The seventh and last round of the preliminary stage of the open section of the Millionaire Open was a dramatic one. The top four players would advance to "Millionaire Monday", a final knockout stage to determine the distribution of the top prizes. Entering the round six players had five points and nine more had four and a half.
On the top board, top seed Wesley So (now in the world's top ten) was the first to assure himself of qualification, thanks to a convincing victory over Timur Gareev. On board two, Daniel Naroditsky and Yu Yangyi drew. That assured them of at least (and practically speaking, at most) a shot in a playoff event to move on to Monday. The board three battle between Ray Robson and David Berczes must have been a roller coast ride for their fans. First Robson was better, but in the lead up to the time control Berczes was simply winning, and it's hard to believe that he wouldn't have won the game and qualified for the final four had he chosen the straightforward 39...Rxe4. Even after missing (or just avoiding) that move he continued to be better for quite some time, but by move 48 it was anyone's game. On move 52 Black would have been fine after 52...Bxf3, but instead the overoptimistic 52...Rcc2? left him lost. Robson grabbed his chance with both hands, and like So punched his ticket to Monday's rounds.
In the realm of the 4.5 pointers, two players won to force a four-man playoff with Yu and Naroditsky. Surprisingly, both won with Black: Zhou Jianchao beat Rauf Mamedov and Sergei Azarov defeated Alejandro Ramirez.
The playoffs, which took place Sunday night, were effected by means of a g/15 (with five second time delay) single round robin. In the first round the Chinese players drew with each other while Azarov drew with Naroditsky. In the latter game Azarov had a somewhat better position while Naroditsky had a substantial lead on the clock, but he must have felt that with the time delay his opponent would be able to hold the position (or more) without undue risk of losing on time. In round two Naroditsky drew with Yu while Zhou beat Azarov, and in the last round both Chinese players won and qualified.
I'm not sure as of this writing what the pairings are for tomorrow's first round, but the semi-final round will start at 10:00 a.m. local time (= 1 p.m. ET) and the last round at 5 p.m. local time/8 p.m. ET.