How Much Money Do World Chess Champions Make?

How Much Money Do World Chess Champions Make?

Nov 3, 2014, 12:00 AM |
94 | Fun & Trivia

Today, the very top chess players in the world can make good livings from the game.

Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand, who will play this month’s world chess championship in Russia, made more than $1 million each of the past two years from chess winnings alone.

The other top grandmasters in the world do pretty well, too.

Fabiano Caruana, Veselin Topalov, Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura, Boris Gelfand, and Wesley So can earn up to half a million dollars in tournament winnings each year.

The money in chess has always been concentrated at the top. Throughout the history of competitive chess, the prizes for winning the world championship have dwarfed the earnings from other tournaments.

It remains true today. While Fabiano Caruana won $100,000 in September by winning the 2014 Sinquefield Cup — the strongest chess tournament in human history — the loser of the upcoming world championship match will make five times as much money, even if he doesn’t score a single point.

The world championship has always been king in chess, and its winners have been compensated accordingly.

Here’s a look at the growth of selected world chess championship prize purses throughout history.

1886, Steinitz-Zukertort: £800

via wikipedia

The prize fund was split evenly. Steinitz won the match +10 -5 =5.

1891, Steinitz-Gunsberg: $3,000

via wikipedia

Steinitz won the match +6 -4 =9 and took home a $2,000 winner’s share.

1921, Capablanca-Lasker: $25,000

via pakchess

Capablanca won the match +4 -0 =10, but only received $12,000 in prize money. Lasker got the other $13,000.

1927, Alekhine-Capablanca: $10,000

via wikipedia

Alekhine won the match +6 -3 =25, but Capablanca received a $2,000 appearance fee.

1935, Euwe-Alekhine: $10,000

via wikipedia

Euwe won the match +9 -8 =13 and the $10,000 stake.

1966, Petrosian-Spassky: $2,000


In this era of Soviet dominance, the world chess championship was an internal affair. Petrosian received just a $2,000 bonus for winning the match. 

1972, Fischer-Spassky: $250,000

via nsarchive

Bobby Fischer brought unprecedented interest and money to the world chess championship. In addition to the gigantic purse, Fischer demanded — and received — 30 percent of the match’s television rights and gate.

Fischer, of course, won the match +7 -3 =11 and the winner's share of $156,250.

1978, Karpov-Korchnoi: $560,000


Karpov took home $350,000 for winning the match +6 -5 =21.

1990, Kasparov-Karpov: $3 million

via chessmastery

Kasparov won the monster $1.875 million winner’s share by going +4 -3 =17 in the match. 

1995, Kasparov-Anand: $1.5 million

via blogspot

Kasparov took home a cool million for beating Anand +4 -1 =13 at the top of the world. 

2000, Kasparov-Kramnik: $2 million


Kramnik shocked Kasparov and the world and won $1.33 million for his +2 -0 =13 performance.

2006, Kramnik-Topalov: $1 million


The prize fund was arranged to be split evenly at $500,000 each regardless of result, and appropriately enough, Kramnik won the match on tiebreaks. 

2008, Anand-Kramnik: €1.5 million ($1.9 million)

via wikipedia

Anand claimed the title by going +3 -1 =7, but each player took home the same $950,000 share

2010, Anand-Topalov: €2 million ($2.8 million)

via blogspot

Anand defended his title, going +3 -2 =7, and won the $1.68 million champion’s share.

2012, Anand-Gelfand: $2.55 million


Anand won the match on tiebreaks, receiving $1.53 million. He also was granted a $400,000 bonus from the Indian government.

2013, Carlsen-Anand: $2.5 million

via chennai online

Carlsen won the title and $1.5 million by going +3 -0 =7.

2014, Carlsen-Anand: €1 million ($1.25 million)

via FIDE

The winner of the match will receive $750,000, and the loser will take home $500,000.

Let us know what you think of the world championship prize funds in the comments or on Facebook


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