Chess Players Ready to Win Big at WSOP 2012

Ylon Schwartz
2008 Main Event final tablist Ylon Schwartz one of many chess players looking to score at WSOP.

Chess players have been a threat at the WSOP ever since chess master Dan Harrington became the world champ 1995.

But now more than ever there’s reason to expect big things from chess players at the World Series of Poker.

Ylon Schwartz, a chess master who earned more than $3.7 million finishing fourth in the 2008 Main Event, knows a thing or two about making the transition to poker.

Poker = Money

“A lot of people are broke playing chess,” Schwartz told in Las Vegas.

“And they all have a strong background in analysis and studying so it makes a lot of sense to make the move to poker to actually make some money,” he said

Schwartz has live poker tournament results stretching all the way back to 2004, and it’s certainly safe to say he’s made the vast majority of his living from poker in the last decade..

“It’s really hard to make it to the top 20 in chess which is where you have to be to make serious money,” explained Schwartz.

“Everyone’s making the jump to poker because the money’s just astronomical,” he said.

In chess tournaments matches are determined by a rating system, so it’s rare to have a big edge over your opponent in terms of skill.

In poker it’s often the complete opposite.

“In these fields it’s just full of stone cold novices,” said Schwartz.

Vladimir Shchemelev
Vladimir Shchemelev

“You have to dodge a lot of bullets in these big field tournaments but hopefully if you’re the better player you’re going to win the money in the end,” he said.

Chess Players to Watch for at WSOP 2012

The list of chess players who have done big things at the WSOP is long, but there are a few players in particular from whom we’re expecting big things this summer.

1) James Obst

Australian Obst had a chess rating of 2283 and was considered a very promising junior player but made the switch to poker and has since become one of the most dominant online tournament players in the game.

Having just turned 21 this year, he’s finally old enough to take a shot at the World Series of Poker.

2) Vladimir Shchemelev

Shchemelev was a chess prodigy as a child and made a huge splash at the 2010 WSOP when he final-tabled four events, including a runner-up finish in the $50k Players Championship worth almost $1 million.

Shchemelev is one of a large group of Russian chess players who have put their skills to work on the table.

3) Alexander Grischuk

Alexander Grischuk was the 2009 Russian champion of chess and despite not having any WSOP results, he has played in at least two WSOP Main Events, in 2009 and 2010.

Grischuk made it to Day 3 in 2010 and reportedly lost an enormous pot with pocket queens all-in preflop against K-6 to lose the majority of his stack.

“Grischuk is playing a ton of poker now so you can definitely expect him to do something big,” said Ylon Schwartz.

Grischuk’s biggest poker result so far is a 33rd at the 2008 EPT Barcelona main event worth $25,678.

To follow all the action from Las Vegas check out our 2012 World Series of Poker Live Coverage section.

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