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The Millionaire Chess Experience Print E-mail
By GM Cristian Chirila   
October 20, 2015
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The author, Photo David Llada
Millionaire Chess closed its gates, once again, on October 12. Some experienced the ultimate highs Las Vegas has to offer, while others left empty-handed.

Such is the typical Vegas experience, and after the Millionaire Open finalized, much will be said about the tournament as well. Here I will portray my own Millionaire chess experience, as I am sure it has been completely different for everyone. In my opinion the personal experience is what makes Millionaire Chess different than any other open tournament I have participated in, and I am sure the legacy will continue in future editions, whether in shiny Las Vegas or in another exquisite location.

So let's go through my time at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, NV.

Usually I arrive at the playing site one day before the start of the tournament, this time around I decided to get there two days before in order to get the initial Vegas shock out of my system and acclimate.
Chirila, Photo Sabrina Chevvanes

This was a good decision as we celebrated my good friend's birthday and did not get much rest the first night. 


Next to the famous Hard Rock Café sign, spot the energetic commentators,
Photo David Llada

The Day Before MC2

The next day, I woke up around 11 AM, and by 1PM we were already looking to switch hotels. We said good bye to the impressive master suite that hosted our previous night's debauchery and left for the new destination. By the time we got to the hotel, checked in, and had lunch, it was almost time to attend the pre-registration "party."

The lines to the registration booth were huge, I hoped this will be something that the organizers will improve from last year. A smoother service is a must for further editions if the organizers want to succeed in their endeavor, which I definitely think is possible.

Next was the pool party. Probably the most descriptive features of a pool party are the pool and the music, none of these were present. The best part of the pool party were the pictures taken by the talented David Llada. I strongly believe that David was one of the best investments of the organizing body. Without his incredible pictures the tournament would have received much less attention on social media.

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Lawrence and Robert having some pre-tournament competition. Despite the lack of music or of a pool, the pictures were impressive.
Photo David Llada


Maurice presenting one of his star players,
Photo David Llada

Day 1 & 2 Alarming Signs

After a night of moderate Vegas fun, it was time I headed back to the headquarters and conduct business. A nice breakfast was held at the hotel. Immediately after I felt energized and ready for some chess action. The first round was a fairly easy one sided game against the talented Joshua Colas. I got a very nice position out of the opening and did not fully lose my advantage along the way. Nevertheless there were alarming signs that I failed to spot. My technique was indeed terrible, a trademark that would follow me for the rest of the tournament.
Colas, Joshua-Chirila, Ioan Cristian
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d5 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. O-O Nb6 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. e3 Re8 10. b3

A suspicious move, clearly showing that my opponent was not familiar with the position. 10. Re1 a5 11. a3 is one of the new tries for white.
10... e5 11. Nxe5 Nxe5 12. dxe5 Bxe5 13. Bb2 Qe7 14. Qe2 c6

Black has created a strong wall against the white bishop on g2-this is one of my favorite strategic concepts present in the position.
15. Rfd1 Be6 16. Rd2 a5 17. Rad1
This is the wrong plan, there is absolutely nothing white can do on the d file. In the meantime black is preparing to break on the queen side, where his superior piece placement will create extreme nausea for his opponent.
17...Bg7 18. Qf3 a4 19. Nxa4 Nxa4 20. bxa4 Rxa4 21. Bxg7 Kxg7 22. Qe2 Rea8 23.Ra1 Qf6 24. Rb2 Rb4
A small trick, sealing a winning advantage for black.
25. Rxb4
25. Rab1 Rxa2, 25. Rbb1 Rxa2 
25... Qxa1+ 26. Qf1 Rxa2 27. Rb1 Qc3 28. h4 Bc4 29. Qd1 Bd3 30. Rc1 Qf6 31. Qe1 Kg8 32. Bf1 Bxf1 33.
Qxf1 b5 34. Qg2 Ra1 35. Rxa1 Qxa1+ 36. Kh2 Qf6 37. f4 b4 38. Qd2

While this position is winning, the fact that white still has some defending tricks, shows that black's technique was far from perfect.
38... c5

38... b3 39. Qb4 Qb2+ 40. Kh3 h5
 39. Qd5 Qb6 40. h5 gxh5 41. f5 b3 42. Qe5 h6 43. f6
43. Qe8+ Kg7 44. Qe5+ Qf6 45. Qxc5 b2 46. Qb5 h4
43... Qe6 44. Qb8+ Kh7 45. e4 c4 46. e5 Kg6


The second game I drew a winning position against FM Kavutskiy. Here is the terrible outcome of what was a decent game up to that point.

