Millionaire Chess Open Report Card

I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections on the Millionaire Chess Open, which recently concluded.


The tournament was held at the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, which was a great location.


I have played in many “big” tournaments over the years – HB Global Chess Challenge, World Open, National Open, Western States Open, Edward Levy Memorial, Atlantic Open, etc.

This tournament blew them all away (although HB Global was very close).

Hard to know where to start, but lets start with the location.


When I did a podcast with Maurice Ashley a few weeks ago, one of the “lessons learned” that he had from the HB Global Chess Challenge was related to location.  He felt Minneapolis was not the best location for a chess tournament.  Personally I really liked going to Minneapolis, but I understand that many people have never heard of it outside the United States.

I agree there are a lot of good things about the location

  • Everyone has heard of Las Vegas
  • It is very easy to get in and out of, and flights are very cheap
  • It is a very fun atmosphere
  • There is a ton to do besides play chess
  • The weather is always great (don’t have to worry about a snowstorm or anything crazy).

The “bad”

  • Although the tournament is billed as “kid friendly”, I am not sure.  I don’t have kids, so I haven’t worried about this, but I did not see a lot of kids at this tournament. I think if you can stay off the casino floor, this is true.  The tournament itself certainly is “kid friendly” – just not the rest of Las Vegas. The casino at the Planet Hollywood especially has a lot of half naked girls dancing around on stripper poles on Friday and Saturday nights (not that I am complaining about this!)  So if you are a “prude” you probably aren’t going to like it.
  • It can get somewhat expensive.  The hotel rooms were very reasonable ($110 a night), but everything else adds up.
  • Not everyone likes the casino environment.  I personally do, although not as much as when I was in my 20s.  After a few days, I was ready to go.

So I think I would keep it in Las Vegas, and probably even at the Planet Hollywood.  This was a MUCH better location than other Nevada tournaments I have played in, like at the Riveria, the Sands in Reno, and one of the off strip hotels in Vegas the National Open tried for a few years (can’t even remember the name of it).

Grade: A


Playing Conditions

This was magnificent.  Best I have ever seen.  Boards AND clocks were provided for every player to use (I have NEVER seen this before).  The boards were custom made with very beautiful white and purple squares.  The tables were covered with nice table clothes, and purple highlights.


The room itself was decorated beautifully.  They had posters of former world champions along the edge.  They had flags from all of the countries that were represented.


One person on Facebook commented: “The most gorgeous playing hall I’ve ever seen!” and I would have to agree!

The room was well lit, a very comfortable temperature, quiet, and perfect for playing chess.

The whole thing was professionally decorated, and VERY stylish.  Looked like something out of a movie or magazine.  Perfect, and not one thing I could have improved on.

Grade: A++

Tournament itself

Many tournaments, even small ones, are plagued with problems, like rounds starting late, tournament directors making mistakes in the pairings, and not knowing the rules, etc.

This was not an issue at all in this tournament.  The rounds started literally at the second on time.  The first round was a tad late in starting, but this was in part because of the security measures that were put in place.

  MillionaireTournament Speaking of which, the security was amazing.  Nobody was worried about cheaters with the use of security guards, casino cameras, multiple metal detectors, and tournament directors walking around.


After you played your game, BOTH players had to go to the desk and record their score with the scorekeeper.  This way there was no funny business about what the result was, or people forgetting to mark their score, or anything.  A simple and elegant solution.

The fact that everyone was using the same clocks also helped avoid problems.  I have seen games where the clock is set wrong, or some people are using an analog clock (which causes issues such as “insufficient losing chances”), or people don’t know how to set their clock, etc.  The TDs set each clock before the round, so players did not have to worry about this.

Grade: A+


This tournament was also over the top with extras.  They gave us a nice chess bag filled with “goodies” when we registered and checked in. 


One of the gifts for example was a 6 month free membership to the Internet Chess Club. There was a nice breakfast on Thursday morning, which was a lot of fun.

They had side events like a blitz tournament and simul.  Unlike most (every?) other tournament, there was no additional cost to participate in these events. They even had a “VIP” room, where you could get a chair massage (also free!).

They had fun side prizes, like an award for the “best dressed”.  Before Round 6, they gave away a “Hawaii 5-0″ prize (all expenses paid to a chess tournament in Hawaii!) to one of the people who started the tournament with a score of 5 points. 


