How Much Do Professional Chess Players Earn?

Professional chess player income can be quite significant, with the top three players earning in excess of $1M US dollars annually. The top 50 professional chess players earn, on average, more than $100K USD each year, while the top 100 are likely to earn somewhere between $50K and $70K USD for a year’s work. The earnings are not just from competing in actual tournaments, but also from activities such as personal appearances, playing for clubs, covering events for publications, and even writing books on chess as a game and a profession.

Notable Chess Players throughout History:

  • Deep Blue. This IBM computer required several years to finally defeat a human chess professional but its more notable victory occurred in 1997 when Deep Blue twice beat reigning champion Garry Kasparov, then lost one game, and tied three more in a six game series. Dismantled shortly after the competition, Deep Blue paved the way for chess software programs that players routinely use as part of their training.

  • Paul Morphy. Born in 1837, Morphy was a self-taught chess professional who defeated Hungarian Master Johann Lowenthal in three matches when Morphy was just 12 years old. Retiring at the age of 21, Paul Morphy had by then defeated many of the most prominent players in Europe.

  • Emanuel Lasker. Holder of the longest tenure as the world champion, Lasker greatly influenced the direction of professional chess during the 27 years he dominated the field. He was among the first to demand and receive higher fees for his appearances at tournaments and competitions, influencing the amount that professional chess players earn even today.

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