for your reflection and thoughts. A few minor mistakes in such a monumental project do not take anything away from the excellent job that you, Maurice and your team did at MC2. I know close to nothing about businesses so I don’t have much to offer you, other than to say that I will do my best to play- and encourage others to play- in MC3, regardless of the changes, if any, you decide to to make. I also want to congratulate Maurice for his contribution to the education of children. I wholeheartedly believe that chess is a great addition to the education of our children. As a father, educator, and chess player, I want to thank him and encourage him to keep up his great work.
Thanks so much for your very kind comments Libardo. We too believe in the power of chess at all levels. I will pass on your wonderful remarks to Maurice.
Overall I really enjoyed watching the coverage of MC2 – it was great – and wish I’d been participating again this year. Well done to you and the team for all your hard work.
I wanted to let you know that during the commentary I was party to many online conversations surrounding perceived sandbagging in the lower sections – where some of the participants were playing much, much stronger chess than their alleged ratings would suggest. I’d like to quickly draw your team’s attention in particular to some facts that were highlighted (and I confirmed to be true via the FIDE site) relating to the U1600 winner, Mr Levkin: 1. He entered with a FIDE rating of 1490. 2. He’d had a FIDE rating for just THREE months. 3. To get that rating, he played 54 games in Russia in that time – he lost 40, drew 3, and won 11 (see https://ratings.fide.com/card.phtml?event=24146102 for details). 4. Then, in MC2, he scored 6/7, then 5/6 in the playoffs.
To put it politely, it doesn’t take a genius to see that something is seriously amiss here, and he should never have been allowed to enter, let alone win a substantial prize.
While I loved playing in MC1, at the moment my honest view is that unless entrants can be 100% confident that sandbagging is being completely stamped out, and they are competing against people who are genuinely in the correct rating bracket, many people are unlikely to risk such a large amount of money to enter the tournament. It is excellent that you have invested so much time and money to prevent any sort of technology-based cheating, but I’d be absolutely livid if I had entered the U1600 section and was denied a fair chance to win a prize because there were players of 2000+ strength there who had snuck under the radar.
I’d be really interested to hear (via email?) whether your team is aware of the above instance and/or have taken action. I have no personal connection to any of the participants involved but as a spectator online, finding out the facts above left a sour taste in my mouth.
We know all about this circumstance but the reality is if you take away the fact that he won our tournament then what grounds do you have to prevent him from playing in the first place? It’s clear that it’s a difficult task to completely root out all forms of sandbagging but our team is committed to creating even more stringent rules to help maintain fairness at our event. Thanks for your comment.
As you’ve had time to reflect on Edition 2 of your standout event, I hope you’ve come to realize how incredibly lucky you are for the gift that Nakamura presented you. I mean of course his 9 move draw against Luke McShane.
Yes, in general quick draws show lack of fighting spirit, are disappointing to fans, and a deterrent to sponsors. But Maurice has it all wrong. What you have in your hands is marketing gold.
By skirting the edge of rules for sake of shrewd match play – and the big payday! – Nakamura has cast himself as the villain audiences can love to hate. He is now, in the way Millionaire Chess should promote to the hilt, Hikaru “Bad Boy” Nakamura.
I happen to like Naku as a sportsman and personality. But this is Vegas Show Business we’re talking about.
So let him wear the black hat. Boo him when he walks onto the stage. Let your analysts jabber it up with “did the defending champion and world #2 break the rules to win $100,000?” Get Maurice to intone into the camera
about how this is an insult to his event and a mockery of the sport. Stick microphones
into the face of competitors and ask “should Nakamura be banned from participating?”. Etcetera. In this day and age that’s what TV audiences love. Controversy.
You’re trying to run a classy event, you might object. Yes, you’re trying to run a classy event. But I take it as a given that the only way to succeed financially is through TV revenue. Corporate sponsors come and go and are notoriously fickle. Funding the event through thousand dollar entrance fees was always a dubious proposition. Internet
audiences are used to not paying to see chess. TV is the only way. And to your credit you have made a valiant effort to create a slick package. The hard part is getting ESPN to bite.
