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Who are the Chess Cash Kings 2012?

by Peter Zhdanov
2/2/2013 – 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.
 

Chess Cash Kings 2012

By Peter Zhdanov

Annual money rankings are available for many reputable sports. For example, lists by Forbes (highest-earning tennis players; highest-paid NHL players, best-earning men in biathlon, etc.), or even an all-time poker money list. Here are some numbers to give you an idea:

Sport
Top player
10th player
Tennis
$ 54,300,000
$ 8,800,000
Poker
$ 23,800,000
$ 11,786,129
NHL
$ 12,700,000
$ 7,740,000
Biathlon
€ 188,425
€ 44,275

Unfortunately, such money rankings are not easily possible in chess, where financial data is scarce, and secretly handing out fees in envelopes is a widespread practice. This paper is a first attempt at creating a list featuring chess players who have made more prize money than anyone else in year 2012.

Introduction

A stereotypical chess player is a noble intellectual who is not interested in money. A common belief is that playing chess is not a profession; hence even grandmasters are expected to have “real jobs”. Is it true or not? Today we are publishing our own Chess Cash Kings 2012 rating – a list of chess players with the highest prize money winnings in 2012.

Notably, there is a serious gap between the two players who played the World Chess Championship match (Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand) and everyone else. Non chess-related activities were not accounted for, so you won’t see Garry Kasparov or Anatoly Karpov on the list. It features only active top players whose primary income sources are chess-related.

The list has been compiled using public information sources, namely, the official websites of the tournaments and official regulations of the events. The figures do not include endorsement deals and non-tournament chess earnings (books, simultaneous exhibitions, coaching, scholarships, unofficial games, etc.). Hence, the real earnings of the players are considerably higher. Another 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 the conditions personally with each player without informing the public about the details, thus saving money 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.

Of course, there are exceptions, but the average figure 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, we tried to list the most important details even when the data is missing. Please don’t judge this article too strictly: as far as we know, it is the first attempt of this kind in the chess world.

Chess Cash Kings 2012 List

The Chess Cash Kings 2012 list sorted by estimates of prize money. It will be updated and corrected as more information becomes available and is to be found on the Natalia Pogonina web site here.

#1 Viswanathan Anand, India, 43

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2799 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2772 (-27 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $2,000,000

  • Bundesliga: unknown
  • World Chess Championship Match, winner: $1,530,000
  • Award from Tamil Nadu government for winning the WCC: $400,000
  • Bilbao Chess Masters Final, 5: unknown. In 2008 the prizes were the following: €150,000 for the first place, €70,000 for the second one, €60,000 for third, €50,000 for fourth, €40,000 for fifth and €30,000 for sixth. Prizes were reduced considerably in 2012 though.
  • London Chess Classic, 5th: $14,500 (information about best games prizes wasn't available)
  • Endorsements: NIIT, TVH, AMD (earnings unknown)

#2 Boris Gelfand, Israel, 44

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2739 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2740 (+1 point)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $1,100,000

  • World Chess Championship Match, runner-up: $1,020,000
  • Tata Steel Chess, 10-12 out of 14: the main cash comes from appearance fees (unknown), while the official prizes were relatively modest (€ 10,000 for first place)
  • World Rapid Chess Championship, 6: $14,000
  • World Blitz Chess Championship, 10: $4,000
  • World Chess Olympiad: unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, London, 1st-3rd: $29,700
  • European Club Cup: unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Tashkent, 10th: $11,900

#3 Magnus Carlsen, Norway, 22

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2835 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2861 (+26 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $480,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament, 2nd-4th: unknown
  • Tal Memorial, 2nd in blitz, 1st in classical chess: $43,600 + appearance fee
  • World Rapid Chess Championship, 2: $33,000
  • World Blitz Chess Championship, 2nd: $33,000
  • Biel: appearance fee (unknown)
  • Bilbao Chess Masters Final, 1st: unknown
  • London Chess Classic, 1st: $72,600 (information about best games prizes wasn't available)
  • Gran Fiesta UNAM, 1st: unknown
  • Endorsements: Arctic Securities, SIMONSEN Advokatfirma, VG, G-star (past)

In 2010 Magnus Carlsen made over $1,500,000 and about $650,000 in 2009. Both figures refer to aggregate income, not only prize money.

#4 Levon Aronian, Armenia, 30

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2805 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2802 (-3 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $330,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament, 1st: $13,200 + unknown appearance fee
  • Kramnik-Aronian match, tie: unknown
  • Tal Memorial, 5th in blitz, 7th in classical chess: $9,200 + appearance fee
  • World Chess Olympiad, team gold, individual gold: $50,000
  • Bilbao Chess Masters Final, 3rd: unknown
  • London Chess Classic, 6th: $14,500 (information about best games prizes wasn't available)
  • World Mind Sports Games, 4th in blitz, 1st in blindfold: $18,000

