Hardcore pawn as Las Vegas bets it all on $1m chess
GUESTS flocking through the doors of the Planet Hollywood casino in Las Vegas are normally lured by the prospect of a big pay-out at the gambling tables or a performance by the pop star Britney Spears, the highest-paid performer on the city's brash entertainment Strip.
But next month the hotel will host the most lucrative chess tournament in history as the world's only black grandmaster and a self-made Vietnamese-born entrepreneur try to do for the ancient game of strategy what similar big-prize contests have done for poker.
Will Smith, the Hollywood actor and chess aficionado, has given the event his star power endorsement.
At least 27 chess grandmasters and a slew of enthusiastic amateur hopefuls are among more than 500 players from 39 countries who have so far paid the $1,000 (€550) entry fee to make their moves in the first Millionaire Chess tournament. As the name suggests, the prize fund is $1 million. Despite the fees, the organisers expect to make an initial loss of several hundred thousand dollars as they try to raise the game's profile and take chess to the masses in coming years, as flashy poker tournaments have done for that game.
Millionaire Chess is the brainchild of Maurice Ashley, a Jamaican immigrant who made headlines as the first African grandmaster in 1999, and Amy Lee, a businesswoman from Vancouver, Canada. Mr Ashley is a popular commentator. (© Daily Telegraph)