For comparison, note the way professional wrestling took their (fake) sport to big time money. They did it by promoting personalities as they built the spectacle. Importantly, they got to construct their characters in the boardroom, and instructed their entertainers to act it out in the ring. Chess being a real sport, you have no such luxury.
The best precedence to emulate is probably poker. It too is a slow paced brain sport. The challenge to overcome, though, is that while Joe Average can relate to poker and knock ’em out high stakes gambling, he can’t relate to chess. At least not an American audience. But he can relate to controversy and grudge matches. Which is something TV executives can relate to, too.
For sure, chess and money do not come together easily. I think it is fair to say that you are still searching for a business model that works. I wish you the best in that quest, and hope you can nail it before your financial backing runs out. If anyone can do it, you can.
P.S. As for the sporting aspect of short draws, it can be useful to view chess as a mental form of fencing. Sometimes the combatants join together only briefly to touch swords before regrouping to a better position — a position from which to strike a killer attack. An individual game of chess is really just one parry in a longer struggle.
Thanks for giving me a good laugh John! LOL. I am not sure if this would be a good strategy for us but it definitely would make good TV! In the mean time we will keep trying to find just the right model that brings in sponsors and spectators. Thanks again!
Thank you Amy. Great job with “Millionaire Chess”. The seeds you have sown will bear fantastic, immortal fruit for generations to come. Very best wishes for you and yours. May your blessings continue in every possible respect.
Thanks so much Ian. Maluku was quite the gentleman. I really appreciate all the kind words.
AmyLee says: “We know all about this circumstance but the reality is if you take away the fact that he won our tournament then what grounds do you have to prevent him from playing in the first place?” [November 3, 2015 at 6:40 pm]
Thanks for this Amy. Still somewhat confused though – to clarify, is your team in agreement that (based on all the evidence) this was in fact an instance of sandbagging…? And you’re saying that the problem is one of early detection…?
On this point, as a statistician who has worked in fraud-detection (specifically match-fixing), I’d quickly draw a parallel here with a bank’s fraud detection system, which is based around rejecting anomalies. I submit that no genuine beginner, having never played any competitive chess, would suddenly play 50 matches in the space of 3 months (over in Russia, no less), lose 80% of these matches, and then spend thousands of pounds to enter a hugely competitive tournament where their chances would apparently be non-existent. No genuine chess player would act this way, as it defies logic. To how many MC entrants in the graded sections would this description have applied?
Of course, if you wished to take on the risk of such players (in the knowledge they might spoil the tournament for genuine competitors), it would also be completely reasonable and legitimate to cap the available prize that can be won by a player who does not have a genuine, properly established rating – limited to the equivalent of 5th place, say, or 10th place. I should note that in the UK this is a common way of avoiding issues and disputes surrounding players without a grade – for instance, the rules of one local tournament state: “Any ungraded player may not win more than the value of the 3rd prize, except in the Open tournament.” I would gently suggest that those without a properly established grade who refuse to compete under these sort of rules have something to hide – and you’d be very much better off seeing the back of them!
You make a lot of good points Tim. We instituted a 50 game rule despite objections from seasoned arbiters in order to protect us from possible sandbaggers. We actually liked the idea that unrated players with the means to do so would be motivated to play in tournaments in order to take part in our event (and visit glamorous Vegas). We had a few low and Unrated players in the Open section who had absolutely no chance of winning a penny. After speaking with one of them for quite some time, Maurice actually encouraged him to try to play enough games to have a chance in one of the Under sections. The person refused because he said his life was just too busy and that he could more than afford to pay for the trip.
It is certainly difficult to read the motivation of each player. If we do this event again, we will institute even stiffer rules that protect each section but do not keep away well-meaning people. Thanks for your advice.
You are welcome. Malaku (the “rasta master”!!!) was a true ambassador, exposing the Jamaica brand in his inimitable fashion. Thanks again to you, Maurice and your team for facilitating his participation and making “Jamaican Chess” an indelible part of this wonderful experience. We look forward to making more history with you!
