Chess Cash Kings 2013 – guess who leads

by Peter Zhdanov
5/5/2014 – The idea of creating a live rating list of the prize money winnings of top GMs was suggested some years ago by Peter Zhdanov, a student of math and sociology. 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.

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Annual money rankings are available for many reputable sports. For example, there 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 NFL’s 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 NHL’s 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 NHL’s 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.

Introduction

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 world’s top-ten chess players has increased from $5,360,000 to $7,510,000. 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
  • King’s 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, 26, USA

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

Hou Yifan, China, 20

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.

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 Women’s 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
  • Women’s 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

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 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.

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.

Feedback on Chess Cash Kings 2012
2/6/2013 – The recent article and project by Peter Zhdanov – to create a live list of the prize money winnings of top GMs – received a mixed response. "It leads the way to communicating chess success to the public," wrote one reader, while an unnamed GM announced he needed to give us "crap about that Zhdanov guy's article". One letter explains how how chess can become a cash sport.

Meet a genuine chess billionaire
5/31/2013 – Sergey Galitsky, 45, is a co-owner of a major Russian retail chain Magnit and president of FC Krasnodar. According to Forbes, as of 2013 his personal fortune was estimated at US $8.2 billion, making him the #138th richest person in the world. So why are we interested in his personality? Sergey is also a proficient chess player who can give 20-board simuls! Peter Zhdanov reports.



Topics: Cash kings

Peter Zhdanov is an IT project manager, expert and author of two books on parliamentary debate
Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


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Chump Chump 5/6/2014 04:14
Nakamura is sponsored by Red Bull. You can find press releases, etc. via Google. Seems to have been announced only last month (April), which is perhaps why the authors missed it.
chessbibliophile chessbibliophile 5/6/2014 03:12
I recall how great players like Bronstein and Smyslov spent their last years in penury.
It would be interesting to know if any of our “wonderful Super GMs spared a thought on helping the veterans who contributed so much to the game. But then where is the time when you are chasing ratings or raking money through mindless advertising?
Karpablanca Karpablanca 5/5/2014 07:01
I can understand where the previous two commenters are coming from. Magnus Carlsen making more money does not directly help anyone other than Magnus Carlsen. But you have to understand that these numbers don’t exist in a vacuum. Why was there more money this year? Why were prize funds bigger? Presumably because tournament sponsors felt that there was enough interest in the game to justify their investment.

No one is suggesting that the top players’ salaries are going to help the chess community. But they are an indicator of the sport’s broader fortunes. It’s naïve to simply assert that “millions should be invested in the community”. Whose millions? Yours? The more popular the game becomes, the more money its top players will make, and the more money will be available for chess clubs, chess education, etc. Every chess fan should be thrilled to see players’ incomes going up.
anonymous2014 anonymous2014 5/5/2014 01:00
"The total estimated prize winnings of the world’s top-ten chess players has increased from $5,360,000 to $7,510,000. Obviously, this is a positive sign for chess."
The top-ten players make about $2,000,000 more than they used to and that's "obviously" a positive sign for chess? Really? It seems more as though it's a "positive sign"... for them.
Positive for the chess community would have been investing million on the community itself, not of the elite few. It's like having a candidate for the FIDE presidency flying around in his private jet and then expecting this very candidate to make things better for every chess player.
To make chess a better paid world, you would like to start from the ground-up, not just polishing up the top and call it a better year. Just a naive thought, you might say.
hansj hansj 5/5/2014 11:22
Chess is fascinating. Money, no. So what is the point?
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