Susan Polgar, Chairperson of FIDE Commission for Women’s Chess (WOM), interviewed Amy Lee, the woman behind Millionaire Chess, an instant success with the chess community.
Thank you, Amy, for taking time from your busy schedule for 64 seconds with us. Everyone knows that you are the financial backer behind Millionaire Chess. But few know more than that. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
It is complicated :) I am Chinese, born in Vietnam, raised in Canada, and I have been living there since I was 8 years old.
My family, just like hundreds of thousands of others, is one of those who escaped the devastation in South Vietnam in the mid 70’s. We risked our lives, gave up everything we owned, to seek a new beginning. By the time we arrived in Canada after a 3-year harrowing journey, my family had nothing left. We started everything from scratch in Canada in 1979.
With nothing in a brand new country, and in spite of having to learn a new language and culture, I had to start working at age 10 to help out my family. I know what it is to work hard. This experience has made me who I am today.
I became a passionate and enthusiastic entrepreneur. Over the years, I developed a keen sense for spotting the right opportunity in business. I built one of the first dollar store franchise chains in Vancouver, BC, and found success in high-end real estate development, banking, and restaurant management, all before I decided to retire at the age of 38.
That is impressive. You are a Chess Mom with no serious involvement with the chess world before. Why did you decide to organize Millionaire Chess?
My children play chess. This was how I was introduced to the chess world. I became a believer in the benefits of chess. But in spite of chess being one of the most popular sports in the world, the potential is not even close to being fully realized. This is why I want to help brand chess to a bigger worldwide community. After all, I was told there are over 600 million people who play chess around the world, and this number is growing bigger every year.
How did the 1st Millionaire Chess tournament go? Will the chess world see the 2nd edition and beyond?
The 1st edition of Millionaire Chess went very well. I am thankful for the support of the chess community. As a newbie, I learned a lot about the chess world. I met so many wonderful people who gave me important feedback.
Yes, Millionaire Chess II is already launched and I am very excited about it. I want to make it bigger and even better. I am very passionate about helping chess grow in the mainstream, and I am working very hard to make this happen.
How do you plan to combat cheating and sandbagging, which can be problematic in big money events worldwide?
Yes, I realize that this is a problem. Anytime there is a lot of money on the line, it is expected. I take this issue very seriously. That is why we, as an organization, installed many strong measures to combat the problems. I want to give all players a fair chance to battle for $1 million. You can find out more about the prize structure, very strict tournament policies, rating rules and much more here https://millionairechess.com.
Any words for the worldwide chess community?
Thank you very much for your support. I am working very hard to bring a memorable experience for all players. I am fully committed to make every little detail right. Please check us out. I personally invite all of you to take part in this historic event. I would love to meet each one of you in Las Vegas in October.