Chess without MC tournament starts to feel like Golf wihout PGA tour…., As many as are in support of that opinion say , Aye..!!! , those opposed say, no.. The Ayes have it.
You are such an amazing person. You are a game changer and a difference maker. What you have done for Chess in America is put it on another level…something that everyone else has failed to do so in the past. Thank you so much and congrats again on your success.
Thank you so much for all your kind words Sam. I am happy to know that all the work has been appreciated.
I am a parent who is willing to pay the ~$1000 entry fee plus travel expenses for my 16 year old son and me, so that he can play in MC3. He has worked very hard on his chess and I want to reward his effort, motivate him to keep aiming high, and give him a life event that he will never forget. To me, it’s not about whether we will “break even”. To me, it’s an investment in his developing personhood. Naturally, this is all contingent on maintaining a certain standard in his studies.
My son originally mentioned MC in passing because he dreamed of attending it some day, but never dreamed that I would support his wish. I really hope that there is an MC3 and it happens next year because it would be so good for him. Surely he is not the only child and I am not the only parent who thinks like this?
Thank you for capturing the imagination of our teenager. Your tournament is glorious enough to outshine the many less desirable choices out there. And don’t drop the price. It helpfully weeds out the players who are not passionate enough.
All the best to you, Maurice and MC!
Hi Anne. Thanks for taking the time to write this. I appreciate your candour and your passion. I wish I could tell you right now that we are going to hold MC3 but that decision hasn’t been made yet. We are in the process of looking for sponsors and carefully studying the situation from all angles. I sincerely hope we will be able to move forward, and that your son will have a chance to participate. Thanks again!
Have you considered doing online satellites as opposed to live satellites?
I think you’re also struggling with the issue that you want sponsors, but it’s hard to quantify exactly what you’re offering those sponsors – all the benefits they can get from being associated with chess, they can get by having anonymous actors #1 and #2 play chess in a commercial.
In my opinion, your first focus should be on gaining publicity beyond internet – TV exposure. If you want TV exposure, the event has to be designed in such a way that it caters to TV, and not necessarily to the players as much. If you can make the end stages of the tournament something highly televisable, you may be able to get it on TV, and then sponsors will have interest; even as someone who is interested in chess and could champion it as a possible investment, I would find it hard to justify what it could provide the company in terms of ROI.
Hi David. The major challenge with online is that you can not yet get around the cheating element.
We think the worldwide reach of our event will provide the sponsor with far more than a commercial with random actors. Players from 63 countries have now played in both MCs. As we grow to include over 100 countries, the ROI will make itself very clear.
The comments that get posted gloss over reality. 90% of all the posts I have seen on the chess forums are emphatically negative. Simply put, a big money tournament that attempts to make money from amature hobbyists ruins the spirit of chess. Everyone knows Sandbaggers took home most of the winnings. There is little that can be done to prevent this. Leave the big money tournament for the professionals. Thank You. This will not be posted I am sure, but it might open your eyes somewhat.
Thanks for your opinion. We appreciate your insight.
As a local chess enthusiast and a parent of an avid chess player from Las Vegas, I want to congratulate you and Maurice for organizing such a classy chess tournament as Millionaire Chess. Chess is dire need of tournaments of this caliber to improve its standing and popularity. I have followed your blog and understand very well the enormous challenges to make it a successful business venture given the odds. Let me draw your attention to another sport which over the last 30 years has evolved into a fabulous spectator sport with billions of dollars going into and out of it. The size of its business operations have multiplied several thousand times in a short period of a couple of decades. The success story of cricket is absolutely unparalleled which will be readily attested by those who have followed it!! Here are few changes that completely revolutionized the popularity of cricket and chess can learn from it as well.
• Shorter version of the game. Believe it or not, until the 1970s the classical version of the game was played over 6 days (5 days of play with one day of rest in between). It moved at very slow pace that “ satiated only the purists”. To this day, this version is played but audience is extremely limited both for TV and in stadiums.
