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More than 50 GMs from more than 50 federations have a simple goal in mind this weekend in Las Vegas: win big money.
While that's the understood goal of most who fly to America's gambling capital, Las Vegas, chess players don't fight the house at the second Millionaire Chess Open. Unlike poker, where the casinos usually take 10 percent, the payout here is more than the revenue. A true Vegas rarity!
Organizers GM Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee are playing the long game and understand that it may take several years to eclipse 1000 players, most of whom pay $1000 in entry fees. For now, the 600+ in attendance are enjoying the best return-on-investment on the Las Vegas Strip. Way, way better than some investments in town!
After day one of the "standard" schedule (the only one Open players are afforded), only 30 of the 182 players have remained perfect. A smattering of upsets took place in round one, while in round two several elite players were nicked for early draws.
A pool party preceded all play Wednesday night (where else do you see that at a chess tournament?) but Thursday morning the event had a less jubilant beginning. The uploading of the incorrect database caused a late start. Several dozen received forfeit wins in the opening round due to withdrawn players accidentally getting paired. For the IMs and FMs in the field, their norm chances are done before the first move since they won't be able to meet the nine-game requirement.
Chess.com Vice President of Professional Relations IM Danny Rensch was among those affected, so he had to wait another few hours until the evening round to dust off his mothballed chess career.
Among the big names cruising Thursday afternoon were the "Three Musketeers" of U.S. chess -- GMs Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and defending champion Wesley So.
Another top American and past national team member didn't fare as well. GM Varuzhan Akobian was the biggest tree to be felled; he went down against FM Vignesh Panchanatham, still on the short side of 2300 FIDE.
White didn't let up after finding the d-pawn advance.
On board 10, GM Evgeny Bareev slowly outplayed FM Carl Boor but found a nice checkmate to finish things off.
Another American shined in the opening round. GM Gata Kamsky did what he does best: a slow grind until you're so worn down you make a fatal error. See if you can pounce like Kamsky did:
Top-seeded Nakamura managed to jam the lines of his opponent's battlefield phone. They were all fighting their own skirmish while Black's forces worked in harmony:
GM Hikaru Nakamura is a product of "The American Swiss" and hasn't had trouble in his first two games.
Moving on to round two, full pairings parity had yet to be established, but some titled players matchups began within the velvet ropes. Not all favorites could remain unscathed.
The biggest name to get a blemish was Caruana. His draw against yet another talented American junior cost him one spot in the live ratings list, but it could have been worse. IM Ruifeng Li from Texas showed some moxie by playing the Evans Gambit, and in fact bailed out when he could have played on in a better position.
Maybe IM Danny Rensch's hoodie helped White? IM Ruifeng Li, left, did in fact do a "Pawn Sacrifice" against GM Fabiano Caruana en route to the upset draw.
Boards 9-14 were a minefield for the stronger player. Five of the six grandmaster favorites failed to win despite enoying 250-point rating advantages.
Other 2600s to yield half-points included GM Evgeniy Najer (you guessed it, to another young American player, IM Kassa Korley, although he represents Denmark). GM Sam Shankland drew untitled Igor Sorkin while Rensch held the fort against fellow past Death Match champion GM Yaroslav Zherebukh.
IM Danny Rensch (left) didn't get to use any of his trademark accents against GM Yaroslav Zherebukh.
The most curious path to 2-0 came from GM Yu Yangyi, one of the four Millionaire Monday players from 2014 (like the inaugural event, the top four players at the end of seven rounds compete in a Monday playoff for $100,000). The Chinese GM was one of the members of the many members of the "forfeit club" in round one, but his result was mistakenly entered as a loss. He then played well down in round two, against a 2180-rated FM who had lost his first game. The result is now correct in the standings and he is a member of the proper, leading score group.
GM Ray Robson, last year's runner-up, took advantage of his opponent's adventurous ninth move decision to cripple his own pawns. The Webster University junior wasn't in a hurry, be he eventually showed that weak pawns usually don't get healthy against the world's elite.
The defending champion played one of the few early GM-GM games, and made sure the Colombian grandmaster's pieces missed their flight from South America.
Nakamura won again, but not against the "Gurevich" you're more likely to know. Not Ilya, not Mikhail, not Dmitry, not even Vladimir -- on the way to becoming the world's fifth "Grandmaster Gurevich" is teenage IM Daniel Gurevich, a protege of Chess.com video author GM Roman Dzindzichashvili.
Maybe we'll see this game on a "Member Analysis" video someday. If so, the focus will be Nakamura's clever zwischenzug to deprive Black of his bishop pair. From there, the top American converted with clinical precision.
There's 30 players that still control their own destiny for Millionaire Monday. Here's a look at some of them:
Here's a look at the top matchups for round three on Friday afternoon, and the percentage chances for each player.
All images courtesy Fat Chimps Studios.
The lone IM in the crowd is IM Priyadharshan "Pri-Diddy" Kannappan, the past MVP of the US Chess League.
2015 Millionaire Chess | Standings After Round 2
|GM||Kaidanov Gregory S||USA||2561||2,0|
|Sturt Raven M||USA||2316|
|IM||Aldama Degurnay Dionisio||MEX||2402||2,0|
|GM||Le Quang Liem||VIE||2697||2,0|
|GM||Mcshane Luke J||ENG||2674||2,0|
|GM||Ortiz Suarez Isan Reynaldo||CUB||2577||2,0|
|GM||Arun Prasad S.||IND||2520||2,0|
The pool deck on the sixth floor of Planet Hollywood, the host site.
GM Gata Kamsky was seen running into the playing hall for round three. He arrived 32 minutes late according to the arbiters, eclipsing the 30-minute "zero tolerance" mark by two minutes. He forfeited the game. Chess.com will have more about the incident in tomorrow's report.