You’re a chess player—a chess freak even, but you don’t earn from it. It’s difficult to earn from it, right? Well while chess isn’t as industrious as other games and sports like football, there are some careers one can build from the magical game. Now you can earn from something you love! Similarly, chess grows as more people make a living off it. We look at some careers people could build in chess.
Since we’re talking about a competitive game, the most common way to earn from chess is through playing. I don’t mean hustling each other on the streets using speed chess, I mean professional playing in tournaments! Did you know that Carlsen’s World Champion title came with a $1.5M check?! Yes, all that from playing chess. We all play chess. The only difference between you and the other chess players is your playing strength and style.
You’d agree that there’s a certain level of strength one must reach to attain professionalism. The same is the case in other sports—the professionals MUST be masters. Note that there are various levels to mastery as well. Take this food chain illustration, for instance, Magnus Carlsen > Richard Rapport > David Anton >Ahbimanyu Mishra. They’re all grandmasters, but there are also levels to grandmastery!
There’s the 10,000 hours theory of attaining mastery in any craft or skill. One must be willing to put in the work to become a god in it. Although talent is crucial in attaining a high level of mastery, a chess player must be ready to build on that talent to rise to the top. We’re talking doggedness and passion that rivals that of Cristiano Ronaldo! I’m just gonna leave it here that Magnus Carlsen’s net worth is estimated to be around $10 Million! Yeah, it sure pays to be at the top.
If you’re an intermediate chess player who just loves playing the beautiful game without the will to sacrifice a lot of time and effort in improving, you might want to consider earning from other areas of chess careers where weaker playing skills can be accommodated.
What better way to promote chess than through teaching it? There are a lot of people out there who would pay good money to coaches for exclusive training. If you’re looking to earn good money from the moment you begin tutoring, then you might be disappointed. Just like everything else, being a great coach is a process.
Firstly, you must discover and master the chess niche. You can either start as a freelance coach or work as a coach for academies and other chess organizations. Of course, working as both is feasible if you can put in the work required. As a freelance coach, making the game of chess look as interesting as possible is advised. Many might not find the game fascinating enough to pay for coaching sessions. However, making the game appear like a big deal that it is in the eyes of newbies would be great for both you and chess in general.
To grow as a coach means doing a good job. If you duly follow the common ethical process of good coaching, then you can be sure of being referred to other students by your trainees. An official title would be a great boost for your portfolio as a chess trainer! To conclude, the passion to coach could lead to owning your chess academy!
Programming is another way to put those big brains of chess players to good use! If you have a passion for coding and another passion for chess, you don’t have to leave one niche for another. What if I told you that there was a way to merge your passions? You’d be excited, right? Well, take a look at chess.com, lichess.org, chess24.com, and the likes. They’re the work of programmers!
In the current age of computers, demand for programming skills is on the rise. You can make a ton of money being a chess programmer. Chess.com is approximately worth $1 BILLION according to Worth Of Web. That should say a lot about how valuable programming is. With good enough experience in chess programming, you could even join the roster of programmers in one of these mega chess companies!
Without joining an established company, you could put your chess and programming skills to good use by designing an app of your own. You can take a quick second, dash to your phone’s App Store, search “chess”, and you’ll see the number of chess apps you’d see—some you might’ve never heard of. You too can own a chess app, and start your journey to the top.
A subsidiary of being a chess programmer is working on chess engines. Stockfish, Fat Fritz, Komodo, Leela—name them! There are so many chess engines out there. You could challenge yourself to design an engine better than Stockfish. Chess-playing sites would look to inculcate your engine into their site, and you know that means MONEY! You get even more money when individual players and organizations like academies use your product to train.
Yes, of course, I’d include my line in this piece. If you like what you’ve seen so far in this article, then you might want to consider being a chess writer. If you can turn ideas into words, then give it a shot! To be a decent writer in the chess niche means being highly conversant with chess terms and the dynamism of chess as a whole.
Generally, a writer can use his craft in several ways. Many products these days depend on writing. Even visual and audio products also depend on writing. As a chess writer, you could work on writing blog posts for several chess sites out there. There are more options to choose from, like writing instructive chess books on a ton of concepts, writing scripts for audios or audiovisuals, writing social media captions, copywriting for several products, and so on.
In summary, being a chess writer could open doors to a bunch of other opportunities within the chess niche. If this skill is one of your strongholds, then you should give it a shot!
Have you ever been in a chess tournament, and you can’t figure out where to sit? You probably registered as a U1800 player or a junior, but as soon as you reach the venue, there’s no indication of how you could find your division. That is a consequence of poor organization! If you’re a great positional player, then you’d probably have good organizational skills. Your room is always in order, you detect the slightest mistake in several settings of interior decorations, then you have good organizational skills.
You could do the chess world a favor, and venture into organizing chess tournaments and other chess events. If you consistently deliver a plausible job from small events, you could be the square peg in a square hole for top FIDE tournaments! Who knows, you might even seal a FIDE Organizer title along the line.
As an organizer, you have to make sure the hall is convenient for players, viewers, and other individuals to grace the event. Hiring a competent arbiter would ensure that there is an accurate interpretation of chess rules. Doing this would prevent probable hitches in the tournament. Chess clocks and boards must be in good condition to avoid complaints and disruption from players.
Being a judge of anything is never an easy task. One must learn to make a swift verdict and must try to stick with that verdict. An arbiter in chess can be related to a referee in football, and an umpire in tennis. We often see how Mike Dean of the English Premier League stamps his authority on all forms of controversies in a match.