Ioan Cristian Chirila -Konstantin Kavutskiy 
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Bg5 c5 7. d5 e6 8. Nf3 exd5 9. cxd5 h6 10. Bh4 g5 11. Bg3 Nh5 12. Nd2 Nxg3 13. hxg3 a6 14. a4 Nd7 15.Nc4 Qe7 16. Qc2 Ne5 17. Ne3 Bd7 18. a5!

I am very proud of the thought process behind this move. One of the most important squares in the position is
the f5 square, defended by the d7 B. I am now preparing to go Na4-b6 and force black to give up the control of the square. It is not that easy for black to spot this plan.
18... Rab8 19. Na4 Bxa4 20. Rxa4 Qf6 21. b3 Rfe8 22. O-O Nd7 23. Bg4
Qd8 24. Bxd7 Qxd7 25. Nf5
good knight vs bad bishop, an elementary winning position
25...b5 26. axb6 Rxb6 27. Re1 h5
It is important to try and destabilize the position, otherwise white's strategic superiority would be overwhelming.
28. Qe2?

A terrible misunderstanding of the position. Never allow the change of dynamics when having a strategically winning position. (28. Qd1 g4 29. f3 {black is in big trouble, nevertheless white has weakened his king on
some degree and the conversion will not be that smooth. Always look for counterplay when you face a strategically losing position})
28... Rxb3
28...Qxf5 would have been more precise than the game continuation. 29. exf5 Rxe2 30. Rxe2 Bd4 31. Kf1 Rxb3 32. Rxa6 Kg7 33. Rxd6 Rb1+ 34. Re1 Rb2 Black has great compensation due to his powerful control of the black squares & the activity of his pieces.
29. Rxa6
29. Qxh5 I saw this move but got scared of Qxf5. Qxf5 (29... Qxa4 30. Qxg5 mate is coming) 30. Qd1 Bc3 31.Qxb3 Qe5 32. Re2.
29... Qxf5 30. exf5 Rxe2 31. Rxe2 Be5

Black hasabsolutely no problem in holding the draw.
32. Re4 g4 33. Rc6 Rb1+ 34. Kh2 Rb2 35. Kg1 Rb1+ 1/2-1/2

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A mesmerizing presence, abiding to the organizer's quest to make chess more glamorous,
Photo David Llada

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Hikaru was a focused man throughout the event,
Photo David Llada

I started day two of the tournament with a far from smooth win against a Swiss FM. Once again I ended up in severe time trouble and completely blew my advantage, just to have the favor returned by my opponent when he blundered the game instead of obtaining a better position. A lucky win by me. I was already feeling my time trouble addiction was going nowhere. Unfortunately my pre tournament training has not yielded the necessary results. Time trouble is a serious pathological disease, correcting it will take serious will power and determination.

In the 4th round I played GM Nyzhnyk, a Webster team member and a very strong player. He stayed true to his practical style, playing his moves at a disarming speed. I managed to keep a cool head and punished my opponent's mistakes to obtain a solid advantage.

Chirila, Ioan Cristian-Nyzhnyk, Illya

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Bxc4 a6 6. O-O c5 7. Qe2 cxd4 8. Rd1 Nc6 9. exd4 Be7 10. Nc3 Nb4 11. Ne5 O-O 12. Bg5 b5 13. Bb3 Bb7 14. a4 bxa4 15. Nxa4 Ne4 16. Nc5!