Cricket by and large, now has moved to a day long version or even shorter half day version. The Indian Premier League is now a NFL style organization with billions and billions at stake. And it is a great spectacle on TV!
• Limited Number of Draws. Not only was cricket of the past a ridiculously long game, it mostly ended in draws!!! What a disappointment for spectators!
The limited version of the game as mentioned above almost never ends in draws. The rules were changed accordingly and are constantly evolving to make it more spectator – friendly.
• Mass Media Involvement & Involvement of major business houses . Some very creative minds came together and very successful in transforming the fortunes of this sport. Cricket was initially played only in 6-7 countries and entry to this club was very hard. Regulations were eased and it is no longer difficult to become a cricket-playing nation. Cricket is now played in almost every part of the world and even gaining popularity in the US! It is a major spectator sport.
Based on the above, I have the following specific suggestions for any future version Millionaire Chess.
1. Host a G-30 (or less) time control championship . It is great to have the competition under several categories to attract a lot of talent. A majority of spectators have no interest for longer versions of the game.
2. Come down hard against draws. Limited time control itself prevents many draws. Draws by mutual agreement should not be allowed for this tournament. In case of tie, blitz matches should decide the winner of every game right on the spot : so EVERY match has a definite result
3. Mass media involvement. I am sure you have explored this is great detail already. The game has to be tailored such that sports channels will take interest in it.
4. Need for new thinking. You and Maurice have been pioneers in bringing new thinking to this beautiful game. If things have to change a lot of creative individuals have to come together and brainstorm for the best solution. For Chess to thrive in US we need more of such wonderful tournaments. Thank you!
I love these insights Bidur! I will share them with Maurice to see what his creative mind can come up with to push the envelope even further. As you know, we do wish to bring something new to chess to help it to grow. The financial challenges are steep, but fresh ideas can always be tried. Thanks for taking the time to offer your perspective. It is much appreciated!
Well done! Keep it going! As a recent TD, I’m quite aware how tricky the software can be. Unfortunately, the players have no idea and won’t be sympathetic. But that’s life. Don’t sweat it; just learn from it and keep building. Looking forward to MC #3.
Thanks for the kind words of support Andrew. It’s nice to hear from those who know the enormous challenges in trying to run a huge tournament. We do keep learning and will constantly try to get better as we go. All the best!
I look forward to playing in MC for the first time in the next one, so I very much hope it is announced.
I want to suggest: one big open section with no lower sections — can help 1) reduce costs by simplifying the tournament, even if you redistribute the prizes within the open section, assuming activities between sections costs money 2) can build brand as one of the largest open sections in the world, 3) best UXRating players will get a chance to play famous players and stay competitive for prizes, and 4) will be more clear for new-to-chess sponsors what is going on (just one big chess tournament)! The idea risks losing some less strong players who may feel overwhelmed by t playing in an open, but MC can emphasize “best under” prizes, and may be offset by the fact that many of the entrants at the stronger levels are most important for entrance fees, sponsors, and prestige, who will stay for the open. If this comment is worth a thought or not, I wish you luck!!
Thanks for the idea William. We have thought about this in the past and decided that the positives do not outweigh the negatives. Maybe we can revisit it to see if there is a spin we can put on it that might make a difference. We appreciate your wanting to see our event be successful. Thanks!
The more critics one gets, the more signs point that we are becoming successfull! Ie. If i could get 60% of canada to hate me, i would be prime minister! Keep your efforts amy. While this tournament has not been profitable just now, it will be huge once jt gets on tv!! And reward the organizers nicely. As the new year started i wanted t wish you happy new year! I remember also a newsletter talking about how the show could be televised and there were several broadcasters interested. I was wondering if any plans are in the works to pull this through…maybe a shark tank appearance might help? Or How could the players help?2016 will be a long year if there is no millionaire chess! Cheers
Thanks Alex. I love your optimism! We would love to get the show on TV, but for now we have not had any takers. If you have any connections at all, let us know. Thanks for your support!