State of Chess: How Much Money Is in the Sport?

In 2018, 32 major international tournaments were held with a combined prize fund of €4,865,066. There were 246 tournament days in total. Magnus Carlsen, world’s number 1, was the top earner in 2018, his accumulative winnings totaled €745,211. Fabiano Caruana was in close second place with €719,476. Majority of the winnings came from the 2018 World Championship Match. Third top earner was Azeri player Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and his winnings were only one third of Fabiano’s — €225,024.

World Chess compiled annual statistics on the financial state of chess. It gives a bird-eye view on the sport, its top players and financial considerations. This data will be converted into a chess index and from now on will be published annually.

The data did not account for appearance fees and sponsorship revenue as players do not disclose it on regular basis. Read about the report’s methodology below and contact us if you would like to propose corrections or find mistakes. 


Total Prize Fund for 2018: Total prize money from all major chess events in 2018


Biggest Prize Fund in 2018: World Chess Championship Match

246 days

Total number of top-level tournaments day in 2018

Magnus Carlsen was the top male  earner in chess 2018. He collected at least €745,211 in prizes.

This amount does not include appearance fees and special arrangements with organizers who  sometimes pay guaranteed prizes to top-rated players for coming to their events.

Wenjun Ju, the current women’s world champion, was the highest female earner in chess with €194,238 in prizes.

How Much Money Did Top Chess Players Earned in Prizes? (Hint: Not Much, Actually) 

Unless you are a World Champion or a player who succeeded in winning a Candidates Tournament (a large cash prize on its own and also a guaranteed place in  a Championship Match), you are unlikely to earn more than €200,000 per year.  This might sound like a lot, but top chess players must also invest to remain in the upper echelon: coaches, training camps, seconds, physical therapists, fitness instructors, and more. Professional chess is a money race as much as a chess talent contest. 

PlayerWinnings in 2018 (Euro)
Magnus Carlsen745,211
Fabiano Caruana719,476
Hikaru Nakamura229,609
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov225,024
Sergey Karjakin219,388
Wenjun Ju194,200
Levon Aronian159,411
Wesley So130,244
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave95,728
Viswanathan Anand91,123
Alexander Grischuk88,555
Zhongyi Tan88,000
Ding Liren75,000
Kateryna Lagno67,900
Daniil Dubov67.890
Vladimir Kramnik56,330
Jan-Krzysztof Duda51,918
Sarasadat Khademalsharieh47,900
Vladislav Artemiev44,780
Samuel Shankland43,600
Tingjie Lei34,734
Aleksandra Goryachkina33,281
Ian Nepomniachtchi31,000
Peter Svidler26,908
Anish Giri24,806
Maxim Matlakov23,038
Valentina Gunina21,675
Anna Muzychuk19,693
Mariya Muzychuk19,059
Anton Korobov18,671
Alexandra Kosteniuk17,440
Zhansaya Abdumalik17,295
Nikita Vitiugov16,564
Radoslaw Wojtaszek15,702
Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova12,000
Anna Ushenina11,481
Antoaneta Stefanova10,398
Richard Rapport9,784
Dmitry Jakovenko9,592
Quang Liem Le9,574
Michael Adams9,320
Dronavalli Harika8,595
Yangyi Yu8,427
Jolanta Zawadzka8,313
Inna Gaponenko8,000
Vladimir Fedoseev7,244
Natalija Pogonina6,976
Alisa Galliamova6,976
Dinara Saduakassova6,415

Average Prize in 2018 for a top-50 player (both men and women) was €29,323

How Big Are Prizes in Major Events? 

In 2018, FIDE was the largest organizer, having organized (in cooperation with World Chess, the operator of this website, or by itself) the World Chess Championship Match, The Candidates, Rapid and Blitz, and Women’s World Championship.

European Chess Union is also one of the biggest organizers: it organized European Rapid and Blitz Championship, Club Cup, Individual Chess Championships for Men and Women and more top events. Other major organizers — Grand Chess Tour and Tata Steel.

EventPrize Fund (Euro)Number of players
Championship match 20181,000,0002
Open Rapid Championship300,000204
Open Blitz Championship300,000204
Women’s Championship Match200,0002
Chess Olympiad 2018328
Women’s Championship393,00064
European Blitz Championship12,050311
European Rapid Championship21.950395
European Club Cup22,00061
European Club Cup for Women13,00022
European Individual100,000312
European Women’s Rapid 14,50078
European Women’s Blitz 6,00077
European Individual Women’s 65,00072
Altibox Norway Chess Blitz250,00010
Altibox Norway Chess121,00010
Tata Steel Chess Tournament8,60011
Tata Steel Challengers6,50011
Gibraltar Open / Men222,000276
Gibraltar Open / Women55,000
Aeroflot Open 2018140,00092
The Reykjavik Open20,000237
Tal Rapid Memorial65,00010
Tal Blitz Memorial65,00014
Shamkir Chess 2018100,00010
Biel International Chess Festival32,6006
London Chess Classic260,0004
Sinquefield Cup260,00010
Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz130,20510
Paris GCT130,20510
Your Next Move130,20510
US Championships169,16812
Russian Championship55,000

World Chess Championship had the biggest cash prize in 2018. Combined with the Candidates Tournament and the Grand Prix Series it accounted for almost half of the total prizes that year.

Rapid and Blitz Championship, Altibox Norway Chess, Grand Chess Tour and Gibraltar offered substantial prize funds.

How did we make calculations?

We took all major tournaments organized by FIDE and top organizers where at least one of the top 50 players took part. We relied on prize fund data reported by the tournaments and contained in their regulations or reliable media reports. We took only official prize fund information and did not include appearance fees, which sometimes are paid to players in addition to prizes, so the actual players’ income from tournaments is likely to be bigger, especially for the top 10-players. We might have unintentionally failed to include some of the tournaments or did not provide a correct prize fund information. Kindly contact the report authors at office@worldchess.com and we’ll review and adjust the data.

In 2019, the next edition of the ‘State of Chess’ will feature ‘Chess Index’ which will use 2018 as a base year. It will include indicators such as Combined Prize Fund, Number of Tournament Days, Average Earnings per Chess Player, Number of Tournaments and other indicators, which will give a useful overall indicator on the state of chess. All data sets will be open to media.

Data compiled by Ksenia Tutyushkina and Anastasia Ershova (World Chess). 

Leave a Reply