In today’s professional sports industry, prize money has become essential to any major tournament like chess. It motivates players to strive for greatness and draws in viewers and sponsors.
The cash prize for the Chess World Championship has undergone significant changes over the years. From a modest $986.64 prize fund in 1886, the prize had increased to over $2 million in 2023.
In this article, we’ll analyze the history of the Chess World Championship prize money and its present value.
History of Chess World Championship Prize Money
Can you believe that the prize money for the Chess World Championship has been around since the 19th century? Back then, players didn’t care much about the prize money and only competed for the glory of becoming the world champion.
But as chess became more popular, so did the cash prize. Remember the 1972 “Match of the Century” between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky? The prize fund was only $250,000. This amount is small compared to today’s standards.
Here’s a closer look at how the prize money for the Chess World Championship has evolved over the years:
1886, Wilhelm Steinitz £800 ($986.64)
The first-ever World Chess Championship took place in 1886. It was a match between Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort.
These two legendary players were considered the best in the world at the time. In the end, Steinitz won the match and became the first-ever world champion, and he received £800.
1921, Jose Capablanca ($25,000)
In January 1920, a chess title match was agreed upon between Emmanuel Lasker and Jose Capablanca, scheduled in 1921.
But, in June of the same year, Lasker resigned unexpectedly and declared Capablanca the new world champion.
Capablanca didn’t want to become the champion this way. So, he convinced Lasker to play a match, even though Lasker insisted on being regarded as the challenger.
The match was held in Havana from March 15 to April 27, 1921, and Capablanca emerged as the winner.
However, the prize money of $25,000 was split unequally, with Capablanca receiving $12,000 and Lasker receiving $13,000.
1935, Max Euwe ($10,000)
Alexander Alekhine chose Max Euwe of the Netherlands as his next opponent for the title defense. Many thought it was a safe choice.
However, Alekhine’s overconfidence and underestimation of Euwe’s skills proved to be his undoing.
By 1935, Euwe had become a much stronger player than anyone anticipated. The match was the best of 30 games, and 6 wins were required to win the title.
After 30 hard-fought games from October 3 to December 16, 1935, Euwe emerged as the winner. His victory made him the 5th World Chess Champion, with a stake of $10,000.
1966, Tigran Petrosian ($2,000)
The highly anticipated Chess World Championship match took place between Tigran Petrosian and Boris Spassky in 1966.
Spassky was a big favorite, having convincingly defeated Keres, Geller, and Mikhail Tal in previous matches.
He was also known for playing excellent chess in a universal style. However, Petrosian proved to be a worthy opponent and failed to be dethroned by Spassky that year.
In fact, Spassky praised Petrosian’s impressive tactics, describing him as a “stupendous tactician.” Despite his victory, Petrosian received only a $2,000 bonus for winning the match.
1972, Bobby Fischer ($250,000)
In 1972, the “Match of the Century” saw Bobby Fischer of the U.S. challenge Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union for the World Chess Championship. After a hard-earned battle, Fischer was declared the winner and took home $156,250.
As part of his demands, Fischer received 30% of the match’s television rights and gate, which were granted to him.
1990, Garry Kasparov $3 Million
Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov’s 1990 World Chess Championship match was held from October 8 to December 30. The tournament began in New York and concluded in Lyons, France.
The prize fund was a whopping $3 million, with the winner taking 5/8 of it. If the match ended in a tie, the prize money would be divided equally, and Kasparov would retain the title.
Kasparov won the game with a score of 4 -3 =17 and took home a staggering $1.875 million.
2000, Vladimir Kramnik $2 Million
Despite Garry Kasparov’s continued dominance in chess tournaments, his fans were unhappy with FIDE’s new system for selecting their champion. It consisted of a single tournament of short knockout matches.
Although Kasparov had not played a match in five years, he felt it was necessary to defend his title’s credibility. Garry took on a new challenger, Vladimir Kramnik.
However, Kramnik surprised both Kasparov and the world by winning the match with a score of +2 -0 =13, earning $1.33 million.
2013, Magnus Carlsen $2.5 Million
Magnus Carlsen, a Norwegian chess player who has been a top player since 2010, had a significant win in 2013.
He competed against Viswanathan Anand, the titleholder since 2007, in a best-of-12 series in Anand’s hometown of Chennai.
What’s impressive is that Carlsen didn’t lose a single game. So, Carlsen secured the title along with a whopping $1.5 million prize by going +3 -0 =7.
All About 2023 World Chess Championship
The 2023 world chess championship will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, and the highly anticipated event is set to start on April 9th. It could last until the beginning of May.
A points system will determine the outcome of the match. The player who reaches 7.5 points first becomes the next world champion.
To the delight of chess fans worldwide, the event will be broadcasted on Chess.com and Twitch with live commentary from other chess masters.
In terms of prize money, FIDE has set a prize pool of $2.17 million. This cash prize is net of any applicable local taxes.
The Bottom Line
Over the years, the prize money for the Chess World Championship has changed significantly.
Players strive to defend their title, and regardless of winning or losing, they can take home a substantial amount.
Based on the current trend, it is safe to say that the prize money will continue to grow depending on the circumstances.