The only thing that was missing was the typical “book store” that is at many tournaments. Again, I have never seen a tournament that does stuff like this before.

Grade: A+



Really there were so many things that were special about this tournament, that it is almost impossible to describe them all.

For example, they had girls walking around during the tournament giving water to the players. I would never even think of an idea like this!


To say that it was a first class event is an under statement.

I did not see a single thing that I thought was “half assed” or unprofessional.

The organizers were very generous with the prize fund, and even rewarded players like myself who signed up early, with a “lifetime VIP”, which will allow me to enter future tournaments at half price! That was very thoughtful!

These guys really know what they are doing when it comes to promotion, and making players feel special. I hope this event will continue and grow and can’t recommend it highly enough!

Grade: A+++!!

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7 thoughts on “Millionaire Chess Open Report Card

  1. As the father of a child participant, I can say that for us Vegas locale was not a minus, however the two long games a day with one of the games potentially lasting to 10:00 or 11:00 pm was concerning (since my son’s usual bedtime is 8:30 – 9:00) as well as the late hours for some of the side events (blitz, simul). The fact that he had to miss three days of school and that we weren’t sure whether he would need to play on Monday were also issues. Many schools, include ours, don’t have Columbus day off.

    With that said, he had a great time and we will definitely back next year, calendar permitting.

    • I also agree with your point about some of the side events starting at odd and late times. I had a very early morning flight (6AM) on Monday morning, so I couldn’t play in the Sunday night Blitz, which I think was supposed to start at 9pm, but didn’t actually start until like 10pm as I recall. I think it would have made sense to start the blitz at 6pm for all the people who didn’t advance to round 8.

  2. There were about 30 kids at the free bughouse and pizza party the organizers threw, so there were quite a few kids there, though not in the large proportions we’ve seen at other “adult” tournaments.

    A factor that might have kept some families away was lack of clarity about whether parents would be able to accompany children to the VIP room or the viewing room. I wrote the event ahead of time to confirm that indeed we were allowed to do so without paying the spectator fee. They could have made that clearer on the website. They may also want to consider abolishing or lowering the cost of the spectator package. I wonder how many actually bought that package?

    • Thanks for your great comments! Yeah the “spectator package” was kind of odd. I had a friend, who is also a chess player, who happened to be in Las Vegas that weekend. Normally he could have stopped by, and checked out the playing site, and maybe even see some of my game, but with the spectator package this wasn’t really possible. I understand they wanted the security to be strict, with zero risk of cheating.

      I was talking to one “chess mom” before the start of round 7. She wasn’t playing, but was in the room, so I am assuming she bought that package.

      Good point also about the “Millionaire Monday”. One friend of mine (Dean Brown) was looking at the open section cross table, and were confused by it because it didn’t show Wesley So playing in the last two rounds.

      My response was:

      Dean, it was kind of confusing how the tournament worked – it wasn’t like a typical thing where everyone plays all rounds, regardless of score.

      I think in the open section though, all people did play all 9 rounds (since it was FIDE rated, and so players could get norms).

      So basically the people who “survived” the first 7 rounds (in all sections), went on to play round 8, Sunday evening, and the people who survived that went on to “Millionaire Monday”.

      So rounds 8 and 9 was kind of a separate tournament, and I am not sure if it will be rated or not, since it was a mix of standard time controls, and quick games.

      The reason they did that was to make it more exciting for the audience, who don’t find things like last round grandmaster draws, splitting of prizes, and a bunch of meaningless games exciting. There was no splitting of the top prize in any section. All sections played til there was only one winner.

      It does make the travel from the tournament a little more complicated. Because you have no idea if you will be playing Sunday night, and possibly Monday.

      I actually didn’t really understand how all of that worked until I was in Las Vegas.

      • Only the Open section played rounds 8 and 9 on Monday (for norms). All of the other sections ended on Sunday, except for those involved in the playoffs.

      • As far as I could tell, there was no checking for whether people had bought the spectator package or not. We didn’t take advantage of the VIP room, but I roamed freely throughout the rest of theevent without a bracelet or ticket .

  3. As a long-distance fan and spectator, I have followed the progress of Maurice’s and Amy’s development of this event. I thoroughly enjoyed their effort and the spectacular outcome. It was well organized and the live stream commentaries delivered the substance of how important the game is to the world. Well done! Well done.

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