A move my opponent probably forgot about. I really liked the geometry of the position.
16... Nxc5
16... Bd5 17. Bxd5 exd5 18. Bxe7 Qxe7 19. Nxa6 Nxa6 20. Rxa6 Rxa6 21. Qxa6) (16... f5)
17. dxc5 Bd5 18. Bxd5 exd5
18... Nxd5 19. Rxd5 exd5 20. Nc6)
19. Nd3 Nc6 20. Bxe7 Nxe7
20... Qxe7 21. Qxe7 Nxe7 22. b4 Nc6 23. Ra4 Rfb8 24. Rda1
Quite a difficult endgame to defend, the pawn structure really favors white.
21. Nf4 a5

22. Qe5
 22. Qf3 Qb8 23. b3 the point! The queen has to support the defense of the b pawn. Now
black will have to accept the fact that he will lose a pawn Re8 24. g3 Qb5 25.Nxd5 Nxd5 26. Rxd5.
22... Re8
The win is no longer easy to spot, I lost my chance to fully capitalize on his mistakes.
23. Nh5 f6 24. Qe6+ Kf8 25. Nf4 Ng6 26. Nxg6+ hxg6 27. Qg4
27. Qh3 Rb8 28. Qa3 Rb4 29. Rac1 d4 30. c6 Qc7 31. g3 and white is obviously better, but the win is far from trivial.
27... Rb8 28. Qxg6 Rxb2 29. Qh5 d4 30. Qh8+ Kf7 31. Qh5+ Kf8 32. c6 Rc2 33. Qh8+ Kf7 34. Qh5+ Kf8 35. Rxa5 Rxc6 36. Ra7  36... Rc7 37. Qh8+ Kf7 38. Qh5+ Kf8 39. Qh8+ Kf7 40. Rxc7+ Qxc7 41. Qh5+ Kf8 42. Qh8+ Kf7 43. Qh5+ Kf8 1/2-1/2

Unfortunately the incapability to convert again took its toll and my advantage soon vanished. 3/4p after the first two days and my result was keeping me in a strong contention for the Millionaire Monday u2550 spots.

Day 3-4-5 Drawing Machine

After my fairly decent start a series of disgusting results followed. In the next three days I had plenty of opportunities but failed to capitalize miserably and ultimately ended up in no contention for the Millionaire Monday cut-off.

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Frustrated after missing so many opportunities, Photo David Llada

Despite my terrible technique, there were also a few positive aspects that I always try to spot and concentrate on. The first one is that I did no lose a single game, the second one was that I put myself in the position to succeed and make the tiebreak cutoff until the last moment. Despite the fact that I did not qualify, whenever I am in contention till the last moment I consider that to be a positive experience, as my mind is getting trained for future similar clutch situations. The last shot at leaving with a decent paycheck was presented to me in the last round. I had to win my last game with black against GM Zapata. We played a complicated Ruy Lopez but I think my positional understanding prevailed in the end, and I was happy to finish the tournament on a positive note.

Zapata, Alonso-Chirila, Ioan Cristian

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. a4 Bd7 10. h3 Na5 11. Bc2 c5 12. d3 Qc7 13. Nbd2 h6 14. Nf1 Rfc8

Delaying putting the R on its usual e8 square and directing it on the queen side, where I plan on developing my initiative. This is an idea I've worked on with one of my good friends and collaborators, Alejandro Ramirez.
15. Ne3 b4
15... Rab8 is the wrong approach, as white would have the option of opening the a file and activate his rook. 16. axb5 axb5 17. d4.
16. Nd2 16... Rab8 17. Ndc4 Be6 18. Nxa5 Qxa5 19. Bd2 b3 20. Bb1 Qc7 21. c4

White's strategy is quite straightforward, he will want to attack my b3 pawn with all his pieces, and ultimately win it. Nevertheless, even if he wins it, the opening of the b file might be something that black can put to good use.
21...Nd7 22. Ra3 Qb7 23. Nf1

Black needs to start looking for counterplay.
23... f5
23... Nf824. Be3 Bd8 was another way of stopping white from capturing my pawn.
24. exf5 Bxf5 25. Be3 d5 26. Nd2 d4 27. Bf4 exf4 28. Rxe7

