Earnings of top women chess players

  • IM Vlad_Akselrod
  • | Jun 1, 2009

Being a sportsman is risky. The winner takes it all, while the loser is left in the dust. In women chess the situation is even more "egalitarian" - the elite players have hardly more chances of buying a limousine than the rest.

First of all, prizes in women tournaments are meager even by men chess tournament standards (not to mention other sports!). Supertournaments are virtually nonexistent, so female chess players can only bite their nails watching the happy winner of Linares get a 100 000 euro prize, while the chess champion and his challenger are sharing 6-7-figure prize funds. For comparison: the 1st prize in the last women world chess championship was only 60 000 USD.

Alexandra Kosteniuk, who won $60 k and the

Women Chess Champion title in 2008

However, who said that "the weak sex" can't compete with the strong? Leaving aside the question "why do women play chess worse than men?", we can state that even the women top-20 can't make much money playing in tournaments for men. It's impossible to get invited into an elite round robin (unless you're Judit Polgar), while in the open tournaments you'll have to compete with a pack of ambitious 2600 players aiming at the prize money. Special awards for women? You must be kidding! Usually there are only 1-3 of them per open, ranging from $1000 to $300. That's why there's no sense for women to participate in male tournaments other than in order to gain rating points and polish their chess skills.

Judith Polgar, the greatest women chess player of all

times, who even managed to beat Garry Kasparov!

Secondly, chess isn't popular enough among sponsors. Maria Sharapova, Tiger Woods and other sport celebrities gain a lion's share of their income (up to 90%) from advertising contracts. And how many contracts have elite women chess players signed so far? A pity indeed - women chess is exciting and, although it gets some moderate attention from the media, sponsors seem to be unimpressed. Hopefully, the situation is going to get better in the future.

Anyway, the one who keeps trying will always find a way. Some organizers offer strong grandmasters special conditions - free accomodation, coverage of traveling expenses, appearance fees. Women are descriminated here too comparing to men, but still. Some universities support their students who excel in sports. For example, the Saratov State Law Academy helps WGM Natalia Pogonina by paying for some of her chess trips, etc. You can also earn money giving lessons (the problem is that it requires a lot of time and leads to a decline of playing strength - that's why Natalia does not offer lessons), simuls or writing books. Once again, it doesn't have much to do with earning a lot of money.

WGM Natalia Pogonina: 2501 FIDE isn't the limit,

gimme-gimme, gimme more!

P.S. After rereading my post I have noticed that it is sort of gloomy. On the other hand, what I like most about Natalia is that she is very optimistic, merry and has a really strong character. She never complains (unlike me), but keeps moving towards new victories. A truly champion's spirit!

Article is courtesy of http://pogonina.com

 written by

Peter Zhdanov
WGM Natalia Pogonina's manager



  • 12 days ago


    I've never lost to a girl. Never will. I don't plan on playing Judith anytime soon! Lol

  • 7 years ago


    hi every body  i am goldenmoongold@yahoo.com ply chescube

  • 7 years ago


    I am glad that top women can still earn a living off of chess, which is a point that slides under the radar in your piece, Vlad.  Comparing women to male tournaments is neglecting the fact that some women could be invited to such male tournaments if they played stronger chess.  And calling them 'male' tournaments, when someone like Judit is present is misdirection.  Most of the best players are male, and _that's_ why the tournament has mostly or all male players there. I don't mean to suggest there is no bias in invitations, but please show me that a female player was deserving of such an invitation, and that other more highly ranked (presumably male) players were not also left with no invitation.

    I'm all for rooting on an 'underdog' of sorts, because I think a woman could surely become world champion one day, and it would a lot of fun to watch all the incredulity about such an event...look at our president of the US and how close Hilary C got too.

    I don't see a huge need to have ridiculously huge chess prizes either.  That athletes make so much money is an abomination in my mind.  There is a huge demand to see high level football or baseball players, but if people didn't pay $100-$500 a seat to go watch them for a few hours then they couldn't sustain that huge pay.  I certainly don't pay that much when I could go to a bar and watch it for the cost of a drink.

    Money is not the measure of success, and chess events and hosts will cheapen themselves to be so short-sighted.  A game such as chess is rich, because it develops the mind, offers an opportunity to compete with intense emotions without physical harm, and is rich with beauty.  Development of the mind is vastly undervalued, but also difficult to observe because the mind and physical world are so interlinked.  The chess board illuminates the inner workings of our mind.  We would do well to promote chess without getting distracted and losing sight of why we value chess.  Others will be interested in it for many of the same reasons we are, it is important to be straight about that and continue to seek new ways to promote it authentically.

  • 7 years ago


    i like beautiful chess women tooo, the Queen.

  • 7 years ago


    chess rating  systems are hierarchical in nature -rewards for the top dogs .meritocracy is the predominant  world modus operandi (leaving aside  inequality considerations)

    women now are beginning to dominate in teaching,medicine,law and media,

    chess is partly about spatial relations -mens brains do this better 

  • 7 years ago


     some are cute women, wouldnt mind strip chess as I never lost to a girl

  • 7 years ago


    Their should be the same amount of respect for both men and women.  I know regardless of the gender I give the respest that is due.  Whether they are titled or not, we all love to play the game. 

  • 7 years ago


    As long as your attitude is one of victimhood for women:

    " Some organizers offer strong grandmasters special conditions - free accomodation, coverage of traveling expenses, appearance fees. Women are descriminated here too comparing to men, but still."

