Feedback on "Chess Cash Kings 2012" by Peter Zhdanov
Mark Warriner, Richmond, Virginia USA
Peter Zhdanov's illuminating article "Who
are the Chess Cash Kings of 2012?" leads the way to communicating chess
success to the public in the future. It will be critical that organizers make
public prize funds awarded, and that some organization provide a service similar
to that of 2700chess.com, i.e. a "live
earnings list". It should be FIDE providing both live ratings and earnings,
but as long as it is somehow provided, the game of chess will benefit, and so
it's professionals and fans. Thanks to Chessbase and Peter for this groundbreaking
Adam Murray, Ottawa
There are a number of flaws with the line of reasoning that understanding who
is "grabbing cash" is somehow equal to professional status. We can
start with the a claim: if number 10 is earning $150k, then chess will likely
never reach the level of profession. The premise is that prize money is highly
limited source of income, and we know this is both unstable/inconsistent and
a highly competitive outcome. Which makes chess unstable, more like an art.
And I suppose people have been arguing that art is a profession for a long while,
too. If it were like any art, then a sole look at cash puts it mostly in the
category of celebrity or dramatic arts. Many are called, few are chosen. Another
key flaw in the reasoning is that by exploring only revenue/cash, this article
fails to realize the cost structures required to maintain the level of output
(e.g. at the WCCh level, this would be substantial).
I could go on. And on. So let's conclude: while prize money is the primary
incentive in modern chess, I contend this article presses in the wrong direction
in the push toward professionalism. The whole business model is flawed and requires
a pivot. Re-examine the hypotheses for sustainable sufficiency using a tool
like Business Model Generation, and look at alternatives that channel the raw
energy (and capital) of fans to filter to players using alternatives means than
prize money. THEN, you will be on your way towards a real profession.
Unnamed GM on Skype
Fred, I need to give you crap about that Zhdanov guy's article...
Unnamed Super-GM by email
Zdhanov fails to use info that has already been reported by reliable
sources. Of course, the article could not possibly be even close to correct
since there is so much it does not include: league play, tournament appearance
fees, exhibition events (Carlsen and Polgar in Mexico as a random example),
chess speaking events, simuls, and so many more. This does not touch on outside
sponsorship, whether corporate deals, or in cases like Aronian with major government
support. The list's numbers have no meaning.
Aidan Monaghan, Las Vegas, NV USA
I am honestly surprised that today's top players earn the money that
they currently do. Unfortunately, it seems that chess organizers just don't
know how to best promote the game to the public and sponsors. At present, the
game's organizers have little to offer sponsors or the viewing public as far
as an entertaining, revenue generating product. The standard hours-long classical
game format has little entertainment value for the general public. Computerized
game replays and mind-numbing post-game analysis is the most one can look forward
Other successful sports share two common factors: entertainment value within
a viewer-friendly, time efficient visual format. With today's inexpensive video
production technology and Internet pay-per view potential, coupled with capable
commentary, the entertaining blitz chess format holds the most promise for expanding
the game's popularity with the public and sponsors and raising player prize
money. If major poker events starring motionless players can enjoy network TV
coverage, there is no reason why action filled major blitz chess competitions
featuring today's top players can't do the same. Even the latest world championship
match was plagued by repeated and uneventful draws and there being simply nothing
to watch except a video screen containing computer generated board moves. With
superior video production techniques, the blitz format will provide the public
and sponsors with entertaining viewing and more decisive results. With a reported
half-billion players worldwide, organized chess has only acheieved a fraction
of its global revenue generating potential. Televised blitz competitions are
key to this potential. See the following decent example of entertaining broadcast
quality blitz chess coverage:
Ivanchuk missed mate in one
Maybe our readers would like to go to the front page and look at the thumbnail
to this article before watching this highly entertaining video. Can you spot
the mate in a 150x100 pixel image?
The Chess Cash Kings-2012 article has received a decent amount of attention
from the media, including, but not limited to
The New York Times and Business
Standard. To address the most popular questions, concerns and misunderstandings
the author provided a few brief comments.
Earnings and prize money are two different things. Many
readers referred to the figures as "X makes Y per year" and commented on
whether it is a lot ("I didn't know that one can make his living playing
chess full-time"), or little ("if #10 in the world earns only..."). However,
chess players have a variety of income sources apart from prize money –
endorsements, coaching, writing books, giving simuls and so on. Check out
Money in Chess article for a larger list. Hence, in some cases there
is a large gap between aggregate income and prize money.
