Can you make a living playing chess?

Overall, being a professional chess player requires exceptional skill, dedication, and perseverance. While there are many challenges associated with this profession, the rewards can be significant, including the opportunity to travel, meet new people, and compete at the highest levels of the sport.

While, it is possible to make a living by playing chess. There are a few different ways to do this. One way is to compete in chess tournaments and earn prize money. Another way is to give chess lessons or coaching, either in person or online. Some chess players also make money by writing chess books or articles, or by creating chess-related content for websites or YouTube channels.

Additionally, some chess players make a living as professional chess streamers on platforms like Twitch. However, it’s worth noting that making a living from chess is quite difficult, as the competition for these opportunities is fierce.

One of the biggest challenges to being a professional chess player is the intense competition and pressure to perform at a high level consistently. Chess is a highly competitive sport that requires a combination of strategic thinking, creativity, and mental fortitude. To be a successful professional chess player, one must have exceptional skills in these areas, as well as a deep understanding of the game and its various nuances.

Another significant challenge for professional chess players is the need for constant improvement and adaptation. Chess is a dynamic game that is constantly evolving, and the best players are those who can stay ahead of the curve and adapt to new strategies and playing styles. This requires a significant amount of time and effort spent studying and analyzing games, as well as experimenting with new techniques and approaches.

Additionally, being a professional chess player can be financially challenging. While top players can earn significant prize money and endorsements, the vast majority of professional chess players struggle to make a living solely from playing chess. This can lead to financial instability and uncertainty, as well as a need to balance playing chess with other sources of income and professional pursuits.

Tata Steel Chess 2019 | Patrick Hudepohl

Another challenge that professional chess players face is the mental strain of the game. Chess is a highly cerebral sport that requires players to be in peak mental condition at all times. This can be physically and emotionally draining, and players must take care to manage their stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Professional Chess player who plays in tournaments and make living of it are often called Grandmasters, they are the top tier of chess players and earn money by winning tournaments, give lessons, writing books and more. Additionally, the top players often have sponsorships and endorsements that provide them with additional income.

The ever present branded bottle of water when five time world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen sits down for a match.

For example, some of the top chess players such as Garry Kasparov, Bobby Fischer, Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian are known to have made substantial amounts of money from tournament winnings, sponsorships, and other chess-related activities. While it is hard to determine the exact net worth of these players, it is safe to say that they have been very successful in their profession and have likely earned a significant amount of wealth.

What is required to become a Grandmaster?

Becoming a Grandmaster (GM) in chess is a significant achievement and requires a high level of skill and dedication. Here are some of the main requirements for becoming a Grandmaster:

  1. Elo rating: To become a GM, a player must achieve an Elo rating of at least 2500. The Elo rating system is a method of measuring the strength of chess players, and a rating of 2500 is generally considered to be the threshold for becoming a GM.
  2. Titles: In addition to achieving a certain rating, players must also earn certain titles to become a GM. These titles include the International Master (IM) and the FIDE Master (FM) titles.
  3. Tournaments: To become a GM, players must also participate in and perform well in high-level tournaments. GMs must have played in a certain number of official tournaments, with the condition that they have scored a specific number of GM Norms, which are specific results achieved in tournaments.
  4. Age: Finally, a player must be at least 18 years old to become a GM.

It’s important to note that becoming a GM is a difficult process that requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and practice. Alongside with the mentioned above, one should have a very good understanding of chess openings, middle game, and end game. It’s also important for a player to have a strong mental attitude, a good sense of strategy and the ability to analyze positions quickly and accurately. Also a player should be able to handle pressure and play in long tournament conditions.

How old are the best players?

The age range of the best chess players varies, but generally, players tend to peak in their late 20s or early 30s. However, there have been some notable exceptions, with players like Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen achieving their greatest successes in their early 20s.

In recent years, there has been a trend towards younger players achieving success at the highest levels of chess. For example, in 2013, Magnus Carlsen became the youngest player to ever reach a FIDE rating of 2861, and in 2019, the 16-year-old Iranian player Alireza Firouzja became the youngest player ever to reach the top 25 in the FIDE world rankings.

However, while there are certainly young players making waves in the chess world, it is also worth noting that experience and maturity can be significant advantages in the game. Many of the top players have been playing chess since childhood and have spent years honing their skills and developing their strategic thinking abilities.

Ultimately, age is just one factor in determining success in chess. While younger players may have more energy and enthusiasm, older players can bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the game. Ultimately, the most important factor in achieving success in chess is a combination of natural ability, hard work, and dedication to the game.

