Forbes - Making A Living In Chess

by Albert Silver
5/5/2017 – It is not unusual to see chess appear in the mainstream press, but the topics are usually on either a scandal, a player profile, or a singular event such as the World Championship. Forbes published an interesting article regarding the state of professionalism in chess, making a living, and how the internet has opened doors not just for fans but working pros. Here are excerpts and a a video report.

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Below you will find excerpts and a video from an article posted at Forbes on making a living in chess. Be sure to read the entire article at the Forbes website.

Making A Living In Chess Is Tough - But The Internet Is Making It Easier

By Alex Knapp

Last month, at the United States Chess Championship, I entered a world of chess as serious business. For one thing, I was wanded by a security guard on my way up to the competition. (To prevent cheating, cell phones or anything else that can connect to the internet were strictly forbidden in the competition area - I had to leave my smartwatch behind, too.)

Before the round got started, tournament director Tony Rich had an announcement to make to the players - he wanted them to make sure all their paperwork was in order. "If you don't have a tax form, I can't pay you."

It was a reminder that, to paraphrase Bull Durham, that while chess may be an intellectual battlefield "full of magic, truth and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time - it's also a job."


It's actually an easier career than it was a few decades ago.

For example, when Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan was playing in the 1970s and 1980s, there wasn't much of a professional scene in the United States at all. "For me, the challenges of playing chess professionally was that in the United States, there weren't chess professionals. The real professionals of the chess world were the Soviets."

"Being an American, it was very hard to have the training resources or the financial resources to become a professional," he continued. "That was the big challenge."

Grandmaster Ben Finegold told me a similar story, "So many times I would play in the last round [of a tournament], and if I won I could eat. And if I lost, I had to drive home for three or four hours and figure out how to pay the rent."


One thing that all the grandmasters I talked to agreed on is that the internet is actually making it easier to have a career in chess.

"Has the internet opened up opportunities? Definitely," said Finegold. "In more ways than one. Not only can you get better at chess by using the internet, you can also make money teaching and making videos and doing commentary. It's been a really great boon for chess."

Click here to read the full article at Forbes

Topics: Forbes, income, revenue

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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drcloak drcloak 5/9/2017 06:17
@jonkm What about poker? Poker went mainstream and became very popular. I don't think chess has gone mainstream yet; they have corrupt organizations like FIDE running the show like it is still 1970. You have big Intelligence Agencies getting involved in International Chess, screwing over good players (Korchnoi back in the day). The President of FIDE is a cuck/libtard wannabe mafioso, I mean the list goes on and on. Chess will always remain in the basement shadows unless major changes occur.
jonkm jonkm 5/9/2017 01:48
To me it's laughable that golf caught on and that so many can become pro golfers. Somehow it was marketed to the public and it worked, but there was a foundation in that so many like the game and play it already. And there is a lot of expensive gear to be sold. For most of us, chess will always just be a hobby, a fantastic game but not a career.
RayLopez RayLopez 5/8/2017 08:50
Chess needs anonymous gambling via a prediction peer-to-peer network to become more popular. When money is involved people take a bigger interest. But with increased popularity and money at stake you'll also get increased cheating.
KevinC KevinC 5/7/2017 05:07
@Bertman, you are correct. He sent a telegram on June 27, 1975, but he was given a deadline of April 1, 1975 to confirm playing the match, and he did never replied to that so they also stripped him technically.
jackie jackie 5/7/2017 11:26
Guessing GM Finegold won every last round then.
koko48 koko48 5/7/2017 05:34
@KevinC A google search with parameters like "Fischer Karpov Manila 1975 purse" would have provided that source:
christianpsimpson christianpsimpson 5/7/2017 02:59
Quality innovation in Chess is always a positive.
GM Max Illingworth is endorsing Chessplus a new game with new pieces and new moves.
Its great to see games like this that increase the interest in chess generally. I think they can only be positive for the game to continue growing and sharing it many benefits.
Bertman Bertman 5/7/2017 01:10
@KevinC - Stripped? I seem to recall he resigned it.
KevinC KevinC 5/7/2017 12:59
@koko48, I have been trying to find that $5M figure, and I cannot anywhere. The closest thing I can find is that there were companies willing to have him endorse products for that much. Can you please cite a source?

I don't think they ever got to that stage of the match planning as Fischer was already making demands, and was stripped of his title on June 27, 1975.
koko48 koko48 5/6/2017 08:25
Funny to think that the $5 million purse for the 1975 Fischer-Karpov match in Manila, was the second highest prize fund seen at that time - in ANY sport. Only Muhammad Ali title fights had larger purses back then, and no other prize fund in any other sport came close.

The top baseball salary back then was Hank Aaron at $240K per year. The 1975 Men's Singles Champion at Wimbledon won 10,000 pounds. Top professional baseball, tennis and golf players in 1975 were looking at chess prize funds with envy.

That was an astounding anomaly that will unfortunately never happen again. And not to blame the Soviet authorities, but Fischer claimed that they didn't want chess to become a big money profession. According to him the Soviets felt they owned the sport, they supported it, and "didn't want anybody else to make money". To them it was more important to get the title back, by forfeit if necessary, than see chess reach such stratospheric monetary heights

I'm sure many of the Russian and ex-Soviet players may regret that now, since they no longer have state support....They have to compete for prizes and try to play professionally like everyone else
tom_70 tom_70 5/6/2017 04:11
What the chess world needs is a super tournament with a super prize pool. Something that would make the public jaw drop when they seen how much the winner would make after winning it. Imagine a tournament sponsored by a Bill Gates , Warren Buffett or some other uber wealthy patron. Something that includes the numerical top 10 , 15 or 20 players in the world. Taking place over several weeks, with the winner pulling in at least $5 million and even the last place finisher pulling in a $100,000. A tournament so rich and large, with the absolute top players in the world battling it out over a lengthy time frame, till there is no doubt who the best player in the world is.
That would totally get public interest stirred up.
KevinC KevinC 5/6/2017 02:58
P.S. Millionaire Chess never really gave away a full million, let alone to one player, and it also distributed it across many rating groups (rightly since they fund the tournament). Having one tournament, and this was a hard tournament to pull off, is enough to fund a very small handful of players for a year.
KevinC KevinC 5/6/2017 02:53
@jklenear, Millionaire Chess is not even remotely an answer to making more players pros. If you read the entire Forbes article, you see that in the U.S., only 20 can make a living playing (15-20 years ago, a friend, who was a top 10 player in the world at the time, told me that he only made about $50,000 a year, so at least it is improving).

Most players, who want to be pros are still going to have to rely on teaching and writing, and I still do not see this changing. Why? Because any sport that can pay big money is simply because it attracts big sponsors. Until chess can be made for the masses, and frankly, I don't see that ever happening, it will never attract more than the occasional sponsor, or benefactor like Mr. Rex Sinquefield.

We have certainly sped up chess over the years, which might make it more conducive to television, but too many people I have talked to over the years just don't get chess.
Rama Rama 5/6/2017 07:59
I guess GM Ashley couldn't find enough sponsorship to keep it going. There was a limit to how much the participants were willing to pay in entry fees.
jklenear jklenear 5/6/2017 03:53
Bring back millionaire chess to be held every few years and increase the prizes of already existing tournaments