Saturday, October 25, 2014

First Ever Millionaire Chess Open Tournament - A Grand Experience

I came back 15th October from Las Vegas after playing in Millionaire Chess Open Tournament that was held during 9th to 13th October at Planet Hollywood. My son Ahyan Zaman also played the tournament while my wife, daughter and mother-in-law accompanied us. We thoroughly enjoyed participating in this high stake chess tournament which exceeded our expectations in all angles. MC partners GM Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee went extra miles to make sure everything about this tournament is classy and beyond comparison with other traditional or regular chess tournaments in terms of playing experience or following the event as a spectator.

We flew from San Francisco at 8th night and after checking in at Planet Hollywood, we saw Amy Lee and Maurice Ashley well after midnight still receiving the guests and players at conference center reception desk. Each player received a gift pack that includes a nice leather chess bag, 6 months free ICC membership, MC branded chocolate, wrist band, various discount coupons amongst. The next morning we attended the opening breakfast buffet where famous Indian-Japanese born Comedian Dan Nainan made started the event with funny jokes that made us laugh aloud. That's when I met lot of our team mates whom I have been knowing for last 8/9 months online - Daaim, Adia, Brendan, Keith, Jones, IM Akshat Chandra and his father, Christopher Yoo and his father to name a few. We also had big group from Fremont there - other than me and Ahyan there were Shafieen and his parents, coach Ted, IM Ricardo, little kid Alekhine. As per my count 582 players participated in 6 sections although it may be a little more or less. After the comedy show we had speeches from GM Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee before we went out for red carpet photo shoots with Maurice in a long but quick queue.

The first round started 7 minutes late of 12 noon. That I thought was a pretty good success for a first round of a first time tournament. But I saw Amy was not happy even for being only 7 minutes late. There were extensive security check including scanner, cell phone check-in station as well as separate scanner for players rest room. The playing hall was huge and square shaped. All the world champions' large pictures were showing up in banners. As players from 44 countries registered, we saw 43 flags flying around in the stage, only missing Switzerland as the Swiss player registered at the very last moment when organizers had no way to order a large new flag. I and Ahyan took picture with the Bangladesh flag on top of the stage. Top boards were played in the stage with the moves digitally getting transferred to the live broadcast camera feeds. Top camera and filming crews were hired for the event. The 3 commentators in live broadcast area were - British IM Lawrence Trent, Australian WIM Arianne Caoili and American GM Robert Hess. The live broadcast / games viewing room were adjacent but separate from the playing venue where we could go and enjoy the fun filled commentaries from them. The second round started at 7 PM. But for the rest of the events it was 11 AM and 6 PM, 2 rounds daily.

The organizers set the tone of the tournament in right direction from the very beginning and the players were all well-behaved and pleasure to meet with. The playing area had a festive atmosphere all around. Whenever I would get chance between the breaks of my games I would either go to skettles room to analyze my game with my opponent after finishing it or sit in the live viewing room and follow the commentary with interest. Mauruce Ashley worked with MIT Lab to unleash a new techological advancement in Chess Spectatorship -  DeepView. To know more about it, you can check out this article -

There were various chess merchandises available including what MC offers in their web site's shop page. We bought hoodies and T-shirts with custom prints whatever we liked. The whole playing venue were so lively all the time no matter what time of day or night you step in. We bought 3 chess sets with Millionaire logo on the board and got this signed by GM Maurice Ashley on the back.

Performance wise it was not a good tournament for me. I won 2 games, lost 3 games and drew 2 games scoring 3 out of 7 in Under 2200 section. But Ahyan won 3 games, lost 1 game and drew 3 games scoring 4.5 out of 7. This he was placed 13th to 17th jointly and received $1000 prize money. I got placed in 53rd position in my group and got $67. There was a blitz tournament at 12th October night where 200 players participate in the 4 round double game G/5 tournament. Here I scored 3 out of 8. My games can be found in these links -  Game 1Game 2Game 3, Game 4Game 5Game 6 and Game 7. Ahyan lost 4th game scoresheet so here are the other 6 games played by him - Game 1Game 2Game 3Game 5Game 6 and Game 7.

