How Much Do Chess Players Make?
The top 50 chess players in the world make over $100k each year and that mainly comes from playing for clubs, competing in tournaments, appearance fees, and sponsorship. On the other hand, the typical pro chess player makes far less than $100k/year and may rely on his efforts in coaching, an arbiter for chess matches, selling chess merchandise, hustling, etc to make a decent yearly wage. Magnus Carlsen, winner of the 2021 world chess championship made well over $1 million from chess winnings alone in the last two years.
Many other top super grandmasters make a good living from chess and are more wealthy when compared to the working middle-class. Some of these grandmasters are Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Vishwanathan Anand, Wesley So, Levon Aronian, Boris Gelfand, Veselin Topalov, Alexander, Anish Giri, Alexandar Grischuk, Vladimir Kramnik, Sergey Karjakin just to name a few. Each of these chess players can earn themselves up to half a million dollars in tournament winnings every year.
Unfortunately, most of the wealth in chess is only concentrated at the top. The cash prizes for competitive chess tournaments such as the world championships usually overshadow the earnings from other tournaments. While Magnus Carlsen can walk away with $100,000 from a Sinquefield tournament, the last-place finisher at the upcoming world chess championships match will make five times as much money, even if he didn’t manage to score a point.
The richest chess player in the world is Magnus Carlsen. The Norwegian grandmaster earns a stunning $2 million per year from sponsorships with a net worth of $8 million.
Magnus Carlsen was born in Tonsberg, Vestfold, Norway in November 1990. He is a super chess grandmaster, the #1 ranked player in the world, and a World Chess Champion in rapid and classical for over 8 years now. Magnus Carlsen achieved the highest peak rating in history at 2882, beating the likes of Garry Kasparov a well-respected icon in chess. Carlsen became a grandmaster at 13 years old which made him one of the youngest in history.
He became the new world chess champion in 2013 and defended it for a straight 8 years. The Norwegian Grandmaster became the youngest player to be ranked #1 at 19 years old.
Players close to the bottom of the top-100 are very unlikely to earn over $100k, for most the figure would be about $50-70k. And without any atom of surprise, many of these players have employed several alternatives to earn extra income.
10 Ways Chess Players Earn Their Income
Club Playing: Many chess players make a vast amount of their money by playing for clubs at different tournaments. They are usually paid anywhere between $5,000 to $20,000 for competing for a particular club.
Appearance fees: Appearance fees often work for the top chess players who are given money to show up or participate in a prestigious event.
Scholarships and stipends: Remarkable chess players who seeking college education may get a grant or some special bursaries to pursue their career. National teams also have a special wage that varies among countries
Performances: Simuls, exhibition matches, and other events of this type.
Literature: Writing books & columns.
Organizational work: Being an Arbiter, Tournament director, etc. Not too long ago FIDE released the regulations of the world rapid & blitz and in it, they wrote about payments that will be given to arbiters and other officials. Arbiters’ earnings may vary from country to country.
Become a Coach: You don’t have to be an expert to become a chess coach. It doesn’t need to be connected with being a professional player. Offering coaching services is gaining quite some popularity over the last few years. On the Internet, IMs and GMs charge about $20-50 per hour, while players without tittles will usually charge $3 -$15 per hour. Some GMs even charge as much as $100-$125 per hour.
Being a chess second: Assisting eminent players at their home lab. Playing sparring matches, preparing novelties, pinpointing opponents’ weaknesses. Russian Grandmaster Daniil Dubov got backlash from the Russian chess federation for being second in Magnus Carlsen’s team in the just concluded world chess championship match against Ian Nepomniachtchi. See the full story here.
Selling chess merchandise: That was especially popular in the post-Soviet world when people would be traveling around the world with heavy bags of rare chess books and equipment and selling it at the events where they played. Nowadays this looks less dramatic but still works.
Chess Hustling: Some people make money by beating other guys in blitz or bullet. You can see a lot of chess hustlers at parks or chess clubs.
Content Creation: Several chess players like Eric Rosen and Hikaru Nakamura have taken to stream websites like youtube and twitch to produce chess-related contents to educate and entertain their fans. According to twitchmetrics.net, the top Twitch chess-streamer, GMHikaru, racked up over one million watch hours in July 2021. Other chess players make money from online publications and blog posts.
The question of how much do chess players make would be a tricky one to out-rightly answer considering the wide earning disparity that cuts across different levels of play. You can earn as much as Magnus Carlsen from playing chess if you of course have the skill and you’re dedicated to playing at the highest level. But if you’re like many other chess players that due to one thing or the other, they can’t create the time to develop their chess to compete at the top level, which is a tough thing, then you can focus on earning from chess like most of the other chess players. See how chess players make money online