#5 Sergey Karjakin, Russia, 22

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2769 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2780 (+11 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $300,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament, 8th: unknown
  • Russian Team Chess Championship: appearance fee (unknown)
  • Dortmund, 2nd: prize unknown
  • Region Blitz: $9,200
  • World Rapid Chess Championship, 1st: $40,000
  • World Blitz Chess Championship, 3rd: $27,500
  • Russian Superfinal, 2nd: $25,000
  • World Chess Olympiad, team silver, individual bronze: $25,000
  • Bilbao Chess Masters Final, 4th: unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Tashkent, 1st-3rd: $29,700
  • World Mind Sports Games, 1st in blitz: $10,000
  • Piterenka rapid & blitz, 1st: 10 hundred square meters of land in Piterenka village
  • Endorsements: Alpari

#6 Fabiano Caruana, Italy, 20

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2736 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2781 (+45 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $290,000

  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament, 2nd-4th: unknown
  • 44 CIS Serie Master: unknown
  • Sigeman, 1st: unknown
  • Tal Memorial, 10th in blitz, 2nd in classical chess: $26,800 + appearance fee
  • Greek Team Cup, Greek Team Championship: unknown
  • Dortmund, 1st: unknown
  • Region Blitz: $1,100
  • World Chess Olympiad: unknown
  • Bilbao Chess Masters Final, 2nd: unknown
  • King’s Tournament, 3rd: unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, Tashkent, 4th-6th: $19,800

#7 Hikaru Nakamura, USA, 25

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2759 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2769 (+10 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $275,000

  • Reggio Emilia, 4th: unknown
  • Tata Steel Chess Tournament, 6: unknown
  • Pacific Open, 1st: $3,000
  • 44 CIS Serie Master: unknown
  • US Chess Championship, 1st: $40,000
  • Tal Memorial, 6th in blitz, 8th in classical chess:  $5,000 + appearance fee
  • Biel: appearance fee, unknown
  • World Chess Olympiad: unknown
  • FIDE Grand Prix, London, 12th: $9,200
  • European Club Cup: unknown
  • Unive Hoogeven, 1st: unknown
  • London Chess Classic, 3rd: $27,500 (information about best games prizes wasn't available)
  • World Mind Games, 2nd in rapid, 2nd in blitz, 2nd in blindfold: $30,000

#8 Vladimir Kramnik, Russia, 37

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2801 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2810 (+9 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $210,000

  • Tal Memorial, 4th in blitz, 4th in classical chess: $13,700 + appearance fee
  • Kramnik-Aronian match, tie: unknown
  • Dortmund, 4th: prize unknown
  • World Chess Olympiad, team silver: $25,000
  • London Chess Classic, 2nd: $39,000 (information about best games prizes wasn't available)
  • Endorsements: DGT, Blancpain (past?), also seen wearing a badge of some sort (?)

#9 Alexander Grischuk, Russia, 29

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2761 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2764 (+3 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $185,000

  • Tal Memorial, 4th in blitz, 7th in classical chess: $7,300 + appearance fee
  • World Rapid Chess Championship, 5th: $18,000
  • World Blitz Chess Championship, 1st: $40,000
  • Region Blitz: $5,300
  • Russian Superfinal, 7th: $5,000
  • Internet Grand Prix, semi-finalist: $3,300
  • World Chess Olympiad, team silver: $25,000
  • FIDE Grand Prix, London, 4th: $23,100
  • European Club Cup: unknown
  • World Mind Sports Games, 3rd in rapid, 7th in blitz: $14,000
  • Moscow handicap blitz, 1st: unknown

#10 Dmitry Andreikin, Russia, 22

FIDE rating in January 2012: 2688 FIDE rating in January 2013: 2727 (+39 points)
Prize money in 2013 (estimate): $150,000

  • Moscow Open, 15th-31st: a few hundred $
  • Aeroflot Open, 4th-8th: $3,500
  • European Chess Championship, 4th: $9,200
  • Russian Team Chess Championship: appearance fee (unknown)
  • Team Championship of Macedonia: appearance fee (unknown)
  • Donskoi Rapid, 1: $2,000
  • Region Blitz: $1,100
  • World Blitz Chess Championship, 5th: $18,000
  • Kazakhstan-Open: $3,500
  • Russian Top League, 1st: $16,500
  • Russian Superfinal, 1st: $33,000
  • Internet Grand Prix, 1st: $6,600
  • European Club Cup: unknown
  • Nepomniatchi-Andreikin match, winner: unknown
  • MGSU Cup, 1st: $3,300
  • Sberbank Cup, 7th-9th: about $900
  • Russian Rapid Chess Final, 5th-8th: $2,300

Methodology

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 information 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 earnings of the top players, it is by no means a precise financial report. We would appreciate feedback from players and their managers in order to improve the article.

Peter Zhdanov is an IT project manager, expert and author of two books on parliamentary debate, BSc in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science and a PhD student in Sociology. In chess he is a Russian candidate master, author, manager of grandmaster Natalia Pogonina and editor of Pogonina.com.

Copyright Zhdanov/ChessBase


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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 to differ.

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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.
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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 and articles.
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Peter Zhdanov is an IT project manager, expert and author of two books on parliamentary debate
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