$1 Million Buy-In Tournament Cancelled As Niemann Pulls Out


Perhaps it sounded too wild to be true. The $1 million buy-in tournament with GMs Hans Niemann, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Fabiano Caruana, and Ian Nepomniachtchi, scheduled for November 21, 2024, in Dusseldorf, Germany, has been cancelled by organizer Wadim Rosenstein after Niemann tweeted on Thursday that he had withdrawn from the event.

Nothing seemed to be standing in the way of the one-day, $4 million poker-style tournament to actually happen when Rosenstein confirmed to Chess.com on June 11 that funds of all four players had been secured and that he had received Niemann’s signed contract. 16 days later, the 21-year-old American grandmaster pulled the plug.

In a tweet on Thursday, Niemann said that he had withdrawn from the event “due to contractual disputes,” saying it was “unfortunate considering I had already secured the required funds, signed a contract, and started my preparations. Sometimes things just don’t work out how you would like them to.”

In a phone call with Chess.com, Rosenstein didn’t want to go into detail about what exactly happened. “I don’t want to make it a scandal,” he said on Thursday evening, European time. 

Rosenstein did note that, although all four players had secured their $1 million, actual funds hadn’t been transferred yet. The deadline for that was a month before the tournament, so October 21.

According to Rosenstein, a lot of time and effort had already been put into preparation. Asked whether he was displeased with Niemann potentially breaching his contract, and whether action would be taken, Rosenstein said: “It doesn’t make sense to discuss the details or anything. The tournament is off, that’s all. Nobody wants a scandal.”

Minutes after the phone call, Rosenstein confirmed on X that the tournament was off: “I regret to inform you that the WR Chess Masters High Roller Event, which had commitments from 4 players under signed contracts, will not take place. As a passionate chess fan, I was eagerly anticipating this event.”

Less than an hour later, Niemann followed up with another tweet. He wrote that he “started to have doubts about the tournament’s legitimacy and way of handling business,” and that he “heard reports of the organizer potentially financially supporting other player’s entrance fees, and after requesting the organizer to confirm or deny this, they failed to comment.”

Niemann also revealed that he had agreed to play a blitz match against GM Wesley So that was somehow related to the buy-in tournament. According to Niemann, the commercial terms for that match “were later changed when an additional contract was issued. Private messages were also deleted that showed my acceptance of the previous terms, only increasing my distrust and skepticism.”

Chess.com reached out to Niemann for comment. The other four players involved in the story, Abdusattorov, Caruana, Nepomniachtchi, and So, are all playing in the Superbet Chess Classic Romania at the moment and were not available for comment.

In another phone call on Friday morning, Rosenstein provided comments to Chess.com about some of the claims Niemann had made in his second tweet. He denied that the contract was poor: “My aim is to make things easy for chess players, so I work with contracts that are easy to understand. With many players, I work with handshake agreements. There are no penalties for not participating. What for? I wouldn’t judge someone for not participating in something that he doesn’t want to participate in.”

On the topic of financially supporting other player’s entrance fees, Rosenstein noted that he intended to pay So for a “warm-up match” against Niemann before the main event. Rosenstein denied that “additional commercial terms were later changed when an additional contract was issued,” as Niemann had stated. “I prepared a separate contract for the warm-up match, as it was a separate event, but Hans did not want to sign it.”

“I made an offer to make this tournament, and in the end it didn’t work,” Rosenstein said. “I am fine with it, and I am glad the situation came out now, and not a month before the tournament.” 

According to Rosenstein, it was surprising that Niemann signed his contract and only started talking about “contractual disputes” more than two weeks later. 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 other tournaments, that is a big question now.”

Graphics were already prepared for the event. Image: WR_Chess_Masters on X.

The buy-in tournament was scheduled for November 21, 2024, in Dusseldorf, Germany. The format was a double round-robin among four players with six rounds of rapid (15+0) games. All four players were required to bring $1 million to the table; the winner would walk away with $2 million. The second-placed player would get $1.5 million, the third-placer would earn $0.4 million (losing $0.6 million on the deal) and the fourth player would get $0, losing a full million. $100,000 would go to the organizer.

The remarkable event sprung out of a conversation in May on social media platform X between Niemann and Rosenstein, a businessman and owner of a conglomerate of companies called WR Group. Rosenstein also organized last year’s WR Masters in Dusseldorf (February 2023) and the World Rapid Team Championship (August 2023). He will only participate in the second edition of the latter event August 1-6 in Astana, Kazakhstan, and organize two brand new tournaments October 31-November 3 in Dubai and October 14-18 in London.

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

While the event is now off, Rosenstein wrote on X: “Hopefully our idea can help other organizers pull off tournaments like this in the future.”


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