$4 Million Off the Table: Dream Tournament Cancelled Due to Niemann's Withdrawal

01.07.2024 13:19 | News

Sensational $4 Million Tournament Canceled After Niemann's Exit

      A highly anticipated $4 million chess tournament, featuring top grandmasters Hans Niemann, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Fabiano Caruana, and Ian Nepomniachtchi, has been canceled. The tournament, set for November 21, 2024, in Düsseldorf, Germany, was called off by organizer Wadim Rosenstein after Niemann announced his withdrawal on Twitter citing contractual disputes.

Initially, everything seemed set for the one-day high-stakes event, with Rosenstein confirming on June 11 that the finances for all four players were secured and that he had received Niemann's signed contract. However, on June 27, Niemann, a 21-year-old American grandmaster, halted the event.

In his tweet, Niemann mentioned "contractual disputes" as the reason for his withdrawal, stating, "It's unfortunate, considering I had secured the required finances, signed the contract, and started preparations. Sometimes things just don't work out as planned."

Rosenstein, in a call with Chess.com, avoided detailing the specifics of the situation, saying, "I don't want to create a scandal," on Thursday evening European time.

Rosenstein noted that while all four players had their $1 million secured, the actual funds had not yet been transferred, with the deadline set for a month before the tournament, October 21.

A significant amount of time and effort had already been invested in the preparations. When asked if he was dissatisfied with Niemann potentially breaching the contract and if any actions would be taken, Rosenstein replied, "There's no point in discussing details. The tournament is canceled, that's all. No one wants a scandal."

Minutes after the call, Rosenstein confirmed the cancellation on social media platform X, stating, "I regret to inform you that the WR Chess Masters High Roller Event, for which four players had signed contracts, will not take place. As a passionate chess fan, I was really looking forward to this event."

Less than an hour later, Niemann tweeted again, expressing doubts about the tournament's legitimacy and the organizer's business practices. He mentioned hearing reports that the organizer was potentially financially supporting the entry fees of other players and received no response when he sought confirmation or denial of this.

Niemann also revealed he had agreed to a blitz game against GM Wesley So, which was somehow related to the buy-in tournament. According to Niemann, the terms of this game were later altered when an additional contract was issued. He stated that private messages showing his acceptance of the previous terms were also deleted, increasing his distrust and skepticism.

Chess.com reached out to Niemann for further comments. Other involved players, Abdusattorov, Caruana, Nepomniachtchi, and So, are currently participating in the Superbet Chess Classic Romania and were unavailable for comments.

In a follow-up call on Friday morning, Rosenstein addressed some of Niemann's claims in his second tweet. He denied that the contract was flawed, stating, "My goal is to make things easy for chess players, so I work with contracts that are easy to understand. Many players work with me on a verbal agreement basis. There are no penalties for non-participation. Why would there be? I don't judge anyone who doesn't want to participate."

Regarding the financial support of other players' entry fees, Rosenstein clarified he intended to pay So for a "warm-up match" against Niemann before the main event. He denied that "additional business conditions were later changed when an additional contract was issued," as Niemann claimed. "I prepared a separate contract for the warm-up match because it was a separate event, but Hans didn't want to sign it."

"I offered to organize this tournament, and it didn't work out," Rosenstein said. "I'm reconciled with it and glad the situation clarified now and not a month before the tournament."

Rosenstein found it surprising that Niemann signed his contract and only more than two weeks later started talking about "contractual disputes." He added, "Niemann is a strong, young, talented player. I wish him all the best. But if you ask me if I will invite him to my next tournaments, that's now a big question."

The buy-in tournament was planned for November 21, 2024, in Düsseldorf, Germany. The format was to be a double-round tournament among four players with six rounds of rapid (15+0) games. All four players were to bring $1 million to the table; the winner would walk away with $2 million. The second player would get $1.5 million, the third $0.4 million (a $0.6 million loss), and the fourth nothing, resulting in a complete loss of $1 million. The organizer would receive $100,000.

This remarkable event stemmed from a conversation in May on social media platform X between Niemann and Rosenstein, an entrepreneur and owner of the WR Group conglomerate. Rosenstein also organized last year's WR Masters in Düsseldorf (February 2023) and the World Rapid Team Championship (August 2023). He will only attend the second edition of the latter event from August 1-6 in Astana, Kazakhstan, and organize two entirely new tournaments from October 31-November 3 in Dubai and October 14-18 in London.

When Niemann asked about the London event, Rosenstein came up with the buy-in format and invited the American grandmaster to the tournament, also on X. A week later, he confirmed the event and the players to Chess.com.

While the event is now canceled, Rosenstein wrote on X, "I hope our idea can inspire other organizers to host similar tournaments in the future."

0x 188x Petr Koutný
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