How Much Does a Chess Grandmaster Make? - 5 Proven Ways

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Different ways to make money from Chess

To become a chess Grandmaster, a player invests 8-20 years in chess and a lot of money. However, the career isn't very rewarding if we think about playing and earning money.
Grandmaster Vasif Durarbayli from Azerbaijan wrote a very good article on lichess named Am I a Chess Tourist? It is now deleted from Lichess. You can still read it on his website by clicking here.
For any title player, coaching is a very good and sustainable way to make a decent amount of money.
In this article, I will talk more about Grandmasters. To understand better, I have divided grandmasters into 3 category

  • 2500-2600
  • 2600-2700
  • 2700+ (These are super grandmasters and they make a decent amount of money by Playing good events. In this article, I am not considering this category)

How much does a chess grandmaster make?

On average Grandmasters make $20000-$75000. These numbers are very relative to the country in which they are living, their language, stream of income. Elite-level grandmasters (Top 15 in the world) earn more than $75000 per year.
By playing full-time chess, even grandmasters above 2600 also cannot make a decent amount of money. The real way to earn decent money is to stop playing chess after reaching a certain level and start coaching.
In the following list, we will see how grandmasters can make money live a very good life, and earn a lot of money.

Ways to make money for grandmasters

1- Playing

Grandmasters can earn a good amount by just playing in a few countries where the cost of living is low and the prize fund is high. In most countries, it is very difficult to make a good amount of money by just playing chess.
Only grandmasters above 2700 can live by playing chess. Thanks to development in online tournaments. Lichess and chess com conduct online tournaments regularly and these top-level players get prizes from these tournaments.
Most of the open events have total prizes of $10k-$25k where 1st prize is between $2k-$5k. Imagine 2600 is playing for $3000 1st prize and he is investing his time, efforts, and almost 7-9 days. If the same GM decides to take coaching for a minimum of $50 per hour then he can get the same amount in just 60 hours. I have considered minimum coaching fees and compared them with 1st prize which is mostly very difficult for any player. Also, chess coaching is a very efficient and risk-free income source.

2- Coaching

This is the most preferable income source for any chess player. Grandmasters are earning a lot of money only by chess coaching. Grandmasters usually charge anywhere from $50-$500 per hour. Some grandmasters charge even more for group coaching or fulfilling special needs.
Chess coaching is a very good opportunity for every chess player. Also, many parents think that if their son/daughter learns from GM then he/she will become GM faster. For this reason, many parents prefer coaching from Grandmaster.
Here is a table from which you will get an idea.
Rating Charges per hour

  • 2700+ - $150+
  • 2600-2700 - $75-$150
  • 2500-2600 - $50-$125
  • Below 2500 - $30-$100

These charges can differ from person to person and country to country. In India, Grandmasters usually charge $30-$75 for chess coaching.

3- Second or official coach

Many grandmasters work for other grandmasters to help them to prepare. These coaches called seconds. Also, some GMs work for their official country’s team.
Usually, this type of player charges $50-$100 per hour. It can also be project-based. E.g. Some grandmasters work for other grandmasters or teams for a particular tournament.
Right now only Elite grandmasters can afford to have their team full time. So I think there will be around 50-75 grandmasters who are working as a second or official coach of the national team. Here are some players who are working or worked as a coach or official coach

  • Daniil Dubov – Team Magnus Carlsen
  • Peter Heine Nielsen – Team Magnus Carlsen
  • Jon Ludvig Hammer – Team Magnus Carlsen
  • RB Ramesh – Worked as the official chess coach of Indian Team
  • Victor Bologan – Chess coach of Qatar Team
  • Erwin l’Ami – Team Anish Giri

4- Content Creation

When the Web 2.0 economy started, content creation became the main source of income for many people. Grandmasters are also earning a lot of money through content creation. Content creation includes chess streaming, Video Creation, Writing books, and creating courses.
Content Creation doesn’t provide a stable income but many people are earning a lot of money by just creating chess content. E.g. Hikaru Nakamura and IM Levy Rozman are making a ton of money by doing chess streams and Youtube as a full-time career

Youtube Video Creators

GM Hikaru Nakamura
GM Magnus Carlsen
GM Daniel Naroditsky

I have published an entire blog post about Best Chess Youtube Channels and it got over more than 20,000 views. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 from here. (Both are published on Lichess)

Twitch Streamers

GM Bok Benjamin
GM Hikaru Nakamura
GM Erik Hansen
GM Ben Finegold
GM Gata Kamsky
GM Daniel Naroditsky

Book writers and Course creators

GM Jacob Aagaard
GM Sethuraman SP
GM Anish Giri
GM Mikhail Marin
GM Karsten Muller
GM Boris Gelfand

4- Jobs and sponsorships

Many countries provide stable government jobs and scholarships for IMs and GMs. Although the amount they give is much lower. The main advantage of a government job is you get a fixed income and also benefits like free travel and different allowances. Also in India, You don’t need to do a full-time job if you get recruited from the sports quota.
Also in some countries, Private sponsors and governments provide scholarships to grandmasters so that they can play chess without any worry. Here is the list of different Indian organization which provides Government jobs through sports quota

  1. Income Tax Department
  2. Indian Post
  3. Indian Railways
  4. Airports Authority of India (AAI)
  5. Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB)

5- Academy or any other business

There are very few grandmasters who are running their academy. Grandmasters have a lot of potential to attract young players to chess.
Many grandmasters get a decent amount of coaching and they don’t want to start their own business by spending time and taking risks.
Apart from the academy, They can start other businesses like a course or book publishing house, selling chess boards, etc. Here are a few grandmasters who are running their own successful businesses including some websites and successful chess academies.

  • GM Jacob Aagaard – Founder of Quality Chess
  • GM Igor Smirnov – Founder of Chess Teacher
  • GM Grigor Grigorov – Co-founder of Modern Chess
  • GM Peter Arnaudov – Co-founder of Modern Chess
  • GM Maxim Dlugy - Chess Max Academy

These are some of the most popular ways Grandmasters are making money.

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