    It is difficult for me to get too excited about the chauvinistic remarks of the jerk talking about strip sex.  I suspect he was looking for a reaction from you and you obliged him.

    It seems to me that if women get the same opportunity for money as men, then it is difficult to argue that they are being discriminated against.  And exactly why should there be extra prizes set aside for women?  Because they are disadvantaged because of their sex?

    I expect women to be the equals of men. As a college professor, I see about 60 percent of college degrees going to women.  Does this mean we should set aside "special" degrees for men?

    Women as victims of the chess world is a pretty superficial attitude.  Watching people react to the troll is at least funny.



  • 7 years ago


    demetrios18> some are cute women, wouldnt mind strip chess as I never lost to a girl  ; )

    To Erik: Such insulting misogynist comments are allowed??? Please decide what kind of site you want to run! If they are allowed then please announce it clearly; because I have a lot to say on similar lines but with *no* holds barred - in language that would make the old eminem songs 'kill you' and 'the real slim shady' (uncensored versions of both) sound like lullabies for children -
    (a.) to demertios18-type scum; (b.) about the country called Israel; (c.) etc etc !

  • 7 years ago

    IM Vlad_Akselrod

    demetrios18 -  I also never lost against Kasparov. The trick is that I haven't played him. Smile

  • 7 years ago


    mathijs, I limited the "we are on the same side" part to "as far as the big picture (vis a vis women in chess) is concerned" - the unqualified big picture about political views, on atheism, etc. : I don't know yours really so kept that out :) Generally speaking you come across as a liberal [the USA readers would already classify you as left-liberal in fact ;)], so that's fine by me:)

  • 7 years ago


    Normajeanyates, although I'm not completely sure what side you're on, I'm glad to hear it's mine. Personally I enjoy discussing details at length, but I am aware of my peculiarity.

    I wasn't aware anarchists wanted a revolution, but I guess I'll subscribe to it.

  • 7 years ago


    Okay mathijs, your POV is now clear: I must say I did misunderstand you before or I wouldn't have bothered to post.

    I cannot truthfully say that I fully agree with your take on this; but clearly as far as the big picture (vis a vis women in chess) is concerned we are on the same side: our differences are nuanced (it is clear now) and I have myself not thought some of these points out... some of them I partially agree with.

    Discussions would change my viewpoint somewhat I am sure but they would be very long, so let us leave at that.. :)

    Come the anarchafeminist antispeciesist (etc etc) revolution, and all this will be solved! (ha ha only serious ;/ )

  • 7 years ago


    Normajeanyates, the systemic unfairness I denied was in the system of professional chess competition, with social structure I mean the position of women in society as a whole. I tried to point that out when I said "but that is another discussion altogether", but perhaps I should have been more explicit. (Incidentally, I did not imply but stated explicitly that I'm not convinced of the influence of an unfair social structure on women's position in chess. I'd like to add here that that is just the case for chess, not for all professions, i.e. I do believe that women have a harder time than men getting certain jobs for which they're equally qualified .)

    The system of professional chess competition concerns itself with the earnings of professional chess players. It tends to reward better players higher. Women are not typically among the best players. Why they are not is not a question of their rewards.

    I think mr.Akselrod in his reply pointed out correctly that the question here is whether women should have privileges in professional chess competition (in fact, as he concedes, the question is whether the should have even more). He doesn't attempt to give a reason why they should. Reasons I can think of, but find unconvincing or untrue, are:

    -Women are not geneticly able to play chess at the level of men, but we still want to see them play professionally (that is for the entertainment of a public). I am not convinced of (in fact, rather inclined to doubt) the first assumption, the second appears to hold true, as there are special women's tournaments.

    -Women may be able to compete with men in chess, but we don't want them to, so we'll pay them like the best in the world when they're nowhere near that. I find this notion offensive, but it's the only reason I can think of that isn't based on dubious or untested premises. The special women's tournaments are to my mind a discriminatory subsidy on mediocrity (relative mediocrity, no doubt, but mediocrity nonetheless).

  • 7 years ago


    mathijs> 'One might argue that social structure is unfair to women with respect to chess', contradicting (or implying that one could wrongly argue that.. ??!) the connotations of his preceding 'not because of some systemic unfairness'.

    Of course the social structure is unfair to women with respect to chess, and with respect to everything else. And the points that Vladislav Akselrod ( IM IMCheap) and Peter Zhdanov/WGM Natalia Pogonina make are absolutely valid, and are an example of my assertion in the previous sentence.

  • 7 years ago

    IM Vlad_Akselrod

    mathijs -yes, 2400-level women players have more opportunities to earn money than men with the same rating. It boils down to the question "should women have privileges?" Because if we take, for instance, soccer, basketball, tennis etc., then we'll see that women have no chance to compete with men there, but they still earn decent money (we're talking about top players, of course). So there are separate tournaments and women don't even try to play against men. In chess the situation is much more complicated...

  • 7 years ago


    I don't get it. It seems to me that women get paid at least as much as men of similar rating. In fact, I think a woman of, say, 2400 has a better chance of earning money than a man of that rating, because she might get invited to special women's tournaments. The reason women don't earn $100.000 winning Linares, is because they don't win Linares, not because of some systemic unfairness. (One might argue that social structure is unfair to women with respect to chess, in that it is harder for a women to become a world class chess player in current society. I don't think there is a very strong case for that, but it's another discussion altogether.)

    Edit: corrected some spelling.

  • 7 years ago


    beautiful women with big brains

Back to Top

Post your reply: