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Chess Cash Kings-2013: the Highest-Earning Chess Players in the World

User Rating: / 161
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 05 May 2014

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) and Viswanathan Anand (India) at the World Chess Championship Match-2013

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The idea of creating a live rating list of the prize money winnings of top GMs was suggested some years ago by Editor Peter Zhdanov. Making these financial details publicly available, he suggested, was a crucial step towards transforming chess into a mainstream sport and making it more popular. The first list was published in 2012, the second has just been compiled.

Annual money rankings are available for many reputable sports. For example, there are lists by Forbes:

  • The World's Highest-Paid Tennis Players Novak Djokovic has steamrolled the competition on the ATP Tour in 2011. He started the year with a 43-match winning streak and has racked up 57 wins against just two losses en route to his nine tournament titles this year. His year-to-date prize money is more than the combined total of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

  • Baseball's Highest-Paid Players 2014 Five years ago, four players made at least $20 million in salary. This season 22 players from 11 different clubs will earn at least $20 million. The highest-paid player in terms of cash received from salary and endorsements is Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies. Howard is in the third year of a five-year, $125 million contract extension he signed in 2010.

  • The NFL's Highest-Paid Players 2013 Drew Brees leads the way as the NFLs top earner between June 2012 and June 2013 with $51 million. Brees signed a five-year, $100 million contract extension last summer with the New Orleans Saints that included a $37 million signing bonus and a $3 million salary for the 2012 season.

  • The NHL's Highest-Paid players 2013 Sidney Crosby earns $12 million in salary this season from the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is the not the biggest salary in the game, but Sid the Kid remains the NHLs most marketable player resulting in endorsement and memorabilia income of $4.5 million. His total earnings, including off-ice income, of $16.5 million makes Crosby the NHLs highest-paid player.

  • The World's Best-Paid Soccer Players David Beckham made $44 million as a product pitchman in 2012, the best year in his career in terms of commercial endorsements. Lionel Messi score 91 goals in all competitions last year, and Barcelona will pay the Argentine $21.2 million a year to make him the highest on-the-pitch earner.

  • Nascar's Highest-Paid Drivers 2014 Nascar driver salaries have been shaved in recent years with fewer dollars available as sponsors cut back on their financial commitments to teams. Drivers that once made $4-6 million in salary are getting re-signed to deals for $3 million in some cases. Licensing and endorsement money has also dried up for all but the very elite drivers. Endorsement deals that once paid $500,000 a clip are now $250,000 and many have disappeared completely.

There is even an
all-time poker money list (Antoio Esfandairi leads with US $26 million). Unfortunately, this is not the case with chess, where financial data is scarce, and secretly handing out fees in envelopes is still a widespread practice.

In September 2010
a column by Natalia Pogonina was dedicated to the possible sources of income of chess players and estimates of their earnings. The idea of creating a live rating list of prize money winnings was suggested by Peter Zhdanov in an article published by ChessBase in January 2012. The key message of the latter publication was that making the financial details publicly available is a crucial step towards transforming chess into a mainstream sport and making the game more popular. In February 2013 the Chess Cash Kings 2012 list was published. This is the second issue of the list, featuring data for the year 2013.


When the "Cash Kings 2012" article was published, one of the popular criticisms provoked by it was that the list deals only with prize winnings and thus does not cover all the sources of income that top players have. However, the point of this rating is to determine how much money one can earn by playing chess professionally, not how much money a chess-playing person can make. This is a key difference. Should we adopt the latter approach, the rating list would probably be full of ex-chess players who run a successful business or, best case scenario, of oligarchs who play chess recreationally for high stakes.

Just like last year, there is a large gap between the two players who have participated in the World Chess Championship match (Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand), and everyone else.

The total estimated prize winnings of the worlds top-ten chess players has increased from $5,360,000 in 2012 to $7,510,000 in 2013. Obviously, this is a positive sign for chess.

The list below has been compiled using public information sources, namely, the official websites of the tournaments and regulations of the events. Another important source of information is personal conversations with players and organizers. The figures do not include endorsement contracts (however, we tried to mention the deals to provide some PR for the companies which support chess) and non-tournament chess earnings (book royalties, simultaneous exhibitions, coaching, scholarships, unofficial games, etc.). Hence, in some cases the real earnings of the players are considerably higher.

One more confusing factor is taxes: some of the tournament organizers list the amounts after tax deduction, while others provide pre-tax figures. Additionally, a lot depends on the tax policies of different countries.

Most top tournaments conceal the amount of the prize money and the appearance fees. They prefer to negotiate conditions personally with each player, and not inform the public about the details, thus saving funds and avoiding paying taxes. While common sense tells us that the chess community should be evolving towards financial transparency and legal payments, it is clear that the organizers and many of the players themselves will be reluctant to cooperate.

Unfortunately, the situation has not improved much since last year. For example, two of the most prestigious and luxurious events this year had an official total prize fund of 100,000 each, with 1,500 for the last place. Clearly, these figures look as odd and misleading as can be. Of course, there are exceptions, but the average amount of the first prize at a super tournament is $50,000-$100,000. The appearance fees for players rated 2700+ are usually in the $10,000-$20,000 range. The very top stars can negotiate even better rates.

To make the list more representative and show where the top GMs play, we have made an attempt to mention all the official events, including those for which the financial details were not available.

Chess Cash Kings 2013

The following list is sorted by estimates of prize money won.

#1. Magnus Carlsen, Norway, 23

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2861 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2872 (+11 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $2,200,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament: 1st, unknown
  • Candidates Tournament: 1st, $158,500
  • Norway Chess: 2nd in classical chess, 2nd in blitz, unknown (the prize fund of the tournament was estimated to be about 336,000 )
  • Tal Memorial: 2nd, $27,500, 5th in blitz
  • Sinquefield Cup: 1st, $70,000
  • FIDE World Chess Championship Match: winner, $1,650,000
  • Endorsements: Simonsen Vogt Wiig, Arctic Securities, Nordic Semiconductor, Parallels, VG, G-Star Raw.

#2. Viswanathan Anand, India, 44

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2772 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2773 (+1 point)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $1,500,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament: 3rd, unknown
  • Grenke Chess Classic: 1st, unknown
  • Zurich Chess Challenge: 2nd, unknown
  • Alekhine Memorial: 3rd, $20,500
  • Norway Chess: 6th in classical chess, 3rd in blitz, unknown
  • Tal Memorial: 9th, $3,500, 2nd in blitz
  • FIDE World Chess Championship Match: runner-up, $1,100,000
  • London Chess Classic: ¼-final, $8,500
  • Endorsements: NIIT, TVH

#3. Fabiano Caruana, Italy, 21

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2781 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2782 (+1 point)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $640,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament: 12th, unknown
  • Grenke Chess Classic: 2nd, unknown
  • Zurich Chess Challenge: 1st, unknown
  • Russian Team Chess Championship: 8th (team), unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Zug: 4th, $26,000
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Thessaloniki: 2nd, $29,000
  • Tal Memorial: 3rd, $20,500, 10th in blitz
  • Dortmund: 7th, unknown
  • World Cup: ¼-finalist, $35,000
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Paris: 1st, $32,500
  • Kings Tournament: 1st, unknown
  • European Club Cup: 3rd (team), unknown
  • European Team Chess Championship, 12th (team), unknown
  • London Chess Classic: ¼-final, $8,500
  • FIDE Grand Prix 2012/2013: 3rd, $82,500

#4. Vladimir Kramnik, Russia, 38

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2810 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2787 (-23 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $600,000

  • Zurich Chess Challenge: 3rd, unknown
  • Candidates Tournament: 2nd, $147,500
  • Alekhine Memorial: 7th, $5,500
  • Tal Memorial: 10th, $2,000, 3rd in blitz
  • Dortmund: 2nd, unknown
  • Geneva Chess Masters: finalist, unknown
  • World Cup: winner, $120,000
  • Russian Superfinal: 4th, $15,000
  • World Team Chess Championship: team gold, $30,000
  • London Chess Classic: ½ -final, $17,000

