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MinneMania Report

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Dave Arganian sends in this report from the HB Global Chess Challenge underway in Minneapolis. If someone also sends in some pictures you'll be famous in a ChessBase.com report. (To be rich you have to win the tournament, sorry.) Tourney hall, top players, inside and outside the building, the city, anything and everything would be great.

The big news before rd 1 yesterday is some guy asked permission to interrupt the opening meeting to propose to his girlfriend (she accepted). Hooray.

So far I count 1221 entries as follows:

Open: 244 U-2200: 167 U-2000: 218 U-1800: 226 U-1600: 172 U-1400: 150 Unrated: 44. Of course, that doesnt count the folks who will be in the 3-day schedule starting tomorrow - I'd say another 400-500 is a safe bet.

In the open we have guys like Larry Christiansen, Nick DeFirmian, Epishin, Milov, Gata Kamsky - all have 2-0. Nakamura is also playing. Jussupow dropped a 1/2 pt to IM Jay Bonin.

I have to say things look pretty well run here - 1st rd last night was only 20 min. late. Conditions are good except it is somewhat noisy when players move their chairs on the hard ground floor. Sets and board are provided - clocks aren't.

The biggest job TDs have is setting those CHRONOS clocks for those of us (like me) who find it too complicated to figure out how to set them.

Thanks, Dave! (Good luck!) I didn't know Epishin was going to be there. He becomes an immediate favorite. The official site just put up some PGN files, that's good news. Once we have a few pics we'll do a report at ChessBase, so if you're there, send in some notes and photos. Dirt always welcome...


If Dave is right and they only wind up with about 1650 to 1750 entrants, then it seems this will most likely be a one time event. I heard Maurice Ashley give a number of 2500 to make the sponsor happy and have another one next year. I hope this won't be the case and this will be an annual event.

Mig took a slight (friendly) dig at Minneapolis in a previous post. How many more would this tournament have drawn if it had been held elsewhere? Does a major swiss have to be on one of the coasts to draw the kind of numbers the HB's prize fund deserved?

I don't know about "have to," but it stands to reason that if you have a vastly larger local player base you'll get more people. Travel and hotel stay are the issue, not the distance. People from California are just as likely to go to New York as to Minnesota, for example. Probably a third or more of the HB entrants are from the NY area and there would almost certainly be more if it had been held near NY or another city with a large local chessplaying population. And if you're on the east coast, especially NY, you also have direct international flights from all over Europe, which makes things both cheaper, faster, and easier.

Hard to know if it would be enough to make a difference large enough to matter to a sponsor. And of course NY is usually more expensive for the organization and for visitors, although hotel rates haven't been that bad at recent events, depending on the time of year.

What you wrote certainly makes sense, Mig. I think I did ask questions that I already knew the answers to.

I will add that the HB will almost certainly outdraw the World Open and all the other big swiss events in the US this year. I guess $500,000 will at least get you that.

Ashley had big dreams for this tournament. He seems to genuinely believe that chess could become a major sport in the US (I have heard him use golf as a comparison in the past.) I can't say that I ever really agreed with him (golf???) but it is hard not to admire or appreciate his enthusiasm.

The 3-day schedules are up now, and if you add all the numbers there is 1663 participants. Maybe there will be a few extra walk-ins but not many.

So I guess we just say we will enjoy this one while it lasts. :( I had hoped to play in it next year.

I bet Ashley is at least a bit embarrassed.

I don't understand the table of "Standing". Where disapear Smirin, Nakamura?

Many players are on a three-day schedule and haven't played yet.

I have heard from a number of people that the biggest problem wasn't the location, but rather the date. It's very close to the end of the school year, but NOT on the Memorial Day weekend, which meant that many of those currently in college as well as those with children in lower grades simply felt they couldn't go. I know at least 4 people who said "If only it had been in the summer..."

I know those things don't usually matter to the pros, but if you're trying to attract amateurs, I think it's something to keep in mind for the future. I realize they probably didn't want to conflict with existing events, but there's a reason this date was available.

for what it's worth,

Duif is right. The date kept many school-aged players and teachers away. Our chess club didn't consider it because of conflicts with school. Instead we're going to Las Vegas International and Phoenix/US Open this year, both of which happen when school is not in session.

