Impressions from the Millionaire Chess Open

By WIM Carolina Blanco

The first ever Millionaire Chess Open was held this year in Las Vegas from October 9-13th. The mastermind of this wonderful event was the American and exceptional GM Maurice Ashley. He managed to make his dream come true with his partner, entrepreneur and chess enthusiast Amy Lee, who, for the first time since the event was announced to the public, stated that she had contributed from her own funds to the historical amount of $1, 000,000. Media from around the world were attracted to this idea and it certainly got the chess community talking. Since his announcement, many have speculated as to whether this type of high stakes tournament will lift chess to the next level and attract more sponsorship much like other major sports such basketball, tennis, and soccer.

The playing hall had huge photos of numerous chess world champions throughout the years and the sides were lined with flags of all the countries represented in this world event. Customized quality chess sets, bags and clocks were available as well. The staff treated the players very well, promptly answering questions, providing directions and tournament information, and bringing water to the tables. The VIP lounge with masseuse was a nice touch from the organizers, too. The journalism crew was also very nice and friendly. Alexandra Lee was the head journalist from the organizer and she captured many good impressions and comments from interviews with the players and guests. I also met the film crew, who were there filming this tournament for an upcoming documentary about “chess around the world,” which will also feature a followup on some of the Brooklyn Castle chess players.

Information provided by the organizers showed that a total of 600 players attended from 44 countries. The top 4 best scores of each section had an extra chance to play on Millionaire Monday in which they were playing for a final tie break with several rapid matches to decide who would take home the highest prize in their section.

The winner of the Open section and the highest prize paid in an open tournament in chess was the Phillipine’s native, but now a U.S resident, GM Wesley So, who, despite his young age has been part of the world elite players the last four years.

The final standing for each section can be found at:


Dr. Daaim Shabbaz had very complete coverage of the MCO. Details and feedback with pictures and recorded interviews, in which I was also featured, can be found at:

I had the opportunity to play in the U-2200 section and overall I was happy with my results, although I did miss a chance in Round 4 to win a game, which would have lined me up for the opportunity to participate in Millionaire Monday. I earned 14th place out of 92 players, with only a 1 point score difference separating me from the winner of my section.

I also had a blast in the Blitz tournament in which I played in the open section with GM Maurice Ashley as well as the Commentary Team of GM Robert Hess, IM Lawrence Trent and WIM Ariane Caoili. (By the way, this commentary team did a great job in entertaining all the chess players, viewers, and fans throughout each round of the MCO broadcast.) I only managed to lose a match with the Winner of the Blitz Tournament, GM Robert Hess. I placed 15th out of 86 players in this section and I won a good amount of points for my Blitz rating! 🙂

I was the only woman that attended from Georgia, but Georgia did have a good amount of representation, among them were: FM Kazim Gulamali who won a $40,000 prize in the Under 2400 section with 4 points out of 9 and placing 77th out of 129 players in the Open section. Congratulations again, Kazim! IM Carlos Perdomo, who tied for 1st at the Blitz tournament but got 7th place in tiebreaks, Arthur Guo, a promising local talent (and one of the youngest players in the event), Grant Oen, the Atlanta Kings founder, CM Jim Mundy, Benjamin Moon, Frank Johnson (who participated as part of the TD staff for the event), Stephen Yancey, and Davide Natasio.

Damir Studen, FM Kazim Gulamali, WIM Carolina Blanco, IM Carlos Perdomo (2)

Damir Studen, FM Kazim Gulamali, WIM Carolina Blanco and IM Carlos Perdomo

I am looking forward to once again supporting this wonderful idea: Millionaire Chess Open 2, 3…and many more to come. I am positive that we will see the amount of participants increase after all the good feedback. Fan interest will probably also increase, as people will be drawn to combine their vacations with the opportunity to watch games at a very high quality event, with an interesting location. What an opportunity for people to get a new view of this beautiful sport and art. Bravo Maurice and Amy!


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