Prize money and corporate sponsors

The prize money for chess tournaments varies greatly depending on the tournament’s level, location, and sponsor. However, here are some of the highest prize money tournaments in chess history:

  • The FIDE World Chess Championship: This is the most prestigious event in chess and has a prize fund of over $2 million.
  • The Sinquefield Cup: This annual event is held in Saint Louis, Missouri, and has a prize fund of $325,000.
  • The Tata Steel Chess Tournament: This event, held in the Netherlands, is one of the oldest and most prestigious chess tournaments in the world, with a prize fund of over $200,000.
  • The London Chess Classic: This event, held annually in London, has a prize fund of $300,000.
  • The Grand Chess Tour: This is a series of chess tournaments held around the world, with a total prize fund of over $1 million.
  • The Norway Chess Tournament: This annual event, held in Stavanger, Norway, has a prize fund of over $300,000.
  • The Champions Chess Tour: This is a series of online and offline tournaments held throughout the year, with a total prize fund of over $1 million.

These are just a few examples of some of the highest prize money tournaments in chess history. However, it’s worth noting that prize money for chess tournaments can vary greatly, and many tournaments have lower prize funds but are still important events for the chess community.

Corporate sponsors play an important role in supporting chess, from organizing tournaments and events to providing financial support for players and organizations. Some of the major corporate sponsors in the world of chess include Tata Steel, Zurich Insurance Group, and GRENKE. Tata Steel, a multinational steel-making company, sponsors the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, one of the most prestigious chess events in the world.

The Zurich Insurance Group sponsors the Zurich Chess Challenge, an annual invitational tournament that brings together some of the best chess players in the world. GRENKE, a leasing and financing company, sponsors the GRENKE Chess Classic, an annual tournament held in Germany.

Another important sponsor is, an online platform for playing chess, which sponsors various tournaments, including the Speed Chess Championship. Additionally, the Saint Louis Chess Club, a non-profit organization, sponsors various chess tournaments and events, including the Sinquefield Cup, one of the highest-rated chess tournaments in the world.

These corporate sponsors provide significant financial and logistical support for the chess community, allowing players and organizers to continue to push the boundaries of the game and expand its reach around the world.

Are there many chess fans?

Yes, there are many chess super-fans around the world who are passionate about the game and follow its top players and events closely. Some of these super-fans are well-known personalities in their own right, while others are everyday people who simply love the game of chess.

One well-known chess super-fan is Magnus Carlsen’s father, Henrik Carlsen. Henrik is often seen at his son’s tournaments and has been a driving force in Magnus’s chess career since he was a child.

Another notable chess super-fan is rapper and actor, Ice-T, who has been known to tweet about chess and follow the game closely.

Chess grandmaster, Nigel Short, is also known for being a chess super-fan, having followed the game since childhood and become one of the world’s top players.

Additionally, there are many online communities of chess super-fans who discuss the game, follow top players, and analyze games in great detail. These fans contribute to the global chess community by sharing their knowledge, enthusiasm, and love for the game.

There are also, like in golf, celebrity chess tournaments are events where famous individuals, who may or may not be experienced chess players, compete against each other in a game of chess. These tournaments are often held for charity or as part of a larger event, and can be a fun way to raise awareness and interest in the game of chess.

Some notable celebrity chess tournaments include:

  • The Kasparov Chess Foundation All-Stars Tournament: This tournament features celebrities and athletes, including NBA stars and actors, playing in a blitz chess tournament alongside some of the world’s best players.
  • The St. Louis Rapid and Blitz Chess tournament: This annual tournament, organized by the Saint Louis Chess Club, features a mix of top chess players and celebrity guests, including former NFL players and musicians.
  • The Chessable Masters Celebrity Charity Pro-Am: This online tournament featured well-known chess streamers and content creators, as well as celebrity guests, competing to raise money for charity.
  • The Hollywood Stars Chess Benefit: This charity event, held in Hollywood, featured celebrities such as Larry David, Seth Green, and Jason Alexander playing against each other in a series of rapid chess games.
  • The Chess for Peace Tournament: This event, held in New York City, brought together a mix of celebrities and politicians from around the world to play in a friendly chess tournament for peace and unity.

These are just a few examples of celebrity chess tournaments, and there are many other events that feature well-known personalities playing chess. These tournaments can be a great way to showcase the game of chess to a wider audience and bring attention to the many benefits and challenges of playing the game.