#5. Levon Aronian, Armenia, 31

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2802 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2812(+10 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $500,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament: 2nd, unknown
  • Candidates Tournament: 4th, $92,000
  • Alekhine Memorial: 1st, $41,000
  • Norway Chess: 5th in classical chess, 9th in blitz, unknown
  • World Cup: 3rd round, $16,000
  • Sinquefield Cup: 3rd, $30,000
  • Bilbao Masters Final: 1st, unknown
  • European Team Chess Championship: 4th (team), 3rd (board), unknown
  • Sport Accord World Mind Games: 11th in blitz, $1,000; 11th in Basque, $1,000; 14th in rapid, $1,000
  • World Team Chess Championship: 5th (team), 1st (board), unknown

#6. Sergey Karjakin, Russia, 24

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2780 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2759 (-21 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $450,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament: 4th, unknown
  • Aeroflot: 1st (rapid), $16,000; 5th (blitz), $3,500
  • Russian Team Chess Championship: 2nd (team), unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Zug: 7th, $16,500
  • Norway Chess: 1st in classical chess, 1st in blitz, unknown
  • Tal Memorial: 7th, $5,500, 8th in blitz
  • Sberbank Open: 1st, unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Bejing: 5th, $17,500
  • World Cup: 4th round, $25,000
  • Moscow Championship: 1st (blitz), unknown, total prize fund appr. $12,000
  • World Team Chess Championship: 1st (team), $30,000
  • Sport Accord World Mind Games: 1st in blitz, $18,000; 1st in Basque, $18,000; 8th in rapid, $4,000
  • FIDE Grand Prix 2012/2013: 9th, $20,500
  • Endorsements: Alpari

#7. Hikaru Nakamura, USA, 26

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2769 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2789 (+20 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $440,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament: 6th, unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Zug: 2nd, $31,000
  • Norway Chess: 3rd in classical chess, 4th in blitz, unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Thessaloniki: 7th, $16,500
  • Tal Memorial: 6th, $8,250, 1st in blitz
  • Houston Open: 3rd, unknown (total prize fund of the event - $10,000)
  • Geneva Masters: ½-finalist, unknown
  • World Cup: 4th round, $25,000
  • Sinquefield Cup: 3rd, $30,000
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Paris: 3rd, $26,000
  • European Club Cup: 10th (team), unknown
  • World Team Chess Championship: 4th (team), unknown
  • London Chess Classic: winner, $69,000
  • FIDE Grand Prix 2012/2013: 6th, $41,500
  • Endorsements: Silence Therapeutics

#8. Boris Gelfand, Israel, 45

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2740 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2777 (+33 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $415,000

  • Zurich Chess Challenge: 4th, unknown
  • Candidates Tournament: 5th, $66,000
  • Alekhine Memorial: 2nd, $27,500
  • Tal Memorial: 1st, $41,500, 4th in blitz
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Bejing: 9th, $12,500
  • World Cup: 4th round, $25,000
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Paris: 2nd, $32,500
  • London Chess Classic: finalist, $34,500
  • FIDE Grand Prix 2012/2013: 4th, $69,000

#9. Veselin Topalov, Bulgaria, 39

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2771 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2785 (+14 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $390,000

  • Torneo Blitz con Topalov: finished out of prizes; appearance fee (?), unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Zug: 1st, $34,500
  • Norway Chess: 8th in classical chess, 10th in blitz, unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Thessaloniki: 8th, $14,500
  • Sberbank Open: 2nd, unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Bejing: 3rd, $26,000
  • Topalov Laznicka match: winner, unknown
  • European Club Cup: bronze (team)
  • European Team Chess Championship: 25th (team)
  • European Individual Cup (Danube): 1st (rapid), $1,500
  • FIDE Grand Prix 2012/2013: winner, $138,000

#10. Peter Svidler, Russia, 37

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2747 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2758 (+11 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $375,000