Now most of his pieces are strangled on the queen side, while I opened the e file and will be able to create play on it.
28...Qc6 29. Rxb3 Rxb3 30. Nxb3 f3 31. Qxf3 Qxf3 32. gxf3 Rb8 33. Bc2 Kf8 34. Re1 Bxh3

Despite his extra pawn, white's position is very difficult. His pieces are completely paralysed on the queen
35. Rb1 Bf5 36. f4 g5

36... Bxd3 37. Nxd4 cxd4 38. Bxd3 Nc5 39. Bg6 a5)
37. fxg5 hxg5 38. f3 Kf7 39. a5 Bxd3

Another blowup in time trouble 39... Rb4 40. Kf2 Rxc4 41. dxc4 Bxc2 42. Nd2 Bxb1 43. Nxb1 Ne5 {and black
has good chances. (39... Kf6 40. Kf2 Ke5 41. Kg3 Bxd3 42. Re1+ Kf6 43. Nxd4 Bxc4 )
40. Nxd4 Bxc2 41. Nxc2 Ne5 42. Ne3

42. Ne1 was necesary to keep the balance. Rb3 43. Rd1 Nxc4 44. Nd3
42... Nxf3+ 43. Kg2 Nd2 44.Re1 Rxb2 45. Kh3 Kg6 46. Nd5 Nxc4 47. Re6+ Kf5 48. Rxa6 Rb3+ 49. Kh2 Ra3 50.Ra8 Rxa5 51. Ne3+ Ke6 52. Re8+ Kd7 53. Re4 Nxe3 54. Rxe3 c4


The chess highs are always something I try to enjoy to the fullest, and I had a great last night in Vegas after my win. I am sure if the result would have not been positive, my last night experience would have not been the same.

Let's now put it all together and see where MC2 stands compared to the first edition.


  1. Visually much more appealing. Congratulations to the organizers for the selection of the team. The commentators were incredible, one of the most dynamic teams I've seen. Again, the photographer David Llada did an amazing job, with him as a photographer I believe chess can achieve that long sought "sexy" status.


Maurice, always with impeccable taste, Photo David Llada

Alejandro Ramirez, Photo David Llada

  1. Stronger event. I am glad to see more and more players crossing the ocean and investing in this tournament. The only way for this venture to succeed is to attract the professional chess pool from Europe. A strong incentive needs to be offered, and I believe the current prize pool body is better suited for the chess professional (compared to MC1)
  2. Novel features. One of the most impressing feature was the implementation of the million dollar chess board. The winners of the Millionaire Monday playoffs from each section had the possibility of winning one million dollars if they chose the right square under which the colossal prize was hidden.


  1. Long registration lines. Starting a tournament like that will only bring negative vibes. 
  1. Technological experiment gone wrong. I am sure by now most of you have heard about the terrible situation during the first round, where more than a dozen participants that withdrew before the tournament, were nevertheless paired and their opponents got a free point. A few other anomalies happened, for example, I have no idea how Yu Yangiy won his first game, then was featured as having 0/1 and was paired with an opponent that had 0 points. After he won his 2nd round, he suddenly went from 0 to 2 points and restarted his tournament. Quite a novel and peculiar situation, I am sure the organizers were quite upset about the situation. Future such occurrences need to be avoided.
  2. Where are the massage girls?? I have to admit, last year one of my favorite things to do after an exhausting game was to get a massage in the VIP lounge. Unfortunately the organizers did not offer this feature this year. Bring back the massage girls!
There were a lot of incidents that caused this event to fall short of its full potential and the concept of Millionaire Chess.  This can’t happen in future editions, as I believe such a novel and demanding venture must only move forward in order to be successful for its investors. I know that Maurice and Amy already know their mistakes and will work to improve the holes in their armor. As I will do with my chess, and as you should do with yours!

As previously reported on US Chess, Hikaru Nakamura won the tournament, and elaborated on the experience on his own facebook page.

Now I'll leave you with my favorite of David Llada's mesmerizing shots, which was also featured in an article in the Telegraph, "Chess Gets Sexy in Million Dollar Las Vegas Tournament."

Follow Cristian on his official website
and twitter.

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