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World Chess Champion Carlsen is Highest Earning Esports Player of 2020

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Magnus Carlsen set up an online chess competition last year which he went on to win after beating Hikaru Nakamura in the final. Photo: FIDE

By Geoff Berkeley |

Norway’s world chess champion Magnus Carlsen has been named as the world’s highest-earning esports player of 2020 after successfully turning his hand at gaming during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 30-year-old grandmaster registered $510,587 (£375,795/€422,559) in prize money from Chess24.

Carlsen, who first reached the top of the International Chess Federation world rankings in 2010, goes by the name of DrNykterstein on the computer game.

He was joined in the top 10 by American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, whose winnings totalled $325,000 (£239,183/€268,968) for the year.

The top 50 also featured two more Chess 24 players, demonstrating the sport’s rise in the gaming world.

But the overall earnings of players fell significantly with the majority of gaming companies reportedly reducing their prize money in response to the global health crisis.

According to research from esports bookmaker Unikrn, the top 50 players earned 76 per cent less than the previous year, dropping from $55 million (£40.47 million/€45.51 million) in 2019 to $11 million (£8.1 million/€9.1 million) in 2020.

Among the games to reportedly slash their budget were Fortnite which offered prize money of $7.88 million (£5.8 million/€6.5 million) in 2020, compared to $71.59 million (£52.67 million/€59.24 million) in 2019.

The average age of the top-50 was 22.7 years old with seven teenagers also on the list.

Unikrn spokesperson said: “When people think of esports, they probably have the likes of CS:GO, DOTA or League of Legends in mind, but not necessarily chess. 

“Magnus Carlsen is a fantastic champion and has dominated the circuit for a number of years, helping raise the profile of the sport.

“The pandemic has affected esports prize money, dropping by 76 per cent from 2019 to 2020. 

“That said, it’s encouraging to see players still profiting from big tournaments around the world, with organisers doing everything they can to put on the best shows possible for fans.”

In May last year, Carlsen has announced the creation of a new online chess tournament series with a total prize pot of $1 million (£735,000/€827,000).

The competition, named the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, consisted of four “super-tournaments” culminating in a Grand Final in August which Carlsen won with victory over Nakamura.

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.

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