The 3rd, and perhaps final, edition of the Millionaire Chess Open was held from October 6 -10 at Atlantic City.

I had the good fortune of being able to participate this time, after being unable to play last year in the 2nd edition of Millionaire Chess. The tournament has been organized for the last 3 years by GM Maurice Ashley and entrepreneur Amy Lee. The duo has strived to introduce an element of high-stakes into the chess world through a very novel format, in order to elevate the stature of the game, assist the players to earn prizes which were unheard of before in the chess world, and attract sponsors.  This year, the prize fund had been considerably reduced as the tournament did not achieve the requisite number of entries. Nonetheless, the prizes were still the largest for an Open Chess Tournament on US soil, and most likely the world, with the exception of the earlier two Millionaire Chess editions which had shattered all global records.

As I entered the hall, I saw the familiar purple color of the Millionaire Chess Tournament rippled across the giant hall and cascading down the playing tables.

It felt good to be back.

Overall, it wasn't a very good game from my side as I was suffering for most of the game after a few imprecisions in the opening. But Darius made some imprecise moves as well, and I was able to Draw the game. In R4, I played a fellow youngster, GM Jeffery Xiong as Black. The game began as a quiet London, but soon evolved into a strategical battle over critical central squares. Unfortunately, I missed a key move in a variation which would have maintained equality, and ended up losing rather rapidly after that.
A frustrating loss considering the position had been fairly balanced throughout, but I only had myself to blame for not seeing the intermediate move 33...Bd7!, in the variation starting with 29...g6. I bounced back in the next round with a solid win against Hungarian GM Denes Boros. He surprised me with the Alekhine's Defence, and although I wasn't aware of the theory I was able to execute a crisp strategical win.

In Round 6, it was again a game with a fellow youngster, GM Samuel Sevian. I surprised him in the opening with an offbeat variation and, thanks to some good preparation, became an hour ahead on the clock. We agreed to a draw shortly after in a more or less equal position.

I took a deep breath and composed myself before sitting down for the potentially decisive 2nd game. Strangely, this game ended up being rather one-sided as my opponent blundered a pawn early on, and was unable to recover. In the end, he lost on time, although the position was completely winning for me anyways.
I was ecstatic to have gone through a trial by fire and emerge victorious. But my job was only half done, as the real fireworks were set to begin the next day.

[headline style="8" align="center" headline_tag="h4" top_margin="0" bottom_margin="0"] October 11, 2016 - It was Millionaire Monday time [/headline]

The 4 players, in rating order, that would compete for the 2400-2549 rating categeory prize were as follows:

[feature_box style="7" only_advanced="There%20are%20no%20title%20options%20for%20the%20choosen%20style" top_margin="0" bottom_margin="5" top_padding="0" bottom_padding="0" alignment="center"]

GM Ioan Christian Chirila - Romania

GM Barbosa Oliver - Phillipines

IM Akshat Chandra - USA

IM Awonder Liang - USA

In the 1st match, I was paired against GM Chirila. We would play 2 games at a time control of 25 minutes with a 5 second delay. I was Black in the first game, and decided to repeat the opening move which brought me victory against Eugene. But victory was not to be, as I fell into a much worse position after a big mistake on move 11. I tried to defend as tenaciously as I could, but in the end my position was just too difficult to overcome.

I was now in a must-win situation, and the fact I had the White pieces was somewhat comforting. After a ~30 minute break, we sat down and shook hands for our 2nd game. As expected, we went for a Ruy Lopez. But instead of going for the main line, I decided to play the relatively rare 8.a4, hoping to catch him off guard. This strategy worked exactly as I hoped, as he began consuming time trying to figure out the nuances and subtleties of the position. I built up a sizeable lead on the clock, which was the main factor for me in this game. But I forgot my preparation a few moves later, and made an inaccuracy which allowed him to equalize. Equality was not an option for me, considering the match situation, and so I decided to launch a speculative assault on his kingside. I knew that objectively it probably wasn't very good, but I had to try something. Changing the nature of the game turned out to be the right decision, as GM Chirila made a serious mistake. I capitalized immediately, and managed to win an exchange. Still, things were not so easy. I had to play precisely in order to keep my advantage. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that and slowly my advantage began to dissipate. To GM Chirila's credit, he found some nice defensive resources and managed to completely turn the tables on me.
I was eliminated from playing for 1st prize now, and had to be content with playing for 3rd. It sucked losing after going through so much to get there, but now was not the time to think about that - I had another match to play. The 3rd place match had a happier ending for me, as I smoothly beat IM Awonder Liang in the first game.
The 2nd game was a more tricky affair, and in the end I played it safe by allowing a repetition since I only needed a draw to clinch the match and 3rd place.

And so ended my rollercoaster of an experience at the 2016 Millionaire Chess Open.

I was pretty happy to have had the chance to compete on Millionaire Monday, and even though I wasn't able to come 1st, it was still a pretty memorable experience.

Thanks to Maurice and Amy for providing chess players from all over the world the chance to compete for high stake prizes, something which isn't synonymous with chess.

Their vision will provide inspiration to other organizers, and help lead chess to eventually attract the sponsors it deserves.

I truly believe that the enterprising duo have successfully bent the arc of chess towards a new path.

Undoubtedly, it was a Million Dollar Show.

Below is a brief video clip of an interview in Atlantic City by Jennifer Shahade, Senior Digital Editor of US Chess Federation.

Since the official photographer missed taking my picture during the 7 rounds and Millionaire Monday, and private cameras were not allowed, I have no relevant pictures to upload from the tournament. Official event photos can be viewed here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.