12th October was also Ahyan's birthday as well as National Chess Day of USA. Amy Lee arranged a pizza party and bug house tournament in the afternoon that day and we contributed a birthday cake to celebrate Ahyan's birthday at along with it. Kids of 13 or younger and their parents attended that event. At that party I got introduced to another Bangladeshi Shafkat who, after talking for a while, turned out to be my batch mate from Notre Dame College more than 20 years back. He was in group 7 and I was in group 1 - that's why we didn't directly know each other earlier. Shafkat's son is playing in this tournament and they flew from Long Island of East Coast for this.

At 10th October Friday 5 of my colleagues from Salesforce came to the playing venue from San Francisco for 1 night to cheer me up - William Jager, Michelle Zauss, Christopher San Nicholas, John Jackson and Paul Endo. Michelle's old school friend also joined them in the venue. They actually gave me a wave during my play and the TDs had to warn them not to do so! They are a funny bunch on themselves and we hanged around for a while after my game was finished.

In the open section the tournament was won by Wesley So with confident play from start to finish. On the way of winning the $100,000 check, he defeated Rab Robson in the final who received $50,000 check as runner up. There were lots of coverage on this event before during and after the tournament was finished. Here are few links that shows how extensively media covered this tournament.

If you want to see the winners of each sections who received very handsome payouts, check this -

For standings in each section, please check out this -

The following video will show you the major happenings of Millionaire Monday in Milionaire Chess Open.

In Millionaire Monday October 13th, we visited Las Vegas's newest attraction The LINQ, the world's highest highroller which reminded me of London Eye and Dhaka's Shishu Park. We stayed back 1 more day in Las Vegas attending a time share presentation at 14th morning before coming back San Francisco at night. It was a memorable event for all of us and I already can't wait for the next year to participate in this event again.

I will finish this with some comments from different players and journalists opinion on attending or following this event.

* Finished the Millionaire Chess open with 6.5/9, a solid result but in an event where the difference between first and fifth is over $90k solid won't cut it- you really need spectacular. Still, if I can play this well next time and catch some better breaks who knows what could happen. Off to Brazil tomorrow morning for the Continental Championship, before I head off I'd like to publicly congratulate Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee on a wonderful event and I hope to play many more editions in the future. - GM Sam Shankland

* The Millionaire Chess Open exceeded my expectations and set what I hope will be a NEW standard for professional chess events! Thank you GM Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee for having the vision and caring enough to bring the best to chess! - Adia Onyango, MC VIP

* Thank you so much Amy Lee and Maurice Ashley and the MC Team! It was an amazing experience for Shafieen and all of us at the Millionaire Chess Tournament. The MC team did an outstanding job to follow through their promise to make it a memorable event for the players and their families. We are anxiously waiting for the next one!

        Shafieen did play in bigger tournaments than this one before but never in a high profile one like this! He had a very slow start, 1 draw/2 losses, then got out of it and kept winning, 3 games in a row. The last game was his, after about three and a half hours in the game he made an unfortunate mistake and lost. Shafieen did learn a lot from his mistakes at this tournament, specially how to keep calm and not be devastated by any draw or loose in the first couple of rounds. He was able to earn one of the low-end prizes although he could've easily been one of the top contenders here. - Zeba Ibrahim, Mother of Shafieen Ibrahim who is MC VIP

* The tournament was first-rate and of course the first one was not going to be perfect. Some people who were naysayers still cannot get over the fact that the tournament was an overwhelming success... from many angles. We will see others continue to bring up minor mistakes to try to prove that the event failed. However, Maurice and Amy did an outstanding job and history will show that this was a monumental event. - Dr. Daaim Shabaaz, MC VIP and Chess Blogger (Chess Drum)

* If you like style and class, you missed out on a grand event. Chess players was dressed up in real nice suits. The tournament hall was laid out for a KING with the royal color purple dominating the room, and grandmaster pictures was line up on one side of the room. The excitement in the air, mere words can not explain. Thank you for treating chess players like a King. - Keith Dunbar, MC VIP

* Participating in the Millionaire Chess event was such a wonderful experience. Not only because of the opportunity to win huge amounts of money, but the gathering of and the reaquaintance of so many people. From Jones Murphy whom I had not seen in over 30 years, to the friendly Frank Johnson who worked as a Tournament director at the event. Meeting Amy Lee was very special too. She worked very hard to make this event a delight. Of course there was Maurice Ashley who has accomplished so much and yet this man was working hard the first day I showed up, getting physically involved with everything to make this a special event. I made new friends too many to name. Special mention to a couple whom I met that told me they used to ride my train when I worked the A and C lines as a conductor for NYCT. I won't forget this event any time soon and I am looking forward to the next one. - Robert Dennis Beatty, Chess Player