Poor Naka missed the quiet 36. ..e4 by Black in his calculation on the risky Nf5 move and lost instantly. Then again, Beliavsky is a giant - you don't mess with him unless you are 110% sure :-)

Uh, doesn't 1663 x $345(the entry fee) = $573,735? So the entry fees themselves more than pay for the prize fund. If the sponsors' paid enough to fund the remaining costs of everything else, then it seems at least to have broken even.

Of course, some of the sponsors might get torqued if Ashley projected more players, but admittedly this is on a scale that was unprecedented in the U.S.

Gotta give Ashley this: he's certainly swinging for the fences with this one. Wish I'd gone!

Great posts, Duif and blisscoach. If they hold it next year, maybe they will remember that.

Zinger, I'm not sure if the GMs and IMs had to pay entry fees. If not, that would lower the figure a bit.

More importantly, there had to be other significant costs. How much did the massive hall cost? How much for publicity? What was the total cost to hold the event? Over $750,000?
Over $1,000,000?

The website is uninteresting. No pictures, No live relay of games. Atleast is this event covered in the local Newspapers?

Hi Mig,

HB was not a success from a financial standpoint. While the EFs may have covered the prizefund, there are hundreds of thousands in additional costs.

The organizer was thrilled with all other aspects of the event. It got a lot of good pub in local papers/tv, the energy level was amazing. There were many, many activities beyond the tmt itself--lectures, simuls, demonstrations, etc.

The GM commentary room featured Ashley and Kaidanov. I did really poorly in tmt, so I spend a lot of time in there:) They did a great job, and were really entertaining.

Organzier does not know if they will do it again. They made some mistakes, and know how to save some $$ on a second go round. It really is going to depend on whether they can get some serious sponsorship.

As for Minneapolis, I don't understand the 'hard to get to' comments. It has a major international airport, and is home to NW airlines, a big 5 carrier. It even has interstates.

I was able to interview a number of GMs for our local chess pub. All seemed very pleased with the accomodations and the playing conditions. It was an incredibly strong field, the playing hall was spacious, well lit, and as quiet as I have ever been in. The top nine boards were separated and on a stage with video display.

Finally, in defense of my home city, the most common comment I heard was how beautiful Minneapolis is. Most seemed surprised to find an actual big city here:) Given that we had bad weather--rain for four of the five days--this pleased me the most.

The organizer had considered holding it elsewhere, however, Minneapolis is the home of the sponsoring foundation, and their mission is to promote chess in Minnesota, so there really wasn't much of an issue there. They are in it not to make money, but promote chess. However, to do it again, they ahve to have some hope of coming close to breaking even. We shall see.

All in all, it was a truly historic, tremendous chess event, and I feel extremely lucky to have had it in my back yard.


Great post, Dondo. Very interesting.

I just looked at the pre-entrants for this weekend's Chicago Open (run by Bill Goichberg's CCA). I think there are only about 250 or 260 listed. This is a tournament that normally gets about 650-800 entrants but I wonder if that will happen this year. An unintended consequence of the HB tournament?

There is an article about this tournament in 5/21 NYT. Coincidentally it has a picture of "yours truly". Does anyone have a paper and can scan it in for me?

This was my first tournament and I had a lot of fun. I can't wait to get a non-provisional rating so I can play in a section more my level. Chess has really opened doors for me. Curacao is next!

I can't speak to any of the specifics of this tournament, but I can list what some of the typical costs would be for this kind of event:

1. Playing hall. If you hold it in a hotel, you may get use of a banquet hall for free depending on number of rooms you generate. But for something this size, the Minneapolis Convention Center is normally at least $5,000 per day.

2. Tournament Directors and other staff. There may be additional volunteers, but there will be a core staff who are paid. Analysts and lecturers will either be paid or be trading services for entry fees. Some of these people may require hotel rooms, also.

