Master Prizes: What do Organizers Have Against Them?
How lucrative? The guaranteed prize fund is $500,000. The Open, U2200, U2000, U1800, U1600 and U1400 sections all have 50 prizes. If your rating is from 1001-1200 or under 1000, you're at least eligible for five rating-restricted prizes in addition to the 50 in the U1400, and even unrateds have 10 special prizes as well. In short, it's serious money, and it's safe to say that players of all levels will flock to the event - including, of course, titled players (grandmasters and international masters). I wouldn't be even slightly surprised to find at least 40-50 GMs and about that many more IMs in the event - and this doesn't even include all the "civilian" masters who will participate in this event.
Now for the problem. If your rating is exactly 1600 and you're competing for U1800 money, you'll have your work cut out for you, given that you're at the bottom of your rating pool. Even so, you won't have to face anyone more than 199 points higher rated than you are. Difficult? Yes. Inconvenient? Sure - but the rating gap isn't that big.
But for masters, the situation is radically different. A 2200-rated player will be competing with 2750-rated players for the same prize pool and this, ladies and gentlemen, is nuts. (Any 1500s out there want to compete for expert money?)
To be fair, I haven't told the full story yet: there are also three special prizes for those between 2300-2449 and another three for those under 2300. They're pretty good prizes, too, equivalent to the first-third prizes in the U2200, U2000, U1800 and U1600 sections. But still: only three? There will be plenty of 2200s, and since their chances to outdo the GMs, IMs and all the rest above 2300 are exceedingly slim, they're essentially playing for just those three prizes. And things aren't much better for the 2300-2449 crowd: their gap to the top players is a bit smaller, but on the other hand, they're in a larger rating pool.
I know that there aren't as many masters as there are experts, and the prize money has to come from entry fees. But even with that understanding and the three token prizes (why not more prizes, even if at the cost of reducing their amount?) to ameliorate the concern, it's not enough, at least for me. Tournaments like this are expensive (and most of the big tournaments are alike in offering only a very few, generally token prizes to ordinary masters), and since I've already enjoyed the big tournament experience on many occasions, I think I'll pass on this one. I wish the tournament well, but I don't think this is an equitable situation.