* Best tournament I've ever participated in, by a huge margin, in many ways. I cannot say enough how disappointing the American turnout in particular was, compared to international representation which was tremendous with people travelling from all over the globe. - Jones Murphy, Chess Player

* 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! - Tim Brennan, MC VIP and Chess Blogger (Tactics Time)

* DeepView originally was created for, and debuted, at the Millionaire Chess Open, the largest money-prize open chess tournament in history (also founded by Ashley), that saw its inaugural match last weekend in Las Vegas. Ashley and the MIT Media Lab are working to make the software open source and widely available via a web service that would allow anyone to analyze individual chess players or process live data from an ongoing match. - Bo Moore of

* Now a team from MIT is trying to make 1,500 year old game into an e-sport, starting with the Millionaire Chess Open championship in Las Vegas. Throughout this week’s tournament, they’ve been testing a system called DeepView (a play on Deep Blue, the IBM super computer that beat chess champion Garry Kasparov in the 1990s). It combines algorithms, leaderboards, and real-time game visualizations to turn chess into a smart spectator sport. - Leah Hunter on DeepView

* The idea of big money in chess is not new. Before the world championship match against Boris Spassky in Reykjavik 1972, Bobby Fischer told me in an interview for the Voice of America the following:

    "When people start to read about hundred thousand dollar prize money, I think they are going to get interested in the game. That's the way our system works. I think to a great extent people - if something doesn't have much money in it - they kind of tend to downgrade it. When I take a look at golf with all this money, I have a lot of interest in it."

    A lot of people talked about it, but Ashley and Lee did it. And that's the big difference. - Huffington Post on Millionaire Chess

*  Chess is not the kind of game traditionally played for high stakes in Las Vegas, but it is getting an image make-over. This weekend players from all over the world attended a Vegas tournament promising a $1m (£624,000) prize, the biggest in competitive chess. - BBC News on Millionaire Chess

* So far, this tournament has really impressed all and the vibe in Vegas has been really exciting. - WIM Sabrina Chevannes on Millionaire Chess

* To sum up, the Millionaire Chess Open was exciting not only because of the potential boost in popularity of chess, but also because of the actual chess itself! The imposed 30-move draw rule in the open section, albeit rare for open tournaments, led to lots of fighting chess in the later rounds. - FM Kostya Kavutskiy on Millionaire Chess Open

* I just spent two days sleeping on my bed, so tired. I couldn't believe this year Millionaire Chess Open closed. Thanks to Amy Lee and Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, and the perfect MCO team to hold such a fantastic chess tournament in history! Congratulations to Millionaire Monday winner GM Wesley So. Thanks to all my teammates, friends and opponents. - Qibiao Wang

* The Millionaire Chess Open happened in Las Vegas today - after more than a year in the planning. There's a million dollars in the prize pool making it the highest stake open chess tournament in history.  - Mornings with Geoff Hutchison

* Titled players were given unlimited access to the Doll Lounge “VIP Room.” All participants were given a pass to visit at least once. One of my favorite parts of the tournament (and post-round destinations) was the free massages! Everyone was given the star treatment. There were photo opportunities on the “red” carpet. In-house photographers snapped away during the rounds. - FM Alisa Melekhina on Millionaire Chess

* Amy Lee and Maurice Ashley deserve a tremendous amount of praise for their efforts in making Millionaire Chess go from a shared vision to a successful operation that players, spectators, commentators, educators, journalists have been viewing over the last few days.

        Everyone who is involved or knowledgeable about this event has to share their experience with other players and chess lovers worldwide, once the event is over. This is the best way to give back and promote this event for the future.

        I am sure a financial loss was taken by the organizers but if the long term vision is reached then I'm confident that could be neutralized.

        Amy and Maurice have played the opening moves but the onus is on us, the chess population, to make sure this event becomes an annual event, perhaps even more!

        Congrats!! - Nick Panico, Chess Player

* We asked people all over the world for their thoughts on having a high stake chess tournament. While we received positive comments from many that boosted our confidence, the negative comments made us doubt ourselves: were we making the right decision?

