After many years of experiencing tournament chess; the scenery, players, rules, and standards become very routine. The players are dressed in casual attire, usually sweatpants, tee-shirts, and jeans. The rooms are mostly small and crowded, or at times a little more spacious and decent looking at best. You must bring your own clocks and chess sets and set them up before your game begins. The prizes are usually never more then 5000 dollars in the open section for first place, and usually about 1000 or less in lower divisions, and that is depending on turnout of the tournament so it is not guaranteed.
But a few weeks ago in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood, there was a tournament that attempted to change chess history.There was glamour, excitement, and worldwide media attention to the ancient game of chess.
It started off with a opening breakfast where all the players were instructed to look sharp, as this would be the start of the dress-code for the tournament. There were speeches by the organizers, and a performance by a comedian. Then they rolled out the red carpet to take photos of the participants with the organizers, I stood with Grandmaster Maurice Ashley as the cameras flashed their lights.
Finally we we were ready to enter the tournament hall, but not without going through security first! You had to empty your purse to show there were no electronic devices, there was also a cell phone check in station because they were not allowed inside. This is because big money prizes were at stakes, therefore anti cheating policies were in place.
After security we entered the playing hall; and what a beautiful room it was. Lovely chess sets were set up at every board with standard FIDE (international)clocks, and purple satin lining that said millionaire chess separating one board from the other. There was a stage for the top 8 boards, and surrounding the stage were flags representing the 45 countries that were in the room. On the other side of the room were inspiring posters of all the world champions in chess history.
There were cameras all over the room crews from the BBC, crews filming documentaries, and other media broadcasting the tournament all over the internet and the world. There was also three main commentators in the main media room where they were broadcasting live, talking about the top games and interesting positions going on. There was also Hawaiian dancer in round 5 to announce the Hawaii 5-0 prize of a player getting a chance to win a free trip to the Hawaii chess festival, for winning their first five games. There was a VIP lounge, with a bar and masseurs to relax after the stressful games!
The grandmasters and titled players were fighting every round for the 100.000K top prize, as well as many other lower prizes that ranged between 40000 and 1000 being last place for the lower divisions. In round 1 a surprise! A Brooklyn boy Justus Williams managed to beat the experienced Belarusian GM, Sergei Azarov in an incredible game.
Many of the young university aged Grandmasters were proving to be at the top of their game. The top seeds were from the Philippines, China,Vietnam, Russia, and young 21 year old Ray Robson ended up playing Wesley So in the very exciting playoff match to determine first and second place. Can you imagine two young men who use to be roommates in college, friends, and who prepared together for the event ended playing each-other in a death match for big money. After many exciting games between them, Wesley came up with a brilliant idea and was won by move 13! What an exciting finish to this amazing tournament! I”m glad I was a part of such a fantastic event, that was completely out of the norm, and raised chess standards forever! Bravo for the organizers vision that they implemented to perfection.My intention is to be part of Millionaire chess again next year, and earn my place on the podium.
Arcadia Chess Club: http://arcadiachessclub.com/chess_game.asp?142
The Chess Games of Simone Sobel: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessplayer?pid=53381