Check Cheque mate?

Television continues to influence our lives greatly – especially in the times of lockdowns and staying home, and this winter was no different with the greatly acclaimed The Queens Gambit a 2020 American Netflix period drama miniseries based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name.  Sales of chess sets soared with numerous brands out of stock by Christmas – chess was trending and made popular all over again.

The Chess world has seen it all before, and continues to have its very own superstars and über wealthy members.

Take the current world chess champion Magnus Carlsen. – in May he won the richest online chess tournament in history – taking home the $70,000 winners prize. The Norwegian Grandmaster was born in 1990 and was playing chess by five. He earned a Grandmaster title at a mere 13 years of age, is ranked number one in the world and has a net worth of $8million plus. Carlsen earned $700,000 in prize money alone in 2018.  Sponsored by Norwegian investment Bank, Iskar water, and previously Microsoft.

A famously amazing Russian Master of chess, is Kasparov. Known as the greatest of the greats, he was a Russian politician who had some ‘run in’, shall we say, with Putin and his political campaign. Gary Kasparov left Russia and is now living in Croatia. He retired from Chess in 2005, having completely dominated the chess world for twenty years. Net worth over $5 million.

India’s top pro chess player, Viswanathan Anand has a net worth of $3 million, has been recognised with various honours, including the highest civilian award India can give, the Padma Vibhushan.

Hikaru Nakamura is the japanese/American chess genius. Has set several ‘youngest ever player’ records. Net worth somewhere between $45 and $50 million.

Chess is traditionally very secretive about its actual worth, its still common practise for fees and prize money to be discreetly handed in an envelope and not disclosed. The experts say this is what stops chess becoming a comparable with Tennis or football, but there’s an awful lot of support for this elite clique of clever thinkers and their money staying private. Without sharing the world a little more however, there’s no new fans,  without the increase in the public fans there’s no sponsorship, without the sponsorship there’s no vast prize money or luxury lifestyle.

Does the wealth of the Grandmasters come from chess or the other sides of their lives – ie, their ‘real jobs’? Actually both, proof is out there that the skills developed to become a chess master are the very ones you need for business. Take Peter Thiel for example, a national level Chess master with not the highest chess winnings but he claims his ‘chess brain’ helped him in his other life – as co-founder of Paypal {his current net worth is over $2.6billion }

When International Chess master Norman Weinstein made a fortune for the the Bankers Trust in the 1990s, the firm decided to hire only strong chess players to replicate Weinstein’s success.One of whom was a David Norwood, who did his job there so well he retired as a multimillionaire at 40…

Same goes for hedge fund manager, author and entrepreneur James Altucher – chess enthusiast, national master and net worth of over $20 million. He goes on record for saying ‘Chess got me into college, into graduate school, it got me my first job, it helped me raise money, and it opened doors across the business world when they seemed closed to everyone around me.’

Closed, discreet world? absolutely. A way of making millions ? Chess champions have often said it’s impossible to earn a living from Chess, but at elite level, it’s no different from other sports.  You just have to be very, very, very good at it.