3. Equipment. Not just sets and pieces, but tables, chairs, a stage if needed, audio visual equipment, telephones, computers, water pitchers, etc. You can often rent these from the event location, but they still cost. And whatever you bring in yourself requires transportation costs and storage.

3. Onsite services. These include security, janitorial, electrical, etc. Even a first aid kit has to be paid for. Again, you often get these from the event location, but again they still cost.

4. Printing. This includes signage, score sheets, tournament bulletins, flyers, etc. This also includes name tags, badges, or T-shirts for event staff if used.

5. Publicity and Internet costs. Not cheap. This also includes the costs of a press team if you have one. Film and video also go in this category if you have them.

6. Trophies and prizes.

7. A VIP room if needed.

8. Legal, banking, and accounting services.

9. Rating fees or other organization-related fees.

There are other possible costs as well (electricity is often paid for on a per use basis in convention halls, some events provide food or coffee for VIPS or for volunteers, etc), and "publicity" is a hugely variable budget item depending on what you decide to do.

But at least that should help give a sense of what some of the costs will look like. It takes a lot more to put on an event of this type than just a prize fund.



Thanks for pointing this out in an extensive way. I believe us players often have a limited view of tournament organization and your breakdown gives quite a appreciation for the herculean effort needed to pull it off.

HB Global Foundation probably didn't cover their overhead, but the publicity they got had to offset the difference.

I was quite looking forward to watching this tournament. Unfortunately the HB Global challenge website was extremely shoddy. Even now, after the event is finished, it is still in a sorry state of affairs.

Nice coverage on the Chessdrum site though. If Maurice Ashley finds some more sponsors next year, this whole website thing should be addressed.


Babson Task,

Thanks for the kind remarks.

I realized too late the website issue, but I didn't directly talk to Maurice about it. I will share your sentiments with him. I felt guilty playing in the tournament because I would have liked to have done round-by-round coverage as I've done for other tournaments.

Hopefully I'll make up for it with the upcoming photo essay.

Stay tuned!


I know for a fact that the dates of the event caused many people to skip it, as people would have had to miss work in order to go. (Even school kids would need an adult to go with them, one who probably would have been taking days off.) I might have participated if not for the dates, which fall short of any holiday or summer weekend, and I know of two school teachers who also had to dismiss the idea of playing because of work responsibilities. When I asked Maurice about it, he said that he did not want to conflict with Goichberg tournaments, but not all of Goichberg's tournaments are major. (See the Atlantic Open in D.C., for instance.) Now, it might be that he considered that they had to get it in before people dedicated that money to Chicago Open or World Open and couldn't afford to go. If that is the reason, then the tournament may, in fact, impact negatively upon the remaining major Goichberg tournaments for the summer season. I hope that Maurice is able to do something like this again, although preferably in a more desirable location than Minnesota and on dates which are available for amateur players who want to compete. The lure of large prize funds will never be enough to draw most practical people away from their jobs in search of a big payday, especially with the money they have to put out for such an event, and so I believe that more attention should be paid to competition with work and school schedules rather than with other tournaments.



P.S.: To answer an earlier question, IMs and GMs had to pay entry fees unless they were contributing in some other way to the event, such as by offering simuls or lectures, etc.

Peace Maliq,

I'm not sure what is meant by "desirable." Certainly Minneapolis is not a huge market. Do you mean desirable as in New York, where things would be twice as expensive (all around) and overhead costs through the roof? California... too far away, expensive. Chicago... maybe the McCormick Center would be perfect, but again the overhead costs. Miami... not centrally-located. Atlanta's Phipps Plaza... probably booked until 2008.

You also need a homegrown sponsor who will stand to benefit from the outlay of copious amounts of dough. HB Foundation put the money where their mouth was. I'm not sure of too many places where you could reasonably hold such an ambitious tournament without comprising on the amenities vs. price.

Perhaps the tournament could have been held in another weekend... maybe in June? That's a possibility. Be that as it may, Minnesota was a great city and the tournament was in a wonderful location (with a unique tunnel system). The date of the event is one issue that should be examined.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 20, 2005 12:03 PM.

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