Being an arbiter is another way to build one of many careers in chess. A typical arbiter must know the rules of chess, like the back of their hands. In the 2019 World Rapid and Blitz, there was an OTB controversy between the World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, and the Junior World Champion, Firouzja Alireza.
GM Alireza was up by three pawns, and his opponent had insufficient mating material. He lost the game on time after the verdict by the chief of arbitration of the tournament. A blitz rule that states that a player who accidentally knocks down a piece must, first, set up the chess piece before making his move, added salt to Alireza’s wounds. The case was so complex that arbiters in the tournament needed the intervention of the chief arbiter!
Like players, trainers, and organizers, FIDE also awards titles to arbiters. For example, we have the International Arbiter (IA) and FIDE Arbiter (FA). If you think attaining a player title is too difficult, you can consider a title for arbiters.
Production and trade of chess materials
The most commonly used chessman today, Staunton, is a result of someone’s artistic design. However, Staunton was designed in 1849 but is currently still accepted by FIDE because of its simplicity and distinguishable features between all pieces. There are other design types like the Lewis chessmen. If you have a knack for fine artistry, then going into the production of chessmen would be a good stake for you.
Take inspiration from @skyline_chess (Instagram) who produce chess sets based on buildings of notable cities globally! A magnificent innovation if you ask me! You could step it up a notch to the production of luxury chess sets! Make it so beautiful that even non-chess players would want to purchase it.
Advertisements of your chess products should be strategic to drive more recognition and sales to your craft. By supplying luxury chess sets to elites in society, one could reel in a fortune! Chess brands would also prefer to patronize a reputable company.
Social media management
The world today is rapidly evolving, and social media has proven to be a thriving industry that is here to stay. Almost every niche has found a way to merge with the tech giant. Top chess websites like chess.com, chess24, lichess.org, and many more have taken to social media for amplification of their brands’ trumpets.
If you’re an individual that enjoys spending time on social media, then social media management of chess brands might be good for you. Usage of relevant hashtags to boost interactions should be at the back of your mind. A decent social media manager should also know how to hop on trends to help promote brand awareness!
This role requires one to have minimal skills in writing, coordination, observation to catch details, creativity to imagine engaging content, and discipline to maintain consistency. Being a graphic designer and a video editor isn’t compulsory here but would certainly be a plus.
If a sharp camera feature is a reason why you’re so obsessed with getting the new iPhone 13 series, you might want to consider going into photography. As a chess player, you could merge your love for photography with your love for chess. By doing this, you’d be taking a page off David Llada’s book to promote chess.
David Llada is, by some margin, the most prominent chess photographer in history. Without his works, we might not have images of major chess players in action. There are too many poor images out there that give poor first impressions about chess. These images make chess look like a boring pastime for nerds, but we both know it’s way more than that.
Taking quality shots with high-definition cameras leaves a good impression, but it’s not just that. Paying attention to small details in the background also plays a role in taking great shots. Is a chess piece wrongly placed by a centimeter? Adjust it and shoot! Angles and lighting must also be factors considered when taking great chess shots.
Once again, creativity in photography is a big deal to show the diversity of chess to the general society. Being a photographer means that invitations to and bookings for chess events would rain down your mail! You could also sell your chess shots on iStock for more greens $!
Chess content creation
Agadmator, Eric Rosen, Hikaru—If you’ve never heard of these names, you might as well brace yourself to have your chess player membership card withdrawn! These guys are extremely popular in the world of chess for being some of the best content creators. They have massively contributed to the growth of chess using top platforms like YouTube, Instagram.
Agadmator, a popular YouTube channel for chess is operated by Serbian player, Antonio Rebic. His channel recently hit a million subscribers, which is a great achievement for chess. His channel is worth over $600,000, and one can say that content creation in chess is quite the career.
GM Hikaru Nakamura is arguably one of the richest players out there today. This is partly because of his popularity level thanks to his activities on YouTube, Twitch, Instagram, and other platforms. He makes unique chess content that reveals him showing up his super-fast chess skills to the awe of viewers. Graphic designing and video editing is also a key component of content creation.
A great content idea to boost chess awareness is animating chess figures or pieces. Animations have proven to anchor high social engagements. Creating your chess-themed animation show wouldn’t be a bad idea. Telling stories through animations would carry chess to greater heights. Content creators must understand the dynamism of creating content for different platforms.
There are more careers in chess that I might have failed to mention in this post. Let us know what it is in the comment box below. Also, do well to leave a comment on which chess career you’re currently on, or which one you’d like to take on.
Fun article. These times in which we live are compelling us to step outside of our usual domain. This year, I wrote for Chess Life, commentated for the Texas Chess Association, taught online classes to groups in Virginia, Wyoming, Texas, and my own state of California, sold my chess books, and now I’m back to coaching in person. I have also worked special events (like a recent Netflix promo event in L.A. – unpaid), and I run an open house program 2 months a year at a museum in Pasadena. I also organized our State Scholastic Championships (online).
That’s a lot Jay. Glad chess writing and coaching is working for you!
JOSE LUIS FERNANDEZ
Great article and very current. I myself have left my lifelong job and have now decided to follow my passion, chess. It’s not easy to follow any of the paths indicated, but there are certainly many possibilities.
Glad to know you are taking a path down chess Jose! Wish you the best!