Can You Make Money Playing Chess Online? [Full Breakdown]

Can you make money playing chess online? Find out in this guide!
Courtesy of Chess.com. Chess.com is a popular online chess platform that occasionally hosts tournaments with cash prizes.

 

This article seeks to provide answers to the following questions:

  • Can you make money playing chess online?
  • What websites offer chess tournaments with cash prizes?
  • How much can one earn playing online chess?

 

Can You Make Money Playing Chess Online?

Making money by playing chess online is possible. Several online chess platforms exist where players may generate income by participating in tournaments. However, as of July 2021, online chess appeared to be substantially less profitable than real-world chess (especially professional chess), which is apparent from tournament prize pools.

In summer of 2020, chess website Chess.com organized its first-ever cash prize tournament with a prize fund of $4,500. In October 2020, Chess.com announced a fantasy chess contest with over $5,000 in prizes.

The banner of a Chess.com tournament hosted in 2020.
Courtesy of Chess.com.

 

The prize pools of amateur chess tournaments are typically much higher. As an example, the prize fund of the 2021 U.S. Open Chess Championship was $50,000. In professional chess, prize funds are even higher – often in the millions of dollars.

In April 2020, Norwegian chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen cooperated with chess website chess24.com to organize the Magnus Carlsen Invitational tournament. With a total prize fund of $250,000, this tournament was the richest online chess tournament at the time.

 

How much money can one earn playing online chess?

The income potential of online chess depends on the tournament and the skills of the player.

As of July 2021, professional-level online chess prize funds frequently reached hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, the 2020 Speed Chess Championship hosted by Chess.com had a prize fund of $250,000 – $150,000 higher than its 2019 counterpart.

The 2020 Speed Chess Championship was a multi-event tournament, with the 16-player Main Event having a prize fund of $100,000. Eight of the sixteen players were invited to the championship directly, while the remaining eight were determined via a qualification system.

The sixteen players in the Main Event included grandmasters Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura (the United States), Levon Aronian (Armenia), and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France).

As for amateur tournaments, their prize funds are more modest – typically in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

 

Is Playing Chess For Money Illegal?

In most places, playing online chess for money is legal. In other locations where any online games are equated to gambling and where gambling is banned, online chess with cash prizes may be illegal.

Players should consult their local regulations to ascertain the status of online games with money.

 

Chess Websites Where Players Can Earn Money

Here are some chess websites that allow players to make money from tournaments:

  • Chess2Play.com. Chess2Play.com hosts cash prize tournaments, and it additionally allows players to stake money against each other.
  • MBchess.com. This website allows players over the age of 18 to compete for cash prizes in tournaments.
  • Chess.com. Chess.com occasionally hosts tournaments with prize pools reaching $5,000. In higher-level competitions – such as the 2020 Speed Chess Championship – prize pools may reach $250,000 or more.

 

Other Ways To Make Money With Online Chess

Hikaru Nakamura's YouTube channel.
Courtesy of Hikaru Nakamura’s YouTube channel.

 

Aside from making money with online chess by playing, players may employ other methods to monetize their chess activity.

Most prominently, chess players may upload chess-related videos to YouTube. The videos may contain commentary on professional games or chess tips and strategies.

Some popular chess channels on YouTube include (subscriber counts as of late July 2021):

  • agadmator’s Chess Channel (over 1.15 million subscribers). Social Blade estimates that this channel makes up to around $50,000 per month and up to around $600,000 per year.
  • GothamChess (over 1.09 million subscribers). Estimated income is up to around $76,000 per month and up to around $900,000 per year.
  • GMHikaru (over 1.08 million subscribers). This is the channel of Japanese-American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. GMHikaru makes up to around $75,000 per month and up to around $900,000 per year.
  • BotezLive (over 500,000 subscribers). Estimated income is up to about $100,000 per month and up to about $1.2 million per year.
  • Eric Rosen (over 470,000 subscribers). Estimated income is up to approximately $24,000 per month and up to about $290,000 per year.

 

Many chess players have also found success as Twitch streamers.

According to twitchmetrics.net, the top Twitch chess-streamer, GMHikaru, racked up over one million watch hours in July 2021.

Other ways to monetize games online are outlined in a dedicated guide, but not all of the methods from it are applicable to chess.

Chess websites that have paid memberships may have referral programs. An example of such a website is chessclub.com where players receive points for each player they refer. Points may be exchanged for US dollars.

Chess.com has an affiliate program. The starting commission percentage for affiliates is 15% of Chess.com premium membership purchases.

Other chess experts make money by tutoring, teaching others how to improve their chess game.

 

Conclusion

Online chess appears to have lower income potential than real-world tournaments – both amateur and professional. However, this largely depends on the host of the tournament and the prize pool.

To find out more about online chess tournaments, visit the chess websites linked throughout the article.

 

 

 

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