  • Candidates Tournament: 3rd, $125,500
  • Aeroflot: 5th-8th (rapid), $3,500; 2nd (blitz), $7,000
  • Russian Team Chess Championship: 1st (team), unknown
  • Alekhine Memorial: 10th, $2,000
  • Norway Chess: 4th in classical chess, 5th in blitz, unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Thessaloniki: 9th, $14,500
  • World Cup: ¼-finalist, $35,000
  • Russian Superfinal: 1st, $34,000
  • European Club Cup: 5th (team), unknown
  • European Team Chess Championship: 3rd (team), $6,000
  • Bundesliga: 1.5/2, unknown
  • London Chess Classic: ¼-finalist, $8,500

As a bonus we add to our top-ten list an estimate of the prize winnings of the best-earning female chess player in the world.

Hou Yifan, China, 20

FIDE rating in January 2013: 2603 FIDE rating in January 2014: 2629 (+26 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $265,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament: 11th, unknown
  • FIDE Womens Grand Prix in Geneva: 8th, $5,500
  • China Individual Tournament (Division A): 4th, unknown
  • CEZ Trophy Match vs. Navara: winner
  • 4th Incheon Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games Women Individual: 1st in classical chess, 7/7 in rapid, 4/5 in blitz, unknown
  • World Cup: 1st round, $6,000
  • Womens World Chess Championship: winner, $165,500
  • European Club Cup: team gold, board gold, unknown
  • 3rd Chinese Chess Master Rapid Championship (Men): 8th, unknown
  • Sport Accord World Mind Games: 1st in blitz, $10,000; 2nd in Basque, $9,000; 2nd in rapid, $9,000


Information about the prizes was obtained from open sources. All the money fees were converted to US dollars using the appropriate exchange rates. In the cases where the data was lacking, estimates were made by contacting a few 2700+ players and interviewing them. While the abovementioned list is supposed to convey a reasonably accurate picture of the prize winnings of the top players, it is by no means a precise financial report. We would appreciate
feedback from players, their managers and representatives of the companies endorsed by them. Please let us know if you find any inaccuracies and/or would like to reveal more information about the (non)-featured players prize winnings and the endorsement deals.

About the author

Peter Zhdanov
is an IT project manager, expert and author of two books on parliamentary debate, BSc in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. He also studied for an MA in Economics and a PhD in Sociology, but eventually decided to pursue a career in the chess industry.

Chess-wise he is the founder and editor-in-chief at, manager of grandmaster Natalia Pogonina and CEO at Chess Evolution. Peter is a Russian candidate master and an avid fan of the game who wishes he could participate in tournaments more often.

The images of the players are (C)

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Comments (4)
1. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 12:41 05 2014 .
Just wanted to comment that you're doing a wonderful, amazing job -- keep it up! And I'm doing a pretty good job as well in my own way, I have to say -- we are a good team.
2. Written by Peter on 13:15 05 2014 .
Thank you, Peter! I am very glad to hear from you. Good luck in all your ventures!
3. Written by 0_x on 07:18 31 2014 .
The Anonymous Cheerleader(s)
D00d, Im a B.E in IT & currently a B.A (eco) student too! 
And Humanities&Social Science is also 1 of my current core subjects, which i always hate. 
I havent quit though; i 'strictly' cannot quit. Its forbidden, lol. 
what? Dont look at mee like that. :p 
Im broke. Im just a busy student who doesnt "hate" chess; not a big boss or a manager. Im not in control. :/ 
I did donated a few side funds in the local chess community. 
Mom's busy, always. 
&dad i s lately obsessed with supporting young budding soccer players & kids. He said, "I always wanted to play soccer with my pen&paper..". Cant change the passion of a grown man. 
Keep it up! 
&Good luck for the future.
4. Written by 0_x on 15:19 01 2014 .
pardon my blunders
Grrroooaaan! :p 
Its *did donate* 
I have to correct the grammatical blunders b4 the spell police see it^. LoL. 
I was talking about donation, sponsorship, coaching, planning, strategy & tactics with pen&paper in Soccer! 
Not Match-fixing, Illegal betting & Gambling. 

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