A chess grandmaster was the highest-earning esports player of 2020.
The pandemic caused a major transition to virtual events, and chess was no exception. Thirty-year-old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen banked $510,587 in prize money from online site Chess24 — more than any other esports player.
“Magnus Carlsen is a fantastic champion and has dominated the circuit for a number of years, helping raise the profile of the sport,” said a spokesperson for esports company Unikrn.
Although Carlsen pocketed six figures, the pandemic has affected esports prize money.
- Prizes dropped 76% between 2019 and 2020, from $55 million to $11 million.
- Fortnite was among the games slashing rewards, reducing its purse from $71.59 million in 2019 to $7.88 million in 2020.
Two other chess grandmasters were among the top esports earners: Hikaru Nakamura at No. 7 ($325,000) and Wesley So at No. 12 ($246,190). The average age of the list was 22.7 years old, and included seven teenagers.
Carlsen also launched his online Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour in 2020, with a prize pool of $1 million. He won the Grand Final in August over Nakamura, contributing to his impressive earnings.