Making Money in Chess

Earlier today, I saw an article in Forbes with the title: “Making A Living In Chess Is Tough…”

No, it is NOT. There are plenty of amateur players making a better living in chess than some top 10-20 players in the world.

Here was what I responded to the author of this article:

“I completely disagree with the notion that making a good living in chess is hard. It is not.

Making a living from tournament winnings is hard. But making a living in chess in general is not. I have seen many amateurs, with ratings well below 2000, earn much more money than some top 10-20 players in the world.
The problem is professional players know chess. But they lack knowledge in business, management, marketing, and most importantly, people’s skill as well as communication skill. Some are just lazy to learn new skills to enhance their earning ability in chess.
There are plenty of people making a very good living in chess in California (both northern and southern Cal), New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Washington State, Maryland, Missouri, and many more states.”

Making A Living In Chess Is Tough – But The Internet Is Making It Easier

At the United States Chess Championship, I entered a world of chess as serious business. For one thing, I was wanded by a security guard on my way up to the competition. (To prevent cheating, cell phones or anything else that can connect to the internet were strictly forbidden in the competition area – I had to leave my smartwatch behind, too.)

Before the round got started, tournament director Tony Rich had an announcement to make to the players – he wanted them to make sure all their paperwork was in order. “If you don’t have a tax form, I can’t pay you.”

It was a reminder that, to paraphrase Bull Durham, that while chess may be an intellectual battlefield “full of magic, truth and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time – it’s also a job.”

A job that can pay off – in the open division of the championship, a total of $194,000 was distributed to the 12 players invited, with $50,000 of it going to the new U.S. champion Wesley So. Not a bad haul for two weeks of playing chess – though getting to that kind of money is far from easy. After all, the payout for 12th place was $4,000. That’s a big gap in pay.

But if you’re at the top of your game, it can be pretty lucrative. “Our top ten or twenty players in the world don’t have to do anything but play chess,” says Rex Sinquefield. He’s the founder of the St. Louis Chess Club, which hosts the U.S. Chess Championship. “They can earn a very good living. I mean, I’m talking a living of $250,000 a year and up.”

Of course, being at the top of the game is easier said than done. “I think chess is a tough career,” said International Master and chess pro Nazí Paikidze. “It is very competitive.”

If getting into making a living playing the game of kings is something you’re interested in, here’s some good news – it’s actually an easier career than it was a few decades ago.

For example, when Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan was playing in the 1970s and 1980s, there wasn’t much of a professional scene in the United States at all. “For me, the challenges of playing chess professionally was that in the United States, there weren’t chess professionals. The real professionals of the chess world were the Soviets.”

“Being an American, it was very hard to have the training resources or the financial resources to become a professional,” he continued. “That was the big challenge.”

Grandmaster Ben Finegold told me a similar story, “So many times I would play in the last round [of a tournament], and if I won I could eat. And if I lost, I had to drive home for three or four hours and figure out how to pay the rent.”

Even today, living on the tournament circuit is pretty competitive. Prize pools like that of the U.S. Chess Championship are definitely on the high end, which means you need to perform consistently to be assured of an income.

“You have to be at the top of your field to make a living,” said Paikidze.

Full article here:

Here was my response:

Comment on Forbes

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