It's about transparency of prize winnings and promoting chess as
opposed to monitoring someone else's income. Taxes and expenses
associated with hiring seconds/traveling/purchasing equipment were mentioned
a few times. This is true, but the list was supposed to provide an estimate
on the prize winnings. We are not trying to stick one's nose into the chess
players' pockets and figure out how much cash they have made. It is their
Women's list. We haven't made up our minds yet on whether
to create a separate list of female chess players with highest tournament
earnings or not. Besides, thanks to the upcoming Women's World Chess Championship
match, at least one women is expected to make it to the top-10 "open" list.
- How accurate is the list? On the one hand, most appearance
fees and certain prizes are being kept secret, so we can't be sure about anything.
On the other hand, we have conducted a few interviews with top players and
organizers that have helped shed light on the missing data. Another indicator
of our rating list being reasonably accurate is that so far we haven't received
any complaints from the featured (or non-featured) players. Of course, some
of them might have overlooked the article or ignored it, but it's not likely.
Peter Zhdanov thanks for your feedback and advice on how to make the Chess
Cash Kings rating list better!
Previous articles by Peter Zhdanov
Who are the Chess Cash Kings 2012?
02.02.2013 – The idea of creating a live
rating list of the prize money winnings of top GMs was suggested a year
ago on our pages by Peter Zhdanov. The key message of his
article 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. Peter has now progressed from
theory to practice.
||Geoffrey Borg replies to Zhdanov on the FIDE Women Grand
28.09.2012 – The call by Peter Zhdanov for
player selection process" in the Grand Prix did not meet with universal
aclaim. In fact most readers disagreed with the notion that the cycle
could or needed to be run on purely strength-based criteria. "While we
thank Mr Zhdanov for his article," writes FIDE CEO Geoffrey Borg, "some
deeper research and objectivity would have been appreciated." Resounding
||FIDE Grand Prix: A call for a fair player selection
27.09.2012 – How are the participants of the
FIDE Grand Prix chosen? Why are some top players not invited, while some
of their less distinguished colleagues are taking part? Is there anything
we can do about it? Peter Zhdanov reflects on the topic and pays special
attention to women’s chess, which is relatively neglected compared to
that of their male counterparts. What
do you think?
||Theory of success in life applied to chess
27.08.2012 – What are the factors that define
success? How does one become successful in life in general and in chess
in particular? Peter Zhdanov explains KPIs (key performance indicators)
used to measure success and seeks to apply them to the game we all love.
By objectively evaluating all the components described in his article,
you can create your own plan of becoming
a successful person.
||Is chess not for everybody? – Feedback from our readers
05.07.2012 – Boris Gelfand said he thought
that chess was not for everyone, Peter Zhdanov wrote a piece saying it
was. Chess must be presented to the general public for what it is: a sport,
an art and science. Many readers agree: "Let us make a Smörgåsbord and
have everyone decide what is tasty for them," writes one, and another
says we should emulate the
mentalist Derren Brown.
Is chess not for everybody?
04.07.2012 – Recently Boris Gelfand said
he thought that chess was not for everyone. "Chess is for people who
want to make an intellectual effort, who have respect for the game,
and we shouldn't make the game more simple so that more people would
enjoy it,” said the world championship challenger. Do you think this
is true? Peter Zhdanov, IT project manager and debate expert, begs
||Do Women Have a Chance against Men in Chess?
08.03.2012 – As we know all too well: most
of the strongest players in the world are male. In the past we have speculated
on the reasons for this gender discrepancy, with vigorous
reader participation. On International Women's Day Peter Zhdanov,
who is married to a very strong female player, provides us with some valuable
statistics, comparing men and women on a country-by-country basis. Eye-opening.
||Do men and women have different brains?
30.06.2009 – In a recent thought-provoking
article WGM Natalia Pogonina and Peter Zhdanov presented their views
on the topic of why women are worse at chess than men. A number of our
readers were unconviced: they think that efforts at "explaining" differences
between the sexes only from environmental factors are doomed at the outset.
Recent studies seem to support this. Feedback
||Women and men in chess – smashing the stereotypes
20.06.2009 – On June 5, 2009
WGM Natalia Pogonina and Peter Zhdanov got
married – she a Women's Grandmaster, he a successful IT-specialist
and debate expert. Peter is also Natalia’s manager, together they are
writing a book called "Chess Kamasutra". Today they share with us their
views on the perennial topic why women are worse at chess than men, and
take a look at the future
of women’s chess.