Chess Player Named Highest Earning Esports Player of 2020

    • Magnus Carlsen brought in $510,587 in prize money last year from playing online.
    • The prize money totaled more than any other esports player.

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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.