Chess is a gentleman’s game that has been around for centuries. It was mainly played among nobles and attained popularity in Western Europe in the 15th century.
Chess is a game that is played both competitively and can be played as a hobby. If you are interested in playing chess competitively, then you may be curious as to how much money you can make from the game.
In this aticle, we will discuss the truth about making money in chess and whether or not it is a viable option to make a living from. Here is what you should know…
Can You Make Money Playing Chess?
Yes, you can make money playing chess on several different online chess websites or apps. You can win prize money from sites like chess.com, lichess, and chess 24 by participating in tournaments and finishing in the top spots, (usually 1st, 2nd or 3rd positions).
However, most of these money tournaments are for titled players. You cannot enter them without having a GM, IM, FM, CM or NM title to your name. Moreover, the prize fund is not enough to make a living from. We are talking a prize pool of USD $1,000 shared between 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.
Not to mention, the level of competition is very stiff. You have to be performing at the top of your game to finish at the top of these tournaments as you’ll be competing against grandmasters from all over the world.
You also have to be a very good blitz player as most of these tournaments feature fast time controls below 3 minutes. Nevertheless, playing chess tournaments online is still a viable option.
How Much Money Can You Make Playing Over The Board Chess
Making money playing chess over the board is a lot easier than playing chess online. The barrier to enter OTB tournaments is almost zero. You just need to pay a small fee to register in the tournament.
The only place you are going to make money playing chess is in a real live OTB tournament. You can walk away with a $1,000 or more from winning one of your local OTB tournaments or club matches.
International tournaments on the other hand have a larger prize fund for their winners compared to local tournaments. The Sinquefield Cup which is one of the most prestiguous tournaments held each year had a prize pool of $350,000 in 2022.
The winner, Alireza Firouzja, walked away with $100,000 while the rest of prize pool was shared among the other 9 contestants. Nevertheless, you have to be invited to play at the Sinquefield cup, so it is not a tournament for everyone.
The Truth About Making Money In Chess
The emphasis to getting money into chess was first started by Bobby Fischer. It was ironic, because he didn’t personally cared about money at all. He wanted to get money in chess because he thought it added prestigue to the game. And, he was right!
The truth is, most chess players do not make a lot of money playing chess compared to sports like football, golf, tennis etc. Many of them have to turn to alternative ways of making an income which includes: teaching chess, streaming online, writing books, or selling courses just to name a few.
The vast majority of players do not make much money from the game of chess, unlike the top 20 players in the world. The top 20 players in the world earn $250,000 or more each year just by playing chess. This excludes sponsorship, deals or any revenue stream outside of playing chess.
The compensation from playing chess is not enough even for players who are considered decent. Therefore, players have to be performing at their highest level to make an actual living from the game.
How To Make Money In Chess: 3 Alternative Revenue Streams
1. Become A Chess Coach
Teaching chess earns more than playing chess. Take it from a chess coach myself. The average annual pay for a Chess Coach in the United States is $59,862 a year.
A lot of schools and colleges will pay you to teach chess to students as a part of their school curriculum. In order to get hired, you have to meet certain qualifications which usually includes having a master title (FM, NM, IM, GM). You also have to be good with children and have some kind of teaching experience.
Apart from getting hired as a chess coach, you can charge individuals $20-30 per hour to teach chess. This is the minimum to be trained by a qualified trainer. Of course, you need to have great skills to teach!
2. Become A Chess Streamer
With platforms like Twitch and Youtube, it’s becoming easier for chess players to start making money from the game of chess. All you need is a camera and a stable internet connection to start streaming. The best thing is that you don’t have to be an expert at chess to make money streaming. You can stream your games while playing online tournaments, have fun talks about chess, review other people’s games, or chat about anything you like that resonates with your audience.
The way you make money on streaming platforms like twitch is through ad revenues. You can get paid $3.50 or more for every 1,000 ad viewers.
The more viewers you have watching is the more money that stacks up. Twitch users also make money from affiliate sales, and sponsorships on their channel. Some of the most popular chess streamers are GM Hikaru Nakamura and the Botez Sisters. It’s reported that Hikaru Nakamura makes $30k per month from twitch
3. Sell Chess Merchandise
If you are an influencer or popular chess streamer, you can sell chess merchandise like mugs, shirts, hats and bags with your logo on them. Your followers would most likely be willing to buy your merchandise no matter how small a number it is. In fact, you don’t even need a following to sell chess marchandise. With the right marketing strategy, you can certainly earn enough sales.
These are the 3 best alternatives ways in which you can make money from chess without actually playing competitively. Other notable ways to make money from chess includes: chess hustling, writing books and articles, or selling chess courses.
The vast majority of chess players are not compensated enough to make a living playing chess. You will have to turn to other streams of income if you want to make money from the game. This includes: chess streaming, becoming a coach, selling courses and merchandise, or writing books and columns.