      Many people thought we were dreaming. We came across many hurdles that we did not anticipate. In the end, we tackled all of them one by one. - Opening Speech by Amy Lee, MC Partner

* The format guaranteed this excitement (quite unlike the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, which was unexpectedly over after only eight rounds). All sections competed for seven rounds, then the top four scores in the open would advance to a knockout "Millionaire Monday" (players in the open continued to compete for two additional rounds for norm purposes). - Correspondent GM Mike Klein on Millionaire Chess

* Any injection of money to the chess world is, in my view, positive. For many grandmasters it is depressing that someone rated below 1400 won more money in one tournament than what they have made in their lifetimes playing the game. But as long as they are fueling the top category prizes, as long as these kind of tournaments are more accessible for professionals and as long as the prizes in the top section are increased (I believe it was too top heavy, $8,000 for fifth and $100,000 for first doesn't sound right) it is an event that I will mark in my calendar every year. For its first year, I categorize Millionaire Chess as a success, and I hope that the business model of creating interest in the first few years to reap the rewards when more and more people sign up in later years becomes successful. - GM Alejadro Ramirez on Millionaire Chess

* I have to give @MauriceAshley & @AmyLeeBiz A LOT of credit for @HighStakesChess. They are working so hard to put on a world class event. - GM Susan Polgar Tweets on Millionaire Chess
* Glad to see @HighStakesChess take off successfully. Looking forward to some exciting chess! Good luck to the participants! - GM Fabiano Caruana Tweets on Millionaire Chess

* I’m sure that was the kind of game that Maurice Ashley dreamed about when he made up this tournament format. What an amazing finish, with both sides sacrificing material and threatening mates all over the place, and I’m sure that neither player had a lot of time left. - NM Dana Mackenzie on Ray Robson vs Yangyi Yu Semi-Final Game of Millionaire Chess

* I think this could be a turning point for chess. It’s a unique tournament and event with high prize amounts. There is a great younger generation coming up. For America, it could depend on having a star player. Magnus Carlsen (the current No. 1-ranked player) is a star in Norway. The TV cameras follow him around. - Amateur player John Collins, who came from England to compete in Millionaire Chess

* Ashley is very clear about his vision. He wants chess to be a spectator sport, and the open was his move at replicating the atmosphere of the World Series of Poker. The web broadcast, complete with slick graphics and a team of chess announcers who were both well versed in the game but up for injecting tension and drama into the proceedings, were all part of Ashley’s gambit that chess can capture a broader audience. - Tovin Lapan, Chess Journalist on Millionaire Chess

* The real value in this event was the quality of the event and not the money. I personally would pay every time for this quality. In the end amateurs are customers. I think MC understands this well. All of this quality cost a great deal of money. Amateur chess players were treated far better than ever before and maybe better then we deserve. The question is would the average chess player rather spend much less, receive much less and focus more on the game it's self? - Expert John Salisbury on Millionaire Chess

* There is no top female prize in the event, but yet, so many women have turned up for this wonderful event to compete equally with the men. However, the women are still a commodity in this tournament with the $1000 mixed doubles prize up for grabs. Teams must have an average rating of 2200 and their combined score is what counts, regardless of what section they are in. Therefore, the women can carefully select their partners. What is interesting, is that there are so many strong female players in the Open section, that most mixed doubles team will consist of a stronger female and weaker male, breaking the stereotype of women being weaker than men at chess. - NevadaChess.Org on Millionaire Chess Open

Natasha, Chess Player, shared her top 10 things she loved about the tournament -

10. Friendly TDs and assistants
9. Water girls who delivered water directly to the boards
8. Excellent playing conditions, including quiet tournament hall
7. Time control and timing of rounds - slow enough to play well, enough time between rounds to eat and recover
6. Timely posting of pairings on website/app
5. Sense of community created by the phone app
4. Generous prizes extending to 50th place offset the high entry fee
3. Inspiring portraits of world champions in the tournament hall
2. Free chair massages for all participants
1. Boundless positive energy and generosity of Maurice and Amy

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Please Let Us Get Some Work Done In Office

What I have been talking about for so many years has now come out as a TED talk! This is why I work twice a week late in the office till midnight when there is no one around just to actually get some work done. Please pay special attention to the 3 recommendations that Jason Fried made to remedy. I am happy that the first one is already partially implemented in my office as - No Meeting Thursday!

Thoughts on Life, Death, and Overcoming Fear

I've been pondering a topic that's universally relevant yet rarely discussed - death and the anxieties it evokes. As I delve deeper ...